Rubber Soles in Wet Weather
It’s been raining like crazy in the Bay Area, which has made me appreciate how much better rubber soles are on wet ground. The leather uppers on shoes can be made to take the rain quite easily. With calf or shell cordovan, you just have to apply a thin layer of wax polish. With suede, you can use some kind of weatherproofing spray. Either will make your shoes fairly water resistant (although not waterproof), but there are some caveats. With shell cordovan, for example, small little bumps can appear after the leather has been wet, but those can be brushed out with a horsehair brush. In fact, I mostly use a pair of shell cordovan boots as my rain boots. 
While leather shoes can be used in the rain, ones with leather soles often can not. It’s not so much that leather doesn’t provide much traction (because it does), it’s more that untreated leather can soak up water and break down easily when wet. That’s why you need to give your shoes a day of rest in between each wear — it’s so that the perspiration from your feet can dry out and not damage the leather. Imagine, then, what’s happening as your leather soles are soaking up rainwater and grinding against hard pavement and possibly road salt. 
There are a number of good options for rubber soles. Studded Dainites are the best alternative if you want to keep to a “dressier” look. They’re suitable on anything but the dressiest of shoes. Commando and Ridgeway soles are similar, but are probably best kept to chunkier looking styles. Plantation crepe is fine, so long as you don’t wear the ones that are combination of crepe and leather, as the leather tips can peel back when wet. Neoprene cork and white Christy soles are also good, as they provide nice traction and don’t have leather mid-soles you have to worry about. 
If you happen to wear leather soles on a rainy day, make sure they’re dry before you wear them out again. You can set your shoes on their side to let air circulate around the soles, thus helping them dry faster. Just don’t try to speed up the process by setting your shoes near a heater. That will dry out the uppers and cause them to crack, which is much worse than prematurely wearing down the soles. 
(Photo via John Dear)

Rubber Soles in Wet Weather

It’s been raining like crazy in the Bay Area, which has made me appreciate how much better rubber soles are on wet ground. The leather uppers on shoes can be made to take the rain quite easily. With calf or shell cordovan, you just have to apply a thin layer of wax polish. With suede, you can use some kind of weatherproofing spray. Either will make your shoes fairly water resistant (although not waterproof), but there are some caveats. With shell cordovan, for example, small little bumps can appear after the leather has been wet, but those can be brushed out with a horsehair brush. In fact, I mostly use a pair of shell cordovan boots as my rain boots. 

While leather shoes can be used in the rain, ones with leather soles often can not. It’s not so much that leather doesn’t provide much traction (because it does), it’s more that untreated leather can soak up water and break down easily when wet. That’s why you need to give your shoes a day of rest in between each wear — it’s so that the perspiration from your feet can dry out and not damage the leather. Imagine, then, what’s happening as your leather soles are soaking up rainwater and grinding against hard pavement and possibly road salt. 

There are a number of good options for rubber soles. Studded Dainites are the best alternative if you want to keep to a “dressier” look. They’re suitable on anything but the dressiest of shoes. Commando and Ridgeway soles are similar, but are probably best kept to chunkier looking styles. Plantation crepe is fine, so long as you don’t wear the ones that are combination of crepe and leather, as the leather tips can peel back when wet. Neoprene cork and white Christy soles are also good, as they provide nice traction and don’t have leather mid-soles you have to worry about. 

If you happen to wear leather soles on a rainy day, make sure they’re dry before you wear them out again. You can set your shoes on their side to let air circulate around the soles, thus helping them dry faster. Just don’t try to speed up the process by setting your shoes near a heater. That will dry out the uppers and cause them to crack, which is much worse than prematurely wearing down the soles. 

