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Posts tagged ‘shoe repairs’

Save Your Shoes From Salt This Winter (And Beyond)

By , 23 November, 2009, No Comment

Few things are worse for footwear than the salt — those white salt marks aren’t only ugly, they eat the leather away, drying it, cracking it, and damaging it. But it’s not only the salt put down to de-ice winter sidewalks and roadways that’s the problem. Rex Streno, owner of Ullrich’s Shoe Repair, explains:

Salt doesn’t come from the road. Salt comes from the leather itself. The leather is tanned with salt. When it gets soaking wet, the salt rises to the top of the shoe. That’s how you get the salt stains. The salt is in the lining, and it’s in the leather.

(In that article, Streno gives general tips for shoe care and repair — but again I remind you to please consult a shoe repair person experienced in vintage shoes before you agree to any services.)

Because tanning methods, ancient and modern, used salt, it’s likely your vintage leather shoes were tanned with salt. And ‘weather’ or not you fear winter’s salt or the salt already in your shoes which will be brought out from snow (or rain) — or if your town uses sand for traction rather than salt to melt away ice, your vintage shoes and boots are also at risk as sand grinds it’s way into soles, seams, and uppers — it is time to think about how to protect your shoes.

The best way to protect your footwear is to not wear it outside and tempt the fates and weather systems. Slip off those vintage darlings and slip your feet into some cold weather boots. Not only will you avoid salt damages to your shoes and keep your tootsies warm, but you’ll avoid slipping on wet and/or icy pavement, which puts your safety at risk and increases the potential to damage vintage shoes with scuffs, tears, broken heels, etc.

I know we fashionistas tend to resist real cold weather boots (I myself bought only fancy leather boots with heels for years), but the best way to save our pretty babies is to wear those less than fancy boots.  And since modern made boots can be more properly prepared to brave the elements, restored or even replaced when problems occur, it only makes sense to wear them not only in bad weather but in seasons where bad weather is more likely — or just left around on the ground, ready to trip you up.

The good news is that, via A Tad Too Much Tan For Taupe, I discovered a contest that’s giving away a free pair of Whooga ugg boots every month– enter to win here!

Maybe you can save your vintage shoes for free — and save some money to invest in more vintage shoes *wink*

Don’t Eschew The Vintage Shoe: What To Look For When Buying Vintage Shoes

By , 13 November, 2008, 11 Comments

While you can find unworn vintage shoes (typically sold as “New Old Stock” or NOS, as opposed to “New With Tags” or NWT for clothing), most often you’ll find vintage shoes that have been previously worn. But, like most vintage fashions, “worn” doesn’t mean “worn out”. And even vintage shoes which have never been warn should be checked for problems with the aging rubber, glue & leather. Here’s a guide what to look for when shopping for vintage shoes.

(If you need help with shoe terminology, here are some charts on shoe anatomy.)

As a general rule, the following are signs of quality shoes and are to be looked for:

Shoes made of (marked as) genuine patent leather, full-grain leather, genuine alligator, reptile or other exotic leathers.

Heels made of real wood, leather stacked heels (not plastic moulded to look stacked); cork & thick plastic are also good bets.

Shoes with extensive sizing information indicate custom and/or expensively made shoes.

Shoes made in Italy or Spain.

Shoes with a maker stamped in one insole and the shop that carried the shoe in the other insole indicates exclusivity & therefore quality.

How To Evaluate The Quality Of Vintage Shoes:


Perfect Black Patent Shoes Made By Miss Wonderful, 1960s

Perfect Black Patent Shoes Made By Miss Wonderful, 1960s

Vinyl and patent leather are always repaired with less certainty; so, a few scuffs aside, if it’s not perfect I leave my wallet shut.

Fabric shoes generally are at risk for more wear — and the older the shoe, the more likely there are to either be damages or fragile fabric ready to split & tear. Inspect both shoes carefully; I use my fingers as well as my eyes so that I can feel any weaknesses. Bending the shoe may also expose stress points on the vamp. Often there is fraying along the bottom edge of the upper on vintage fabric shoes. This can be halted with Fray-Check, but as this can also discolor vintage fabrics test it first. And you’ll need to be more gentle with these shoes; they are not for everyday & lots of outside wear.

Vintage shoes, like any cloth shoes today, can be dyed. Prices for dying starts at around $50 for vintage shoes, but is certainly worth it if a new coat of color hides spots and stains and makes the vintage shoes wearable once again.

Leather shoes with scratches or stains can also be fixed; before doing this as you would your modern leather shoes, test on a small inconspicuous area first. Leather can also be dyed, starting at $30.

As leather, suede and exotics like alligator snake skin age, they become dry & brittle — and more likely to tear. To test for this, gently but firmly bend the upper and listen for cracking — and look for the visual signs of cracks too. Bend the upper in several places to be sure it is supple. Leather can be revived with a Lanolin dip, but I’ve never taken that risk; if the leather seems too weak, I pass.

Be wary of suede which ‘dusts’. This is called crocking suede and generally indicates poor quality — although any suede shoes made prior to the late 40’s or early 50’s crocked due to the sueding process. If you love them, can live with the crocking, and accept that these shoes must be pampered during what remains of their shorter lifespan, then go for it.

