My Wardrobe is Massive
I don’t know about you, but I have a teensy bit of a problem. I have a very big wardrobe that has only grown since I made that post, and it’s gotten so big I have clothes for every season. Enough that I use one of those giant three door PAX wardrobes from Ikea PLUS the tiny closet my bedroom already came with. Because 6 feet x 4 feet apparently wasn’t enough for me. And it really wasn’t if I want to put my shoe collections somewhere- I have about 20 pairs of shoes stacked like bookends between my rows of books.
Shoes loose their tread, shirts lose their threads
So all of that is to say that I own a lot of things to wear. I don’t buy a lot of clothes, just about 1-3 things a year because I am at a point in my life when I want high quality and fair trade stuff even though my budget is like $100 a year (though I still have some stuff from my early college years where quality was not a priority). But still, my stuff really adds up over time because I just keep anything I’ve ever bought forever. Once I’ve found something that fits or works perfectly, (sometimes with a little help from either a tailor or my own elbow grease in diy tailoring) it’s staying! My shoe size and clothing size has been fairly stable since I turned 18, so I have been able to just build new pieces into my collection.
My favorite Things Keep Wearing Out
The problem with this, my friends, is that these things I gather over time eventually wear out. Shoes loose their tread, shirts lose their threads. This is heartbreaking to me because I have built a closet of things I truly love. These are all pieces that make me feel happy or comforted, and losing them hurts my heart. It’s not easy to find a perfect replacement either- sure, I can find other yellow tee shirts, but will I ever find a perfect copy of my Bermuda map tee shirt with raw hems on the sleeve and neck and an asymmetrical hemline? Will I ever find another pair of pleather booties with turquoise and brown tapestry lining peeking out the top when it’s folded down? I think not.
So what do you do when the things you truly love are wearing out? You fix them.
So, as you can tell, I’m attached to my stuff and want to hold on to all my wardrobe pieces for as long as possible, especially because the things I’m bought in the last few years have been higher quality and higher price tag. Plus, repairing saves me money, and lets me have my huge wardrobe for much less than what I’d be spending if I were chucking out my shoes every time they had a little problem and buying new shoes to replace them. So what do you do when the things you truly love are wearing out? You fix them.
So, I tried to go down the rabbit hole of fixing my gear, and I learned a few things along the way.
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Shoe Repairs and Cobblers
Minor repairs like weatherproofing your shoes, brushing nubuck or sude, and cleaning leather or synthetic materials are something you can do for cheap at home in very little time. For any bigger repair though, I think it is most efficient both for cost and quality of work to turn to a professional. I share this with you especially because you may not even be aware cobblers are still in business- I’d thought they were the product of a bygone era when a pair of shoes never cost less than $100 and they were all made by hand, and that they’d long since gone extinct. While many smaller cobbler and repair shops have indeed gone out of business, it is still possible to find locally owned cobbler shops that can fix up all your great duds in most cities.
Cobblers and shoe repair stores are exactly what you want when you plan on fixing your shoes, but you will have to do your research. Some places specialize in fixing flat dress shoes like oxfords and loafers. Some places are a great spot to go to with even your most expensive designer heels. Some places have staff that are trained and skilled in treating any type of nice shoe. Some places specialize more in doing “good enough” repairs super fast while others focus on doing longer repairs that do all the details perfectly so even the most nitpicky person would be happy with the result, so look up reviews to be sure the cobbler you are considering matches what you are looking for in a shoe repair, and when in doubt be sure to talk to the cobbler and ask if they can match the timeline you are looking for.
Keep in mind how repairable your shoe is, and what kind of cobbler you’ll need
It’s also good to keep in mind how repairable your shoe type is. If your shoe is made from pleather or vegan leather, it’s not as likely to be repairable as a more forgiving material like leather. If a unique piece of hardware is broken like a metal butterfly wing clasp, you may have to go to a more expensive mail in cobbler that does custom shoe making and repair where they can specially make and match the hardware, but if you just have a broken buckle any everyday cobbler located in most cities and some countryside towns as well should be able to find a good replacement for you.
