With the change in seasons, now is a great time to get your shoes tuned up so they're ready for fall and winter weather. And if you're shopping for new shoes, part of maintaining items we love includes choosing better made stuff up front. It may cost you more, but lasts longer.

Alicia Polacok, from Resourceful PDX partner Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, stopped by JD’s Shoe Repair in North Portland and spoke with owner Julie Derrick about fixing and maintaining shoes.

"Julie, or JD, has been in the shoe repair business for nine years. She sought out a different career and transitioned to life as a cobbler by working with others in the shoe business to learn her trade. Not only does JD’s Shoe Repair fix shoes, but they refurbish and sell shoes of all kinds in the shop.

There are many variations in construction and use of materials, all of which affect repairability. Customers can ask their retailer if something is repairable before you buy. When in doubt, ask a cobbler about a pair of shoes while you still have the option to return them in case they do not meet your specifications.

Tips on what to look for

When looking for shoes that can be repaired, the main areas to consider are the heels and soles. Look for shoes or boots constructed from layers of materials such as leather and hard rubber. Steer away from molded soles that are all one big cushy piece; generally speaking, once these are worn through, they are finished.

Heel blocks made from hard plastics and stacked leather are best suited to repair, regardless of heel height or shape.

Welted construction means that the shoe uppers and outsoles are both stitched to the welt (the edge that goes all the way around). This is the sturdiest construction for long wear and multiple repairs. Dress shoes, work boots and western boots are generally built this way. Beware fake welting! Many shoes are built to look like they are strongly put together, but are really a molded piece of rubber or plastic.

Leather uppers can be sewn, patched and stretched, which makes them last longer, especially if you care for the leather by keeping it clean and conditioned.

Generally, harder shoes and boots are going to last longer. While many people like the comfort of molded soles, they are not built for repair. Some softer shoes, such as Dansko shoes, Timberland boots and shoes, and Birkenstock shoes, can be re-heeled and sometimes re-soled.

Some makers whose shoes and boots are often brought in for repair are Frye, Red Wing, Born, nearly all western boots, Danner, Bed Stu, Steve Madden, Cydwoq, and most wood-heeled/soled clogs and platforms.

Maintain shoes to make them last

Look for heels wearing down and get the bottom layer replaced before you run into your heel block if at all possible.

Try to get new soles on before you wear holes in the old ones. Even rubbery softer materials can often sustain a repair or two if they are not worn down to the insoles.

If your uppers begin to crack or tear, get them patched on the inside or outside.

Keep your shoes clean and conditioned. Even in storage, leather will get dry and begin to crack if not conditioned regularly.

Store shoes in a dry place with something inside them to hold their shape. This prevents cracking of the uppers. If you do not have shoe forms, you can use folded up t-shirts, socks, skeins of yarn, newspaper or other materials to hold them in place.

If your shoes come unglued, repair them! There are a lot of minor glue jobs you can do yourself  Shoe Goo actually works! A shoe repair shop can handle the projects that seem beyond your skill or interest levels. 

Take stock of your own shoes and find your favorites that can be repaired. Portland has many options for local shoe repair businesses. Search online to locate cobblers in your neighborhood."