Finding shoes that fit a Westerners feet in Saigon can be a tough proposition. We’ve covered shopping for shoes in Vietnams’ commercial capital, mentioning some spots where you can find bigger shoes, but the town also has cobblers who can make you a shiny new pair of tailor-made shoes.
These cobbler shops will make a wide variety of styles for men and women — dress shoes, sandals, boots, heels, for starters. Choose your style one of two ways. First, you can browse through what the store has already made, either by looking at displays or through their books of pictures, and choose a style that you like. Or, if you plan ahead, bring in an example, picture or physical, of something you want copied. Keep in mind that cobblers can also repair an existing pair of shoes that need some sprucing up. If you’re having a shoe crisis this can be a fairly inexpensive way to give a pair of shoes a new lease on life.
You may run into some problems if your feet are particularly big or small, as most cobbler shops don’t manufacture their own soles. To measure your feet, they trace your foot with a pen on a standard sheet of paper. If your foot won’t fit diagonally on a piece A4 there’s a high probability you’ll be turned away. Check your size with a store attendant before you spend time agonising over your style to avoid disappointment.
Turnaround time depends on where you’re shopping and the quality of the shoes you’re buying. For example, one shop may have a two-day turnaround time on a 600,000 VND pair of dress shoes but you’ll come to find, on closer inspection, that the shoes are glued together instead of being stitched, giving them a much shorter life. Higher quality shoes will have a longer turnaround time, something like 7 to ten days, but the end result will be something that lasts considerably longer. That being said, in the world of tailor-made fashion, money always talks. If you don’t mind spending more, extra dong can go a long way in speeding up the process.
Plenty of cobblers work around Ben Thanh Market. If you work your way around the shoe area inside you’ll find a few shops but the majority of District 1’s cobblers will call Le Thanh Ton home. Most fall within a few blocks of the market, and prices tend to fall as you get further away. Final price will depend on style, quality and turnaround time. At shops closer to the market, where you’ll want to go if you need faster shoes and quality is less of an issue, expect a normal pair of genuine leather dress shoes to start at around 500,000 VND and a pair of sandals to start at around 300,000 VND. For a higher quality shoe at a higher quality shop, expect a a dress shoes to start at 1,500,000 VND and a sandal to start at around 500,000 VND.
If you have the time to spare, I’d recommend Tran Quoc Lan on Le Thanh Ton. It will take about 10 days, or seven for an extra 200,000 VND, but they make quality shoes that won’t quickly fall apart.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 2nd October, 2014.