Introduction: Retread Running Shoes With Upcycled Bike Tire

I'm a big fan of running shoes with thinner soles given they are lighter and force me to run with better form. But, I am also really unsatisfied with their lifetime. These Merrells were great for about a year before the sole wore out and started getting holes, making them an indoor only shoe. At the same time the rest of the shoe has held up well enough that I don't want to just throw them out.

Solution? Find a way to replace the sole. Since the sole is so integrated in the structure of the shoe I needed a way just to replace the bottom layer. I happened to have an old mountain bike tire with good tread on it that was thin enough that I could shape it to the bottom of my shoe. Combine that with the right rubber glue and I have my fix!

In this case Boot-Fix Glue does the trick. Very good for rubber-to-rubber adhesion and a flexible finished product, perfect for replacing the soles.

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This project cost me $15 for the Boot-Fix Glue. For two shoes I used only ~1/3 of the glue, if that.

  • If you don't have a mountain bike tire, you ask nicely at a bicycle repair shop if they have any they are throwing out you could use for an art project.
  • For the scissors, don't use your premium pair. There are usually fibers built into tire structures to make them more durable. These can sometimes be metal and will damage a good pair of scissors. I used an old pair I didn't care about. YMMV
  • I'm assuming you will already have old running shoes to fix coming in to this, so I'm not counting the cost of the shoes.

Step 1: Prepare Shoe Soles

For the glue to work, the sole of the shoe needs to be clean of dirt and mud, as well as dry. Any rough parts of the sole must also be sanded smooth to make a good surface for the tire to attach. I used a simple sanding stick I made by stapling a strip of sandpaper to a piece of scrapwood.

Step 2: Cut Tire

To cut the tire, I decided to cut strips of tread that would be applied across the width of the sole, not from end to end. I decided to apply tread starting from the heel and working toward the toe. On the tire I cut strips with ~1cm margins around the tread (see above). I then trimmed the strip of tread to fit the heel. I left some of the smooth margin of the tire on the toe-side of the tread so the next piece can overlap (see pictures), creating a watertight layer on the sole. Double check the fit here before moving on to gluing. It will be more trouble than its worth to try and remove the tread once it is glued on.

Step 3: Glue New Tread

Again, starting with the heel of the shoe and working forward. I applied a thin layer of glue around the perimeter of the tread and made an "X" across the center so that each part is glued tightly to the sole. Fit the tread onto the sole and use your fingers to press tightly everywhere there is glue. Hold 10-45 seconds until the tread is fully adhered. Make sure the perimeter of the tread is well glued. (See your glue instructions)

Step 4: Repeat

Trace out and cut another piece of tread from your tire. I found a bic pen works well enough to mark the tire. For larger pieces consider adding a second "X" to make sure the center of the tread is also glued to the sole.

The trick in adding layers is to overlap the previous piece of tread so that they stack like shingles, rather than gluing them just next to each other like kitchen / bathroom tiles. This will build a single waterproof layer on the bottom of your shoe, covering any holes that were there (particularly important for my case).

Continue until the entire sole is covered, adding glue to any areas and repressing as you go.

Step 5: Finishing Tread

To finish the tread I wanted to add a lip to the toe so the tread won't peel off if I drag my feet. You may have a wide enough piece of tread to simply cut a lip within a larger section of tread before gluing, or it might not be quite wide enough. In that case I used the smoother part of the tire to glue a toe lip on before gluing the final piece of tread over that.

Step 6: You Did It!

Congratulations! If nothing catastrophic went wrong you have saved one more pair of shoes from a landfill, along with a bike tire! Plus if the tread ever comes off, there should be plenty of tread and glue left to fix it again.

Thanks for reading and let me know how your shoe repair went in the comments!

If you like the project, vote for me in the Trash to Treasure Contest!

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