Repair or replace: When does it make sense to mend the threads you’ve got?

I was minding my own business when it happened. Ok, minding my own business rarely happens, but when it does it seems the introspective focus is bad for my funky footwear.

I mean, look at these Fluevog boots. Weep blue tears with me, people. Now weep harder.

fluevog boots

It’s kinda funny (but mostly tragic) how the simple act of walking (Ok, strutting with a slight lady hip sway), listening to music (Ok, 80s punk), and enjoying the signs of spring (Ok, two red-breasted robins flapping happily about) could turn my favourite kicks into a heel with an unhinged sole.

With my strut destrutted and my 80s punk fully punked, I sunk into a deep pit of shoe sadness. My blueys were busted, and the spring in my step was stomped by a rubber sole. Also, I had to limp home on one heel. So much for my lady strut.

fluevog repair

You’d be right to think I’m waxing melodramatic over a silly pair of scuffed blue leather boots. I mean, who wears blue boots? Well, I do. After 8 years of stomping across five Canadian provinces, skipping within four European cities, and leaping over countless cattle guards, my beloved blueys were broken.

After sulking home with a heel in one hand and my heart in the other, I wondered:

Question: Is it worth the money to repair the boots? Or would replacing my footwear with something new make better financial sense?

Like others before me bearing a long commute while hobbling home wearing one shoe, I broke my stride, stared at my smartphone, and asked the fine Squawkfox Facebook people what to do. The fine people responded.

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Here’s the debate on when to repair and when to replace damaged clothing. I’ll leave the melodrama up to you.

Observe the 50% Rule

There’s a general rule of thumb for replacing stuff, and the rule works whether you’re wearing the broken stuff on your fingers or toes.

The 50% Replacement Rule: Replace the broken item when the repair costs more than half the price of a new item.

Eight years ago I paid around $250 for my crazy blue Fluevog boots. Not a bad use of $250 bucks considering I’ve worn them daily, regardless of what the Canadian climate throws at my feet.

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But what’s the repair cost? A quick visit to my local Fluevog Store in Toronto confirms that two replacement heels plus labour would cost $50 to replenish my old soles.

fluevog cobbler

Bottom Line: A fifty dollar two-boot revival costs around 20% of the cost of a new pair of $250 shoes. The math is working in my favour especially since a new pair today runs around $350, so I’m leaning towards a frugal Fluevog repair.

Is the item busted or worn out?

Nothing lasts forever, including the last on your fav footwear. Also, sinking money into a old pair of kicks doesn’t make them new again. The fine people on the Squawkfox Facebook page had a lot to say about repairing and about letting go.

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Despite years of wear, a full resoling isn’t necessary to replenish my old boots. A new heel cap popped onto each boot should revive the sole without changing the feel of the footbed. The leather is in great condition and a little spit and shine will polish up the patina to a pretty glow. My feet should stay happy in a shoe that works like new but feels familiar.

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Bottom Line: Before paying for a repair, determine if the item is busted or just plain worn out. If the fabric is thin or the shoe leather is scuffed to pieces, it’s probably not worth repairing even if the cost satisfies the 50% replacement rule.

Uniqueness, greenness, specialness.


The mathematics of mending is an objective means to a multi-threaded problem. Sometimes emotion plays into a fix far more than the logic behind the repair, and that’s Ok. Some items in need of costly love are heirlooms, others are so special and unique that finding a suitable replacement is impossible. In these instances I’d consider spending the money on a repair.

Unique and special, these funky blue boots are worthy of repair.

Unique and special, these funky blue boots are worthy of repair.

Lastly, everyone who has read this blog for longer than three minutes knows I have a strong bias towards sustainable living. We live in a throw-away culture where our rampant consumerism prefers the costly hit of spending voraciously on cheap disposable items rather than investing in things that stand the test of time.

The environmental impact of all this fast fashion is likely devastating to this big shared spinning orb we like to call Earth. So if the shoe still fits, the repair is reasonable, and the item is loved, then maybe do your bank account a solid by getting the darn item fixed.

