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Vibram Soles and Boot Repair #5208
Back To Discussion List Written: 2018.11.12 by: Robin Tivy

What do you know about getting hiking boots resoled? What do you know about the traction characteristics of the different models of Vibram sole? What do you know about which glue the shoemaker should be using? Have you ever had long term success gluing a new set of soles on boots yourself? Where did you buy the replacement soles? Do you know anywhere that still replaces vibram soles for less than $150? What types of boots can be resoled?

In the past 7 years, I wore out the soles on my Meindl boots. The model was the Meindl Himalaya. The traction was always really good on those boots, probably because the sole was a bit softer than other boots. They were also really comfortable and waterproof. And have a high cuff which keeps out pine needles. And they stay tied up. That model is now $650.00, I just bought another pair. See review Meindl Himalaya Hiking Boots.

But first, I tried everything to replace my old ones. Because the boots were so good, I thought it was worth $100 or so to replace the soles. The company who replaced the soles was "Leslie's Luggage and Handbag repairs" opposite MEC on Broadway. The new soles were good Vibram sticky rubber but whatever glue he used would come off every time I got the boots really wet. He redid them a couple of times, but each time they only lasted a couple of day trips.

So I had to replace them. The soles that came on the Meindl boots had fantastic traction, compared with the various generic boots I previously had. So I'm convinced it's worth knowing something about the different vibram soles. I tried to question him about what glue he used, but he could not carry on a discussion in English.

The new pair I bought from Paul Sylvest, who used to run A. J. Brooks. He says you need to send them back to Germany to get repaired, because nobody local knows how. There used to be this place called "Goldstar", but when I tried to track them down recently, I got nowhere. And I seem to remember that their price was closer to $200.

Here is a 88 page "Repair Catalog" from Vibram that shows all the different types of soles. Near the end it also discusses glues. Vibram Repair Catalog PDF. The model of sole closest to mine is the 132 Montagna sole, which is made of a SBR compound. The pattern is not exactly the same as my Meindl boots, which have rounded center lugs rather than stud shaped. But in this catalog, I don't see any difference in rubber compound.

What I want to find is a place that will simply glue on new soles, and knows what glue to use. So if I find a place that repairs boots, I'd go in with that catalog and discuss what glue they will use and which soles. I may also try and repair them myself, but I'd rather find a place that has the full equipment.


Comments

#6398 - 2018.12.03 Robin Tivy - I wrote a Reference Document
Since there is so much interest in this discussion, I did quite a bit of research with several cobblers, and also made measurements on numerous boots. I put everything I figured out into a reference document, which I may add to over time. See Vibram Sole Replacement - Reference Manual.

My conclusion is that when you buy a new boot, pay attention to how thick the sole is to start with, and how easy it would be to repair. The other thing that would be handy to know is the traction characteristics of the sole. I've noticed that my Meindl boots seem to have really good traction. That may be due to the distinct step up to the heel, or it may be the rubber compound.

I think in some locations such as the rockies on limestone, it is much more likely that you'll wear through the vibram while the main boot and midsole is still in good shape.

When dealing with a cobbler, I think you want to have some guarantee that he really expects the repair to be successful. With my boots, some cobbers say yes, and others say no. He knows better than you. Specifically, if the sole comes back off after a few trips, I would like a partial refund. That way he has to assume some of the risk.

#6391 - 2018.11.22 Shalya (Goldstar) - Examples of what can and can't be repaired by Goldstar (Photos)
Goldstar says: "Below are some examples of soles that can be done. The main requirement is that the tread is straight flat, no cup in to the leather or curving into the midsole these type of soles and boots can be done in the case that the midsoles are on good shape like the boots pictured below. None of the ones in the pictures you sent could be done 2 of them were cupped soles or wrapped soles and the 3rd one is a Meindl and well there maybe one or two models that we could just tread if the midsole is in good shape it would not be a factory soles just a generic Vibram one. The Hanwag Alaska style and or a Hanwag with a Foura boot sole can be done because we can get those soles from Hanwag and the are not cupped.

Some mountaineering styles can be done too depending on the condition of the toes. This is why I advise anyone looking to have there boots done please send emails (to Goldstar) with detailed photographs so I can get a better idea of what I can do for them or not do if that is the case. We also resole rock climbing shoes which would be great to include in the information about is since many hikers are rock climbers too. "

Hanwag is one type of off trail boot whose soles we can replace. We get the Hanwag Alaska sole and midsole as a package from Hanwag, and replace both the midsole and the vibram. So it doesn't matter if the midsole are shot. Meindl used to be repairable, but now they no longer supply cobblers, so the work must be done in Germany.

. Note there is a flat midsole that runs the full length of the boot, such that a new generic Vibram outsole can be glued on.

 

 This photo is one of my Mammut boots whose sole is worn thru. It is a "cup" sole and can't be resoled. This was a popular model sold by MEC 5 or so years ago. Note how there is no flat midsole, the heel is moulded into the boot.

 

Athough Leslie's luggage replaced just the sole in the above Meindl, it only stayed on for a couple of day trips. Goldstar says the midsole is shot.

 

 

#6390 - 2018.11.22 Dean Richards - Details on midsole?
I wanted to get a pair of Raichle's resoled years ago and was told about the midsole issue and that mine were damaged and that I would've needed to have had the boots resoled sooner, since wear had already gone thru to the midsole. So this time around with Hanwags, I talked to Goldstar and they said they could do them for $150. In the meantime though, I'm pursuing Hanwag for a warranty replacement due to the boots always leaking pretty bad, so if that fails, I may go for the resole, because I've made sure to stop using the boots before they wear thru to the midsole.

But it sounds like the midsole issue isn't just a matter of wearing thru the outsole and starting to damage the midsole? Robin and others, do we have any more detail? Does the midsole just 'wear out' overall, regardless of direct friction?

