minimalist-snow-boot-2On my last couple of ski trips the one major inconvenience I had was that my off-the-slope footwear was a pair of thick hiking boots. With all of the snow and ice everywhere a pair of warm, waterproofed, and well-treaded shoes were absolutely necessary.

However, my usual minimalist shoes just wouldn’t cut it. If I tried to wear my casual leather shoes my feet would either get damp from the snow, or I would slip all over the ice. So, I went with the boots.

It’s amazing to me how thoroughly your body can get use to wearing minimalist shoes all of the time. Typically, I would have no more than a few millimeters between my heel and the ground. With these thick hiking boots though, not only were my heels elevated above my toes by an inch, but there was almost another additional inch of rubber sole between my feet and the ground.

All of that extra cushioning puts your back and legs out of alignment, and with myself being accustomed to having a natural posture, it wasn’t long before my knees and back started to ache. Oh, the irony of thickly cushioned shoes causing knee pain.

As soon as I moved to Colorado, I knew that I needed some kind of minimalist solution. With the winters here, it could start snowing randomly at any time, even with the sun shining. I didn’t want to spend a hundred dollars on Feelmax Kuuvas, so I decided to try and resole my own hiking boots. Here is how I did it…

Stuff you’ll need:

  • pair of warm, water-resistant boots.
  • sharpened screwdriver
  • wire cutters (optional)
  • square of Vibram Cherry rubber tread
  • Shoe Goo
  • Sharpie marker
  • duct tape

minimalist-snow-boot-3Step 1: Remove the original tread from a pair of water-resistant winter boots.

A sharpened screw driver and some wire cutters should be able to do the job if the sole is glued to the shoe upper. Chances are if they are a cheap pair of boots from Wal-Mart, this will be the case.

minimalist-snow-boot-4Use the screwdriver to wedge between the sole and the shoe and pry it away, ripping it off from the glue sealant. Take your time and work your way around the shoe, using the wire cutters to trim some of the sole to get more leverage.

It took me about an hour to do this for both shoes. Be warned, it might require a bit of strength to finally pull off the sole if you are impatient. But, don’t be too rough, you don’t want to damage the bottom of the shoe which the sole is glued too.

minimalist-snow-boot-6Once you get the soles off, you can really see how much comes between your feet and the ground. It’s pretty ridiculous to behold how much cushioning is there, while knowing how little benefit it actually provides.

Step 2: Trace the outline of the shoe uppers onto the square of Vibram Cherry and cut it out.

minimalist-snow-boot-7I got my Vibram Cherry rubber through InvisibleShoe.com, where I had previously bought a DIY huaraches kit. There are other companies from which you can buy the tread, mainly shoe repair stores, but I found InvisibleShoe’s price to be excellent, and the large-sized square of rubber was all I needed.

Reader “Phocion” has some excellent advise in the comment section about washing the rubber square before doing any gluing. Good idea!

A black sharpie marker will still be visible on the rubber, and should do the job. You’ll want to leave a little bit of room as you trace the outline over the rubber square. When it comes time to cut out the pattern and actually glue it to the bottom of the upper, any mistakes in the size of the new tread will be irreversible. It will be easier to just trim off extra tread later.

Also, be sure to trace your outline over the correct side of the rubber square. One side will have the Cherry tread which you will most definitely want to have interfacing with the ground.

minimalist-snow-boot-8Step 3: Glue the new tread to the shoe with Shoe Goo adhesive, and secure it tightly while setting.

One tube of Shoe Goo should be sufficient for the task, using a little bit less than half the tube for each shoe. Apply it liberally all along the bottom of the shoe uppers along the outside edge and in the middle. If you feel that there is too much and some might seep out along the edges – don’t worry, that is perfect. You can shape the excess to help seal the edges.

If you are unfamiliar with Shoe Goo, feel free to take your time properly lining up and placing the new tread onto the glue. Unlike super glue you have plenty of time before it dries.

Just to be safe though, try practicing with a small dab of Shoe Goo and some of the left over pieces of rubber. Once you are satisfied with how the new sole is lined up, you’ll need to secure it in place very tightly. I prefer to use duct tape, but if you are concerned it will damage the finish of your boots feel free to use something else.

Once the shoes are all bound up, leave them some place dry to set for at least 24 hours. It probably won’t take that long, but it never hurts to be cautious.

minimalist-snow-boot-9Step 4: Remove the bindings and finish sealing the outside edges of the sole.

