Resole Shoes With Old Tire Tread


These shoes are heavier than normal, they don’t grip as well as store-bought, and it’s a heck of a lot of work to make a pair for yourself. But if you do pull this one off you’ll have a great time showing everyone your custom tire tread shoe hack.

Two things motivated [Martin Melchior] to give this a try. The first is that tire tread is virtually indestructible when only supporting the weight of a person. Secondly, this reuses otherwise worn-out tires, making it a recycling project.

Pretty much all of the work has to do with getting the tread ready for use. Cutting off the sidewalls and sawing the ring of tread in half is rather easy. But then you have to split the tread off of the steel belts, which is not. [Martin] recommends using vice-grip pliers to grab the outer lay and pull it away from the tread, slicing along the belts with a utility knife as you go. Once you do have a flat strip just glue it to your shoes and cut away the excess.

We’re more into a different type of retread that actually takes you places.

40 thoughts on “Resole Shoes With Old Tire Tread

    1. I’ve heard about people actually using motorcycle treads like this (might have even been Chile). I recently repaired a toe strap that broke off of my sandal with an awl that I was pretty proud of, but eventually bought a new pair because I’m not sure how long it will hold up.

  1. These shoes are heavier than normal, they don’t grip as well as store-bought, it’s a heck of a lot of work to make a pair for yourself, the edges are sharp, the glue costs money and cutting through the steel belting isn’t trivial.

    But it’s a hack!!!1111

    Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea.

    1. I can’t speak for these sandals, but tire rubber is an excellent sole material. If I were set up for tailory, I’d take a stab at making my own Chuck Taylor style sneakers with the material.

      1. When you say chuck taylor I’m thinking converse all stars. Thanks for the idea. I’m definitely going to pull an old pair apart for a pattern and see what my wife thinks of stitching the outers. I’ve wanted a pair of tailor (cobbler) made shoes for years. Making my own never occurred to me! I’d definitely make them with thicker inner soles than the originals. Anyone know if memory foam makes a for a comfy insole?

        1. If you really want homemade insoles you can use wool felt… as it breaks in it really molds to your feet. Felt also doesn’t hold moisture and is excellent for air circulation. The memory foam seems like it would retain too much heat and you might need a thick layer of it to actually feel comfort as it’s kinda medium-to-low density. If you can hold it in your hand and squeeze it between your fingers, it’s probably not gonna hold up.

        2. Personally, I prefer as little material between my feet and the ground as is reasonable. A strip of cloth glued to a tire tread is plenty for me.

          If you want some extra cushioning, maybe a thick layer of food grade silicone caulk would do the job. Like Mono.aov noted, memory foam would keep you warm, but it’d flatten too much.

  2. I had a pair of sandals made with recycled tire treads in Vietnam around 1970.

    They lasted for years and years, were super comfortable, and I was very sad to see them wear out.

    This brings back happy memories.

  3. What’s the story regarding used tire rubber being a serious carcinogen?

    When I was around 3 I received my first pair of car-tread sandals. I loved them. Lots of revving sounds and pretending I was a car.

  4. To people of a certain age and background, these are an upscale version of what was known as “Ho Chi Minh” sandals. The Vietnam era sandals used innertube for the straps. The straps were inserted through slits in the tire made with a hammer chisel.

    Super cheap materials cost, though a friend who made and sold them said that attaching the straps was a real chore.

    1. It was also easier to make Ho Chi Minh sandals back then, because most tires weren’t steel-wire reinforced (or, at least, most of the tires I could afford as a college student weren’t… Steel-belted radials were starting to show up, but were still really expensive.)

      On the other hand, the classic instructions for making them started off with “blow up a US Army truck and steal the tires.”

  5. Cheap huaraches, made from old tires and some leather lace or linen twine, is awesome for running. Really flexible, secure, durable, and cheap. The grip isn’t super tacky, but unless you’re planning on running on wet algae-coated rocks, it’s quite sufficient for most situations, and I imagine hobnails would be all you need for extra traction.

    Vibram has nothing on Michelin.

    1. Just peeled a beautiful pristine Michelin off the GFs 15 yr old Suburban, never used, and no tire shop wanted to be liable for mounting it because of age, still has the mold tits. So it’s going on 3 pr of my boots, my mickeys, and maybe fashion some mukluks. 6 hrs of painstaking peeling off the steel belts, I couldn’t resist. If I were to do this regularly I would use ATV, motorcycle, or yard tractor, mower tires with just nylon, or rayon belts; much fewer blisters.

  6. When the soles tried to fall off my work boots, I stuck them back on with Gorilla super glue. It’s a thicker, almost gel type. Had to put a few clips along the edges to hold until the glue set. Been wearing them quite a while, no sign of the bond failing.

    If you can grind the top of the tire tread layer smooth enough, and smooth and clean the bottom of the old shoes or sandals, this glue might work.

    Look up the documentary “Flip Flotsam”. It covers the life cycle of flip flops in eastern Africa from manufacture to recycling. People there will repair them until there’s nothing left to tie together. Then many of the thrashed sandals get flushed out to sea in the rainy season and later wash ashore along the coast where beachcombers pick them up.

  7. If you want some grippy tire tread shoes the trick is to coat the tread with a generous amount of turpentine then wrap some seran wrap over it and let it sit for a few days. Car guys have been doing this for so many years that at some races they bring out dogs to sniff the tires for softening compounds.

  8. “These shoes are heavier than normal, they don’t grip as well as store-bought..”

    I guess that depends how fast you can run. Get up to speed and you’d corner really well! Not to mention they would handle really well in the wet at high speeds. The answer is Moar Speed!!

  9. I repaired my own shoes bu glue-ing a tire to it with a polymer glue. Considering that an average tire last 20.000km on a car that has at least 10 times the weight distributed over four wheels I am looking at a lot of walking. And I did NOT remove the steel belt. Heavy, but solid and seriously not suitable for football but great for self defence.

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