Part of the Hanwag sales pitch was that these boots were very resoleable, but they aren't the stitched kind. Maybe it just means they stock the soles.

#6389 - 2018.11.21 Bill Leach - A good repair shop in Canmore
Further to your note, a new repair shop has opened in Canmore called Kumpfy Shoes (http://www.kumpfyshoes.ca - the name is actually the owner's surname). The bootmaker has decades of experience in Italy. He gets quite a bit of business from loggers, and also from rock climbers. I believe his price for new soles is $80 /pair. He has 21 Google reviews with an average of 4.9 stars.

I had a pair of La Sportiva Nepal Evo's resoled recently. I had worn much of the midsole off, but he was able rebuild it and put new soles on. It looks like a terrific job although the work was recent so I haven't tested them.

Boot construction has changed, the traditional Norwegian-welt leather boot being replaced with designs that use more synthetics. I find the newer boots to be lighter with stiffer uppers, but the synthetics don't take the abrasion as well as the leather. This is especially pronounced in the Rockies with the limestone.

Many in Alberta are using the lightweight boots such as the La Sportiva Trango. They are great when new as the soft rubber makes one feel like Spiderman. However, they wear quickly - one person I know wore a pair out in a month. Many replace them every year at a cost of $400 - $500.

The heavier boots such as the Scarpa Mount Blanc have better uppers and thicker soles, usually of harder rubber. Surprisingly, they are only a third heavier than the lighter boots (2.0 kg /pair versus 1.5 kg /pair).

The big difference is in the outsole thickness. I measured the thickness between lugs and the thickness at the lug for a few boots:

Light boot: La Sportiva Trango Tower GTX - 1 mm, 5 mm

Heavier boot: Scarpa Men's Mont Blanc GTX - 2.5 mm, 12 mm

Kumpfy resole: La Sportiva Nepal Evo - 4 mm, 10 mm

Clearly, much of the reason that the light boots don't stand up is the thin outsole. I'm trying a strategy that was suggested to me - I bought a light boot (the La Sportiva Trango Tower GTX) which I will use until the outsole wears out, and then get Kumpfy to replace it with a thicker sole. Even so, I use the light boots on easier trips where the uppers won't experience so much abrasion.

#6379 - 2018.11.15 Robin Tivy - Most hiking boots are not repairable by a shop (Photos)
After talking to Shalya at Goldstar on the phone, I went up to Goldstar with my Miendl boots to have them examined in detail. I wanted to see if the existing vibram sole could be glued back on, and generally find out as much as possible for this posting. The short answer is that resoling hiking boots is a thing of the past. The problem with my boot is the midsole was shot. I'd say that is typical. The "midsole" is the leather like part of the boot underneath the rubber Vibram sole. What the shoemaker at Leslie had previously attempted was to glue a new vibram sole onto my existing midsole. But the repair only lasted a couple of trips each time. When the boots got wet the soles came back off. I thought it was the glue, but what Shelya says happens is the midsole gets soft, and then when you walk, it flexes and the glue comes undone. When we examined my boot in detail, we could see that parts of the midsole were still attached to the sole. So it wasn't entirely that the glue had failed, it was the midsole itself.

Shelya says they resole very few mountain hiking boots these days. Mostly they resole city shoes. If you think you have a pair of hiking boots that might be repairable, you can email them a photo, and they will tell you. The cost of repair would be between $125 and $150.

To summarize, I'd say that it's not feasible to replace most glued on soles on hiking boots. Perhaps if the boot was used in the desert, the midsole might be in better shape. But the hikes I do often result in wet conditions, so the midsole itself will probably be damaged.

Of course, if you could get a replacement vibram sole, you could probably use your own glue such as Freesole and it might stick for a few day trips. That's what Leslie's shoe repair did. And it came off again when the boot got wet. It's not a matter of using the right glue. The problem is that the midsole itself is usually shot. When they repair Meindl boots in Germany they replace both the midsole and the vibram sole together.

I see on the internet that there are still manufacturers who make old style stitched sole boots. Here's a posting from OutsideOnline that sums up the situation:

"What you're after is a boot made with Norwegian-welt construction - that classic boot with the stitching around the perimeter of the sole. This method yields a very rugged boot that can be re-soled many times. But, it's also a more labor-intensive way to build a boot and it yields a boot that requires substantial break-in. So, glued-together soles which by and large work great now dominate the market. They're more flexible, and hence more comfortable, than stitched-down soles. Plus they're easier to make."

https://www.outsideonline.com/1771091/which-boots-will-last-me-lifetime.

I would agree with the posting. I went through a half dozen pairs of boots with stitched on soles. They used to be much harder to break in. And when I got some of them resoled, they would seem to get a bit smaller. I think perhaps the resoling process used a bit more of the upper leather.

#6378 - 2018.11.14 Robin Tivy - Goldstar does not do Meindl boots anymore
Since I have a pair of Meindl boots that would be nice to repair, I just phoned Goldstar and talked to Shalya who was friendly and cooperative. So Goldstart still exists. But she says they don't do Meindl hiking boots anymore. They don't do Meindl boots anymore, because the sole is a proprietary sole and by the time they get it from Germany, it is not worth it. She says when they replace them in Germany they replace both the midsole and the base sole. Meindl owns the rights to the design.

#6377 - 2018.11.13 Glenn Woodsworth - Gold Star boot resoling
Gold Star is still around, at 17th and Dunbar. See http://www.goldstarshoerebuilders.com. I know a couple of people who have had mountaineering boots resoled there and have had no problems over the last couple of years. I used them once, but that was 20 years ago. The new soles were fine and outlasted the leather uppers. Not cheap, though. Other people have had problems with them.