The toe area of a pair of shoes is one of the areas most prone to wear, especially for ill-fitting shoes. When your footwear slides around on your feet, your toes repeatedly impact the front end of the shoe. This eventually wears out the area where your toes come into contact. Not only that, but you can seriously injure your toes this way, too!
In this guide, we’ll teach you how to prevent toe holes in shoes, how to treat wear patterns in the shoes you wear, and how to go about fixing any gaps that have already appeared, too.
Why Do Holes Form in Shoes?
As we said above, toe holes form in shoes when the toes of the wearer rub or press against an area repeatedly. These toe holes can form in several different places across the boot, too. People with wide feet tend to create gaps between the sole and the upper of the shoe, while people with too-small shoes tend to make holes in front of or above the big toe.
Since shoes are made to fit the majority of feet, you can rarely guarantee a perfect fit for every person. As such, people who walk a certain way, who have oddly-shaped feet, or who have a natural tendency to lift their toes can see different wear patterns than the average person.
Think about the way you walk. Do you have a natural heel-toe movement, or you land with your foot flat on the ground? These two types of walking movements create very different wear patterns on a pair of shoes. In the same way, runners who primarily move at a jog instead of a walk experience different wear patterns, too.
Instead of toe holes and toe wear, you very well might experience ankle wear more often. However, the chances are that, if you wear them long enough, you’ll eventually find a toe hole forming in one of your shoes. These toe holes can come about for many different reasons, some of them being:
- Your shoes are too small
- The way you walk or run pushes your toes against your shoes
- You have oddly-shaped toes or feet that rub against your shoes
Preventing and Fixing Toe Holes in Shoes
There are several different methods and strategies for how to prevent toe holes in shoes. Sometimes the material of your shoes can make a difference in what fixes work best, while other times, the shape of your feet and the wear patterns they create are the most important.
Usually, your big toe is the main offender here, but that’s not always guaranteed. If you have wide feet, for example, your shoes can split around the pinky toe area of your feet, too. The heel areas of shoes are equally prone to wear and tear.
We’ll go over a few different strategies for how to prevent toe holes in shoes, and we’ll address other types of wear and tear, too. The most natural and most logical method for doing this is to buy shoes that avoid these friction areas. If your toes tend to wear holes in the tops of your shoes, for example, as many runners’ shoes do, try to purchase shoes that have a larger toe cavity next time.
If you see wear holes around the ankles of your shoes or on the sides, the same principle applies. It’s a bit harder to buy shoes that don’t rub at the ankles, but shoes with lower heel collars (as opposed to tall sneakers, such as high tops) may be more successful.
As far as shoes that tend to split between the top and the sole of the shoe, your options are a bit more limited. Your only choice, in most situations, is to look for shoes that are designated as wide sizes or those that are just naturally wider.
If you already have shoes that are starting to wear out, however, there are a couple of other solutions you can pursue. The ones we’ll explore here include:
- DIY solutions (i.e., duct tape, shoe patches, etc.)
- Professional repairs
- Special socks
- Corrective insoles
- Alternative lacing styles
While all shoes will wear out eventually, the reason why shoes tend to wear in some places earlier than others is mainly because of two things: how your feet are shaped, and how you move your weight across your foot.
For example, if you mainly carry your weight across the inside of your feet, you’ll see more wear along the big toe and the area where the ball of your foot rests. However, if you carry your weight across the outside of your feet, you’ll see more wear (and even splitting) across the outside of your shoes.
Even if your shoes feel like they fit well when they’re on, the way you run, walk, and even stand can affect the way that they wear. As such, it’s not always easy to predict whether a pair of shoes will be a good-wearing pair for you or not. However, if your boots historically wear in one way, the chances are that they’ll continue to do so in the same way in the future.
While this can feel inconvenient, it makes it easier to address shoe wear, too. For example, if your shoes tend to wear out at the big toe, you can focus your solutions on that area. That goes for other wear areas, too.
While a pair of DIY-repaired shoes may not look particularly attractive, these solutions can be a very effective way of extending the life of your shoes for just a little while longer while you search for a new pair. Some DIY methods are more attractive than others.
Duct tape, an excellent fix-it tool for hundreds of purposes, can be a unique way to shore up splits and holes in shoes temporarily, especially if you need to keep water out. However, it tends to be an undeniable eyesore! There’s just nothing you can do to make a big patch of duct tape look better on your favorite pair of shoes.
What’s more, duct tape isn’t a permanent solution, either. While it might extend the life of your shoes for a short while, it will need replacing itself eventually. Duct tape doesn’t hold up well to exposure to rough surfaces, for example, concrete and pavement. Under these conditions, it will wear away like most other materials do.
However, duct tape is excellent for holding a pair of shoes together that are starting to come apart. Since duct tape can wrap around the outside of the shoe, it provides superior compressive strength. However, it’s not as useful for isolated holes in your shoes. If you’re going to use duct tape, you may as well go all the way.
The next DIY method you might find yourself using for how to prevent toe holes in shoes are DIY shoe patches. While these patches tend to be most effective when applied by a cobbler, they come in at-home repair patches, too.
A shoe repair patch works in much the same way as duct tape does, but it’s designed to hold up the rigors of shoe-wearing a little better. They’re made to look a bit better, too. In some cases, you might even be able to find a shoe patch that matches the color or material of your shoe.
While the above methods are the best quick-and-dirty ways to repair holes in your shoes, if you’re comfortable with sewing and working with fabric, it’s possible to conduct your own repairs on shoes, too. This is especially useful for footwear that doesn’t handle patches gracefully, such as formal shoes or sandals.
