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Resoling your climbing shoes

Submitted by far_east_climber on 2006-02-12 | Last Modified on 2007-01-14

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by Matt Traver

The following information combines various tips and ideas I’ve discovered through my own resoling experience, as well as what I have come across in instructional leaflets in commercial resole kits.

It’s important to note that this piece is in no way a definitive guide to resoling your climbing shoes. It is my intention that this should provide you with some useful guidelines that you may wish to consult if you want to increase your chances of a successful resole. Hopefully this will take some of the financial bite out of resoling your own shoes.

There are three stages to resoling a climbing shoe: the first stage involves prepping, which consists of the removal of the old rubber and preparing the soles through the processes of refilling and sanding the soles. The second stage revolves around the gluing of the new sole on to your shoes. The third stage includes trimming/sanding the excess new rubber and the shaping of your edges.

Construction of your shoe:

Before you begin, I’ve found the following tools to be helpful with the process and it is recommended that you consider all of them:

- Rubber gloves – great for smearing the glue as it allows you to achieve a thin veneer of glue, which is a critical element in successful bonding.

- Razor blade – it’s important to note that a fresh razor blade is necessary to achieve a clean trim during the grinding/sanding process. A smaller blade allows for greater accuracy.

- Seam grip – a good material for filling in any imperfections in the sole or rand.

- Duct tape – a bit of this around the rand will ensure that, during your trimming, if you lose control you will not slice through the rand. It also stops any excess glue from running onto the rand, providing a neater finish.

- Pliers (round nose) – beneficial to holding the shoe during the heating process and an effective tool for removing the old sole.

- Rubber mallet – an essential tool in ensuring firm attachment of the new sole. If you do not have a rubber mallet, a regular hammer wrapped in a cloth will suffice – you just want to avoid denting the rubber.

- Contact adhesive – this will come with a kit, if you are using one. It is essential for repairing any delaminations and of course is the primary material for attaching your soles together.



What you aim to accomplish in this stage is a clean removal of the old sole. By clean, I am referring to removal of the old sole without tearing the toe rand. If this is your first time resoling, it is inevitable that you will delaminate and possibly tear some of the rand. If this occurs, take some contact adhesive and re-glue the delaminated area. If there is a tear, patch the gap with seam grip and proceed to sand it down with medium-grit sandpaper until it is flush with the rest of the surrounding rand. Make sure to use only a small amount of seam-grip as it takes great effort and care to remove the excess.

The first challenge is deciding where you want to cut off your old sole. To determine the best place, find the ‘flex-point’ (see below) of your shoe. To do this, simply bend your shoe in half and the point where it flexes, somewhere near the arch of your foot, is the recommended cut point.

After you have chosen your flex point, you can mark the line with your razor blade or a pencil if you want to be really safe. Take care to ensure that your cuts are at equal points on both shoes and that you are not removing too much. Also make certain that you have adequate room for the new sole.

When cutting the shoe, some manufacturers recommend cutting at a 45 degree angle towards the toe. I’ve never discovered why this is recommended, although I believe it to minimize bunching up of the sole during shoe flex. In my experience, I’ve not found the 45 degree angle cut to be essential for successful resoling.

When cutting your sole in half you may want to consider placing some duct tape, or other suitable protective tape on the rands near to where you are cutting. Do not attempt to cut the sole in half in one go as you may risk cutting the last of your shoe, which you do not want to do! Slowly work your way across until you have cut to the bottom of the sole. For a straighter and neater line, do not stop midway through the cutting process but try to finish in one steady, constant cutting motion.


Once you have cut the soles in half, you can now proceed to the removal of the old soles. It is most important to take your time during removal, as any mishaps will only cost you extra time. The only effective way for sole removal is through heating the rubber, which melts the bonding glue and allows the sole to be easily removed. Using the top of an electric stove is the most effective method for heating the rubber. However, regular camp stoves do work and can be more effective in some cases as the heat is more concentrated. If you are using an electric stove make sure not to get the coils red hot. The main thing is to get the rubber hot enough but not too hot. I suggest holding the shoe no closer than 3-5” to the stove top, otherwise you run the risk of melting the entire shoe! You will know the heating process is complete when the rubber is slightly hot to the touch, that is, enough to make you wince. I also suggest you occasionally remove your shoe from the heat for a few seconds to reduce the chance of overheating. You can also put some insulating material such as an oven mitt over the part of the shoe not in contact with the heat. There’s nothing worse than mistakenly heating the entire sole, instead of the half sole, and then having to repair the whole thing!

