Education and Training: High school plus training
Salary: Median—$9.29 per hour
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Shoe repairers rebuild, remodel, and repair boots and shoes. They also mend luggage, handbags, and sports equipment, such as tents, saddles, and golf bags. Some shoe repairers specialize in making and repairing orthopedic shoes following a doctor's prescription. Most shoe repairers work in shoe repair shops. Some work in shops in variety stores, department stores, shoe stores, or dry cleaning shops. About half of all workers have their own shoe repair businesses.
Shoe repair workers generally spend much of their time replacing worn heels and soles. They remove the old sole and sand the bottom of the shoe to make it rough so that the new sole will stay in place. Then they choose a ready-made sole or cut one from a piece of leather. They attach the sole to the shoe with nails, cement, or stitching, and then trim it to size. To replace heels, they first pry off the old heel. Then they select a factory-made replacement or cut one to the proper size and shape. They fasten the heel to the shoe with cement and nails. They stain and buff the new sole and heel to match the color of the shoe. To complete a repair job, workers may restitch worn or ripped seams, replace inner soles, and polish the shoes.
Shoe repairers use a variety of hand and power tools including hammers, awls, automatic sole stitchers, heel-nailing machines, and sewing machines. In large shops some shoe repairers specialize in only one task, such as the restitching of torn seams. Other shoe repairers do a wide variety of jobs that may include stretching shoes that are too tight. Shoe repairers restyle shoes by changing their color or by reshaping the toes and heels. They add or remove ornaments. They sometimes repair or replace zippers in articles made of canvas, leather, or rubber. Many workers are also responsible for waiting on customers and taking care of the business details involved in running a shoe repair shop. In some shops they sell leather goods and accessories such as shoelaces, polishes, and foot comfort aids.
Education and Training Requirements
Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates. Shoe repairers usually get their training on the job. It takes from six months to two years to become fully qualified. You can also learn the shoe repair trade in a vocational or trade school. Most school programs take from six months to two years to complete. Students receive practical training in the use of the tools, machines, and materials used in the repairing and rebuilding of shoes. After completing such a program, workers usually need an additional year or so of experience before they are fully qualified as shoe repairers. Graduates of vocational schools may be hired more quickly than those who have no training or experience.
Getting the Job
Interested individuals can get a job as a shoe repairer by applying directly to shoe repair shops. Large shoe repair shops employ the greatest number of workers, but candidates can also apply to the shoe repair departments of variety or department stores or to dry cleaning firms. Shoe stores that specialize in orthopedic shoes and shoes for people with uncommon sizes sometimes employ shoe repairers. Prospective workers can also apply to firms that make and repair leather goods. Some jobs are listed in newspaper classifieds and job banks on the Internet. State or private employment agencies may also be helpful in finding a job. If attending a trade or vocational school, candidates can check the placement office for job information.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Shoe repairers can advance by becoming supervisors or managers in large shops or by opening their own shops. Loans are available to qualified people.
Jobs for shoe repairers are expected to decrease steadily through the year 2014. It is often cheaper and more convenient to replace shoes than to repair them. Also, new machinery in "while-you-wait" shops has made repairers more productive. Most job openings will arise as workers retire or leave the field.
Working conditions for shoe repairers vary. Most large shops are clean and well lighted. Small shops may be noisy, crowded, or poorly ventilated. The strong odor of leather and dyes may bother some workers. Shoe repair employees generally work forty hours a week. Self-employed repairers often work as many as sixty hours a week. Shops tend to be busiest in the spring and fall, but there are not usually any seasonal layoffs.
Shoe repairers spend most of the working day on their feet. Some mechanical ability and manual dexterity is required. Those who deal with customers should be patient and courteous.
Where to Go for More Information
Shoe Service Institute of America
18 School St.
North Brookfield, MA 01535
Earnings and Benefits
Shoe repairers earn a median wage of $9.29 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Shop managers and owners of shoe repair shops earn substantially more. Salaries vary according to the worker's skill and experience and geographic location. Employers generally provide paid holidays and vacations. Large companies often give more benefits than small shops. Self-employed shoe repairers must provide their own benefits.