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With high quality shoes, it’s common for the soles to wear out well before the uppers do. The softer rubber used on the outsoles is subjected to constant wear as it’s pressed into the ground with every step. The life of the average outsole varies greatly and depends on a lot of factors including:
With premium footwear, the outsoles can often be replaced by a process called resoling. Resoling is a cost-effective way to prolong the life of high quality shoes and boots, while keeping perfectly good uppers out of the landfill.
When should you get your shoes resoled? Sometimes it’s obvious - if the soles are coming loose, or have holes in them, those are obvious signs that the soles are worn out and need to be replaced. Other times it’s less obvious. Even if the soles look OK, it’s possible the sole has been worn thin, providing less traction and shock absorbency.
Worn out soles not only provide less traction, but they can have adverse effects on your feet and joints. Less shock absorbency means that the impact of walking is passed on to the ankles, knees, and even the hips, instead of being absorbed by the shoe. These jarring impacts can cause joint pain or discomfort, especially when walking long distances. Additionally, uneven wear (possibly as a result of pronation or supination) can affect your stride, which can also cause discomfort.
Traction is also an obvious indicator that soles need to be replaced. When soles wear down, the tread on the sole is worn smooth, making you more likely to slip on wet, soft or uneven surfaces. If you notice that your shoes’ soles have been worn down, you have the perfect opportunity to give them new life through resoling.
Not all shoes can be resoled. Whether a shoe can be resoled depends entirely on the design and construction of the shoe. On lower quality shoes, replacement soles may not be available. Even if they are, the cost to replace the sole may exceed the cost of the shoe, which doesn’t make sense for the smart consumer.
Shoes that use a cup sole typically can’t be resoled. The rubber cup outsole is permanently bonded to the leather uppers using cement, and removing it usually destroys the leather, making replacement impossible. Sneakers and casual shoes are commonly constructed using cup soles, which is faster, easier and less expensive than a Blake Stitch or a Goodyear Welt.
With a Blake Stitch, the shoe’s uppers are stitched directly to the outsoles, with the stitches visible on the insides and bottoms of the shoes. Blake Stitch shoes can be resoled, but a cobbler will need a Blake Stitch Machine, which makes resoling more expensive and more difficult.
The Goodyear welt is one of the most common methods of construction, and also one of the most durable. With Goodyear construction, a piece of leather (the welt) is applied to the perimeter of the shoe where the outsole meets the upper. Two separate stitches are then used to A) attach the welt to the outsole and B) attach the welt to the uppers and insole (in some cases). Goodyear welted shoes are the easiest to resole.
With the resoling process, the old stitches are first removed, and the outsoles detached from the uppers, midsole and insole (if the insole is stitched in place). The area where the stitches attach to the outsole and uppers will be cleaned and prepared for a new welt and sole to be attached. A new outsole is attached using the same style of stitching that was present on the previous sole.
Samuel Hubbard’s resole partner, Tony's Shoe Service, will also clean and polish the uppers, and replace the laces for a clean look. When resoling a pair of shoes, you should also consider replacing the insoles which are likely worn as well. While insoles don’t wear down in the same way that outsoles do, the insole material can start to break down and lose its structure.
The resoling cost varies by brand and model, and also depends on the type of construction used. Generally speaking, resoling will cost less than $100. To have a pair of Samuel Hubbard shoes resoled currently costs $95.
Consult with the shoe’s manufacturer to ensure A) that the shoes can be resoled and B) find an approved resole provider. Cobblers are common in most cities, but due to the wide variety of shoe styles and construction methods, it’s best to check with the manufacturer, or ensure the resoler has experience working with the brand and style of your shoes. Your shoes take you everywhere, it’s worthwhile to take care of them.