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Q: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs ( No Answer,   9 Comments )
Subject: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: frank_schrader-ga
List Price: $35.00
Posted: 23 Nov 2003 14:34 PST
Expires: 23 Dec 2003 14:34 PST
Question ID: 279772
The soles of not one, not two, but _three_ separate pairs of shoes
have mysteriously self-destructed within the past month, for no reason
that I can think of.

By 'self-destruct' I mean that thick strips of the rubber soles start
coming off the bottom.  Once the process starts, it worsens rapidly;
the soles of all three pair are now thoroughly shot.

Two of the shoe pairs are New Balance dress shoes, with rubber or
neoprene soles; the third pair is from Wolverine.  I've had great
service from these brands in the past.  To my knowledge, I'm not
walking in anything that could cause harm to the shoe soles.  I do
almost all of my walking in urban areas.

The New Balance shoe pairs were fairly new when the self-destruct
occurred; the Wolverines were old.

The Wolverines self-destruct occurred today.  For the first hour of
walking, all was well.  Suddenly, a big chunk of the right heel peeled
away; large chunks from the right shoe continued to peel off
thereafter.  Then a chunk came out of the left shoe, too.  I'm lucky
that I was able to get home; both shoes are now totally shot.

I store the shoes in the same small cabinet.  If there's anything
toxic in there, it hasn't done any damage to the phone books and
papers that are also in the cabinet.  Also, several other pairs of
shoes that 'live' in the cabinet are still fine.

Is there a chemical known to cause damage to shoe soles that I might
be walking on without knowing it?

Could it be a sophomoric prank of some kind?  It would be difficult
for anyone to get at the shoes, but maybe it happened anyway.

Please answer this question if you're pretty sure what it is -- but if
you're just guessing, please don't.  My hope is that there will be a
definite answer to this mystery.
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: journalist-ga on 23 Nov 2003 20:50 PST
Greetings Frank:

I've also alerted the editors that you were not pleased with my answer
and I'm certain they will remove it as soon as possible.  Thank you
for the opportunity to answer your question.

Best regards,
Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: journalist-ga on 23 Nov 2003 20:52 PST
To other Researchers answering this question: The customer was not
pleased with my answer and I wanted to place it here in the comments
so that you would be alerted to the Search Strategy already tried:

Greetings Frank_schrader:

I think the problem may be poor production quality.  Sadly, I've
learned that no matter what name brand one purchases, the quality of
the brand name manufacturer seems to decline as their advertising
budget and big-name endorsers increase.  Some brand names that I used
to admire for their high quality (and happy to pay full price for)
seem to have sacrificed that quality in exchange for popularity.  It's
that gosh-darn consumerism: Make too good of a product and your
consumer base buys less often.

I found this concerning a mid-range price brand of shoes:
"Rating them [Rocket Dog boots] on comfort... I would give them a 10
but quality and durability is a 3. I've only had them for 2 months and
already they are peeling from the soles and the black finish on the
boots are scrapped off in parts. So I'm definetly not happy with my
$40.00 purchase."

Of course, I'm not slighting any company for a faulty production run. 
A similar thing happened to me with the Tretorn brand.  I bought two
pair when they debuted and, my gosh, they were made *so* well - they
lasted for 2 years, at least.  I bought a second pair about a year
after the first two.  Their quality was *so* dismal.  I was very
disappointed when the leather upper pulled away from the side-sole
after about 10 wears.  I returned the shoes and the next pair lasted
about 3 months before the grommet on one lace hole came away from the
leather.  This was casual walking.  I gave up after that and they
became garden shoes.

Here's another peeling sole complaint:
"Shoes fit well and performed well, but the durability is absolute doo
doo. The rubber sole began seperating after one year. I have tried to
contact Lake several times, but as mentioned in previous reviews, once
they have your money, forget you. I won't buy again, Lake..."
[Other comments regarding this manfacturer's product are "...the
rubber sole is lame! It's falling apart from the upper sole. and some
parts on the outside of the shoe are comming apart at the seams," "I
have had problems with the soles peeling off. I am on my third pair in
three years" and "The sole delaminates from the upper too easily."]

However, here's some repair advice:
"Don't banish your trusty boots to the garbage bin just because the
sole starts peeling off..."
From "Gearing Up: How to stretch more miles out of your hiking boots"
by Kristin Hostetter at and suggests
shoe glues for repair.

I recommend you check with a local shoe repair shop and have the shoes
re-soled, especially if the uppers are still in good shape.  I would
also predict that the shoe shop re-soling will outlast the
manufacturer's.  Shoe repair shops still exist in some cities in the
US.  Unfortunately, with imports shoes becoming so plentiful and
offered at such low prices, the shoe repair shop is in serious
decilne.  As a trade, it is a rare skill and I hope that big cities
can keep the craft alive but they are disappearing from smaller towns
across the U.S.

