Re-Use Your Shoes. I'll Sew You How

Introduction: Re-Use Your Shoes. I'll Sew You How

I have a tow-ball mounted cycle rack, which has foam padding to protect the bicycle frame.

Unfortunately, there is a protruding bolt-head for the rear brake which snags on this foam and which has damaged it.

Fortunately, I had a pair of sneakers which had just worn through at the sole. Since the uppers of those shoes were made from a thick canvas, I decided use them to make a cover which would hold the foam together, while providing a smooth surface to protect the paint on the bicycle.


One pair of old sneakers (tennis shoes, sandshoes, whatever your culture calls them).
Thick needle and buttonhole thread
Some fairly thin heat-shrink (I used 3mm to 1.5mm)

Step 1: Pull Apart the Sole and Toecap

The uppers are stitched together from a few pieces of canvas which is then glued to the sole.

So to reverse the process, we first unglue the upper from the sole. Since the shoes are old and knackered there should be a nick or a tear in the welt at the side of the sole.

Once you've got an end, it should be possible to pull the glued surfaces apart. The key with disrupting a glue bond is to concentrate the stress on as small an area of the bond as possible, while not over-stressing the substrate. Getting in close to the join is useful, and a pair of pliers will give you a good solid grip.

Removing the fabric from the plastic toecap was the most difficult part, and I had to peel the fabric right back on itself to get a clean parting.

I was very pleased with having invented this project to reuse the worn-out shoes, but I just couldn't think of any conceivable use for the perforated soles, so the soles, welt and toecap all went into the trash.

Step 2: Dismantle the Upper

Most of the upper is held together with machine stitching, which can be removed with a stitch ripper or a sharp knife. I have a stitch ripper, but it was upstairs and I'm lazy so I used a passing box cutter.

There was a stiffened cup to give shape to the heel of the shoe, which was stitched to the upper. The stitching for this was cut and the stiffener was discarded.

The front part of this shoe was made from an extension to the tongue, and once the tongue had been separated from each side of the shoe, the whole thing unfolded into a single flat piece.

The two sides were directly joined at the heel with an overlapping strengthening strip and that was removed before the two pieces were separated.

Once the two sides were separated, random bits of sole were removed and then the long edges were straightened up by cutting a line with shears.

Step 3: Sew the Sides Together

Since the canvas of the shoes is pretty thick, I used a 100 gauge needle and thick buttonhole thread.

The seam to be sewn was marked in chalk and then a straight stitch was run along it, with a bit of back-and-forth at each end to secure the stitching.

Once the piece was flattened out and the seam laid flat, the only unfinished edge of the piece was where the sides had been joined at the heel. This was given a quick blat with a wide zig-zag stitch to give some structure to the edge of the canvas and dissuade it from fraying.

Step 4: Making New Stub Laces

The lace eyelets had been retained and would be used to lace the canvas around the foam at the outboard end where there would be most stress from stowing or recovering the bicycle, but there needed to be a way to secure the sides of canvas at the inboard end too.

I took a short piece (25mm 1") of heatshrink tube which would just fit over the existing aglet, in this case 3.0mm which would reduce to 1.5mm (1/8" down to 1/16"). This was slid 10cm (4") along the lace and then shrunk to grip the lace.

Once that had cooled, I cut the heatshrink in half, giving a shorter lace with an aglet at each end, and a 10cm (4") length of lace with an aglet at each end.

The short piece was cut in half again and the cut ends were sealed with a flame to prevent them unravelling. This yielded two pieces of lace, each 5cm (2") long and each with one aglet and one cut but sealed end.

Step 5: Sew Stub Laces

To make sure that the stub laces would be as strong as possible they were attached to the canvas so that the pull would be along the stitching holding them in place. Since the foam around which they would be tied was tubular, the laces should be in a straight line, so a straight line was chalked across the inboard end of the canvas piece and then the two stub laces were sewn on that.

A zig-zag stitch was used up each side of the lace, with a bit of back-and-forth to give extra strength and prevent unraveling.

Step 6: Fit and Use

The canvas pieces were laid atop the foam padding and then the stub laces were tied tightly to hold the cover in place.

The remaining lace was threaded through the eyelets and then pulled as tightly as possible and tied off.

The trick with heatshrink tubing was repeated to get rid of the dangling spare piece of the lace.

A quick shuffle made sure that none of the laces were fouling any of the various fastening devices on the cycle rack.

Step 7: Lessons Learned and Improvements

I was just amazed that I managed to find a re-use project for shoes which didn't involve scavenging leather from them.

The canvas is really good as a cover for the cycle carrier. It compresses the foam slightly which makes it easier to get the bike on first time, and it allows the cycle to slide easily to the inboard position without snagging or damaging either the rack or the cycle.

If I do this again (i.e. the next time my sneakers fall apart) then I might cut a thicker slice from the side canvas pieces before sewing them together. This would have two benefits:-

1) the thinner wrapping would allow easier adjustment to make sure that the laces were not fouling the mounting hardware on the carrier
2) the thinner wrapping would result in the last pair of eyelets NOT overlapping which would allow them to be used for tying on
3) the seam would be run along clean canvas rather than peeled-off glue which will clag up your sewing machine.

Should the glue on your shoes end up transferring onto the foot on your sewing machine, then it can be cleaned off. Just remove the foot and give a good going over with some rubbing alcohol (or work through all the solvents in your home until you find one that works).

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