Gear Rx: Boots

Know what can and can't be repaired on your boots, and who to call.

Most cobblers can repair separated seams in a boot's upper or tongue, give the leather a thorough cleaning and waterproofing, reglue peeled toe guards and rands, and replace or restitch busted eyelets and hooks. These jobs are generally quick and inexpensive. More costly are major structural repairs. If you need a midsole or outersole replaced or an upper completely retooled, your best bet is to contact the manufacturer for the name of an authorized repair shop, then get an estimate. Because retooled boots don't always fit as well as the originals, you may want to think about investing your cash in a new pair.

Many cobblers also provide custom services, from boots and footbeds made specifically for your feet to in-shop fittings. If your boots are giving your toes the squeeze or your Achilles tendons the pinch, a cobbler can stretch and soften the leather or use heat to reshape the heel counters.

Can Fix

  • Torn seams or holes in uppers. Cobblers can usually repair a torn seam or patch holes caused by chewing critters.
  • Separating toe guards and rands. If the rand separates at the glue line, a permanent adhesive will stick the pieces back together.
  • Broken lace hooks or lost eyelets.
  • Hot spots in otherwise well-fitting boots. Cobblers use several techniques to stretch toe boxes and other areas to improve fit.
  • Worn soles. Cobblers can replace most soles on high-quality hiking and climbing boots.

Can't Fix

  • Damaged leather uppers. If the leather has worn thin or has abrasions covering more than a third of the upper, you should replace the boots.
  • Worn soles on lightweight hikers. Resoling lightweight, inexpensive boots isn't cost effective.
  • Degraded leather. Mildew and mold usually means replacement. Treat your boots with conditioner or waterproofing regularly, and put them out to dry immediately when you return from a trip.
  • Broken midsole or shank. If the shank breaks, you'll need to replace the entire outersole unit, or more likely, the boot.

Click here, for a guide to repair shops nationwide.