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The sole of my trekking boots get separated from the boot body. Since the boots would be otherwise usable - they are more than ten years old but without much use - repairing them would be an option. In fact, the sole just needs to be glued again to the boot.

My question is whether such a reparation would be reasonably reliable, or if gluing soles to shoes (at a shoe repairer) is only worth for light use urban shoes?

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  • 5
    Loosely related, definitely not a dup: outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/19363/9109 This shows how the choice of the type of glue is just as important as whether to try to glue at all. Your case would require strength, water-resistance, and flexibility, which suggests something using this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Styrene-butadiene, best known via the "Goop" brand. – cobaltduck Sep 11 at 11:41
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    Have you done a "cost of replacement" vs. "cost of professional repair" comparison? – Keeta - reinstate Monica Sep 11 at 19:24
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    take it to a cobbler. they work fast and theyre cheap and effective. get some spare keys cut while your there. normally found near train stations. go for a fryup next door while you wait and buy some flowers for your partner in the florist. – ldgorman Sep 12 at 7:35
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    I was charged £4 by a cobbler to re-glue the sole on some trainers, so well worth paying a pro (although the glue only lasted a week so I wrote the trainers off after that). – Darren Sep 12 at 8:16
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    @Keeta - No, it doesn't. Obviously the question only makes sense if repair cost is way smaller than replacement cost. If we wanted to make an economic assesment of the whole problem, we should factor in probability of failure and cost of failure. The question is about probability of failure. Cost of failure is too case dependent to be included. – Pere Sep 17 at 8:10

10 Answers 10

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Where I live, we just take such shoes to a Cobbler and he stitches the sole with the shoe all the way around within 30 minutes for negligible amount of money.

And the shoes get a new life. Your boots are good candidates for that treatment and will give you a few more years after that.

The cobbler is more suited to tell you whether that treatment will help your shoe or not and may well offer a hybrid solution better than a try at home.

Here is a random video of someone doing exactly what this answer suggests (I have no association with this video, i just searched for the concept on YouTube).

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    That may be a good idea, but this particular pair of boots have Gore-tex lining, and I'm afraid stitching isn't going to be good for it. – Pere Sep 12 at 9:42
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    And because the sole has a raised lip, water will run off the upper in between the unsealed gap between the upper and the sole and then soak up to the foot, or fester, or both. – Weather Vane Sep 12 at 10:17
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    Even if it can't be stiched, a shore repair facility will use better prep and better glues, and the repair will last longer. – Scott Seidman Sep 12 at 11:17
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    The goal of the question was mostly about deciding if the result is reliable enough - the answer to that specific question is absolutely "yes" the repair can be completely reliable if done correctly. – dwizum Sep 12 at 13:26
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    @Pere: The sealant tube for patching costs less than 10 dollars. (Note that the patch sealant doesn't have Goretex's breathable property but that rarely matters.) – Joshua Sep 12 at 19:17
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My experience with gluing boots and shoes is that it never does the job for long. Whilst this may to some extent be down to the glue I've used, I think it is also due to the surfaces having been glued in the past. The surfaces will have the old glue that has failed still present. This means you'll have to thorough remove the old glue. If you don't, then any fresh glue applied will be on top of the old glue, which means it will soon fail as the old glue further gives up. If you do decide to glue these boots, be prepared for them to fail again, especially if you've not completely removed the old glue, so take care. Long hikes may not be a good idea.

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    I have had a cobbler glue multiple shoes for me, including heavy hiking boots. In most cases the glue held for the remaining life of the shoe (meaning some other thing eventually failed before the glue gave way again). Getting a professional to do this is cheap, imho it is well worth it to spend 5-10 bucks to save 100-300$ worth of shoes. – fgysin reinstate Monica Sep 16 at 8:02
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They were glued when they were originally made, there's no particular reason they shouldn't be reglued now. It's better than having no shoes or the heel flapping about as you walk.

Though the glue that was used the first time obviously has a limited lifespan, perhaps look for a better one.

Whether it's reliable or not is really down to the quality of the job done, surface preparation, type of glue, proper pressure on bonding surfaces etc etc. but there's no real reason that doing a proper job shouldn't be as reliable as original construction.

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My Merrell boots came apart like yours after a few years. I glued the soles back on with Gorilla Glue (original version, amber polyurethane) and they're still holding strong after several more years. If you use this glue, be sure to follow the directions and moisten one of the surfaces with water before gluing.

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    Glued a pair of boots, using Gorilla Glue. While it seemed to hold quite well when I checked them later, the glue had seeped up from the sole in to the boot's insole. Apparently, Gorilla Glue expands when it cures. While it was curing, it expanded and the path of least resistance was up, into the boot's insole. To make matters worse, I was gluing the sole's toe and globs of glue are up in the toe. YMMV, just my experience. – Tom Sep 11 at 20:45
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    Yeah I've used Gorilla Glue, it held for a couple of years but the expansion is annoying. You can get non-expanding polyurethane though, like Stormsure. Not tried it but it's as tough as ... well, old boots. So would be worth a shot. Polyurethane is what I'd go for because there's very little it doesn't hold. – Whelkaholism Sep 12 at 8:49
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I've had nice boots glued properly - the local shoe-mender took a look and said "this needs three-day glue, come back on Friday" Wasn't particularly expensive either.