Question: What items have you repaired? What stuff should be replaced? I’d love to hear from both the menders and those who know when it’s time to spend. Go!

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Meghan April 16th, 2014

    I’ve repaired lots of shoes and have been happy with the results. They can even shine them up for you. I’ve also repaired shoes and still never wore them (3″ heeled boots that looked new). Those went to the charity shop. I’m glad I repaired them because someone is definitely loving them now, and that’s better than the landfill.

    The only time shoes are really done are if they’re sneakers and are worn out or if the exterior of the shoe is scuffed beyond repair.

  2. Maripat April 16th, 2014

    Specializing in alterations and repairs, I get this question a lot. Style sometimes comes into play, especially with clothing. But you can upstyle in clothing, not so much in shoes.
    It’s definitely a mentality that we’ve lost along the way. Folks toss things without thinking “How can I fix this, it’s the only one I’ve got?” Clothes and shoes seem disposable.
    I fix for function. Jeans won’t work without a zipper, cars won’t work without good tires, boots won’t work without a heel. I can deal with a little scratch on my car or a little wear in my sweater. Maybe I’ll make it into a design feature :)

  3. Shona From No More Sheeple April 16th, 2014

    Quite often, I do minor hand sewing repairs on hubby’s and my clothing, especially if it is a favourite item, or if it was expensive to purchase. However, if the item has clearly seen better days, I add it to a pile where it will either be repurposed for cleaning rags or good parts get cut off of the fabric and get stashed in order to make a upcycled quilt :-) I’ve repaired cargo shorts, golf shirts and hubby has repaired office chairs in much the same manner….

  4. Robin April 16th, 2014

    Spend a few bucks more for quality and resole as required. Easier when you are a guy as the styles don’t change much.

  5. PeeTee April 16th, 2014

    Thanks to a very capable and talented shoe repair artisan here in Victoria, I am still getting compliments on my 22 year old knee high Italian boots. If you buy quality merchandise it not only lasts longer but it can usually be repaired. The people who carry out those repairs are part of a local economy, in short supply and it appears they are doing well too. Win-win.

  6. Stuey April 16th, 2014

    Maybe you should have been listening to the Rubber Sole album instead. HA HA

  7. Cynthia April 16th, 2014

    I had a lovely pair of Blundstone boots that lasted me 7 years, then they started to leak. I happily bought a new pair, knowing that they’ll probably last me at least another 7 years. I also had a North Face jacket that lasted about 8 years before it started looking ratty, and didn’t protect me from the rain; I’m 3 years into my new jacket and it’s holding up well! Since we don’t own a car, we walk a lot, and are exposed to the elements, so I gladly spend money on high-quality, long-lasting outerwear and footwear!

  8. Emily-Pemily April 16th, 2014

    Good subject timing for “seasonal footwear maintenance/rotation.” It’s time to take all the winter footwear in to the local cobbler to replace heels/shine for their long summer nap. When you pull them out in the fall, you’ll realize that you don’t need another pair of tall black boots (but how about some red ones? yeah, some pretty red ones…).

  9. Kate Oksynok April 16th, 2014

    So happy that you can fix them for only $50. with genuine fluevog replacement heels. My theory is that when you buy quality, it should last/wear well and the fact that repairs are possible is a bonus; of, course, if you no longer like them or wouldn’t wear them anymore it’s time to make a a different decision. Bravo!

    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

  10. Cathleen April 16th, 2014

    I broke the zipper on my gorgeous winter boots after not-quite 3 years. Elected to pay the $60 to replace the zipper. Broke the next zipper a few months later. Also decided on replacing zipper. Broke zipper again a few months later. Boots went in trash this time. I could have bought a new,on-sale pair for the $120 I spent to repair my lovely boots just to get one more winter’s use out of them.

