Can I Fix Delaminated Rock Shoes?

I was getting ready for summer up here in Canada, and noticed that I had burned through three pairs of shoes last season. My shoes delaminated on the inside toe and wore through at the toe rand. I want to salvage these shoes and protect new ones from premature death.

By Rock and Ice | June 29th, 2010

I was getting ready for summer up here in Canada, and noticed that I had burned through three pairs of shoes last season. My shoes delaminated on the inside toe and wore through at the toe rand. I want to salvage these shoes and protect new ones from premature death. I have tried gluing the soles back on using Barge Cement and reinforcing the rands with Shoe Goo, but none of this works. How can I glue the soles back on, and how can I prevent delamination and rand wear?

The fact that you’ve had three pairs of shoes delaminate in one season indicates a deep, underlying problem, which could be painful to get at, but let’s do it anyway.

First, make sure you are wearing actual climbing shoes, and not those hip-hop kicks that look like rock shoes but are worn by pimps. I say it because climbing shoes should not delaminate and you did not deny being a pimp.

Sole delamination was a problem in the 1980s when everyone was so psyched on sticky rubber they hardly noticed if their shoes fell apart, but shoe makers have since dialed in gluing technology, eliminating this problem, or so I thought.

If your shoes are real, do the right thing and foist the problem onto someone else. Take them back to the shop where you bought them and ask about a warranty. Some shoe companies will replace delaminated shoes, unless the fault is yours, which it probably is, since getting three lemons in one season is as likely as finding something interesting stuck to the bottom of your foot.

Now, here’s the part that smarts: You cannot change the behavior of your shoes, you can only change your behavior. To do this, you must look at how you climb and recognize that it is not working. Ouch! Until you do that, you will go through shoes like meat through a cowboy.

While I haven’t seen you climb, the fact that you are experiencing premature rand wear (PRW) tells me that your footwork is only slightly better than Godzilla’s: you slam your feet into the wall and drag them as if you just suffered a hammer blow to the spine. Or, you pedal away at footholds as if on an exercise bicycle. Sharpening your footwork (changing your behavior) will eliminate PRW. To wit: Place your feet on the holds precisely and authoritate.

The delamination is likely caused by plain old shoe abuse. Remember, these are rock shoes, not detainees. Rock shoes are delicate; they don’t like the heat. Their soles and rands are bonded to the uppers using heat-activated glue. Overheat your shoes by, say, leaving them next to a floor heater, on the dash of your car, or fire-walking, and, as surely as a pi±ata in a steam shower, they will come unglued.

Per your trashed shoes, Barge Cement is great for tacking down a bit of rubber that has sprung loose. You probably aren’t getting good results because you are suffering from the psychoactive effects of the toluene vapors off-gassing from the glue, rendering you too high to get it right. Gluing rubber isn’t a simple matter. If it were, we’d all be making our own car tires.

To get an A glue job, get a big gulp of air and hold it, then thoroughly clean the surfaces you’ll be gluing with lacquer thinner or denatured alcohol. Scrub both surfaces and let dry. Barge Cement, as it comes out of the tube, is too thick to adequately penetrate the pores in rubber, leather or synthetic materials, so don’t just squirt it in there and pray. Cut the cement with Barge All Purpose Thinner until you can easily brush it on. Paint a watery coating on the sole or rand, and the part of the boot it will bond to. Let this dry, then activate the glue by heating it with a hot blow dryer. Press the two surfaces together and clamp them with vicegrips (or similar contraptions) overnight.

Holes in your rands are impossible to fix by yourself. Shoe Goo peels off and when it doesn’t you’ll wish it had because the hardened plastic yields all the friction of a hockey puck. Get your shoes re-randed by a pro.

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