It is easy to get attached to your shoes if you’ve been wearing them almost every day for the past few years, and buying a new pair can feel like a waste sometimes, especially if your old pair has a lot of sentimental value that you don’t want to just throw away once they’re worn out. Whether they’re sneakers, boots, formal shoes or even just casual footwear that you keep around the house, there are always ways you can breathe new life into your old shoes with a little bit of DIY love and care.

We at ShoeAdviser have picked out some of the easiest and most useful ways you can revitalize and upgrade your old footwear – if you’re thinking of refurbishing a pair of shoes, perhaps something here might be just what you’re looking for.

Dying Leather

Leather shoes can be tricky to repair since it can take a lot of skill to fix holes and scratches without ruining the look of the shoe altogether, especially if it’s a very high-quality brand or design. However, dying the leather they’re made of can be a much faster way of giving them a complete visual overhaul, and you might even be able to add in custom color gradients or finishes that make them a one-of-a-kind addition to your wardrobe.

It’s actually somewhat easy to dye leather if you’re careful with it. To start, all you have to do is clean the shoes and strip off any polish or oil, then choose a color and start applying it with a fine brush. Once it’s done, just let it dry for about a day, then add in or re-paint any areas you missed and cover the shoes in a protective polish.

This can turn even the most worn-out-looking leather shoes into a pair that look almost brand new, and it can actually help you repurpose your old shoes for a different style or outfit type if they’re a color that you don’t like anymore.

Since dying leather completely changes its color, this is also really useful if the old shoes belonged to a family member who doesn’t need or want them anymore. If they don’t fit your personal style or look out-of-place with the rest of your clothing, you can dye the shoes to try and make them more fitting without needing to throw them away and replace them with new ones.

Replacing Soles

While the exact process varies between different types of shoe, you can often DIY up a new sole for yourself to keep the bottom of your shoes well-protected and sturdy. It’s no surprise that the sole is often the part that wears out the fastest since it’s literally designed to absorb damage and shocks that would otherwise go straight into your feet. Even if the rest of your shoes are fine, a worn-out sole can make them extremely uncomfortable to wear, even on soft ground.

While some shoes can be sent off for repairs, you can also buy completely standalone soles that you can cut down and apply to existing shoes with only a small amount of DIY effort. First, you just need to remove the existing sole (usually by cutting most of it off and sandpapering the rest away), then you cut down the sole you’re adding to make sure that it’s the perfect size for your chosen footwear.

When you’re ready to attach a sole, you need to apply some specialized shoe or fabric glue (which will vary, depending on the materials you’re using) and wait a few minutes, then press the sole into the bottom of the shoe and tie it in place with string or elastic bands. Then, after it’s dried a few hours later, you need to use tacks or nails to hammer it into a permanent fix, giving you a completely fresh sole without damaging the rest of your shoe.

Polishing your Shoes

It might sound odd, but sometimes shoes just need a little bit more polish to look like they’re brand new, and many people underestimate how effective it can be when it comes to protecting your shoe and keeping it looking shiny and wear-free. The exact formulas you’ll be able to use, as well as their directions for use, will still vary based on what your shoes are actually made from since very material-specific polishes are compatible with more than one kind of material type. However, polishing can work on almost any shoe, from standard exercise brands to high-class formal footwear.

If it’s applied correctly, you’ll notice that the shoe’s outer surface will be a lot more reflective and shiny, but you can increase this even further by buffing it with a soft cloth or rag if you want the shoes to look as stylish as possible. It’s worth noting that most polishes will also come as set colors, which can help revitalize shoes that are starting to get discolored or lose some of their aesthetic design due to frequent use. Simply choose a tone that matches the shoe’s existing colors, and you’ll be able to restore them incredibly quickly.

You can also spit-shine shoes if you want a harder, more consistent shine. Thankfully, you don’t have to spit on your shoes to do this, and a small spray bottle of water will be enough to wet the polish and create a more reflective coating.

Polishing isn’t just good for visual improvements – it also adds more long-term protection to a shoe, making it less likely to show damage and slowing down its natural wear and tear while you’re using them. In most cases, all you need is a brush, a cloth, water, and some appropriate polish, meaning that you can easily do it at home without needing to take the shoe in for professional repairs.

Replacing Laces

As obvious as it might seem, the laces of your shoes can make a big difference in how they look and feel when you’re wearing them, and can even be the difference between them making or breaking the rest of your outfit if you’re dressing for a certain occasion. Almost all laced shoes allow you to swap out the laces by simply taking the existing set out of your shoes and sliding in new ones, although specific designs (most commonly walking boots and high-end sports shoes) might require some extra effort.

There’s a lot you can do with laces, regardless of whether you’re trying to create a formal or informal shoe. For serious occasions, you can swap out brightly-colored laces with darker ones for meetings, or even use reflective/glow-in-the-dark laces for extra safety if you’re involved in industrial or construction-based work.

On the other hand, if you are using your shoes for informal and casual occasions, there’s a huge range of different choices. Mismatched colors and patterns, designs using printed-on words and images, or simple styles that match the rest of your outfit.

Adding New Insoles

As mentioned earlier, soles are one of the most important parts of a shoe, and that also applies to the insoles. Rather than being focused on protecting the shoe, they’re meant to help keep your feet comfortable and secure inside your shoes, so having them wear out quickly can make your shoes incredibly uncomfortable even if they’re still structurally sound. Thankfully, you can replace them quite easily, either by fully swapping them out or placing a new insert over the old materials.

Inserts are generally quite easy to do, requiring a bare minimum of effort and giving you the option of cutting them down to a smaller, better-fitting size that’s ideal for whichever type and design of shoe you’re using. They can often be made of certain foams and gels that provide far more protection a normal sole, with the downside being that they can also sometimes be bulky if you don’t take the time to cut them down to the right size.

A full sole replacement is a little bit trickier but is still possible as long as you’re able to remove the original. First, you need to make sure that your chosen insole is the right size, shape, and style to suit your needs since you won’t have as many opportunities to cut them down or re-shape them.

Then, you simply rip out the existing insole, and slide the new one in toe-first, trimming it down a little more if it still doesn’t fit perfectly. You generally won’t need any kind of adhesive to keep it in place, since the point is for it to rest inside the shoe itself, so the process of actually swapping the soles out can take as little as two minutes.

Since the soles are completely hidden inside the shoe, you can use whichever material you want – even the most formal shoes will support custom inserts and new insoles, allowing you to pad out your footwear if you find it too hard and firm to wear comfortably for very long.

Should I DIY My Shoes?

While there is always a risk of you damaging your shoes if you are trying some more complex techniques and ideas, there is usually no real downside to most of the smaller projects, and a lot of the problems are usually solved by applying some common sense to the situation and making sure you don’t do anything dangerous or risky.

As long as you still make sure to go to professionals for serious jobs (such as fixing major cuts and holes in extremely valuable shoes), you can provide a lot of quick and simple DIY care to your footwear and ensure that it lasts much longer, regardless of whether it’s for formal or casual occasions.

About the Author

Hey, I'm Lilly Harvey. If there's two things I'm passionate about in life, it's shoes and writing!

Combining both my passions with my Fashion Design degree, I've helped create Shoe Adviser to help readers choose the best shoes for them, enjoy!

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