How can I give my shoes better traction?
December 4, 2007 5:24 PM   Subscribe

How can I give my shoes traction....using household items?

I just bought a new pair of boots and the bottoms are very slippery with no traction. I am hoping to wear them when I go out of town tomorrow but do not want to fall on my face walking outdoors. Because I'm leaving so soon, I also don't have time to order anything to put on them.

Is there anything I can do or apply to them to give better traction? I had thought of rubber cement but was afraid to try as I don't want to ruin the shoes.
posted by lxs to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend putting duct tape on the soles, spraying it with aeresol hair spray, then singing it lightly with a lighter. We used to do that all the time to our show choir shoes whenever they lost traction and it is def a good short term fix. I would recommend going outside or at least making sure you are in an open space first. ;)
posted by lolalivia at 5:26 PM on December 4, 2007

I've heard that scraping the soles with a fork does the trick sometimes.
posted by tristeza at 5:45 PM on December 4, 2007

Mopping the stage with Coca Cola keeps the dancers from slipping, maybe some of that on the soles.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:47 PM on December 4, 2007

Put them on and pace around on some concrete for several minutes. Shuffle your feet a bit.
posted by The World Famous at 5:49 PM on December 4, 2007

I've always used sandpaper.
posted by bwanabetty at 5:50 PM on December 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

Scuff the soles by dragging your feet across an abrasive surface such road pavement.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:23 PM on December 4, 2007

Unfortunately, the traction issue generally has more to do with the inherent properties of the soling material, than it does with any pattern you could easily cut into the soling. However, if your boots have leather soles, they may have been finished with wax or varnish, to have more selling appeal. Roughing leather soles a bit with coarse sandpaper, a wire brush, or (lightly!) a rasp will expose fresh leather, greatly improving traction on wet flooring.

But many winter boots have composition soling, which is a kind of rubber sheet, made of synthetic rubber and various mineral additives like talc. It has the virtue of not absorbing water, but many forms of composition soling offer poor traction on wet or icy surfaces. You can sipe it easily with a saw blade or a power saw set for a very thin cut, and this can improve matters on snowy ground, but it won't help much on wet, smooth floors or on ice. The inherent nature of the lower end compounds, which often contain cheap material additions such as PVC, is that they have a fairly low co-efficient of friction inherently, and in the presence of moisture, lose traction suddenly, and often unpredictably.

Your best bet is to take the boots and have them half-soled with traction soles such as those made by American Biltrite.
posted by paulsc at 6:34 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've had success just covering the soles with a single layer of masking tape -- adds just a little traction. This is with the sticky side to the sole, so you're effectively walking on the tape side. As the tape wears off, the sole gets worn in.
posted by amtho at 6:55 PM on December 4, 2007

This is exactly what siping was invented for.
posted by klangklangston at 7:28 PM on December 4, 2007

You may not have enough time to do this, but I remember reading a tutorial where someone made regular socks into slipper socks by smearing silicone caulking onto the soles. Seems like this would work for shoes/boots too.

Here is the link.
posted by kitty teeth at 7:30 PM on December 4, 2007

I was going to suggest silicone caulk as well- I've been meaning to try it on a pair of my own shoes. It takes some time to set, though, so read the curing time before you purchase if you intend to wear the shoes tomorrow.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:36 PM on December 4, 2007

One thing that occurs to me is to put several staples into the sole, if it's thick enough and not so soft that it would just swallow them. You may not be surprised to learn that I am not a cobbler. The traction soles mentioned above sound like a good option.
posted by eritain at 8:46 PM on December 4, 2007

oh my god, i almost posted this exact thread two weeks ago, but my internet cacked, so i hadda solve the problem myself.

put a strip of duct tape on the bottom of the boot. just stick it on there. cover the whole length of the sole. that's it.

freshly-stuck duct tape has that shiny, vinylly stickiness, which is just tacky enough to keep them from skidding. then as it wears through, a bit of the adhesive is exposed and that's a bit sticky, and at the end of its lifespan, it's a web of slightly tacky thread that has some traction. they won't be soccer cleats, but you shouldn't wipe out with a bit of duct tape on there. my slippery (high-heeled impractical but superCUTE) boots have been great for 3 weeks now. good luck!
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:08 PM on December 4, 2007

Shallow staples. You can get them from any hardware store and they won't go through your soles. When you are done, you can pry them out and the rubber will appear no worse for wear.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:17 PM on December 4, 2007

Just posted something like this to Metachat and this was Paulsc's amazing response
How likely those boots will be to contribute to a slip or fall depends as much on the material the soling is made of, as any pattern it may have. Leather soles are often finished in waxes or oils to improve selling appeal, but quickly develop wear spots that are fairly effective in providing traction on most flooring. But, you can certainly rough them a bit with coarse sand paper, or (lightly!) a rasp, to break the surface a bit.

Composition soling may look like leather, but is generally made from composition rubber sheets, which contains rubber, and various fillers and mineral additives like talc. It can wear better than leather soling, but can also have a lot less resistance to slipping on surface deposits of water. If you can't tell by labeling, smell, or feel, you can test whether you have composition soling by cutting away a tiny, tiny bit of it, and testing it in an open flame. If it burns, or changes the flame color substantially, it's probably composition. You can score composition soling with power tools like a circular saw, set for a very thin cut, easily.

Or, recognize that shoe repair shops can put 1/2 soles on such boots, regardless of their soling material, that will have very high friction for all types of flooring. 1/2 soles may add a bit of thickness at the sole edge, but the process of half-soling is first to sand away most of the existing sole, before cementing on a new half-sole. So, your boots will look much the same, thereafter. Over here, American Biltrite makes a wide range of shoe repair supplies, including such high traction half-soles, but I don't know whether their products are readily avaiable on your side of the pond. Lifts are the bits that cap your heel. They're critical to wear safety, and wear fast, in such high fashion, narrow styles as are on your boots. Keep them replaced as needed! About 75% of injury cases submitted to suit against the shoe manufacturers I've worked for, have been due to lift wear and related heel defects.""

As I need to wear them today I've scored the 1/2 sole diagonally with a sharp knife and it definately feels less slippy. However, I'm bringing them in at the weekend to get the half-sole mentioned as they are not worth an ankle!
posted by Wilder at 11:47 PM on December 4, 2007

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