Updating on December 3rd, 2011: Shoe Goo proved to be only part of the solution. By late summer new gaps appeared in both running shoes and huaraches, probably due to my not being able to eliminate all dirt from the surfaces before gluing. Also from stepping on the edge of a shovel a lot with the running shoes, they weren’t built for that to begin with. But, the shoes are still together, just not perfect, and I used my Speedy Stitcher to repair my huaraches, so everything is still up and running. Shoe Goo is not a miracle, but it works well enough to give your favorite footwear an extra bit of life.
This past winter my favorite pair of old running shoes started coming apart. That made me sad, even though I don’t run in them any more since I switched to huaraches. These are really nice trail running shoes that I wear for town visits and hiking and other activities where some foot armor makes good sense, and I’d hate to throw them out. They aren’t full of holes, they aren’t badly worn, but like many modern shoes the adhesive seal that holds the soles to the uppers simply gave out. I didn’t mind it when it was just a small gap but it got so bad that the entire front part of the sole was loose and I had to flip it forward just right to avoid tripping over it.
Usually there’s no fixing a pair of broken shoes. If you buy them cheap you expect failure and cheap replacement. These weren’t cheap, so I thought I’d try something I found on a rack at the real hardware store here, one of those independent places where they still stock odd items no one else carries because the guy that owns the store knows good stuff. I’d never heard of Shoe Goo but it looked like it was made for the task, flexible and gap-filling and a permanent waterproof bond for nearly all shoe materials.
All it took to fix my favorite trail running shoes was a little cleanup and a bead of Shoe Goo inside the gap at the edge of the soles. I bound the shoes together with a network of rubber bands, bits of which became permanent parts of the shoes the next day since they embedded firmly in the toughening bead of Shoe Goo. Look a little like racing stripes and I’m not upset.
I’ve been testing the repaired shoes for garden jobs and supply runs for several months, in the cold winter temps that ought to be toughest on the glue bond, and the fix seems to be exactly as advertised. Waterproof, flexible, and permanent. I’ve been so impressed that I tried Shoe Goo on another project, a pair of huaraches good enough for running on the sharp gravel and rock shards of the back roads here. Thin vibram huaraches just aren’t enough for that even after several years of hardening off my feet.
I found out this winter that the Tarahumara make their huaraches out of old car tires. I tried that myself back in the early 70’s after a tour in Vietnam, but I found that the curve built into car tires didn’t match my feet very well. The old bias ply tires were more flexible than tires are today, and before I gave up the project entirely I familiarized myself with the qualities of several different makes. Steel-belted radials aren’t so great because even if you’re patient enough to cut out soles with a hacksaw you’ll always have bits of sharp wire sticking out the sides. Poly-belted radials are pretty scarce, but they did turn out to be the best raw material — flatter and more foot-friendly than the old bias-plies.
Instead of old tires this time, I decided to use a two dollar pair of flipflops with the straps cut off to reinforce my running huaraches. Gluing them to the old Vibram with Shoe Goo was easy enough, but I had to use open safety pins shoved through the Vibram at an angle to pin the edges securely down while the glue dried. Once again, it looks like a permanent fix until the soles wear out completely. The leather bindings of the huaraches now don’t abrade against the road so I won’t have to stop every hundred miles or so to re-tie the toe knot and adjust the straps.