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If my blog had a menu, I want the list to look like the above. This post is about prolonging the life of shoes. I have stopped buying the poorly designed ones. Made in Italy/Designer label doesn’t mean much to me. I have seen flimsy ones come out of handmade Italian factories that made my cobbler say “you are thinking of buying them for how much?” while laughing out loud at me. I would like to think I know better as of today. The best way to learn about shoes is from menswear – oxfords, loafers, boots. They are made to last a decade and with substantial pieces of leather. It makes you question every dainty flimsy shoe and roll eyes at the price tags they demand for mediocrely desiged women’s shoes.

 

A year ago, I wrote a post where I had this singular point of view – adding the protective sole is good, with quite some amount of snobbery as to how right I am. And then I have read accounts from folks who say – “absolutely not”, with equal amount of snobbery. When I read advice on the internet with such absolutes and no reasoning, they usually don’t know what they are talking about. Every action has its pros and cons. It took me a few years of trial-error and lots of conversations with the cobblers to find out. Here we go. Sorry for all the dirty soles – but they are well used shoes collected over a decade.

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* These soles above are apparently really well done and costs around 50$. I would find a sturdy pair worthy of such investment and not pick my flimsy Porselli’s for such honor. 

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1. THERE IS A RIGHT WAY TO PUT THE RUBBER SOLE

If you look to the picture on the top, you can see the rubber slapped on top of the sole. You can see the rubber out of line with the curve of the sole. That, is a bad job. The cobbler should scrape off a part of the sole to put it on. Or you could  wear out the sole a little, so that they dont need to scrape so much. Also, the soles stick better if there is some texture from wear. The picture in the middle is a job well done.

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2. THE SUPER THIN SOLES

Let me talk about the infamous Porselli ballet flats. Its like they found a flat piece of thin leather, slapped on an upper and stitched them up. The soles are so thin that you have to stick the rubber sole on top of it for substance. My cobbler complained about not having enough material to scrape off before sticking the rubber. He also commented about the shoe not having enough weight to hold on to the rubber. Buying poorly designed shoes and resoling them should not be a default option. Such thin soles needed a rubber sole for support. But instead of expecting sustenance from a piece of rubber, I rather buy better made shoes in the future.

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3. RAIN AND SALT 

If you live in an area where the street surfaces are always wet or if they use salt to contain winter snow, it is not recommended that your leather soles come in contact with them every single day. Purchase rubber soled shoes or have your cobbler change out to a real sturdy rubber sole. But having the protective soles help.

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4. TRADITIONAL REASONS FOR NOT ADDING THEM 

If you talk to the heritage shoe makers like Ferragamo, they flat out say ‘no’. The reason being – a well designed shoe has a built in balance and strength to keep its shape. And you are scrapping some leather out and adding a bit of rubber to their carefully crafted design. And most cobblers do a mediocre job at this which may ruin the shoe. Ofcourse they are not going to like it. Also, leather needs to be conditioned. Even the sole. Having a rubber sole stuck on the leather prevents such care and may affect the material. A rubber stuck to the leather with some glue also puts material stress on the shoe. I am not shoe scientist but the craftsman do consider all these factors. From their standpoint, leave the shoe alone makes sense. If you have enough pairs and rotate them, they should be fine !

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5. THEY WILL ROT YOUR SHOE BY TRAPPING MOISTURE

This is another reason why the oldies don’t like rubber soles. Leather is very breathable when not insulated by a piece of rubber that won’t let the moisture escape. But they do make shoes with rubber sole on the bottom and are they all rotting ? I think not. If you wear socks, use shoe trees and let the shoes rest between wears, I don’t see them moulding from sweat. You cant condition the leather under the rubber which may lead to cracking. If you put excess conditioner on the leather sole, it will seep and ruin the sole. Yes, there are cons.

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6. NUMBER OF SHOES YOU OWN 

I own 16 and wear them in rotation. They get enough rest between wears. If I had very few pairs, I would have had soles put on all of them to elongate their life. Neutral shoes that get worn a lot can use the help. My black shoes have rubber soles and I believe it’s helped with lessening the wear on the sole.  I own shoes that get worn twice a month. I wouldn’t bother with adding protective layers to those.

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7. AMOUNT YOU PERSPIRE & CLIMATE 

During AZ summers, shoes are not tolerable in general. Folks around me wear sandals and I don’t like sandals. I reserve my brown Frye flats to be my everyday summer shoe. I never got rubber sole put on them because I made a little trade off in my head. I rather have them a tad more breathable than it be any hotter. If they wear out, I will get them resoled. My feet hardly sweat during the winter and I don’t think adding a layer would cause any discomfort.

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8. PERSONAL TEMPERAMENT 

Do you get sick of your shoes before they wear out ? I have friends who lets go of shoes before they are worn in and worn down. And they somehow run to the cobbler to get soles put in and eventually sell them off/donate them. I have a friend who have 6 pairs of high quality shoes and half of them get replaced every year out of boredom. I don’t know why she bothers.

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9. QUALITY UPPERS 

I have shoes with soles outlasting the uppers ! Shame on your Porselli ! I put you in the same category as my ex-handbag – Proenza PS1. Beautiful visual design and shitty technical foundation. The pain of spending on extra sole protection and seeing them wear out before you wore out the thin rubber sole is real. Buy well made shoes !

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10. COST 

It is cheaper to get a rubber sole put on and replacing it when it wears out than replacing the entire sole. Also, the Vibram soles cost a little more than other brands but there is no real difference between most of them. I know of a traveller who used scraps from a discarded car tyre to resole his shoes. He used some nylon thread and sewed it on. And they work. Don’t sweat the little details.

 

I never thought I would write a blog post taking pictures of my dirty worn in shoe soles. There was no way to make this pretty. As I write this so called wisdom, I acknowledge that I am not an expert in this field. This is based on my personal experience and from talking to folks who seem to know more than me. I put rubber soles on all of my flimsy ballet flats because they needed the help. In the future, I will buy better shoes and let them be. If I am wrong, do let me know. I am always willing to change my view in light of facts. If you have any wisdom to share, please do. Do you get protective soles put on your shoes? Do you think it made them last longer? Are you against having them put on ? Why ?