To remove the sole after the heating process, a pair of pliers is necessary as you will have to be able to roll back the rubber. Do not pull long lengths of your rubber with pliers. Instead, roll the rubber flat off the shoe, taking care to keep as close to the removal point as possible.

I have found the inside edge of the base rand is most likely to tear during the peeling process, particularly around the toe area as this is where the bends in rubber are most thin. I have also found that working your way around the entire outer perimeter of the shoe is best and then slowly working your way inwards. When removing rubber around the toe area, peel from the outside of the shoe inwards towards the centre. Doing the reverse may cause you to peel back the toe rand that stretches on to the underside of the last. Also, if you are careful, your razor blade can be used to reach inside and uncut some of the glue strands while you are rolling back the rubber, which will aid the removal process.

Once both soles have been removed you may very well have to touch up the rands in preparation for the attachment of the new rubber. Before doing this, make sure that the glue has completely cooled. Seam grip is recommended for patching up any holes you may have caused and contact adhesive (or whatever else comes with your kit) is recommended in reattaching any delaminated rand. Alternatively, one can use a hot glue gun if Seam-grip is not available. Once the prepping, removal, and repairs are complete, you may need to sand down any excess seam-grip. Use a medium grit sandpaper for this. You can also use your razor blade to speed up the Seam-grip removal process.



When it comes to gluing on your new soles, the first thing is to make sure that both the old and new surfaces are clean and free of dirt. I recommend against using a cleaning agent to remove any grime on your new rubber/sole as I’ve found that residue left over from cleaning agents can react with the bonding glue, sometimes affecting the drying process.

Before beginning to glue your new soles, be sure to tightly pack the toe area of your shoe with newspaper or a similar material. It will be essential for the final stage of pressing. If you have the time, shaping a wooden insert would be an ideal alternative. However, one can’t always be carrying a block of wood on their climbing trips, so don’t worry about this. The secret to good bonding is putting a thin layer of glue on. To do this, lightly coat both surfaces to be attached, with a gloved finger (using a brush does not create a smooth glue surface). You may want to consider putting some duct-tape around the rand, if you have not already done so. This will minimize any excess glue running down on to your shoes. After you have glued the new replacement sole on to your shoe you will need to wait for the glue to dry to a ‘tacky’ state, which should take about 15 minutes if you are in a cool and dry atmosphere. After this is complete, you must re-heat the glue to reverse the drying process, which will ensure a more secure bond. Use a hair dryer for this method as using a stove may cook the glue. Reheat both surfaces with the hair dryer holding it no closer than 3-5 inches away - your goal is to heat the glue into a tactile state. It is best if you practice laying the sole down on the shoe before you heat the glue. This will decrease your chances of laying the sole down unevenly.

Upon laying down the new sole, start from the centre of the shoe and lay down the new sole all the way up to the toe ensuring you are pressing the new sole firmly against the centre of the shoe. Work your way around the outside of the rand, making sure you are firmly pressing the edges. Take your rubber mallet and pound over the entire surface of the sole for a few minutes. Focus on the toe area as this will be the area most likely to delaminate again once you start to climb. When this has been done on both shoes, you should now press your shoes. For this step, the most important advice I can give you is to make sure the shoes are receiving adequate pressure over the entire surface of the soles. This is achieved by sandwiching the shoes between two thin plywood boards and weighting them down. What do you use for weights? I have used such things as refrigerators, washing machines and car tires to provide the necessary pressure. I recommend you wait at least 12 hours minimum for your glue to dry, although 24 hours is best. You may feel like you are destroying your shoes by putting them under so much pressure and they certainly will come out squashed after the pressing. But have no fear as the shape will come back immediately upon wearing.

Trimming and sanding

Now you are at the third and final stage of your resoling, it is important to remember that the quality of your cut will increase the accuracy. Cut in a slow and gradual manner. Add some tape to the rand, if you haven’t already. Try to cut in long motions as this will create a smoother edge. However, if you are grinding this is less important. After you have sufficiently trimmed the excess material, you have the option of grinding/sanding your shoe. This is not imperative, but is necessary if you want a ‘perfect finish’. To do this, use a belt sander, which can be bought at your local hardware store, and lightly go around shaping the edge to the desired and final form.

Well, now you should have successfully finished resoling your shoe and are ready to experience the satisfaction of your hard work.

Climb on!


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