Introduction: Tennis Shoe Repair: Torn Heel Linings

About: I'm a compulsively curious guy. I have taken things apart all my life, intrigued by how things work. I didn't know other tinkerers growing up, so I've learned mostly by doing or through the internet. I hope my…

If you take tennis shoes to most shoe repair places with even the most basic problem, they'll tell you that they're not fixable; you should throw them away and buy some new ones. For some shoes, that's still the best policy, but it's not the only option. Higher-quality shoes are often repairable with a little time and extra effort. 

In this Instructable, I'll be sharing with you the repairs I did to bring my Patagonia Huckleberry shoes back up to snuff. The heel lining was worn through in one of the shoes, so I'll walk you through replacing the other lining. 

These repairs took a couple of scraps of cloth, a little bit of thread, and couple of hours of work. 

Step 1: Remove the Old Lining

The lining is attached with a single straight-line stitch in this pair of shoes. It is sewn onto the shoe inside out and flipped over the edge of the shoe for a hidden seam. Seams in contact with feet equals possible callouses and blisters.

Use a seam ripper or razor blade to tear out the old seam and remove the lining fabric. It will likely be attached with some sort of spray adhesive to several layers of foam. You will need to pry up the sub-footbed of the shoe (correct term?) and pull the tail of the fabric from the bottom of the shoe.

Step 2: Make a Pattern

Next, you'll need to make a pattern for cutting the new shoe lining. Iron the lining flat on medium heat (likely it's synthetic), trace around it on a piece of paper. If your lining is a messed up as mine, trace the best side, then flip it and reflect it across the axis of symmetry to make a full pattern. Mark out your seam allowance, so you know where to sew and have a good margin of extra fabric to attach under the sub-footbed.

Step 3: Cut the Fabric

Next, cut out your fabric. I used a pair of old gym shorts for the fabric, because the fabric was chosen for athletic applications, and it's almost entirely synthetic, so it will last a little longer in direct contact with friction. You'll want two layers of fabric, one for lining, one for comfort.

Iron the fabric flat, pin both layers together, and cut around your paper pattern with a rotary cutter. You should have two layers of shoe lining of fabric now.

Step 4: Pin and Sew the Layers Together

You'll straight-stitch the two layers together, one you've pinned all the edges together. 6 pins should be enough. Use a basting stitch on the bottom part that will go under the footbed, just to keep it from puckering.

Step 5: Sew the Liner Into the Shoe

Start from the center of the heel, with the liner-side facing out. Whip-stitch across the top edge of the shoe to one side, moving toward the laces. Bind off, and start at the middle again, and work in the same fashion toward the other edge.

Step 6: Flip the Liner Over the Top Edge of the Shoe

Flip the liner over the edge of the shoe. It should start to take shape as a new shoe lining. You'll notice that it may pucker or drape oddly in places. Go back and fix your stitching at this phase. Some pucker is okay, and can be smoothed out later, but large wrinkles will cause blisters.

Gather the bottom edges of the liner, pin them together, and whip-stitch them. This seam will go underneath the footbed to hold the fabric taut. It's likely that this new liner will be more durable than the factory liner. Even if it isn't you know how to fix it now.

Step 7: Glue in the Liner and Footbed

Use a spray adhesive to make the foam heel padding tacky. Do not spray the lining fabric! Follow the instructions on the can. I'm using spray 3M High Strength 90 spray adhesive, but I would have used 3M Headliner Adhesive if I'd been able to find it easily.

Use a strong adhesive to re-attach the footbed to the sole. I'm using Shoe Goo here. I even considered using Liquid Nails, but this seemed like it would produce less bulge when re-assembled. Spray the foam adhesive, apply Shoe Goo, tuck fabric under the footbed, pull taut, then straighten the fabric. Put something in the shoe to hold everything in place. I used a jar and a clamp. Two hours is the minimum dry time for Shoe Goo.

Step 8: Send Your Shoes to Be Re-Soled

Now, your liner is fixed! Send your shoes off to be re-soled. If you have a stock Vibram sole, outdoor companies will re-sole your shoes for a small fee. Usually around $50, parts and labor included. If it were possible to buy the soles, I'd just re-sole them myself, but this seems to be the way to go for now. Comment if you know of a source! Try Mountain Soles for re-soling. They seem to be a good, solid company.