The Louche

Super Member
I have become a fan of Vibram "Zip" soles in recent months and wanted to know other members' thoughts. I like the soles ("zip" soles, to avoid confusion, are thin pieces of Vibram fused over the bare leather sole on a dress shoe by your local cobbler) because I am very, very hard on leather soles. I have about 3-4 pairs of dress shoes in regular rotation and tend to wear through an un-protected leather sole in 6 months time; I can get two years from a shoe with Vibram soles added-on. I am curious if there are any long-term implications to the use of these soles. Will they harm the sole by not allowing it fully breath? Will the cause undue stress on other parts of the shoe by altering the sole thickness? Curiously, I saw a warning on some Church's Chelsea boots urging the wearer not alter the original soles in any way...

P.S. Most of my shoes are Allen Edmond's, my loafers classic Gucci bits...

Thanks!
 

Twinspeare

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
rubber on leather = a great idea

I know many on this forum will disagree. There have been, shall I say, most heated debates on the subject of sticking a plastic sole (of whatever kind) onto the leather-sole of one's shoes. I have all of my single-leather sole shoes "Topied" (apparently boiling down to the same as your thin Vibram sole) and with all of my double-leather sole shoes I have the outer sole removed and replaced by a soft Vibram rubber sole of about the same thickness, which provides me with excellent cushioning and the added benefit of secure walking and carefreeness in bad weather.

My "two cents" about the effects on the longevity of the shoe:

(1) It is true that, theoretically, the overall stability of the shoe might be endangered but I don't think it ever is. Make sure (or rather have your shoemaker make sure) that, when not worn and resting without a shoe tree, your shoe rests on the "ball-point part" of the sole (or rather, slightly behind that) as well as on the forward part of the heel (you should be able, by pressing down the heel, to lift the tip of the shoe slightly off the ground). Admittedly, the effect is hardly as precise if your shoe is rubber-soled, but then, you are moving around a great deal in your shoe anyway by wearing it, so I doubt whether a minimal shift in where the weight of the wearer's body comes down on the shoe makes a huge difference.

(2) As for breathing through the leather-sole: this is rubbish if you ask me. I am NOT a shoemaker/expert on the subject, but as far as I know the thesis that a shoe breathes through the leather-sole to any considerable extent, as compared with the uppers, has not been proved and doesn't make sense to me.

Hope that helps. For more, use the search function, type in "leather," "rubber," "Topy/Topies" etc.
 

ilikeyourstyle

Super Member
I haven't seen the cost of such soles addressed before, so I was just wondering what people pay for this rubber soling service/product in North America? I think my cobbler is gouging me.
 

The Louche

Super Member
I'm paying about 25USD - well worth it to quadruple the life of the sole in my opinion. I also forgot to mention in the original post that the addition of a Vibram sole before the shoe ever gets worn has the added benefit of allowing the original, factory sole to remain with the super for the life of the shoe. I know that in the case of some moccasins (my beloved Guccis, for example) it can be difficult to replace the original sole due to the un-welted nature of their construction.
 

Tiberias

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I'm not sure this is all that contentious--it sounds as if most people on this forum are amenable to sole protectors, although there are a few purists who prefer the leather. But as long as it's the super-thin Topy or Vibram protector, it does not significantly change the look of the shoe, while protecting it at the same time.

And I pay 25USD to 30USD at most for this service. Taps only are much less, more like 3USD to 5USD.
 

tabasco

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I prefer rubber-soled shoes to leather as I prefer walking in all 4 seasons (northern MN), with snow, ice, rain. I do have a couple leather-soled shoes (for dancing), but of my 4 Alden shell cordovans, & 3 AE's they are all Vibram/commando soles.
Benefits: longevity and traction, comfort (they are warmer in winter), and cushion my stride.
-happy camper
 

well-kept

Super Member
They extend the life of the shoe immeasurably and when the Vibram wears through it can be replaced while in no way compromising the integrity of the original sole or the welt. I don't install them on my really fine stuff but on everyday shoes - Alden, etc - they make perfect sense.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
I have had a few of my shoes "Topied" and been quite satisfied with the results. It extends the life of the more pricey leather soles and improves the footing on smooth/wet and slippery surfaces immeasurably. Several pair of my AEs and Aldens came with "commando soles," straight out of the box. I have not experienced any damage to my shoes, as a result of installing topies.
 

sia

VP AAAC Corporate Benefits
I have become a fan of Vibram "Zip" soles in recent months and wanted to know other members' thoughts. I like the soles ("zip" soles, to avoid confusion, are thin pieces of Vibram fused over the bare leather sole on a dress shoe by your local cobbler) because I am very, very hard on leather soles. I have about 3-4 pairs of dress shoes in regular rotation and tend to wear through an un-protected leather sole in 6 months time; I can get two years from a shoe with Vibram soles added-on. I am curious if there are any long-term implications to the use of these soles. Will they harm the sole by not allowing it fully breath? Will the cause undue stress on other parts of the shoe by altering the sole thickness? Curiously, I saw a warning on some Church's Chelsea boots urging the wearer not alter the original soles in any way...

P.S. Most of my shoes are Allen Edmond's, my loafers classic Gucci bits...

Thanks!
You do seem to go through soles rather quickly...depending on the pattern of wear, you may wish to see a podiatrist to have your gait checked out...

That aside, the most imminent long term implications are: your shoes last longer, some ridiculous snobs criticize you for making sensible alternations to your own personal property, and you may live longer as your decision to add zip soles could help you avoid a nasty fall when it's wet out.:icon_smile_big:

But seriously, soles on the types of shoes you own were made to be replaced, altering them shouldn't present any problems...
 

Nick V

Senior Member
I'm paying about 25USD - well worth it to quadruple the life of the sole in my opinion. I also forgot to mention in the original post that the addition of a Vibram sole before the shoe ever gets worn has the added benefit of allowing the original, factory sole to remain with the super for the life of the shoe. I know that in the case of some moccasins (my beloved Gucci's, for example) it can be difficult to replace the original sole due to the un-welted nature of their construction.
+1 Squared. except your Gucci's can easily be re-soled by a quality repair shop.
 
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