How to Fix Your Shoes in India

By Mark Wiens 7 Comments
My right side
My right side

India is not easy on shoes.

Due to my daily routine in India of walking around, jumping from sidewalk to sidewalk while avoiding rowdy vehicles and frequently stepping in piles of trash, my shoes took a serious beating.

Fix-it-men cobblers are everywhere in India, patiently waiting for work.

In Nairobi they’re called jua kali’s.

They’re the guys (or gals) that can fix anything and everything somehow (quality is often questionable – but the job will get done).

In India jua kali cobblers will fix your, whatever you need fixed.

A few more days, and my sole would have fallen off
A few more days, and my sole would have fallen off

The sole of my Solomon XT Wings was ripping from shoe; My right shoe was about to start flopping.

So while I was in Dimapur, Nagaland, I stopped at the nearest cobbler.

Walking up to him he had already noticed my problem.

“Can you fix this I asked?”

I received a response that you’ll inevitably get accustomed to when you visit India (or Sri Lanka): the smile-less side-to-side head bobble which usually means “yes-alright, no problem, sure.”

Waiting as he fixed my shoes
Waiting as he fixed my shoes

First, you’ll sit down on whatever it is the cobbler provides as a seat – could be a stool, a stump, a ledge, or a wooden crate as I was provided.

Communal waiting sandals
Communal waiting flip flops

He’ll then remove your shoes and place your feet into a communal pair of flip flops for the wait.

Cobbler in India
Cobbler in India

Depending on whatever footwear task you need accomplished, you’ll just hang out as he does his thing – and believe me, whatever problem you have with your shoes, he’ll be able to surely make them better or last a little longer.

How to fix your shoes in India
Gripping my shoe and sewing around it with string

In my case, since my sole was beginning to fall off, he grabbed a string and a sharp device and started sewing the string through the sole of my shoes and into the body of my shoes.

He sewed the string around the entire circumference of my sole and shoe, and did the same for my left shoe (which needed repairing soon too).

After the sewing was complete, the cobbler proceeded to polish my shoes until they looked nearly brand new.

Fixed and polished
Fixed and polished

He then kindly grabbed my ankles and slipped my feet back into my shoes.

About 15 minutes later, my soles were quite securely attached to my shoes and they nearly looked as clean as the time I first wore them, about 3 years ago.

For just 120 Rupees ($2.20) he sewed and polished both sides.

Long live the shoes (we’ll see how long they last)!

7 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

  • Aparna

    10 years ago

    Hey I have had many friends from outside tell me how the ‘mochi’ (which is what we call the cobblers in India) are like a godsent when shoes break when you are nowhere close to a shoe shop. Some of us take the entire carton of old shoes that need repairing all at once and go to get them repaired.
    But just a word of advice. Rs 120 for all the work you got done was a rip-off. It should have ideally cost you about Rs 30 or Rs 50 (considering the fact that international tourists are always charged higher by street hawkers, auto drivers etc.). So the next time you are in India you have some idea of how much we Indians pay when we need some shoe-repairing done.
    You should travel down south and have some authentic sea-food. Also South Indian food tastes much better in the south. Believe me, I am a South Indian living in Delhi!!!

  • Ankush Nagpal

    10 years ago

    LOL!!! nice thread…..incredible India with even more incredible natives…..wink!

  • Chloe

    11 years ago

    the smile-less side-to-side head bobble which usually means โ€œyes-alright, no problem, sure.โ€

    haha i love this! one of those things no one would know what you’re talking about unless they see it for themselves ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Clark

    11 years ago

    Why did you paid $2.20 for 15 minutes of menial street labor in India? That’s the equivalent of $8.80 an hour in the US. With more than half of the US state’s minimum wage below $8.00 and hour, you are aware that you paid way too much. Notice I didn’t say you were overcharged. You were the one that decided to pay such an exorbitant fee. The average monthly income for skilled labor in India is approximately $60 a month. So essentially you just paid this person a day’s wage for 15 minutes worth of work. This is why Indians think Americans are walking ATM machines!!! That repair should have cost you less than 50 cents, and I think you are aware of this fact because you seem to be a well-traveled person. Most of us Americans that travel overseas are tired of being shaken down every time we open our wallets to pay for something. For the love of God, please, please, please stop encouraging Indians to charge astronomical prices for goods and services to foreigners.

    • Rahul Bose

      11 years ago

      Exactly! Reminds me of an incident when I was charged nearly $400 for changing a muffler on a 10 year old car in the US. The cost breakup on the receipt was roughly $300 for the part plus labour and tax. Later on I found out that the muffler would have cost maximum $120 retail at the auto parts store (on ebay from $70) and takes hardly 30 minutes of work to install :)) I am sure the mechanics working at the shop weren’t being paid $100/hr!

    • Soutik

      11 years ago

      Rahul,

      You just put it in a better way buddy. I had the same experience and was just about to share that ๐Ÿ™‚

      Clark, the labor you are suggesting is excluding the raw material costings. I feel the amount was on the higher side, probably INR 60-75 would have been the price had this been any Indian.

      Also, the average you said might not hold true for this cobbler guy. He might sit at the posh location of the city, might pay a portion of his income to some middlemen who allow them to sit there.

      I accept that there is a tendency among Indians to rip off the Westerners (Not only Americans). That is shameful and there has been efforts from GOI to reduce this. I can feel your frustration. However as Rahul mentioned earlier, there is no fixed trend for the wages of ‘unskilled’ labor.

  • Mark

    11 years ago

    Great post as usual!

    I have a pair of Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra – much like the ones that you wear. They are fantastic footwear. But they have a unique lace system. If these break then you will a have a major problem.

    Do you have a workaround for this issue?