Fixing shoes, boots, jackets, bags and leather items are the bread and butter of shoe repair and cobbling shops, although in Vancouver, not all the shops will service all items. Awl Together Leather is a custom leatherwork studio in East Vancouver, just off Commercial Drive, that offers repair, alteration, redye, and bespoke services on all types of leather and heavyweight items. Using age-old technology and creative problem solving, Awl Together Leather, has gone beyond the standard shoe repair and cobbling shop to become an industry leader in decreasing textile waste and forming a circular economy.
Visit Awl Together Leather at 1183 Odlum Drive in Vancouver on Tues-Thurs 8:30-5, Fri/Sat 10-6 for walk-in service on all your shoe repair, cobbling, leather, and heavyweight textile needs.
What can Shoe Repair and Cobbling Fix?
Here, we will go over the most common problems with footwear and how they can be solved, including heels, half soles, full soles, stretching, polishing, redying, sewing, and setting hardware. We only use the best methods of shoe repair and cobbling including offering a large selection of soles, heels, rubber, and leather from the best brands including Vibram, JR Leather, and Topy.
are usually the first thing to wear on any type of shoe – from a Gucci Loafer to a Good-Year Welted Service Boot. The best fix is to take off the top layer of rubber or leather (called a heel top lift) and replace it. This usually involves prying off the top lift, sanding the boots to be balanced and even, gluing on a new top lift, nailing that top lift, fine sanding the edges, and finally, polishing the footwear. Sometimes, we’ll need to add a leather or rubber build-up layer to your heel stacks to compensate for the wear and properly balance them. Due to the differences in materials and wear, both heels will get replaced at the same time. We always sand to match the original block shape and edge finish unless specified.
High heel shoes are another form of heel repair that we do almost daily. Taking out your worn high-heel shoe pin, putting a new one in, trimming to shape, and then polishing is a simple task – be it on Jimmy Choo, Louboutin, or vintage high heel shoes.
Of course, there are a few special heel shapes out there that we love to see! Cuban heels are slightly curved boot heels commonly found on cowboy boots, from brands such as Frye Boots, Boulet Boots, Ariat Boots, Justin Boots, Durango Boots, and of course, Stetson Boots. Some folks say that Cowboys heels are different from Cuban heels and we’ll sometimes see Dogger Heels (which tend to be shorter in height and less angled), but the truth is that all three of these are of a slight variation that we repair confidently. Finally, there’s Woodsman Heels (also known as Logger Heels) with their iconic concave curve. These heels were originally made for lumberjacks, linemen, and arborists – and yes, we do install caulks (pronounced corks – not to be confused with cleats)!
are your protective layer for all types of men’s and women’s footwear that adds grip to the front half of your footwear and prevents wearing through the sole. The most iconic half sole repair rubber is, of course, Topy – a brand that provides the Elysee, Strie, and Semlux styles in many different colors. We also stock Tank lug half soles, Vibram 435 half soles, Transtop and Topsem rubber half soles, among others.
The best halfsole repair seam will be seamless. Classically, half sole seams are cut into your footwear by hand (or machine) on a slight angle that covers the wear marks. We then sand your half sole to prepare it for gluing, sometimes adding additional material (a toe tip) if your sole is badly worn down. Consider adding a protective half sole to your shoes – be they Aldo, Matt & Nat, Poppy Barley or Dior – before repair is needed to protect them from the start and add extra grip for safety. It’s much easier to change out a half sole than to change out the complete leather sole!
Casali Mirror Half Sole is the best option for repairing luxury brands such as Christian Louboutin. These soles have a mirrored glossy finish and are closest to the original Christian Louboutin red sole, however they are also available in black, nude and glitter.
Full Soles …
are replacing the entire bottom of your footwear once the sole has completely worn down, including the heel. There are so many types of shoe and boot construction that we will only cover the top methods here. The best thing about full sole repairs is that you can upgrade the style and material of your sole to be softer or harder; thicker or thinner; black, brown, or colorful; and have more or less tread.
