Professional or at-home repairs that will save your soles.
When to Go to a Pro While you can do a few quick repairs at home, it's often easier ? and just as affordable ? to make that (wobbly) trip to the shoe-repair shop.
Broken Heel The Solution: A shoe pro can replace the metal pin that runs down the center of the heel. "Replace both heels at once for better balance," says Louise Ramuta of Ramuta's Shoe Repair, in Seattle. Cost: $10 to $30 per heel. Options:If your stilettos tend to snap, create a sturdier pair of shoes by having the shop grind a quarter inch off the existing heels. Cost: $10.
Torn Strap The Solution: Your shoe repairman can sew, glue, or tack a ripped strap back into place. Resist the urge to DIY with superglue, says Ramuta ? it tends to crack leather. Cost: $6 to $12 per strap. Options: If your straps are so brittle that you'd rather have them replaced, a shoe repairman can sew on a new, bone-colored strap, then dye it to match your shoes. Cost: $15 to $18.
Worn-Out Soles The Solution: "Replace your soles when the centers feel soft and spongy," says Frank Sorrentino, who replaces 50 to 100 soles a week as owner of Mont Clare Shoe Repair, in Chicago. Cost: $25 to replace leather soles; $15 to replace rubber soles. Options: Apply thin rubber sole guards to the bottoms of new shoes to prolong their life. When the guards wear out, you can replace them rather than the soles. Cost: $15 to $20.
Ill-Fitting Slingbacks The Solution: Your shoe repairman can shorten the straps, add elastic, or punch an extra hole in the buckle, says Nick Valenti of B. Nelson Shoes, in New York City. Cost: $5 and up to shorten the straps or add an extra hole; $8 and up to add elastic. Options: Transform slingbacks into slides by having the back straps removed. Ask a shoe pro for advice, though, since the front part alone might not be enough to hold your foot. Cost: $5.
Fading Color The Solution: To restore your black pumps to their original shade, pros remove as much of the existing color as possible, then apply at least two coats of dye, allowing 48 hours between coats. Cost: $12 to $20. Options: If those pink slingbacks are now a bit too Barbie for your tastes, you can dye them a new color, like black, navy, or camel. However, going from light to dark works best. Cost: $12 to $20.
Badly Scuffed or Torn Shoes The Solution: A shoe repairman can sand and smooth the plastic base of the heel or replace the heel cover. But if there are deep gouges in the leather, you may need new shoes. Cost: $20 to $30. Options: If your dog is the culprit, Valenti recommends spritzing your shoes with bitter apple. RS pick: Grannick's Bitter Apple Spray, $5, PetSmart, www.petsmart.com.
Boots That Don't Fit in the Calf The Solution: Can't get that zipper all...the...way...up? Your shoe-repair shop can stretch the calf area or add a zipper or an elastic gusset (a triangular insert that allows more stretch up top). Cost: $15 to stretch the calf area; $35 to add an elastic gusset or a zipper. Options: Alternatively, if your boots are too big up top, have them taken in. "We take the boot apart, recut it to fit the contour of your leg, then resew it," says Sorrentino. Cost: $35 and up.
Uncomfortable Pointy-Toes Shoes The Solution: If your pointiest shoes have become unbearable, your shoe repairman can give them a more comfortable round-toe shape by using a round mold, says Ramuta. Cost: $35 and up. Options: You can also go from round to pointy-toed or change your conservative pumps into open-toed shoes. Cost: $35 and up.
When to Do It Yourself You're not quite ready to hand tool a pair of loafers, but you can do your own quick fixes to solve these common shoe problems. Scratched Leather The Solution: Camouflage scratches on black or brown shoes with a matching fine Sharpie pen, then apply a cream polish in the same color. Buff the leather with an old T-shirt, then top off the job with a horsehair brush (plastic bristles leave marks). What to Use: Meltonian Shoe Cream, about $3 at shoe-repair shops. Horsehair brush, $7, www.joesshoeservice.com.
Salt Stains The Solution: To remove salt marks on leather or suede, Ada Hopkins, a conservator at the Bata Shoe Museum, in Toronto, recommends using a soft sponge dipped in a solution of one cup of water and one teaspoon of white vinegar. What to Use: White vinegar (16 ounces), about $1 at supermarkets.