Once you are satisfied that the sole is firmly attached to the upper parts of your shoes, you’ll want to use the remaining amount of Shoe Goo to seal the outside edges. If you’re going to be trekking around in the snow or mud, having your shoes be water tight will be important.

Liberally apply glue along the edge between the sole and the upper and smear it in place so that no gaps are left behind. I used an alum wrench to smear the glue into place, but you can probably use just about anything from a pencil to a small stick.

minimalist-snow-boot-1That’s it, your done! Wait another 24 hours before trying out your new winter boots just to make sure the glue is firmly set and dried.

I was really happy with how my boots turned out. We had one of our random Denver snow storms recently, and I took the opportunity to go for a long walk around the neighborhood.

The snow had started to pile up, but my feet were warm and absolutely dry. Finally, I have some boots I can wear around in the snow, and it didn’t put much of a dent in my bank account either.

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15 Responses to How to Turn Your Thick Hiking Boots Into Minimalist Snow Boots

  1. Phocion Timon says:

    Before you apply the Shoe Goo to the soling material, the surface of the Cherry material should be scrubbed very well with a scrub brush and a good quality dish soap such as Dawn. The material is coated with an oil of some kind and the glue job may come undone after a while. I usually scrub the surface four or five times until the soap foam turns from dark gray to light gray or white. I then rinse it off very well with distilled water if I have any on hand, tap water will do though, and let it air dry.

    Having done this I have never had the Shoe Goo loosen. I have in fact worn out the Cherry material and found the interior Shoe Goo still be good even after a couple of years and many miles. Properly applied, Shoe Goo is seriously good stuff.

    • David Csonka says:

      Good idea Phocion, I”ll add that info to the instructions. Thanks!

    • alex says:

      Lol. I always used to use shoe goo to keep my skate shoes going. My parents wouldn’t let me bring it in the house, even with the lid on. It is seriously good stuff isn’t it?

      This is another great use of it, awesome tip, thanks.

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  3. Brock Brown says:

    I sure wish you had published this 3 weeks ago… I wouldn’t have bought those custom winter moccasins, but instead hacked my old winter boots.

  4. David Csonka says:

    Damn, that sucks Brock. But hey, custom made moccasins are a treat. I’m jealous!

  5. Sid says:

    Thanks! This is a brilliant idea on many levels. I think I have just the perfect pair of old hiking boots in mind to try this on.

  6. olololwtfomg says:

    Well i modded a pair of those classic chineese sneakers(with a flat sole of course) just by tearing out their insoles (who the f*** uses PAPER in shoes???) and cutting out some of the excess fabric that was connected to the bottom sole thus the only thing remaining was a 2mm rubber sole :-b. But cutting out the fabric was one hell of a hard job to do.

  7. J. Stanton says:

    On some boots, the leather/insole material doesn’t go all the way under the boot, like yours does in the picture: it’s just bonded in a ring around the outside. This will make sticking the sole to the remains of the boot nearly impossible, because the flaps will fold in and not want to bond to the sole. It’s worth pulling the insoles out and checking to see if this is the case before proceeding.

  8. Josh E says:

    I love this idea and I wish I could get away with it at work. We have to wear steel toed shoes all day and it just sucks. Any advice for those?

    • David Csonka says:

      Josh,
      I assume you are working on a construction site? Certainly you have almost as much danger from a nail puncturing the sole of your shoe as you might of a brick falling on the top of your foot.

      You might be able to compromise by zero dropping your boots by shaving off the typically thicker heel cushion, and removing any excess padding inserts from inside the shoe.

      It might be possible to use a hack saw to remove most of the sole, or if its higher quality, remove the stitching. Then glue on some of that Vibram Cherry on the bottom.

      I haven’t owned a pair of steel-toed boots before, so I don’t know for sure what is possible.

      • Josh E says:

        Nah, I’m in ship repair. Steel surfaces all day. We’re supposed to have non-skid, oil resistant, all that stuff. I think I may experiment with an older pair and see if I can shave it down like you said. See how much to get away with, without pissing of safety group.

  9. Sunny says:

    This is brilliant! I’ve been wondering how I could do “barefoot” running in the middle of winter in Idaho. Can’t wait to try it. Thrift store shoes would be even cheaper than buying from walmart.