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How to Make and Repair Camping Equipment

How to Resole Hiking Boots

Boots with sewn soles have three layers of sole material. Pry off the outside layer and,  if necessary, the middle rubber layer.

Replacing the soles on hiking or work boots is a challenging and money-saving home project. Here's what you'll need for this project.

Tools: small screwdriver or nail puller, sharp knife, sewing awl, work gloves, hammer, scrap wood boards, sturdy cord or clamps, small wood blocks.


Materials: rags, acetone, replacement rubber insoles, heavy-duty waxed thread, coarse sandpaper, replacement Vibram soles; flexible, waterproof shoe-repair adhesive; replacement heel fasteners. Buy Vibram soles of the correct size from a recreational outfitter; buy flexible shoe-repair adhesive and heel fasteners at a shoe repair shop.

Time: about 1 to 2 hours.

Before you can replace the old soles, you must remove them. Normally, boot-soles are either sewn or glued. If they're sewn, there will be threads visible around the upper edge of the sole. Examine the soles for attaching screws or nails in the heel; remove any fasteners with a screwdriver or a nail puller, and save them to attach the new soles.

After removing the heel fasteners, separate the old soles from the rest of the boot. If the boots are sewn, you'll find three layers of material: the old sole, a middle rubber layer, and a permanently attached leather layer. To separate the old soles from your boots, insert the blade of a sharp knife between the sole and the middle rubber layer; carefully work it around the boot until the sole is free. If the boots are glued, there will be only two layers, the old sole and a permanent layer. Separate these in the same manner.

Glued soles are attached directly to the permanent layer. Pry off only the outside sole layer.

Once you've removed the old soles, clean the middle rubber layer with acetone until all excess glue and debris are gone. On sewn shoes, check the sewing for breaks, and check the rubber layer for tears. If this rubber layer is torn, it must be replaced too. Remove the damaged rubber layer the same way you removed the sole, inserting the blade of a sharp knife between the rubber layer and the permanently attached leather layer. Mend breaks in the stitching or attach a new middle layer with a sewing awl and heavy-duty waxed thread, making stitches all around the new insole.

After you're satisfied with the soundness and cleanliness of this surface, use coarse sandpaper to roughen both the inside surface and the bonding surface of the new Vibram soles. Wear work gloves, and wipe off any sanding debris thoroughly. Be careful not to touch either the insole or the sole -- body oils repel most adhesives.

Apply flexible shoe-repair adhesive evenly to both surfaces; be especially liberal around the edges. Follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly; join the soles immediately or let the adhesive get tacky before bonding as specified. Align the new sole over the prepared boot surface and press it into place, starting at the toe and working down toward the heel; curl the new sole into place and stretch it toward the heel as you go.

Finally, set the boot on a flat surface, sole up, and pound the entire sole vigorously with a hammer. To assure a good bond, tie or clamp each boot between two flat boards for 24 hours; place a small wedge under the sole just forward of the heel.

When the new soles are dry, trim off excess sole material with a sharp knife, working slowly and deliberately around each boot to assure a professional finish. Finally, if the new Vibram soles have predrilled holes for heel fasteners, set new heel fasteners into the holes and pound them firmly in.

Before your next camping trip, take advantage of the information provided in this article to ensure that your camping supplies are in good working condition.

For tips on caring for and repairing other types of sports equipment, try the following links:

  • Learn how to keep your bicycle in top condition, including how to patch a tire, replace a chain or spoke, and tune up the brakes at How to Repair a Bicycle.
  • How to Maintain a Boat has practical tips for making hull repairs, caring for the outboard motor, and making boat accessories.
  • If you're a skiier, check out How to Maintain Skis to find out how to extend the life of your skis and ski poles.
  • How to Maintain Golf Equipment leads you step-by-step through regripping and refinishing a golf club.
  • Skateboarders can get valuable information on taking care of their boards at How to Maintain a Skateboard.