Bad Odor The Solution: Shoe deodorants with odor-absorbing ingredients, like baking soda and charcoal, will help. But your best bet is to "wear them on alternate days to give them time to dry out," says Tom Adams, owner of Tom's Shoe Repair, in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. What to Use: Odor-Eaters Foot & Sneaker Spray Powder, $6 at drugstores.
Water Damage The Solution: If you get caught in a downpour, place your rain-soaked shoes on cedar shoe trees (cedar absorbs moisture) as soon as you get home. Make sure they're at least a few feet away from a direct heat source so they can dry naturally. What to Use: Cedar shoe trees, $17, .
Shoes That Are Too Small The Solution: Spray-on shoe-stretching liquid makes leather more pliable, says Howard Davis, a professor of footwear design at Parsons the New School for Design, in New York City. Saturate your shoes with the spray, then wear them around the house for about a half hour. What to Use: Premier Shoe Stretch, $3, www.shoeshinekit.com.
Shoes That Are Too Large The Solution: Insert Spenco pads, which have a thick, flat insole and a heel grip in the back to fill out a shoe that's a bit too big. "Your shoe will feel a half-size smaller," says Ramuta. Note: These pads work only with closed shoes, like pumps and boots - not sandals. What to Use: Spenco Heel Supports, about $20, www.spenco.com for store locations.
Dry, Brittle Leather The Solution: Perspiration usually keeps leather lubricated, but if your shoes have been sitting in storage over the summer, you can apply cream polish or mink oil to restore them. And if patent-leather pumps have lost their shine, use Windex or Pledge, says Nick Valenti. What to Use: Meltonian Mink Oil, $4, www.shoeshinekit.com.
A great shoe is about more than gorgeous looks - it's about the sole, too
Tips for Finding a Comfortable Pump
Hold the shoe at the heel and the toe area. The sole should be flexible and bend at the front of the arch but have a stiff bottom through the arch.
Choose a pump with a high heel that is directly underneath the center of your heel. If it is too far forward or at the back of the shoe, you'll have balance problems.
Look for false fronts. "A pointy-toe shoe with an area that is much longer than your toes has a false front. It keeps your toes from being squished," says Suzanne Levine, a podiatric surgeon in New York City.
Make sure the toe area is wide enough through the ball of your foot.
Note that a wedge shoe distributes your weight more evenly and offers support all the way through the foot. Be aware, however, that the limited sole flexibility of a wedge increases the risk of rolling your ankle over the side.
Test a shoe for cushioning by pressing a finger into the ball area. It should have a little give or a slightly padded feel.
Avoid synthetics. Wear shoes with leather, suede, or fabric uppers. These materials breathe, which lessens the chance of blistering.
Tips for Finding a Comfortable Flat
Look for sturdy construction. "Try to push in the area around the heel," says Meghan Cleary, author of The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You (Chronicle Books, $13, amazon.com). "If the heel collapses enough to touch the insole, the shoe is not supportive."
Hold each end of a shoe and try to twist it. If the shoe bends too much, it won't be supportive.
Look for flats with a little bit of a heel if you have high arches. Heels provide relief from foot pain.
Buy shoes with leather or rubber soles for optimum shock absorption.
Wear only shoes that have leather or suede insoles. Breathable and pliable, they help prevent chafing and blistering, and they mold to the feet.
Search for round-toe flats. They follow the shape of the foot and allow the toes to move.
Avoid slippage and cuts on your heel by finding a shoe with a back that fits snugly and holds your foot securely.
Tips for Finding a Blister-Proof Sandal
Avoid wobbly shoes. Examine a shoe's quality by looking at how it sits on a table. A well-built one will be balanced and look stable when standing on its own.
Find stack heels that have a broad heel tap (base), which allows for better shock absorption. You will also be steadier on your feet.
Stay away from backless shoes, such as thongs and slides, because they cause pain in the balls of the feet, says Suzanne Levine. Instead, look for a sandal with straps that hit just below the ankle (not encircling it). These will help stabilize the foot and hold it securely.
Wear only sandals that have leather or suede-lined straps to prevent chafing.
Make sure the toe-box area is wide enough for the broadest part of your foot.
Look for platform shoes that give the illusion of a higher heel without the feel of it.
Examine the insides of straps for seams and other construction details that might dig into feet.
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