Wondering whether to recycle, repair or repurpose your old shoes? Here are some brilliant ways to repair and refashion your favourite shoes to keep wearing them for longer.
So many shoes end up in landfill every year, so fixing shoes and making them wearable again is so important when trying to live more sustainably or attempting a zero waste lifestyle.
I've rounded up a collection of ideas, tricks and hacks to fix the most common shoe problems, as well as a few ways to restyle them and what your options are when you take them in to be repaired.
Taking Shoes to a Shoe Repairer
I know you're reading this to find out how to repair your shoes at home, BUT if you have ever wondered what is or isn't possible to fix, I think it's important to have an idea of what a shoe repairer can do.
Having your shoes professionally repaired is probably the simplest option, but also can be costly and some of these you can do yourself (as I'll explain in the next section).
It is far better to repair shoes than to dispose of them, as they will hang around in landfill for many years and a lot of resources went into making them.
A shoe Repair shop has access to all kinds of tools, not to mention their skills and most offer the following :
>Replace and fix soles
>Patch up damaged sections
>Fix broken heels and tips
>Apply non slip soles
>Replace the toes
>Replace elastic gussets
>Buff & Polish
>Dye and recolour shoes
>Fix broken zippers
Simple Shoe Repairs and Re-styles You Can Do Yourself
>Reattach A Floppy Sole
A shoe without sole is a sad thing. Did you know it is super easy to glue your sole back to the shoe, especially if it has only partially detached. The fact that this seems to happen to so many shoes, makes me think they are designed to do this. Having a floppy front sole is not a great look and often shoes still have loads of life still in them. All you need to do is apply some strong glue to both surfaces and hold together.
Here's a quick tutorial on how to do it.
>Mend Your High Heel Tips
If you ever buy a pair of heels that come with spare heel tips DO keep them somewhere safe, maybe with other repair items and tools in your home. Once the heel tip becomes worn or damaged, it becomes a problem as it makes them slip on flat surfaces, catch on carpet and look generally a bit messy.
You can buy heel tips and all you need to do is pull the old ones out, apply glue and hammer them on. It's easy to do. I've usually used a screwdriver to remove the old tips, but this tutorial suggests using pliers (much better idea).
> Repairing a Broken Heel
When your heel breaks away from the shoe, it can be a bit of a disaster. This is a simple process of applying VERY strong glue and waiting for it to dry. Here are some more detailed instructions and as it is on the super glue website, that is the glue they recommend, but any brand will do. I think if my shoe looked like the one pictured, I would opt for a professional repair rather than risk it happening again the next time I wore them.
> Quick Fix For Scuffed Wood Heels
If you've ever had wood heels, you'll know how annoying it is when they become scuffed up as applying shoe polish is NOT an option. However, you can treat it just like other wood objects and apply a wood floor crayon or go for a zero waste option and use walnuts.
Here's a quick video that shows you how to do this:
>Fixing Scuffed Suede Heels
Applying some shoe polish works a treat for covering up scuffs, but NOT for suede. With a touch of glue and some flocking powder, you can renovate your heels to look as good as new again. Here's how to do it.
>How To Fix Your Shoelace Ends
Just because shoelaces are easy to buy and replace, doesn't mean worn ones need to be discarded so quickly.
If you're trying to go zero waste, you really want to fix these when you can. (The same technique applies to shoelace style drawstrings on your clothes and bags too. Here's a simple way to fix them with a little glue, string and toothpaste. For a more permanent fix, you can try some heat shrink tubing like this guy did.
>Revamp Your Canvas Shoes
Old tatty canvas shoes that are still good for wearing but maybe not looking so great can be a fun DIY. These rainbow shoes (pictured above) is just one example of how you can dye them. It's not zero waste, but it will keep them out of landfill and is more eco-friendly than throwing them out and replacing them.
>How To Replace Velcro Shoe Straps
This is sooo common in children's sneakers, especially when they are young and haven't quite mastered tying shoe laces yet and you are relying on Velcro. The amount of times I have had to repair Velcro straps is ridiculous. In the spirit of zero waste, I have actually used Velcro cable ties that come with cords to replace the Velcro on my daughter's shoes! This isn't ideal, but you can sew on or glue new Velcro to the straps to keep them functioning for far longer. Here's a fabulous tutorial on how to do this.
>Thong Repairs (Yes I'm Talking about Flip Flops!)
If you're Australian, then there's a 99% chance you've suffered from a thong blow-out. Once the centre piece of your thong is no longer staying in place they are a completely useless piece of footware. BUT you can repair these with a bread tag and a little glue.
>Fixing Scuffed Toes
There are a few options for fixing scuffed toes. Generally, I just get out the old shoe polish and cover up scuffs and scratches.
The more severe the scuffs are, the more often you'll need to do this and it works best on matt colours rather than patent leather for example.
A shoe repairer can of course apply patches and replace the toes, but here's one way you can patch the toes yourself and it works particularly well on kids shoes.
You could also turn them into cat toe shoes, these are adorable.
If you've bought a gorgeous pair of shoes only to find they resemble ice skates when you go to wear them, don't despair. There are several ways you can fix this including roughing up the soles with sandpaper or applying a little grip using a hot glue gun. Here is great article with plenty of options for making your shoes non-slip.
>How To Dye Leather Shoes Yourself
Changing the colour of your shoes can make a big difference to how they appear as well as cover up scuff marks and other damage that occurs overtime. All you need to do is apply the dye with a paint brush. This technique can be applied to leather handbags and belts too and is a handy skill to have up your sleeve. Here's a simple to follow tutorial on How To Dye Leather Shoes Like A Pro
>Makeover Your Hideous Shoes
I'm not saying YOUR shoes are hideous but if you've gone for a fast fashion colour or design on your shoes, you might find them outdated very quickly and dye might not be an option. If you frequent op-shops this a great way to get bargain shoes and tailor them to your liking.
You can use fabric and cover the existing shoes to give them a great new look. Here are the instructions (they aren't in English but there's plenty of pics to show you how to do it).
Repairing or restyling your shoes isn't as hard as it seems and it is such a simple way to save money and limit what ends up in landfill. If you decide the do it yourself option is to hard, just bite the bullet and head in to your local shoe repairer.
Are you going to give some of these a go? Don't forget to save this somewhere you can find it the next time your shoes get damaged or worn.
Got some more tips? share them in the comments below.
If you have shoes that you prefer to donate or are perhaps beyond repair and you would like to recycle them, here's a guide on How to Donate and Recycle Your Old Shoes.