With all the attention paid to the fundamentals of reducing, reusing and recycling, it’s easy to overlook one of the simplest ways to maximize our resources - shoes. Getting every last bit of use out of our purchases is a frugal move but also an environmental one.
With all the attention paid to the fundamentals of reducing, reusing and recycling, it’s easy to overlook one of the simplest ways to maximize our resources. Getting every last bit of use out of our purchases is a frugal move but also an environmental one.
Don Rinaldi recalls growing up with three pairs of shoes — a black pair, a brown pair and sneakers, “which you only wore to play baseball.”
That habit of buying fewer shoes and keeping them in good repair faded as Americans discovered mass-produced merchandise. However, Rinaldi, now president of the Shoe Service Institute of America and owner of New Jersey-based Petronio Shoe Products, says a little care and a good shoe repair shop can add years to a shoe’s life. Here are a few simple measures:
According to the SSIA, men’s shoes can be resoled seven to 10 times, and women’s three to five times, at a fraction of the cost of new shoes. Even brand new shoes can benefit from a new sole, says Rinaldi. A thin layer of rubber on the bottoms repels water and helps them last longer. Heel guards also help absorb wear.
Give shoes a day off in between wear to help dry out the previous day’s perspiration, says Rinaldi. Plus, “it makes the shoe last longer if you don’t wear it every day.”
Women’s shoes especially are prone to issues, like broken straps and rubber tips getting worn down on high heels. A simple fix, usually for $5 or less, can make shoes like new. The SSIA advises repairing shoes at the first sign of a problem, before they suffer permanent damage.
Water and wintertime salt will eat away at a shoe’s leather upper, says Rinaldi, creating cracks and lines. Use a weatherproofing product and make sure to wipe shoes down thoroughly if you walk in snowy areas that have been treated with salt. Regular maintenance makes a big difference too, he says. “Even just shining your shoes, oiling them, cleaning them and polishing them—that will also prolong the life of the leather.”
Natural product enthusiasts say buffing olive oil onto clean, dry shoes also works in place of polish.
A shoe repair shop has a huge arsenal of tricks to revive shoes that seem to be on their last legs, says Rinaldi. “Most people don’t realize that when you get a shoe repaired, they’ll stretch it, they’ll shrink it, reshape it, resole the heel, clean the leather, redye it and make it look like new.”
GateHouse News Service
Did you know?
- Each year, the shoe repair industry keeps some 62 million pairs of shoes out of landfills and on consumers' feet, according to the SSIA.
- Fitness experts say that unlike dress shoes, athletic shoes should be replaced after 400 miles of use. Many running shoe stores (and any Nike store) will accept your old shoes to be ground up and recycled into new products like carpet padding and sports surfaces.