  11. ET April 16th, 2014

    I’m not familiar with the Fluevog brand so I’ve never been up-close-and-personal to a pair of their boots but from the snapshot, it looks like the body of the heel is a hollow hard plastic form to which the sole is adhered — in my opinion, a bad design if longevity is desired. Judging by the amount of wear visible on the sole, even though the boots are 4 years old, they’ve clearly not traveled much distance so the preceding statement is still accurate.

    Why ?

    First of all, it’s difficult to get anything to stick to hard plastic very well. The only way to get a bond with any sort of longevity would be if the part being adhered is also a similar plastic so that the two could be welded together, either by applying heat to melt them together or chemically, with a solvent that softens them first.

    Second, the hollow plastic heel body provides only a minimal contact surface with the sole to be bonded thereby further minimising the chances of a reliable adhesive bond with the wear cap.

    A better design would provide a means of a mechanical bond as well as the largely cosmetic adhesive bond.

    That being said, simply re-adhering the sole (heel cap) with something like contact cement or Goop (or its cousin Shoe Goo) or one of the “PL” line of construction adhesives would provide a fix that would last as long as the original factory job so long as the mating surfaces are properly cleaned first and would cost less than a dollar. (The container of adhesive might cost $5-10 but you’d use only a fraction of it for the heel repair).

    Bottom line: Most repairs are simple enough that you can do them yourself. It’s just a matter of doing them the right way. In this age of GooglEverything, the knowledge to do it the “right way” is usually at your fingertips.

    Tossing something simply because a part became dislodged is an unsustainable mindset born of sloth.

  12. sues April 16th, 2014

    About 3 years ago my not so thrifty husband was going to throw away his much loved & worn black cowboy boots. The boots were originally about $200.00 five years earlier. I dug them out of the trash and took them to a wonderful local shoe repair shop.

    Eighty dollars later my husband was stunned and thrilled to have his boots back. When he tried them on he said “these were repaired by a real professional”.

    He actually went to bed with his boots on!!

    Said boots are still going strong.

  13. Katie April 16th, 2014

    Just dropped off my favourite dress shoes to replace a heel lift lost on the weekend at a charity event. Absolutely worth replacing for a classic style. A $15 repair will have me wearing these shoes for another 3-5 years (cobblestone walkways notwithstanding).

  14. Karen April 16th, 2014

    my teenagers fix their high end skate board shoes all the time with either PL or shoe goo then they where them to cut the lawn or creek fish – they save their new ones for everyday – we purchase far fewer shoes. One of them showed me a pair from two years ago yesterday. I laughed when he said he wore the sole through when the brakes on his bike failed. He told me that’s why he only wears his old ones when “stunting”. Yes he wears a helmet -(an expensive one)
    Worth every penny when one day he slammed his head onto a parking lot.. His words to my husband on the way back from emergency “good thing you bought the expensive one with the face guard because it saved the $7000 you spent on braces” I was thinking more of his brain. We went out and replaced the helmet. Like I said worth every penny.

  15. Sheryl April 16th, 2014

    This is also something to think about during the initial purchase. Twice, I’ve spent good money on “good” names only to find out later they couldn’t be fixed. The shoes (Clarks) were a style that just didn’t have enough upper leather to re-attach when it eventually split. The other pair, Blundstone Boots, are made in a way that the soles cannot be replaced. I was very sad at this. I had to toss the shoes, but my daughter is finishing wearing the blunnies out for me (she wears them when mucking out her horse’s stall.

  16. michelle April 16th, 2014

    I adore all my John Fluevog boots. I have two pairs both over ten years old, and I only recently had to replace the soles as well as the zipper. I agree that replacing makes sense if it is quality in the first place and Fluevog shoes are quality.

