Wednesday, June 8th, 2011...10:55 am

Boot repair at The Pioneer Renewer

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The Pioneer Renewer in the Castro has quickly become my favorite shoe repair place in SF.

In the past year, I think I’ve already been in three or four times. So many heels worn down from so much walking!

The repairs I’ve gotten there have all been above and beyond what I expected.

So that I can continue to wear my favorite boots — vintage Frye, found at the Buffalo Exchange on Haight for a whopping $30 — every single day. (OK, maybe just five days a week.)

After I’d worn these for a few months, the soles were the only part of the boot that needed repair. Not only did the guys at Pioneer Renewer replace the heels, they also rebuilt the toe tip and reinforced the sole under the ball of the foot (which was previously all leather).

I love these boots so much — they’re a color I can wear with anything, they’re great quality that lends itself well to good maintenance and they’re a timeless style. One of the best pairs of shoes I’ve ever owned.

Here’s hoping you have your own favorite shoe repair shop for your favorite pairs! Do you get your shoes repaired much?


  • i have a pair of boots that need to go through this

  • The Boy in the Box
    March 1st, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    I can’t say enough about how good these guys are. I’m old school. Also cheap, broke, grew up poor, and instilled with a little common sense. My dad taught me never to buy cheap shoes. They are bad for your feet, don’t last, and will cost you more over time. No advice more practical in today’s economy.

    Low cost shoes are made with lesser grade materials, and typically can last for about a year before you have to dispose of them. That’s not to say that you can’t find quality shoes at a bargain price, but more a rule of thumb. For the year that you own them, they never really fit well, hurt your feet when you walk, and can lead to problems with your ankles, knees, hips, and back. At up $100 a pair, this will cost you $1,000 in a ten year period. More if you adjust for inflation and price increases.

    A good pair of shoes will easily cost two to five times what cheap shoes cost. But in that $200 to $500 range, you can find Red Wings, Wolverine, Bakers Shoe Company, West Coast Shoe Company, Whites Boots, Rocky Boots, Frye Ranch, Tony Lama, Allen Edmonds, Dr. Martens, Corcoran, Alden, and the list goes on. All of these brands can easily go 10 years before recrafting is necessary. Some of the better companies offer recrafting services, and will renew your shoes by hand at their factory.

    Dr. Martens For Life will even give you a new pair of shoes if they can’t rebuild the pair that you send in. At $150 per pair, Dr. Martens For Life is the lowest priced when you consider that over 10 years, your shoes will only cost $15 per year. And they will repair or replace them forever.

    For the rest of us, there is The Pioneer Renewer. This shop has resoled, re-heeled, and refinished the upper and vamp on many of my decade old shoes. The can restore what looks like garbage into shoes that appear brand new. The best part is that they are ethical.

    The experts there will advise you on what needs to be done, and advise against what is not needed. They have actually talked me out of more expensive services. Several times, they advised against resoling the entire shoe when all that was really needed was heels. Once they even recommended that I was better off sending my shoes back to the manufacturer, since the shoe builder would do a better repair (as in the case of Wesco boots).

    Their vast experience also means that you can rest assured that they have knowledge of how different brands build their shoes, so they won’t ruin your shoes trying to “fix” them.

    These guys are not just out to make a quick buck. They won’t rip you off. Their business depends on repeat business and word of mouth reputation. Well, they also need you to buy expensive shoes, so that it’s worthwhile for them to do the repairs.

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