If you need an athletic shoe repaired, like an expensive running shoe, consider if you don’t really need just the insole on the shoe replaced. If the tread and the outer insole- the cushiony stuff on the bottom of the shoe you can see from the outside- is starting to wear down, it may be time to recycle the whole shoe and buy a new one. But unless you are running ultramarathons, most people find that doing an insole replacement once or twice can double or triple the recommended lifespan of their running shoe without shoe while saving you from that gross feeling of guilt you get throwing away a shoe that looks fine but you know isn’t helping your knees and back anymore at that 300-500 mile mark Runner’s World and other running experts recommend. I personally use Vive Soles to soup up my running shoes whenever I feel they aren’t supporting my completely flat feet the way they used to.(Sponsored link, but this is honestly what I truly use and I only link it because I love it.)
When your Shoes Aren’t Perfect, But They Also Aren’t Dead
Sometimes your shoes aren’t in bad enough shape for the cobbler to really be worth the effort. Sometimes, you may even find that the cobbler is only willing to do professional quality repairs, so if you have hard-to-repair shoes like pleather booties or the sole is glued to the bottom of the shoe in such a way that it can’t be taken out and replaced, then they might be unable to repair it because for the sake of their business they wouldn’t do a repair that would turn out a little sub-par.t do a less than stellar repair. I don’t have that limitation- when the sole of my impossible to replace tapestry booties were wearing down, I glued a new rubber sole on top of the old one with some super glue. It won’t last forever, and it doesn’t look aesthetically perfect like the other shoes my cobbler worked on, but my home repair let me get back to wearing my favorite shoes, and honestly that is what mattered to me.
Recycling: When It’s Time To Let Your Shoes Die
When you are truly done with a pair of shoes you have, there are a few options. First you must consider the quality of your shoes: if they are in great condition, great! You can easily sell them or donate them. Keep in mind that in the US and Canada, donating shoes and clothing usually just means they will be sold second hand in Africa, killing local shoe manufacturers and eventually turning into trash, so unless your shoes are designer label and cost more than $50 to buy them new and therefore very likely to find someone to love them, then it may be best to just sell them used directly on a site like Ebay or Poshmark. It is also very convenient to use a seller like ThredUp, but what you get in convenience of them doing all the work selling for you results in very little reward for you. I sold a pair of one year old never worn Clark’s leather sandals on ThredUp, and they put a pricetag of $70.00 on them and gave me $0.11 of the proceeds, so I do not recommend ThredUp if you want to actually make any money off what you are selling. It is a great way to keep your old shoes out of the landfill with as little work as traditional donation drop offs, though, so if you want the convenience they are a great choice.
If your shoes are damaged and unlikely to find someone to love them, I think it is more ethical and green to send them in for recycling. Instead of being incinerated with other unsold “donations” in the back of an African marketplace, recycled athletic shoes get ground up and converted into athletic surface for schools and other public spaces.
The only recycling program for sneakers that I know of is through Nike. They sell shoes, so I don’t know if the program is perfect or not, but it is the best of its kind because it is literally the only program around to recycle sneakers instead of letting tons of them just get thrown out every single year.
The major athletic shoe manufacturers are slowly revealing more and more compostable and dissolveable designs (don’t worry, just wearing them in the rain during your jog won’t wear them down.) That’s great because it is so hard to justify the tons of plastic used in making the synthetic materials sneakers are made of that then tend to just sit in landfills for the next 500-1000 years.
The best solution to shoe waste is to buy high quality shoes that are made to be repaired, or to buy compostable shoes.
Alternatively, if you managed to find and buy the few varieties of completely compostable shoes out there, that is probably the greenest and best way to deal with them when they are worn out. After all, the best solution to the many wastes involved with shoes is to buy high quality shoes that are made to be repaired, or to buy compostable shoes whenever that is an option. Or, even better, you could do both!
There are a lot of tried and true varieties of compostable sandals in the tree hugger market as well, like Rawganique’s surprisingly stylish designs.
What do you do when a shoe you love is wearing out?