Introduction: From Bleak to Chic: How to Repair Unevenly Worn Heels at Home
I could not find written instructions for doing this at home so I figured these out. Enjoy!
At-home instructions for replacing the heel of a shoe. Usually I just get them fixed at a cobbler but I was at the shoe supply store for materials for another project, saw the aisles of replacement heels and figured why not. These are my go-to shoes, originally from the thrift store, and the heels had worn unevenly. DIYppl with a pronated/supinated step take note.
“This is a fast and inexpensive enough repair at a cobbler. Why do it yourself?”
-To have fun on the porch, be independent, and get your hands on your shoes.
-To use materials, shapes, creative details your cobbler doesn't offer or you want to try yourself.
-As a starter project to get more into shoe repair.
-If you have enough pairs worn out, it may be monetarily worth it for you to do yourself.
I bought the replacement heels and rubber cement at a shoe supply store. The tools used were what I had, use what you have. A bandsaw or electric knife, and belt sander or electric palm sander would have made this much, much faster. Took me about 2.5 hrs, plus dry time and trial and error time.
-Hacksaw with metal blade
-Flex shaft (or Dremel) with sanding bit
-Metallic gel pen
-Fine grit sandpaper
-Board or other solid cutting surface
-Barge contact cement (shown in step 3)
-1/4” Replacement heels
The worn part of my heel was 5 or 6 mm, which is just about 1/4”. Don’t buy replacements thinner than the worn spot or you’ll need to stack it and otherwise work against the material. Check both shoes when buying, your left and right may wear differently. Uncut sheets of material are also available.
Step 1: Measure and Mark Your Heel
I am going to chop straight across, removing the bottom 1/4” of heel- unworn part along with the worn, then replace the whole bottom with my cool blue 1/4” replacement piece.
Another option would be to just cut or sand the worn corner so it’s still diagonal but flat, and put a wedge back in, instead of chopping and replacing the whole bottom of the heel like I’m going to show (uses less material, possibly easier with less precise measuring and cutting.) The overall instructions would be essentially the same. However I think the way I fixed mine will be easier to work with in the future when they wear again.
Measure from the top of the heel, the side that attaches to your shoe. The bottom is uneven so can’t be accurately measured from. My replacements are 1/4” so I measured that on the front corners (the corners towards the front of my shoe) and marked with metallic gel pen (hi vis, water soluble.)
To mark the unevenly worn side, first mark right above the most worn spot. Measure this distance from the top of the heel, and mark the same on the opposite corner. Draw a dotted line between those two points. Do the same to connect your line to the front corners you marked. Measure carefully, this is one of the most important steps. Don’t just draw a straight line around the four points all at once or it will probably be crooked.
Step 2: Chop Chop Chop
The strategy here is to start at the least worn corner and reach the most worn corner last. I wish I had a bandsaw to do this, but of the saws I have I picked this hacksaw with metal blade and am satisfied with the results.
Go slowly and carefully, stay on the outside of your line. My original heels are one cast piece of rubber and mostly hollow inside so sawing by hand was easier than expected.
Sand it flat if necessary. I also put the shoes on and stood on the replacement heels to see if they felt right.
Trace slightly larger than your heels onto the replacement material. Wish I had a bandsaw or electric knife but a box cutter with a fresh blade worked. Use some type of cutting mat below. I used a piece of wood. Cut your shape by going over the same line a few times, not all at once! This makes a neater line and doesn’t cause you to push too hard and end up with blood everywhere.
I saved the cut off pieces in case they come in handy one day for replacing a smaller piece, like new bottoms for high heels, or covering an isolated spot of wear.
Step 3: Glue
I used Barge, which is the big name in glue for shoe soles, and followed the instructions on the can. Or use some type of very strong contact cement which you have thoroughly researched. This is not a step to wing it with some whatever POS dollar store Shoo Goo you have lying around.
It’s fine to wing it with the clamps though, as shown.
Step 4: Finish
Smooth the edges. I used a sanding bit on my flex shaft. Any electric sander will be fine. An analogue palm sander would work on the outside edge too, but sandpapering the inside edge would be very tedious. I also tested a few different hand files but didn’t like the results. Didn’t test xacto blades followed by sandpaper. Also didn’t test a screw gun clamped in a vice with a sanding bit- do people do that?
Smoothed the transition a little with some 220 grit sandpaper, which is the finest I had on hand. If I happen to get a finer one I’ll go back over it but 220 was alright given that these shoes are getting a little rugged looking anyway.
Ya done. Cute once again!
*I didn’t sand it perfectly flat after cutting off the original heel and ended up with some gaps between new and old heel. Filled the gaps with silicone mixed with sanding dust. Next time I need to replace the heels I’ll re-sand it too. If I still don’t have a sanding belt or palm sander handy I’ll use heavy grit sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood.
This rubber filler should hold but I saved a baggie of rubber dust in case.
Step 5: I Was Hooked
I just couldn’t stop! The tongues for some reason were originally pleather and the surface had worn away. Sewed red scrap leather over the gap. Maybe I’ll dye it black some day maybe I won’t.