(Photo via John Dear)

Should You Use Sole Protectors?
A long time ago, when I first started buying high-quality footwear, I used to have my cobbler put sole protectors on all my shoes. Sole protectors are thin rubber sheets that can be put at the bottom of soles. They protect your shoes from wear and thus limit the number of times you need to have them resoled. 
I did this for years until I realized that it wasn’t saving me much money. Having protectors put on usually costs about $25. Having soles replaced usually costs about $50-75. I found that protectors lasted about a year and a half, while leather soles could go for about three to four years. Obviously, your mileage may vary, as a lot will depend on how often you wear your shoes and what type of surfaces you walk on, but from my experience, the savings were minimal, if there were any at all.
So, what are the reasons why someone might want to get sole protectors? Well, for one, they arguably provide slightly more traction, especially on smooth, indoor floors. They could also be more economical if you don’t have someone in your area who can resole your shoes for a reasonable fee. If you send your shoes back to the original manufacturer, or to certain shoe refurbishing shops, you can pay anywhere from  $125 to $300. That typically comes with more service - your uppers can be refurbished, and you might get a free pair of shoe trees or something - but if you don’t need those things, you’re effectively paying ~$125-300 for a resoling. That’s significantly more than the $50-75 a local cobbler might charge (assuming you have someone you trust).
Shoes can also be resoled only so many times, and every resoling comes with a bit of risk. Almost all welted shoes, for example, are made with a linen holdfast called “gemming.” Some experts have noted that this can rip during a resole, and once this happens, the gemming can’t be easily repositioned, which means you shoes will walk out of shape. Thus, the fewer resolings you need to do, the better.
The downside is that sole protectors are a bit ugly, especially the ones made by Topy. Admittedly, nobody ever really sees the bottom of your shoes, but sometimes they do if you cross your legs (or become the President of the United States and put your feet on the table, right in front of a photographer, as shown above). Plus, if your sole protectors are not correctly applied, moisture can seep in, which in turn can cause rotting. Certain companies, such as Edward Green, also claim that rubber protectors prevent your soles from “breathing,” which in turn can shorten their life. (I’m skeptical of this, but you can take it for what it’s worth.)
In the end, whether or not you should add sole protectors is up to you, and a lot will depend on various factors, but at least now you know what are some of the factors you should consider. The value is not obvious. 

Should You Use Sole Protectors?

A long time ago, when I first started buying high-quality footwear, I used to have my cobbler put sole protectors on all my shoes. Sole protectors are thin rubber sheets that can be put at the bottom of soles. They protect your shoes from wear and thus limit the number of times you need to have them resoled. 

I did this for years until I realized that it wasn’t saving me much money. Having protectors put on usually costs about $25. Having soles replaced usually costs about $50-75. I found that protectors lasted about a year and a half, while leather soles could go for about three to four years. Obviously, your mileage may vary, as a lot will depend on how often you wear your shoes and what type of surfaces you walk on, but from my experience, the savings were minimal, if there were any at all.

So, what are the reasons why someone might want to get sole protectors? Well, for one, they arguably provide slightly more traction, especially on smooth, indoor floors. They could also be more economical if you don’t have someone in your area who can resole your shoes for a reasonable fee. If you send your shoes back to the original manufacturer, or to certain shoe refurbishing shops, you can pay anywhere from  $125 to $300. That typically comes with more service - your uppers can be refurbished, and you might get a free pair of shoe trees or something - but if you don’t need those things, you’re effectively paying ~$125-300 for a resoling. That’s significantly more than the $50-75 a local cobbler might charge (assuming you have someone you trust).

Shoes can also be resoled only so many times, and every resoling comes with a bit of risk. Almost all welted shoes, for example, are made with a linen holdfast called “gemming.” Some experts have noted that this can rip during a resole, and once this happens, the gemming can’t be easily repositioned, which means you shoes will walk out of shape. Thus, the fewer resolings you need to do, the better.

The downside is that sole protectors are a bit ugly, especially the ones made by Topy. Admittedly, nobody ever really sees the bottom of your shoes, but sometimes they do if you cross your legs (or become the President of the United States and put your feet on the table, right in front of a photographer, as shown above). Plus, if your sole protectors are not correctly applied, moisture can seep in, which in turn can cause rotting. Certain companies, such as Edward Green, also claim that rubber protectors prevent your soles from “breathing,” which in turn can shorten their life. (I’m skeptical of this, but you can take it for what it’s worth.)

In the end, whether or not you should add sole protectors is up to you, and a lot will depend on various factors, but at least now you know what are some of the factors you should consider. The value is not obvious.