Repairable shoes might seem like a thing of the past, but they are making a comeback. With the rise of fast fashion and the disposal of products after a relatively short life, repairable shoes provide a sustainable solution to footwear. Repairable shoes used to be a common go-to fix, back when clothing (and products in general) were higher quality, durable, and could be repaired again and again.

In today’s world, repairable shoes offer a way to divert waste and prevent the manufacturing impact that would come from buying a new pair. By opting for shoes that can be repaired, individuals can extend the life of their footwear and reduce their environmental footprint. So, what are repairable shoes, and why should we care? It’s time to get back to the sole of the issue and explore the world of repairable shoes.

Repairable Shoes: Repairs, Cobblers, DIY & Brands

Repairable shoes are shoes that can be repaired or fixed, and the most common types of repairs are done on the soles and heels of the shoe. Shoes that are made of leather or some vegan leather alternatives are the most consistently repairable, as leather is a durable and sturdy material that lasts far longer and is more conducive to repairs than other materials.

Cobblers are a repairable shoe’s best friend, as they have years of experience in the cobbling business and can repair or replace soles and heels, fix or replace straps, redo loose stitching, stretch tight heels, replace the lining, dye shoes different colors, and repair chewing damage from pets. However, there are some types of shoe damage that even the best cobblers can’t fix, such as worn-out soles and non-repairable shoes like sneakers.

DIY shoe repairs are also possible, such as reattaching the sole of a sneaker with shoe glue or replacing laces and insoles. It is always worth considering repairing shoes before recycling them, as repairing shoes prolongs their life and encourages a thoughtful mindset.

If a shoe is beyond repair, it is important to recycle it responsibly. Some shoe brands have reclamation programs that refurbish old pairs of shoes so that they can be given a second life or recycle them into something new. Ethical shoe brands and organizations that have reclamation programs include Nike, Vivobarefoot, LANGBRETT, VEJA, Thousand Fell, Nothing New, and Soles4Souls.

Purchasing well-made shoes right off the bat can prolong the life of shoes and support sustainable and ethical business practices. Some brands speak directly to the repairability of their shoes, while others do not. The trick is to support brands that are transparent about their production practices so that consumers can gain insight into how their shoes are sourced and constructed.

Here are some of the favorite repairable shoe brands:

  • Nisolo
  • Veja
  • Thousand Fell
  • Allbirds
  • Terracycle
  • Wildhide
  • Nothing New

It is important to repair shoes before recycling them, as repairing shoes prolongs their life and encourages a thoughtful mindset. By repairing shoes, consumers can reduce waste and their carbon footprint, and support sustainable and ethical business practices in the footwear industry.

How We Found The Best Repairable Shoes

To compile this list of the best repairable shoes, the research team specifically looked for companies that marketed the repairability of their shoes and maintained responsible business practices. However, this does not mean that these are the only repairable shoes available in the market.

The team also considered the materials used in the shoes. Shoes made from natural plant and animal fibers are typically easier to repair than those made from synthetic fabrics. Materials that are sewn rather than glued lend themselves to a more seamless repair job. Ethical leather, while a dubious concept, is still one of the best materials in terms of durability and repairability. Checking the materials used in the soles and heels is also important. Cork, leather, and natural rubber are all great options and straightforward to replace when the time comes.

Certifications were also taken into account. The Leather Working Group (LWG), OEKO-TEX certified, and ECO₂L are all certifications that the team looked for. Transparent companies that maintain ethical labor practices and sourcing policies were preferred. Third-party certifications such as Certified B Corp, ISO 14001, and Bureau Veritas were also considered. However, the team was aware that greenwashing by B Corps is rare but still possible.

Green business practices were also evaluated. Good quality, repairable shoes are usually handmade using techniques that make replacing parts relatively easy. The team also appreciated brands that used carbon offset programs, regenerative materials, recycled or biodegradable packing materials, and closed-loop manufacturing methods to reduce their carbon footprint.

Finally, the team looked for companies that participated in community and charitable giving. Many sustainable shoe companies donate to social causes and participate in reclamation and donation programs. The team encouraged readers to check how they can participate in such programs.

Overall, the team compiled this list of the best repairable shoes with sustainability and ethical fashion criteria in mind. Readers are encouraged to keep these criteria in mind when looking for their next long-term pair of shoes.