Closely inspect the seams on the shoes. Fabric and leather shoes with fraying or tears at or along the seam can often be repaired (starting at around $25), but a tear off the seam is more problematic. In leathers, it may be a sign of brittle &/or weak leather. (Some say they’ve had patches performed, but again, I’ve just walked away from shoes which are that much work.)

Embellished Faux Buckle On The Vamp Of A Mod Pair of Herbert Levine Shoes

Embellished Faux Buckle On The Vamp Of A Mod Pair of Herbert Levine Shoes

Buckles, eyelets, beading and other embellishments on vintage shoes can usually be repaired — but they often mean repairing both shoes to have them match and I’ve never accepted that fiscal responsibility.

Shoe laces & buttons, however, are worth the time & the dime to replace.

Leather boots can have the zipper replaced; fees starting at around $36. And boots which are too-tight on the calves can have elastic gussets, stretch fabric or matching leather insets inserted to literally give you a little more leg room.

Shoes with uppers which feel sticky or tacky are bad news. The finish is ruined which means you’ll need to cover them up with new fabric. If you’re creative and skilled, fine; if not, don’t bother.


Many vintage shoes have heels that are covered in the same material as the upper, and it’s important to inspect to see that this material is intact and not fraying. If there are problems at the bottom of the heel (where it meets the heel tap) or at seams, these things can be repaired; but if it’s a problem with the general heel area, then it may be a darn shame, but you may have to walk away without them.

Heel Taps On Vintage Lucite Heels With Roses

Heel Taps On Vintage Lucite Heels With Roses

Missing or damaged heel taps are easily & inexpensively repaired &/or replaced by a shoe cobbler (not with those cheezy heel tap covers). It costs about $4 or $5 per shoe for this service, but it’s well worth it when you consider that any further wear can result in damage which will require a cobbler to build up the heel to make it level, costing $20 or more (and may require that both heels are done to make sure they match).

Heels that are worn unevenly, rounded or otherwise appearing damaged may be rebuilt, as mentioned above. But damaged Lucite or other fancy glamorous heels may need to be be completely re-heeled; ask yourself if the rest of the shoe is worth it. (In the case of these fantastic 1950s Lucite heels with roses inside, I’d just cry over the heel damage and delicately dab at my eyes with a hankie as I pass them by; those heels are the shoes.)


A sole pulled away from the shoe can be repaired for between $20 and $50.

Worn or cracked soles can be repaired with a partial or half sole replacement (sometimes called “fill-ins”) for as little as $25. You can also have the entire shoe resoled. That ranges in price from $35 to $80 — which may sound expensive, but having that done gives vintage shoes decades worth of new wear.

However, if the welt (the piece between the upper shoe and the sole) is worn, it’s not worth the investment.

Inspecting The Soles On Vintage Italian Shoes

Inspecting The Soles On Vintage Italian Shoes

Even if the soles seem fine, like on these vintage pumps with leopard print accents, bend the sole and listen for cracking. Cracking indicates that the rubber &/or glue is aged and ready to part (either the sole from the shoe, or the sole crack).

Vintage shoes can also be ‘updated’ with rubber treads to prevent slipping for around $20; highly recommended.

Insoles & Linings:

A deteriorating lining — the cloth sewn into the shoe — is technically repairable, but unless we’re talking museum quality shoes (and then you aren’t going to wear them, are you?) they are not worth the investment.

Some just cut the lining out as best as possible, but I find that simply unacceptable. Not only do you often find a unsatisfactory powdery substance sticking to your feet, but without a lining your sweat will soil and deteriorate the uppers; so what’s the point?

If the lining is tacky or sticky, run away! You can disinfect shoes, but you’ll never remove the ‘ick’.

(Regarding disinfecting shoes, even if you are only intending to spray the inside of the shoes, the spray will, well, spray. So I cover the shoes with plastic saran wrap just to be sure no discoloration occurs; and spray evenly, but lightly so as not to make the shoes wet.)

The leather or leatherette inserts may be curled, damaged or missing entirely; as long as the lining is fine. These insole inserts can be replaced or merely have new leather or other inserts placed over them. (And you may wish to use arch supports etc. anyway.)

A Few Final Words:

Retro 1970s Floating Heel Wedges Inspired By 1950s Shoes

Retro 1970s Floating Heel Wedges Inspired By 1950s Shoes

While shopping at vintage stores and thrift shoppes means you can readily test for conditions, don’t let this prevent you from shopping for great vintage shoe deals online. (Otherwise, you might miss gems like these floating heel wedges!)

Dealers and sellers who specialize in vintage fashions & shoes know that conditions are important and will answer your questions; those who are unwilling are best to be avoided. If leery, ask the seller to put it in writing (in the email or seller notes at the auction site etc.) that if you find the shoes in conditions not as stated that you may return them.

And don’t forget to see my tips on buying vintage shoes in the proper size.

Note: It is important for any shoe repairs that you must establish that the person doing any repairs on your vintage shoes is indeed familiar with vintage shoes. New glues, dyes etc. may react with the vintage materials, creating new problems. That not only means more money for more repairs, but in fact may ruin or ‘total’ the shoes.

Now, go put your best foot forward and safely buy vintage shoes!