Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Use an old tire to repair the soles of your shoes

Sandals with tire soles
How cool would it be to have soles that never wear out on your shoes? Using old tires does not only make your soles virtually indestructible, they also make them green... even if it's made of old tires.
First of all, I would like to apologise for not having more pictures on this post. I made this mod a year ago and forgot to take pictures of the process (so I made drawings instead).

Tools and materials needed

Tire terminology... usfull to understand
what I'm talking about
  • Pair of shoes (or sandals in this case)
  • Old tire (no need to get a new, you can usually get them for free at any garage)
  • Contact adhesive (glue) or superglue
  • Saw (metal)
  • A vice
  • Stanley knife + (lots of) blades
  • Strong scissors

Cutting the tire

The only interresting part that we will use here is the tread. Note that the sidewalls of the tire could also be used, they offer the advantage of being easier to cut off the tire but are not perfectly flat (and do not look as cool). I will describe hereunder how I removed the tread from an old tire.
Tire: cross section

Cut the side walls off

Removing the side walls

In my opinion, it is easier to start by removing the side walls. To do this you must be extremely careful with your knife while cutting hard rubber. Pieces of fingers tend to come easily off.
To cut a side wall off, you need to insert the blade next to the base of the thread all the way through the rubber (you will see it from inside the tire). If you feel you're stuck on something hard, you might be blocked against the Steel Belts: some sort of chain-link fence made to be ... hard to puncture... try a little lower. With your blade in, it's (relatively) easy to cut around the tire at the base of the thread. You will end up with three pieces (two sides and one large rubber ring).
Please do not send the unused parts to the incinerator or landfill... we have only one planet ! (bring them back to some place where they can be disposed off properly).

Discard (properly) the
side walls

Making a flat rubber ribbon

Since the next step is going to be though, you need to have something easier to work with than a rubber ring. All you need to do is to cut the ring open with your saw, you will end up with a rubber ribbon (that will unfortunately always want to go back to the ring shape).

Remove the tread

Secure your tire in a vice
to make your task less painful
This is the long, though and hard job (you've been warned).
In this step, you will need to separate the thread from the rest of that rubber ribbon you just made. This is hard. This is long ... but rewarding. Remember, you will end up with unique shoes !
To separate the thread from the rest of the tire, you need to secure your 'rubber ribbon' in a vice, and start slicing the thread from the the steel belts. The best way I found to do this, once you've done the first centimetres, is to scrape off the thread along the steel belts with your blade while holding the two parts apart (using e.g. locking pliers).
How to glue the tire thread
to your shoes
I cannot stress it enough, since you will need to put strength on your blade, be extra careful...

Preparing the shoe

After what you've just done, this is piece of cake. Using your knife, pliers or anything else, remove or flatten the sole of your shoes.

Glue the piece of thread to your shoe

Although most people use contact adhesive to glue soles to their shoes, I've had better results with super-glue. I therefore recommend starting off with contact adhesive (it stinks). You will be making adjustments with super-glue later if needed.
Now you need to be a little patient and let it dry.
Once dry, your shoe will look like a shoe on a black rubber flying carpet. Unless you find it coll that way, use scissors to roughly cut the excess tire thread around the shoe. You can then use your blade for a more precise cut around the shoe and make a nice finish.
If you're like me, some parts of the tire sole will not stick to the shoe... just use some super-glue to make it hold.
That's it.
I personally made a pair of boots and a pair of sandals and am really happy with them.


  • The super-strong rubber from the tires weights more than an average sole. Your shoes will be heavier
  • Since tire rubber is harder than regular normal-shoe-rubber, do not expect as much grip as you had before modding your shoes. This is especially true for snow and ice. The plus is that the sole will last much longer.
  • Please do not send the unused parts to the incinerator or landfill... we have only one planet ! (bring them back to some place where they can be disposed off properly).

My creations

My sandals
My (almost) 20yr old boots