Those boots lasted years more, so it was definitely worth doing. I don't think that any glue you can buy in a hardware store will do the job well-enough though.

I also should add that the boots stank on pickup, but that did fade off after a week or two.

Also they never quite took Nugget/polish around the bottom the same again. I suspect the glue somehow chemically altered the leather nearest the joint, or there may have been some wiped off. Didn't bother me because they weren't dress boots.

I'd give a photo, but this was a long time ago and they're gone now.

  • What does “took nugget” mean? – T. M. Sep 13 at 23:07
  • @T.M. Nugget is a preservative and protecting layer for leather goods. Its normally coloured to match the leather, and is rubbed in with a brush and then buffed to a shine. Nugget helps to prevent the leather from drying and cracking, and also increases water-resistance. By "take" I mean "absorbed and shined/buffed up". I think there was either chemical damage to the leather near the dried glue, or a thin layer that soaked through and up the leather, or maybe a smear dried and cured on the outside. – Criggie Sep 13 at 23:39
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You can get a fair job yourself with "Shoe Goo" , a product in the US that sells for less than $ 5 /tube ( enough for several shoes). I used it on a pair of sport shoes about 2 months ago and they are still good. Once I used a laboratory grade of urethane ( not available to the public) ; it was better than the original rubber(?) and I made two heels with it , lasted 2 years + with little or no wear ( threw the shoes away when the soles wore out).

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    I had a pair of hiking boots with a slowly disintegrating layer of foam between the sole and the upper. I successfully extended their lifespan for hundreds of trail miles by gluing the soles back on with Shoe Goo. Follow the instructions; you need to clamp or weight it (I used a dining chair, with the leg sitting in the heel of the boot) and let sit for a while. I did have to re-glue several times, but probably because the foam layer kept degrading further. I was able to wear the boots daily for months between each re-gluing, and they always gave me plenty of warning. – csk Sep 12 at 19:54
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    I used furniture clamps. – blacksmith37 Sep 14 at 0:24
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This is very common with expensive hiking boots, which use a soft, but less stable type of rubber. The process is called hydrolysis and is due to the ageing of this soft rubber. The rubber loses strength itself and becomes crumbly; it is not a glue issue.

In my experience, glue does not work.

I had a very high quality boot with the Vibram soles in near pristine condition. Soles fell off. Took the shoes to a cobbler, who glued on the soles using rubber cement.

The shoes looked like new, but completely fell apart on my next trip.

I took them back to the cobbler, who specifically ordered the glue recommended by the manufacturer of the shoes. (It was either a neoprene or polyurethane glue, I don't remember).

Again, the repair looked perfect, and again the shoes fell apart on a trip.

This is very dangerous, because the process starts in the middle of the shoe, until the sole is only held at the edges. Suddenly, the whole sole will come off in one piece.

I fixed the shoe with Gorilla glue, which worked long enough to get back home.

The manufacturer claimed that they could replace all of the aged rubber (cost ~$100), it looks good, but I haven't tried it yet. They did not simply glue on a new sole, but they ripped off all of the rubber parts down to the leather and replaced those.

Things that I learned:

  • Glues do not work, even when done professionally. In my case, the sole looked like new. There was no glue residue left on the underside of the shoe. The surface of the shoe looked perfectly clean, and I thought it would be simple to just glue the sole back on.
  • This is a major safety issue. Imagine your shoes suddenly falling apart in the middle of nowhere. In the best case, it will be a long drive to buy a new pair of shoes, ruining the vacation.
  • Of all emergency glues, Gorilla glue worked best.
  • Gluing the sole on on the trail is not easy. It needs a lot of pressure to keep the sole in contact with the rest of the shoe. The glue needs to harden for at least a day.
  • It is a good idea to have an awl and some dental floss to sew the sole to the shoe before gluing. Especially the rounded needles came in very handy. (search on ebay for "canvas repair stitcher").Awl
1

I glued a layer of the sole of my Danner boots' to a second layer, using 100% silicone . It worked great. But neither layer was leather.

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I would go buy an outdoor construction adhesive (one that is designed for all materials, lest it eat your soles up from the top). Skip the super glues. Not only will you have enough glue, but it should hold relatively well.

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I have had this issue with running shoes in the past. I had one pair in particular that I loved, but was discontinued. I tried a few different things, and found Barge Cement to be the best product for gluing the sole back on. You can get another 200 miles or so until they need to be glued again. While it works, it is a pretty strong and flexible bond. But as other have said they are likely to fail again in the same spot, and it usually happens suddenly.

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