The most common shoe and boot construction is the cement or glue method – this can include Poppy Barley, Fleuvog, Doc Martens, Blundstone, Birkenstock, and even Common Projects. In this, we pull off your old sole, paying close attention to your welt, and cement on a new one using a combination of primers and glue types best suited to your rubber. Sometimes, brands will use a type of rubber (TPU) that we can’t glue to as their quality is compromised. Blundstone Chelsea Boots, Geox and Clarks all commonly use TPU (which crumbles with age). Footwear with crepe soles are another prime example of a gluing-resistant sole. Awl Together Leather offers both Blundstone and Crepe sole repairs by removing the existing soles and supplying the best suitable alternative full soles.
Blake Construction is where shoemakers stitch straight through the insole to the midsole or outsole for quick but sturdy shoe construction. A lot of brands use a combination of Blake Stitching (also known as McKay or Rapid Stitching) and gluing. The best shoe repairer and cobbler will know what’s in your shoes and boots from experience! For example, Fluevog commonly uses blake stitching to create a lightweight shoe. Awl Together Leather uses our Champion Chainstitch McKay stitcher and Power DN86 for the best shoe repair and cobbling in Vancouver.
The gold standard in shoe construction is often a Goodyear Welted boot. These include iconic brands such as Allen Edmonds, Dayton, Viberg, Red Wing, 1000 Mile, Wolverine, Thursdays… the list could go on. A Goodyear Welted boot is made by stitching a leather upper and welt to a channeled insole or insole rib tape. The welt is then turned downwards and outsole stitched to the midsole or full sole. This hidden and turned seam provides an extremely waterproof and long-lasting construction that is widely regarded as the gold standard. Awl Together Leather in Vancouver is among the best shoe repair and cobbling shops that provide hand-welting and Landis outsole stitching on Goodyear Welted Boots and Shoes.
There are many other methods of footwear construction as well – the original turnshoe, a Storm Welt (or Norwegian Welt), and of course – the Stitchdown. Clarks Desert Boots, Danner, Wesco, Viberg, White’s Boots, and more all offer this challenging boot construction. In stitchdown footwear, the upper is flared outwards and outsole stitched to a midsole or full sole – which can pose the challenge of losing its shape when taken apart completely. Only the best shoe repair and cobbling shops in Vancouver offer Stitchdown full sole repairs, and Awl Together Leather is proud to be one.
Repairing soles and heels is what we do! We have solutions for all styles of shoes, boots, and footwear at Awl Together Leather.
Find the Best Sewing in Shoe Repair
Awl Together leather has set itself apart from the best shoe repair and cobbling shops in Vancouver by having the largest sewing department available. Unfortunately, sewing can be seen as a lesser skill by some cobblers, resulting in sub-par repairs and alterations, but not here. Awl Together Leather has high standards and well-trained staff as we also complete leather garment alterations and upholstery. Both owners uphold an artistic textile practice – Ariss in bespoke leather and Tess in quilting and embroidery – and see sewing as a key to reducing textile waste and embracing a circular economy.
On footwear, we see a lot of common sewing jobs! These include simple restitching on the uppers, replacing Velcro, sewing in new zippers and hole patches, replacing elastics, and replacing elastic panel gussets on Chelsea Boots like RM Williams. In Vancouver, many of the best shoe repair and cobbling shops charge flat rates for sewing in new zippers, but Awl Together Leather charges based on the length of the zipper to reduce costs for the consumer. We often complete repairs centered around accessibility and making footwear and garments easier to operate, such as installing Velcro straps instead of lacing. If you’ve torn your leather upper or walked a hole into your toes, we are able to patch those areas with minimal or bold design choices. We’re among the best shoe repair and cobbling shops in Vancouver because we continuously stock over 40 different types and colors of leather to best match your item.
Larger footwear sewing jobs include shortening tall boots, making boot calves wider, adding new elastic gussets, or even remaking the panels of uppers. We see a lot of equestrian riding boots and tall boots with calves that are too narrow and may require these services. Ariss likes to say that Cobblers are the original Upcyclers – and it’s true. Originally, the definition of a cobbler was someone who used recycled materials to repair or create – while a shoemaker used only new materials. If you’re envisioning major (or minor!) alterations to your footwear, then visit the best shoe repair and cobbling shop in Vancouver.