Here's a product suggested for self-repair:
"I have managed to tear away one of the lace hooks, and the sole
started to separate fromthe leather near the toes. I used ""FreeSole""
to repair them and it seems to have done the job."
Here's a link to the Freesole product:

Regarding why some cycle racing shoes *don't* peel: 
"Some shoes use a soft rubber sole. This gives great pedal feel, but
fatigues your feet as the pedals dig in. ..Some use a leather pad sewn
on the right side instead of an extension of the glued rubber sole.
This prevents it from peeling away under heavy use."

Also, from my reading it seems that some shoes have a rubber sole only
laminated and some have it both stiched *and* laminated, the latter
being the more sturdy.


Anyway, back to peeling soles.  The results of a field test for budget
boots may be viewed at,1023,2611_P,00.html . The
article is titled "Budget Boots - Quality hikers don't have to cost
you an arm and a leg" by John Harlin, BACKPACKER Contributing Editor,
October 1, 2001.  Wolverines aren't mentioned but part of the field
test durability points mentions peeling soles.  Apparently, this is no
unusual phenomenon.  Also, walking on concrete or pavement is much
different to a sole than walking on dirt or grass.  The walking impact
is softer in many natural environments.  Even with sprots such as
basketball, that's played on a wood floor in most instances and wood
gives more when walked on.

A similar study titled "Scrambling Shoe Field Test" by Mike Lanza,
BACKPACKER Northwest Editor, May 1, 2001 appears at,1023,2057_P,00.html and the
peeling soles are also a part of the judging criteria here.

View this Nike complaint:
"The shoe like most Nike shoes had no stiching between the sole and
the shoe. Hence, the poor quality glue used often results in the sole
peeling off. There goes the water proofing..."

Concerning Wolverines and New Balance, you will see below in my Search
Strategy that I researched their names with peeling soles.


"Big disappointment for me. I found these shoes to be a disappointment
for me. Within a couple of months wear, pieces of the tread were
peeling off the bottom sole."

"They [New Balance] have developed a Kids range of athletic shoes
which combine the technological innovations of the adult range with
fun aggressive styles that appeal to kids of all ages. These shoes are
lightweight, yet extremely durable and all rubber outsoles are
stitched to the toe to prevent peeling and ensure that they withstand
the wear and tear of active children."
From [Wow, they don't
think adults are that active?]

Does this mean they don't stitch the soles of adult shoes as well as
laminate?   If not, then your next brand consideration should be a
company that stitches the soles of their shoes to the uppers.

"Amazing Disintegrating Shoes" at Epinions on the New Balance 801
"I found it very interesting to encounter so many other people here on
Epinions that had similar problems with these New Balance 801
See all reviews at


I didn't locate any sole peeling online about Wolverines.  Your
experience here could be a case of dry rot or just wearing out the
shoes.  You didn't mention age on those.

I did find this about Timberlands:
"The boots were well cared for and were only two years old when the
soles completely dry rotted. I could literally peel the sole apart. I
was even more dissapointed when the manufacture would not stand behind
their product."

For your new brand consideration, read this from an Etonic customer
who was proud of the fact that he/she wore out a sole:
"I had a pair of Etonic Difference and actually wore out the sole
after 3 years. The tour model is better built. I highly recomend these


To sum up, it appears that peeling soles occur on many brands.  The
definite answer will vary from poor laminate glue, absence of
stitching or poor quality control at the manufacturing plant.  Peeling
soles happen.  I don't think this has anything to do with your walking
habits at all, it's a case of one of the above.  If you think you
might be walking through chemicals of some kind --only you know the
industrial places along your route where there could be a potential
chemical run-off-- then inquire around.  Also check with the highway
department to see if any of the chemicals used to clean or resurface
pavement might be damaging to neoprene.

If you are the writing kind, I'd also advise posting a letter to New
Balance that includes your dissatisfaction with the recent purchases
[if the store(s) where you purchased them won't allow returns]. 
You'll be able to best judge their company ethics from their response
and, if they are truly interested in the quality of their product,
they will honor your concerns.  Your letter might alert them to a
production problem.  They might be getting old glue without knowing
it.  Truly, your peeling soles could result from a variety of reasons
and there are facts on which to base any guesses.

Should you require clarification of any of the links or information I
have provided, please request it before rating my answer and I will be
happy to respond.

Best regards,


"peeling sole"
"peeling soles"
"peeling soles" why?
"peeling soles" shoes
wolverine peeling sole
wolverine shoes peeling sole
"new balance" disintegrating sole
"new balance" shoes disintegrating sole
wolverine disintegrating sole
wolverine shoes disintegrating sole
"new balance" peeling sole
wolverine boots peeling sole
peeling strips sole wolverine
peeling strips sole "new balance"
"rubber sole" peeling why
"peeling sole" repair
"peeling soles" "new balance"
shoe soles "peeling off"
shoe soles "peeling off" strips


stitched and laminated soles

"new balance" stitched soles

wolverine stitched laminated soles

double stitched soles

double stitched laminated soles
Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: probonopublico-ga on 23 Nov 2003 21:21 PST
Hi, Journalist

It wasn't my question but, if had been in the questioner's
self-destructing shoes, I'd have given you five stars and a tip.

Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: hofferino-ga on 25 Nov 2003 02:36 PST
You want Sherlock Holmes for $35.00?
Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: frank_schrader-ga on 25 Nov 2003 08:31 PST
If I visit a mechanic with a car that smells like gas, sputters and
gets poor mileage, he'll probably look for a leaky fuel pump -- if
he's a good mechanic.  If he gives me general information about the
poor quality of modern cars in general, and sends me away, I'm not
happy, no matter what he charges me.

If I pay $35 to a researcher, I expect that the researcher will have
research skills I lack, and that he or she will do research I don't
have time to do.  I think everything in this response could have been
found by querying Google.  I thought that the responder would query
databases not readily available on the net, query shoe manufacturers
-- or, if s/he didn't want to do those things, leave the question

I gambled on this service because Google provides fantastic search
tools.  I think Google is 'diluting the mark,' so to speak, by
providing such substandard service in Google Answers.  If you have a
stellar reputation, why threaten it by selling something that isn't
worth the money?

I have requested a refund, several times.  No matter what, I'll chalk
this up as a bad experience; I'd just as soon not devote any more time
to this topic.
Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: journalist-ga on 25 Nov 2003 18:52 PST
Greetings Frank_Schrader:

I just wanted to say again that I'm sorry you were not pleased with my
research.  It was a challenging question to answer as I don't have
access to your actual shoes nor any images of the damage to your
soles.  I worked for a little over 2 1/2 hours to gather information
for you that it was not an unusual occurrence and to provide you with
various reasons it may have happened.

In answering questions, Google Answers Researchers use the Google
search engine and other public sites.  Proprietary database use is
difficult because while a Researcher might use a password accessible
database, the customer would not be able to verify the supporting
evidence in the search strategy because of password considerations.

Had I been able to visit with your damaged soles as a mechanic would
visit with your car, I would have been able to closely examine the
soles and ascertain if there was any particular chemical odor, any
unusual staining, any evidence of dry rot, etc. that might be an
additional clue.  However, I had only your words to go by and I want
you to know I faithfully endeavored to answer your question from the
description you provided.

I'll send a another alert to the editors that you wish to have my
answer removed.  It may be that the holiday week is preventing a
quicker solution for you.  Also, should you decide to leave the
question open for another Researcher, please know that Google Answers
offers a Clarification function to facilitate dialogue between a
customer and a Researcher so that the customer may exhaust all avenues
of concern before rating and closing a question.

Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season,
Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: frank_schrader-ga on 26 Nov 2003 07:54 PST
Hello, Journalist,

I stand by my comments.  If the soles were in front of you, you'd
still need to figure out why they disintegrated -- which would involve
the leg work that wasn't done in the first place.

I'm sorry you spent two and a half hours on this.  We probably agree
that we'd both be happier if you hadn't responded to my question.  I
look forward to hearing from Google regarding the refund.
Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: mercer2-ga on 20 Dec 2003 14:09 PST
the shoes "self-Destruct" because the soles are made of polyurethane
instead of rubber. this material it has a very good resistance to
wear. but if you do not use them every day or very often. they tend to
fall apart. also they have a expiration date. for example if the
manufacter took to much time since the creation of the sole to the
instalation of it in a shoe they tend to fall apart as well. or if you
store the shoes in a closet and then want to use them. to late they
fall apart.
Subject: Re: Shoe Soles - mysterious self-destruction of three pairs
From: alyxsylvr-ga on 21 Dec 2003 13:36 PST
There is a possible answer to your question that has not been covered.
That is so-called counterfeit products. There are two ways this could
have affected you the least likely is that the shoes and boots were
all made by off-shore sweatshop counterfitters. This happens most
frequently with brand names like Nike.
However manufacturers have also been faced with this problem for
example car parts places are flooded with cheap aftermarket copies of
genuine car parts that fail after a short while. This has gotten so
bad that insurance companies will specify original replacement parts
in their repair quotes to prevent people coming back with complaints
about quality.
Now you are wondering HOW DOES THIS AFFECT MY SHOES. It so happens
that in all of the brands of shoe soles you mentioned the sole were
sewn on. As opposed to glued on.
When manufactures go into the market place to buy products to make
their items from. Sometimes persons doing the purchacing either do not
know or greedily take a lower priced selection (sometimes for a little
grease in their hand)of a lower quality product.
If the thread in your shoe soles was such a fake thread it would be
virtually indetectable from the real item however it would be made
from fibres that were of inferior quality and unwaxed so that it would
decay with exposure to water (the universal solvent).
Similarly glues and other basic manufacturing items such as noeprene
are now being "counterfitted" and put out in the market palce by
unscrupulace criminals who are making huge profits from these fake
items. By the time the complaints get back through the chain of
command and managment realizes that they put out a faulty product. The
con artists have left, the low level manager or purchacer pockets the
few dollars he got paid off, and very little can be done except for a
product recall or trying to see that it doesn't happen again

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