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323 Sticky Rubber 2010-12-22

sticky rubber shoes

Sticky rubber on footwear is fairly new to the outdoor sports industry. A few years back I purchased a pair of trail running shoes. They were comfortable and seemed to fit my foot really well. Then, on a rainy day I chose to wear the trail shoes to use on one of my regular city runs. During the run I planted my foot on a painted road stripe and ooops. My feet flew out from under me like I was a cartoon character stepping on a banana peel. I limped home thinking unkind thoughts about the shoe manufacturer.

A few weeks later I decided to give the neglected shoes a second chance and chose to wear them on a trail run. I fell on the first piece of wet rock I landed a shoe on. That was the last time I ever wore those shoes and for that matter that brand of shoes. When I gave the shoes away, I included a "slippery when wet" sign.

Running shoes are not the only shoes with slippery soles. Likewise, folks hiking in hard lug soled boots are prone to sliding. The cleats cling to muddy trails (though not very environmentally considerate); but when the hiker tries to climb or cross rock, they look like they are learning to ice skate.

So why would a manufacturer make footwear that does not provide traction on wet surfaces? And why would stores only sell hard rubber soled shoes? I guess, because the footwear is attractively designed, making the shoes easy to sell. The people who actually purchase the shoes really don't use them for their intended purposes. For the cosmetic user it does not matter if the soles are sticky or not.

Finally companies began to make footwear from sticky rubber compounds. Wet surfaces were no longer an issue.

A few sticky footwear hints:

  • Buy shoes that fit your feet. Fit is the most important factor.
  • Certain manufacturers' shoes fit my foot particularly well, others don't.
  • Do not buy shoes online. Well, unless you can buy several sizes and then return the ones that did not fit. The return shipping would quickly add to the cost of the shoes.
  • Never go to a store, size the shoe for a perfect fit and then buy them online. That is just not right. Sorry.
  • Ask about the sole material.
  • If the clerks are speaking in foreign tongues, ask for a clarification. Just say, this crazy guy's blog I read, said that I needed a sticky rubber sole. I want to try on a pair of shoes that uses sticky rubber.
  • If the clerk claims that the shoes without sticky rubber will not slip on wet rock or other surfaces ... ask if you can return the slippery shoes if you find that they are slick. More than likely they will not let you return the used footwear, and I would look for another model or another store.
  • Sticky rubber wears out more quickly than standard soles; ask if the shoes can be resoled and who the clerk would suggest using for the project.
  • For running shoes, the short life span of the rubber is not an issue. Most manufactures say to replace the shoes every 600 miles or so.
  • In light hiking and approach shoes, the sticky rubber is such an advantage, you will be happy to send the shoes back for a re-sole.
  • In stiffer hiking boots, it is almost critical to have sticky rubber soles. If you are not careful the stiff boots will slide like skis on snow when crossing wet rocks. Unless you are wearing the boots on pavement, they will last for years of weekend trips before they will need to be re-soled.
  • We use La Sportiva footwear. We have had good luck with five-ten, Montrail, North Face, and Patagonia. La Sportiva products seem to fit our feet better.
  • We use Komito Boots in Estes Park, CO for our re-soles.

I cannot over emphasize the confidence sticky rubber gives the user. Why worry about sliding? Wear shoes that stick.


Happy sticky trails.


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