Shoe Stretching and Setting Hardware
What shoe repair and cobbling shop doesn’t offer stretching and hardware? Stretching is fundamental basic of leather, but with mass manufacturing, less real leather is used in footwear today. A lot of synthetic shoes, shoes with hard toe and heel stiffeners, boots with zippers, or boots lined with fake leather won’t stretch. That said we offer shoe stretching in width, length, instep, and calf for those in need! Bring them by and we can give them a look over and let you know our thoughts. Additionally, if you have tricky bunions, we can do a targeted stretch in just the bunion area.
And of course, we set all types of hardware! Our studio is equipped with five different machines that set a full range of hardware including eyelets, rivets, grommets, speedhooks and lace hooks – in a variety of sizes. Many of these (speed hooks especially!) can be incredibly challenging for the DIY repairer. Additionally, we have a large selection of o-rings, d-rings, equestrian tack and motorcycle zippers. We also encourage customers to supply their own hardware if they have something extremely specific in mind. Since we serve a wider range of items, we have a larger hardware stock than the best shoe repair and cobbling shops in Vancouver. Our hardware is largely available in nickel or brass, but we can order in antique, black, or custom pieces if needed!
Leather Care – Shoe Shine, Polish, and Redye
We will conclude this in the same order we finish off repairing your shoes – by shining them! The best shoe repair and cobbling shops in Vancouver offer free polishes with all other repair services, and we are among them. From cleaning white shoes, adding a mirror shine, removing salt stains or reviving color, we’ve got your covered! We also offer redye services for real leather and recoloring services for colorful transformations on boots or shoes! Redying leather can be very tricky and we don’t recommend people dye their goods at home due to the risk of dye rub-off or color transfer.
Leather care can be complicated with all the products out there, but it doesn’t have to be! A few golden rules will get you through:
- Never use shoe care products with silicone in them. Silicone provides a quick shine, but it seals the pores of leather completely and leads to leather cracking and disintegrating.
- Never use anything from your kitchen or that has an expiry date! Banana peels? Olive Oil? Bacon Fat? Coconut Oil? Just don’t do it. These oils go rancid (as does mink oil, often found in Dubbin) and so will your leather over time. We recommend using Huberd’s Shoe Grease for all smooth leathers needing some moisture and conditioning.
- Suedes, Nubucks, Buckskin, Roughout, Fur-on hides, and Exotic leathers (reptiles and fish – think scales) all need unique products. Check out our suede brush, suede eraser, and Fiebing’s Reptile Spray.
- Pick your product for the result you want! Three basic elements make up most shoe care products – oils to hydrate, dye to color, and wax for shine.
- Firstly, we recommend cleaning dirty leather before applying any products. Saddle Soap is a ph-corrected soap that is lathered, similar to that of a shaving cream, to clean dirt and debris off the surface. We recommend Fiebing’s Saddle Soap!
- Shoe Greases and Oils will hydrate your leather and help keep it waterproof – but they may darken it by a shade. Conditioning helps keep the leather supple and prevents cracking. We recommend Huberd’s Shoe Grease, but Bick4 or Lexol Leather Conditioner are popular too.
- Shoe Creams are a combination of dye, oils and wax that supply a little bit of hydration and color. These are a great solution for faded leather, or re-introducing color to scuffed areas. We use Famaco Shoe Cream in shop, because they come in a wide range of colours.
- Wax Polish has the most wax and some color, and are usually used to achieve a shiny shoe. Again, Saphir is the best brand – especially their Mirror Gloss – but Famaco Wax Polish is a great option that we use happily.
- Aerosols and Spray Waterproofers are a great way to add water resistance without changing the surface or color. These are perfect for materials like suede or fabrics, but can be used on smooth leather as well. We recommend Famaco Waterproof Leather Spray. But whatever you use – make sure it isn’t silicone-based.
For the best shoe care and leather care products, visit our Vancouver storefront or shop online here for trusted brands like Feibings, Saphir, Huberds and Famaco.