The heels of my Red Wing hiking boots became very worn along the outside corners, and I found out that Red Wing makes it impossible for a regular cobbler (shoe repairman) to resole their boots. The damage was limited to one area, so I repaired only that section, since I didn't have a larger, wider tire tread. So far, the repair is working well!
Step 1: Materials
You will need:
- A ruler, preferably with millimeter increments
- A section of tire-tread--wider is better. Mine was motorcycle tread because I couldn't find anything else that wasn't steel-belted and impossible to get into. If you can find a wider tire, go for it.
- Painter's tape / masking tape
- Permanent marker
- Bandsaw if you have one; otherwise, a dovetail saw or other fine-toothed pull-saw
- Rasp-style plane, or very rough sandpaper
Not pictured above, you will also need:
- Contact cement
- Box-knife or other razor-sharp knife
Step 2: Measure and Mark
Before you begin your measurements and prepare the sole, find the thickness of the tire piece you are using to do the repair. Keep this thickness in mind as you decide how much to cut off for a section repair, a heel replacement, or a whole sole replacement. You could significantly reduce or increase the height of the sole, and this could cause a problem, depending on the boot and your needs.
- Measure the area you want to replace. Use millimeters for best precision. The more precise the cut, the better the bond between the boot and the repair-piece.
- Look at the side-view picture of my boot: I have taped along the edge of the heel to mark precisely the same vertical thickness. When I cut the heel off, what remains will be level and flat, ready to glue. If you're replacing the entire sole, make the same sort of precise tape-mark around the entire perimeter of the sole.
- Patch repairs--measure any other parameters you will have to match, and duplicate your measurements on BOTH BOOT or SHOE SOLES. Even if one of your soles is less damaged, having different tread thicknesses or wear-patterns on your shoes can cause your gait to be unbalanced, and this has the potential to cause damage to your feet, ankles, or knees. For the patch I'm doing with my boot, I cut off only half of the heel. (Limited due to the material I had to glue back on--if I'd had a wider tread tire, I'd have removed the entire heel.) I made sure that the area removed from both boots was exactly the same, even though one heel had about two millimeters more wear on the back.
Step 3: Make Your Cuts: SOLE
This is the step to NOT screw up. Use a sharp, fine-toothed saw--if you're lucky, you have access to a bandsaw, but if not, you can purchase an inexpensive dovetail saw (mine was $10 at the hardware store) or any other very fine-toothed saw that says it is a "pull" saw.
Cut slowly, with an even pulling motion. Follow along the edge of the tape without cutting into it. If you have to make any angled cuts, as with my heel patch where I only cut half of the heel off, don't cut past the tape lines--you can pull the piece to be removed off and then neaten with a razor blade. It's better to have to trim than to cut random grooves into the sole.
Step 4: Make Your Cuts: Tire Tread
- Choose a section of tire tread that is as flat as possible. In my case, the center of the motorcycle tire where it was flat enough to use was the only a few inches wide. Ideally, you should cut a piece that's at least a quarter-inch wider on each side than the sole you're going to replace. I used tape to mark the useable area and to make my cuts as straight as possible, because I needed one straight edge anyway
- Trace out the piece you need to replace using a permanent marker.
- Cut slowly with the dove-tail saw. I used the ruler to wedge the cut apart--rubber clings to the saw and makes it stutter and move unevenly. Pulling the cut open frees the blade.
Step 5: Fit the Sole / Patch
Saw, cut, and plane the edges to fit precisely. Check the fit, and be sure it's a perfect match for the surface before moving on to the next step.
Step 6: Sand and Prep
- Using sandpaper or a rasp-plane, rough up the smooth inside surface of the tire where it will be glued to the sole. This gives the glue more surface-area to adhere to. Make sure that both surfaces are flat and will fit neatly together, with no gaps.
- Read the directions for your contact cement. Most will kill your brain cells if you're not in a well-ventilated area or wearing an organics-rated mask. Some have instructions to put the pieces together when the glue is dry; some want a second coat and pressing together when wet.
- Spread a thin, even layer of contact cement on each of the surfaces you'll be gluing together. Let the glue DRY. Some types of contact cement are pressed together when dry or tacky-dry. If your contact cement calls for it, apply a second coat of glue to the two surfaces before pressing them together. (The contact cement I used required one coat dried, and a second coat wet.)
Step 7: Attach and Clamp
Carefully line up the new tire-tread sole and the trimmed bottom of the shoe--with some contact cements, it is very important to have the surfaces touch exactly right--there is no second chance.
Press together and clamp with even pressure along the entire surface. In the case of my boot, I used a piece of metal (the white bar) to even out the pressure, then used cord to wrap the metal in place overnight.
Step 8: Done!
Leave the repair clamped for 24 hours or as recommended on the contact cement label. At this point, you may want to trim up anything that doesn't match up as intended, but be careful not to stress the joint you just made.
Now you're finished!