  17. Carol Shetler April 16th, 2014

    Your love of wonderful, unique shoes will actually save you money in the long run, Kerry. I have 3 pair of shoes in which I have invested a whopping $120 in maintenance over (wait for it) the past 37 years. My Bally spectator pumps, purchased in 1985, were resoled and redyed to navy and white from beige and white in 2005, at a cost of $50, and I still wear them through spring, summer and fall. Original cost in 1985 was $125 at half price from $250. A pair of black 1920s-style instep strap pumps have been resoled (twice) for a total cost of $40. Original cost in 1994, $90 (half-price from $180). A pair of Italian nappa leather flat loafers, the last remaining pair of three, resoled and reheeled at $30. Original cost in 2007 $60, half price from $120. It would cost me (if I could find them now) $550 at the minimum to replace those shoes. My investment in repair is fully justified. Buy the VERY best in shoes, even if you think you can’t afford it, and put the money into maintenance. Your feet will love you, and everyone from friends to complete strangers will envy you and your unique style!

  18. Elizabeth April 17th, 2014

    I’ve repaired shoes and been with them too! I try to look for shoes that can be re-soled because I tend to wear down one side of the heal.

    I’ve also gotten some great deals over the years on new items that need a little repair or altering. Learning how to sew has saved me a lot of money!

  19. denise April 17th, 2014

    Repair if you can, upcycle/reuse parts if you can’t repair (those uppers would make a great small purse) toss if you have to. I’m glad you were able to repair those boots, I would have cried, too, if they had to be let go. Simple wearable style and awesome color.

    About 8 years ago I purchased a pair of Bjorn loafers for $30 at a discount retail store. I wore them all the time. The sole at the ball of the foot split right across on both shoes and the interior fabric was wearing thin. I continued to wear them, but, after wearing a number of times in wet weather and ending up with wet feet…I had to let them go…well, not really, I couldn’t bear it so I put them in my closet for dry days. Because they were such a perfect shoe for my foot (wide toe box) I was distraught. For years I’ve looked for something as comfortable, in case the inevitable happened.

    I finally did a search on eBay for something similar. I found almost the exact shoe but with slight changes due to an update in style. They were very lightly worn (nothing worse than walking in another’s foot pattern) and cost $25 with s/h included. I believe these will last another 8 years and in the meantime I will look for another pair for when the just-in-case happens.

    As far as styles and trends go, I don’t follow them, so for me, repairing or completely wearing it out before throwing it out works for me in all areas of my life. If I do want a change to something ‘new’ it usually comes from a thrift or consignment store, same place where my ‘old’ but still useful goes to.

  20. Vic Reeves April 17th, 2014

    If the inside of the shoe still feels good, I also think you should just repair them. Any shoes you’ve worn for eight years that still look pretty much new are definitely worth it.

  21. Susan April 17th, 2014

    My cappuccino maker gets repaired every few years – and it is so worth it (maximum repair $65). I bought it years ago for about $700 which seemed very expensive at the time. It makes espresso and steams milk, with no digital anything on it. When it needs repairs it is always something simple like a washer, as a result of wear and tear. I don’t drink a lot of coffee, but I really like a cup in the morning. Added advantage to an espresso machine at home? I never buy fancy coffees when I am out. I’ve priced new espresso makers – and at around $1500 for a decent machine, so $65 every three years seems reasonable.

  22. Theresa F May 8th, 2014

    I wasted $24 getting the sole of one of my boots glued. The guy did a crappy job and the sole came apart within a week. Shoe repair is a dead art.

  23. Jennifer Roberts May 27th, 2014

    I love, love, love products that are made to be repaired, not just replaced. I bought a high-end car seat for my older son when he was a baby, and after using it for several years the cover was really ratty. Even though the seat itself is discontinued, I was able to get a new cover from the manufacturer for just $25. It should last until my youngest outgrows it. Not bad for a $200 initial investment.

  24. Drmchsr66 June 25th, 2014

    REPAIR.
    Taken to a professional boot repair shop will save you piles of money. For ten or twenty bucks they would be fixed, polished and the other boot would get looked at for any repairs too…before your heel fell off.

    Remember that items made a decade ago will last longer than anything newly manufactured today.

    Drmchsr66

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