There's a shoe-repair guy up the street from where I work. He's an older gent who speaks in very clear, easy-to-understand Korean, either because that's just how he speaks, or because—as he told me—he gets a lot of foreign customers in this hagweon-rich neighborhood. I gave him my battered shoes around lunchtime and asked him how long it would take to repair them. "Come back in two hours," he said, after palpating my shoes with almost medical precision. He actually found a few more holes than I realized I had, including a nasty crack in my right sole. Then he grimaced and said, "What if I just repair the soles?" I said that'd be fine. "Then it'll be W20,000 to do both shoes," he told me.
I did a lunch errand, then lumbered back over to the shoe-repair guy two hours later. The guy bade me try the shoes on; they felt fine. I noticed he had repaired all the holes, not just the holes in the soles. He had also shined and buffed my shoes to a high gloss; they looked almost new. Delighted, I told the guy that I had thought I was paying only for sole repair, so I gave him an extra W5,000 for his effort. The gent listed all the repairs he had done on my shoes, then said, "If you have any problems, let me know, and I'll do the repairs for free next time." I thanked him and went on my way.
Some of these shoe-repair guys will strip off a shoe's entire sole and re-sole the shoe. That happened to a pair of my shoes way back in the 1990s. The new soles, which are stiff and invariably made of different material from the previous soles, take some getting used to. Today's repairman simply patched over the holey sole using a thin and rubbery material that approximated the original sole's grip and flexibility. Although the hole is still somewhat visible, I trust that the super-gluing he did will be proof against rain and nasty puddles.
The repairman had also noticed how my shoes' heels had worn down. I tend to supinate, so the outer edges of the heels had worn significantly. To compensate for this, the old man had attached these bizarre-looking supplements that looked like puzzle pieces to the heels.* This felt a tiny bit strange at first, but I quickly got used to them and now think of these attachments as therapeutic, like orthotics.
Below are pics of several of the repairs. The first image is a general shot of the new sole of my left shoe. In it, you see a bit of cratering where the hole is, but the real proof of the quality of the repair will be evident when it rains and there are puddles. The second image is a side view to give you an idea of the thinness of the rubbery layer that the repairman placed over my sole. Part of me wishes he had simply ripped the soles off and re-soled the shoes completely, but that could have been bad, especially if the new soles ended up being too stiff. Over the course of several thousand steps, little problems become big problems, so in the end, I think the old man made the right decision when he respected the flexibility of the original soles. The third image lets you see my new "orthotic" high heels. They look ridiculous, but my feet are telling me that the new attachments feel just fine.
*On closer inspection, those "puzzle pieces" appear simply to be standard heel pieces, but rotated.