Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 24 July 2015

Repairing Squeaky Shoes

Every now and then, things can go wrong with a pair of our bespoke shoes. It is rare, but it does happen

We recently saw a customer who we hadn't seen for 4 years. The good news was that he wanted to order two new pairs. The less good news was that his first pair had developed a squeak - the right shoe to be precise. He asked if we could repair it. The answer was yes we can... and here is how.

The first thing to find out is where it was squeaking. So, after careful bending with the shoe at my ear, I ascertained that the squeak was at the toe.

Shoes can develop a squeak for various reasons, but the basic one is two components rubbing together. In this case it was the insole, the sole and the filler. What it might have been is an area of fluff on either leather component which we normally skive off. But even a practised eye can be deceived by an insole/sole that looks dense and solid.

If the squeak is in the waist, it is usually the shank which is shifting. Again, it is important to glue it in well if it is leather or stitch it in securely if it is metal. I've never used wooden shanks, but I imagine they are glued?

Finally, if the squeak is located in the heel, it is because you haven't roughed the skin side of one of the lifts and it had cracked a bit and is moving.

Squeaks can also be caused by a crack in the skin side of a piece of leather (toe puffs, stiffeners, side linings etc) which is why we glass or rough the surface when we are making the shoes.

Now to solutions.

In this case, with the squeak at the toe, what we did was to cut a section of the sole stitches at the offending area and then, with a magic syringe, inject a whole load of contact adhesive or rubber solution into the space between the sole and the insole. As much as will fit without it squeezing out of the gap.

I always insert a screwdriver into the cavity to make sure the glue will fill all the space. And stand the shoe up so that gravity helps a little. Once the glue is in, leave it to dry over a few days with a clip holding the seam together - the glue will glue it shut if you leave it to go tacky for 10 minutes or so.

Once it is dry, you can re-stitch the sole and then re-finish the edge as best you can using the same fudge wheel and edge iron.

If it is the shank, you can try the same solution. A square waist is no problem, but a bevelled waist can prove a little trickier, especially if it is a metal shank. You have to go in from the fore part because you shouldn't cut the stitches in the waist.

Squeaky heels require a rebuild - you have to take them apart until you find the lift that squeaks and then build them back up. This is time consuming and laborious, so prevention is always best.

To avoid squeaky heels:
- make sure you rough the skin side of your lifts well.

To avoid squeaky soles:
- skive off any fluff from the insole once you have welted
- skive off all of the fluff from the flesh side of the sole before you stitch
- secure shanks well with glue and/or stitches depending on what type you are using

This repair worked perfectly and the shoe no longer squeaks. We always like to return shoes looking better than ever, so we also gave the shoes a service, adding new top pieces....

...And toe plates to give the soles a few more years of life.

So our loyal customer has a well serviced pair of shoes.

Interestingly, the leather is not calf, but sheep. A special kind of sheep which our tanner in Scotland calls hair sheep. It is buttery soft and only very lightly grained, so looks a little like calf. And it makes for a very light, flexible shoe, but also seems to last very well by the look of these shoes.

That's all for now. Until next week, when we'll be catching up with our Pattern Making for Bespoke Shoes class, happy shoemaking!