If you know of areas of your shoes that are particularly prone to wear and tear, you can even use a shoe patch to help reinforce the material of your shoe before damage happens. While duct tape won’t work for this, a shoe patch or other fabric patch can work wonders for extending the life of a shoe, especially since it can be replaced easily as it wears out.
The only thing to keep in mind with using shoe patches this way is that you may end up changing the fit of your shoe. If your patches and repairs result in blisters or other uncomfortable conditions for your feet, you may need to rethink your approach.
If you’re particularly attached to a pair of worn-out shoes, the best way to extend their life is to take them to a professional. While there’s no way to make any pair of shoes last forever (short of replacing them entirely or never wearing them), A cobbler can significantly increase the life of your boots by repairing them knowledgeably.
The use of a cobbler has several benefits, even though some people will prefer the use of DIY tools instead. Some of these benefits include:
- Longer-lasting shoes can save you money (even if the cobbler costs money, it may still be less than a new pair of shoes)
- Cobblers can correct some minor sizing issues in shoes that you might not be able to address otherwise
- Cobblers can make your feet feel more comfortable
- Cobblers offer options to prevent wear and tear from happening to your shoes in the first place
- Making a pair of existing shoes last longer is good for the environment
A good rule of thumb to follow is that, as long as the repair job for your shoes costs less than half of what you bought the shoes for, it’s worth getting the repair done. Additionally, keep in mind that a high-quality pair of shoes can be repaired several times.
Believe it or not, shoring up or otherwise repairing your shoes isn’t the only way to treat wear and tear. If you can spread out the damage in other ways, they’ll last longer that way, too. Consider what we talked about before, for example. If an owner tends to make holes in shoes around their big toe, redistributing the pressure around that big toe is an excellent way to slow the formation of those holes.
How would you go about doing this? There are a couple of different ways, but one of the best methods is to try wearing technical padded socks. In addition to protecting your feet, padded socks will protect your shoes, too. While this might result in the stockings themselves wearing out faster, this is typically the better course of action anyway since socks are much more affordable than shoes.
Many socks meant for runners are padded, and they will work well for this purpose. However, just about any pair of padded socks will work. Make sure you choose a pair that is appropriate and breathable for the season you’re wearing them in, and make sure they’re comfortable on your feet, too.
If you don’t have any padded socks, wearing multiple socks may be an acceptable alternative, but only in the wintertime. Wearing multiple pairs of socks during warmer seasons of the year can result in excessive foot sweating, which can cause other unpleasant issues.
If you have feet that are shaped strangely or that are different sizes, the chances are that you’re familiar with corrective insoles for shoes (otherwise known as orthotics). Orthotics are meant to fill in the gaps in a pair of shoes that an average foot would usually fill on its own. Orthotics are often prescribed to help support the feet of those with walking or weight distribution problems, too.
While orthotics are great for making shoes feel more comfortable on your feet, their actual value lies in correcting the way that you walk. Since orthotics are a shoe insert, they can be removed and moved from shoe to shoe, allowing users to adapt to many different shoes and walking styles. Over time, if you train with your orthotics enough, you could end up changing your walking (or running) motion for the better.
If you do end up changing the way you run or walk with orthotics, the chances are that you’ll see different wear patterns in your shoes, too. Make sure to keep this in mind both as you shop for new shoes and as you protect or repair your existing ones.
While prescription orthotics are designed for people with foot issues, that’s not to say that over-the-counter shoe inserts can’t help normal people. While these will not provide a specialized fit like custom orthotics will, they still have benefits like:
- Helping to prevent foot pain
- Improving your balance
- Enhancing your performance
- Protecting your foot from injury
- Absorbing shock
When using shoe inserts or orthotics, keep in mind that, when inserting any padding or fabric into a shoe, it will change the way that the shoe fits your foot. If you add a gel liner to your boots, that will take up some of the space that was formerly occupied by your foot in the shoe. This could end up pushing your feet closer to or against the top of your shoe, which could increase wear in other areas.
While lacing your shoes differently is one of the lesser-known or looked at methods of changing the way your boots wear, any serious athlete knows that tight laces are an essential part of maintaining stability and fitness during physical exercise. If you don’t lace up your shoes well enough, you could end up hurting yourself and others. Physical activities like sports and running are dangerous enough without adding floppy, loose shoes into the equation.
Some of the ways that you can quickly hurt yourself with loose shoes are:
- Excessive corn, callus, and blister development from sliding and friction
- Ingrown toenails from repeated collisions with the end of your shoe
- Hammer or mallet toes from constant toe flexing
- Ankle injuries or sprains from bad footing caused by loose shoes
However, lacing up your shoes properly is an excellent way to prevent the issues that can arise from loose shoes. In a similar way, you can lace your shoes in different and unconventional ways to make them fit differently.
Consider the top two eyelets in your favorite pair of shoes, for example. Do you use them, or do they go unlaced the majority of the time? The top two eyelets in a pair of lace-up shoes are excellent for increasing the grip of the shoe’s ankle against your foot. As such, if your shoes tend to rub against your ankles excessively, using the top two eyelets in your laces might be just enough to keep your boots in place against your heel instead.
As long as you’re creative with the way you protect your shoes, there are many different ways to address and fix holes both in the toes and in the other parts of your shoes. If you know the way your boots wear, you’ve already won half the battle, after all. After that, the steps you take to address the issue are mainly up to your discretion.