Cobblers are people who make and mend shoes and boots by replacing worn soles and heels by either sewing or gluing on the new pieces.

Cobblers measure customers for fit, and discuss with them the type of footwear to be made, recommending details such as leather quality. They draw  or select patterns, using measurements, designs, plaster casts or customer specifications, and position or outline patterns on the selected materials. Once cut out, the leather for the new shoes is moulded over a last, an anvil-like structure shaped like a foot, they then attach insoles to the shoe lasts, affix shoe uppers and apply heels and outsoles.  They also drill or punch holes in the shoes and boots, then insert or attach metal rings, handles and fastening hardware such as buckles using special twine and an awl, which is a large thick needle, or a powerful sewing machine.

When repairing, they place shoes on lasts to remove soles and heels, using knives and/or pliers. They repair or replace soles, heels and other parts of footwear, using sewing, buffing and other shoe repair machines, materials and equipment.  They cement, nail or sew soles and heels to shoes, and shape shoe heels with a knife, sanding them on a buffing wheel for smoothness.  They stretch shoes for clients, first dampening the parts, then inserting and twisting parts, using an adjustable stretcher.

Sometimes cobblers are required to sew sequins or other paraphernalia onto shoes, takkies or boots. These days glue often replaces stitching, as the results are the same, if not as long lasting. Suede, leather, leather-like material, canvas and cardboard are some of the materials used by cobblers to ‘cobble’ footwear.

They may be required to make, modify and repair orthopaedic or therapeutic footwear according to doctors' prescriptions, or modify existing footwear for people with foot problems and special needs.  They follow the specifications for special shoes or boots, and take measurements to establish the type of product to be made, using callipers, tape measures or rules.  Another task necessary for running the business is to estimate the costs of the requested products or services, such as custom footwear or footwear repair, and receive payment from the customers.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy working with your hands
  • accurate and methodical
  • able to communicate with all kinds of people
  • self-motivated
  • an eye for detail
  • friendly and helpful
  • manual dexterity
  • good eyesight

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Grade 8

What to Study

In-service training is offered by experienced operators / instructors. The general factory worker does not undergo in-service training, but the learner operators are subjected to in-service training over a period of four years.

Footwear Correspondence courses are available through the Leather Industries Research Institute (LIRI) only if employed within a footwear factory due to the practical assignments that are necessary.


  • shoe repairing shops
  • dry-cleaners
  • self-employment

Further Information

Leather Industries Research Institute
P O Box 185
Grahamstown, 6140
Tel: (031) 701-4111

The Training Officer
National Union of Leather and Allied Workers
P O Box 59088
Umbilo, 4075
Tel. (031) 206-0105

Getting Started

  • observe the actions of a cobbler who has a spot on a street corner
  • make an appointment to speak to a cobbler about this type of work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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