Clueless Interview, Mike Summers and the Staff of Jim the Shoe Doctor

While everyone wears shoes, almost no one knows what goes into fixing them. Luckily, Eugene has one of the few time-tested shoe repair shops right next to the university. Standing across next to the Oregon Community Credit Union on 1tth and Ferry Street. Established in 1903, Jim the Shoe Doctor is staffed by a few very dedicated people who are happy to fix shoes and share their trade.

Mike Summers, one of the more senior employees at The Shoe Doctor knows pretty much every party of fixing a shoe. One of the most common problems with shoes that Summers works on is parts of the shoe ripping or falling apart at a seam. This is also one of the most trivial problems to fix. If pull-tab (the part of the shoe that holds the shoelaces) is falling off or apart, the only thing that is needed to fix it is a little sewing and maybe some nylon to replace a broken part. The sewing is exactly like any sewing done in the home, the only difference is the sewing machine.

Workin' on a shoe

Mike Summers works on a shoe while Ryan Moon watches intently.

“This is a pretty old fashioned machine,” said Summers, “It’s all done by hand.”

Just looking at the sewing machine, you can see what he means. The device looks like it’s straight out of the early 1900s. To operate the sewing machine, you would turn the crank, move the shoe, and wind the bobbin all by hand.

If the shoe needs new pull tabs all-together, that’s pretty simple too. The basic idea is to recreate exactly what the pull tab was before it fell apart. First, a piece of nylon that looks like the original pull-tab must be selected. Once a fitting nylon strip is found and cut, it has to be burned at the ends before it can be sewed onto the shoe. Burning the nylon stops it from fraying at the ends and thus increases the durability of the shoe. After preparing the nylon, it just needs to be sewed on.

Behind problems with the laces, probably the second largest problem for shoes is holes. To fix a hole, the entire bottom of a shoe will have to be replaced. The replacement rubber for shoes is bought in giant sheets which is then cut down to the size and shape of the shoe. After the original shoe sole is removed, the new one needs to be to be cut just right to make the bottom of the shoe perfectly flat. The back edge of the sole has to be cut at just the right downward angle to assure the bottom of the shoe is perfectly flat.

Once the rubber is cut, the rest of the work is pretty easy in comparison and requires much less finesse. The rubber then needs to be glued on, heated to activate the glue, then finally nailed into place with small, thin nails. Some shoes, such as high-heels require a special, thicker type of nail that is designed for that shoe.

Chattin' about shoes.

Ryan Moons asks Mike Summers about a shoe he’s working on


The final step in fixing a shoe is coloration. The average run-of-the-mill running shoe skips this step, as it only really benefits shoes made out of leather. Using a special machine made of circular brushes that they rub the leather against, the cobblers at Jim The Shoe Doctor re-color the shoe and soften up the leather restoring the shoe to an almost pristine condition.

Chris Summers, Mike’s wife, remarked “We can take almost piece of clothing and restore it to good as new.”

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