A great many months have gone by and my rope sole canvas shoes just slumbered flat on their tops, never completely forgotten, but severely ignored. Their soles turned upward, genuinely displaying wounds above scars – looked like they kicked the bucket.
The patchwork-type mending I had shared with you earlier, was not, in fact, able to take me across the globe. Not at all, actually the patches I sewed and resewed to the original sole gave in much earlier than I expected. Besides walking on the two distinct patches under each shoe proved to be unpractical and mildly uncomfortable, too. So even the sole minimally thickened right under the pressure points (heels and bases of toes) that bear the most weight of the body, put an undesirable strain on the muscles of the feet.
In retrospect, I regard them just as an experiment targeting possible short term fixes for cord soles, made of the same material as the sole. However, if I am to add up the time it still took to make those four individual rope patches and to attach them over the most damaged spots on the soles with the amount of time they extended the wearability of my shoes, then hands down, I would choose the lengthier process I am about to present – any day. The advantage to them was the continued ability to earth outside of my home environment.
Here comes that double sole concept we talked about on our earthing shoes page.
Take as your reference the exact pattern of your wet (but not dripping) feet on cardboard, paper or a good absorbancy thicker fabric that doesn’t wrinkle and cut around that shape unique to each foot, but with just a little margin for added stability. This will be the outline of your retread. It’s worth mentioning that this is only applicable, if the damaged part of the original sole gets covered by the footprint retread. Chances are good that it will be. Otherwise you are looking at a complete remake of the sole, which I haven’t had to do yet. I believe it would practically mean making a whole new pair of shoes. But in this latter case, too, myself I would go for the double sole.
Match them up with the soles of the shoes that need to be retreaded and if no adjustment is necessary, lay your organic shape template on a sturdy table to begin the rope job.
I recommend using Cheryl’s technique of sewing one side of the sole only. Just make sure you sew the right side over each pre-cut pattern as worksheet. The sewn side will be the one facing the damaged sole of the shoe. Think of them as the new bottoms of your shoes turned upside down.
We are always trying to use one piece of rope for each project, which adds that much more integrity to the footwear. So in this case you will use one rope per retread.
You whip one end of the rope with double-fold hemp, flax or some other strong natural sewing thread. Then starting at whichever side you wish, fold the rope and sew the folds tightly together in a plane. The pattern usually isn’t so cardinal, especially after a certain time of wear when under your body’s pressure and from the friction with the ground the many-many folds turn into a nearly homogenous leather-like surface. Nevertheless we have noticed that longitudinal folds are more slippery on extremely smooth surfaces, like the polished marble or tile floors of commercial or office spaces.
Use Cheryl’s own shoe post (linked in above) for pictorial reference. In her experience it is best to sew the first couple of rows a bit less tight, to prevent the retread curling too much on itself. But even if does curl a little, don’t be alarmed, the rest of the rows and the framing in the end will flatten much of it and, of course, by the time you sew the retread onto the shoe sole, it will become completely flat.
Naturally, follow the outline of your worksheet closely with each rope fold, but account for at least two frame rows that will wrap around everything. Depending on the design, these might still need to fit snugly under the shoe sole, so to speak. Use the bottom of your shoes frequently as measure. Still, it’s worse to get the re-tread smaller rather than larger of the exact size needed.
Don’t forget to whip the other end of the rope before you get right down to it. I use a stretch of about half an inch of the rope for this securing, finishing purpose.
Now you are ready to sew the retread on the shoe sole. You’ll likely need an awl. It makes sewing a lot easier and extends the usability of the sewing thread, even if the thread is quadruple-fold now, like I use it for extra strength. Try to match the awl’s size to best match the thicker end of the needle. Pre-poke the hole for the needle perpendicular to that point on the shoe’s bottom, like this:
Please be careful with the awl, not to gore your finger in any way. Using a two or three-finger support on the under side cup the exit point of the awl tip. Twist the awl with gentle pressure, ready to leave off at any moment if it happened to slide through unexpectedly.
Understandably, the trickiest part to retread will be the nose, where you have to move the needle in confining space, but with a little creativity in the motions it can be tackled.
Here is a comparative image of one of my retreaded shoes and the patch-treated other one next to:
Repeat as often as it takes. The outworn retreads can be cut off, if synthetic stains were successfully avoided they can even be composted and replaced with a new one.
Each retread is about a week’s worth of intermittent work.
Now my shoe is just waiting for it’s significant other and they will be soon on the road again.
We take connecting with the Earth seriously here at Handcraftedtravellers, so nearly all of our writings are at least indirectly related to a nature-bound life philosophy. For a resource of those posts that are more explicitly about earthing (grounding), barefoot walking and earthing footwear, we recommend you to check out our informative core page of the topic: Earthing in Earthing Shoes.