For anybody that owns a pair of VFF’s, discovering that you have inadvertently damaged these expensive but wonderful pieces of footwear is a frustrating and excruciating experience. I honestly believe they are well crafted shoes, but I think our enthusiasm for wearing them and the inevitable desire to roam about the countryside in them sets up an eventual date with disaster.
For me, it happened sometime during a weekend of hiking, batting practice, and a 5k race. I wasn’t immediately sure what caused the tear, but after finishing my 5k I looked down and was shocked to see one of my Vibram Five Fingers had a tear in it.
I felt like a pet owner who accidentally stepped on their pet cat’s or dog’s tail. The rush of guilt and distress was immediate. I didn’t mean to cause this damage, and I hoped it wasn’t as bad as it looked.
But, I was resolved to figure out the best way to repair my VFF KSO’s and restore them to their former glory. My options were to try and get them replaced via warranty from the manufacturer or repair them on my own.
Vibram has a pretty forgiving warranty policy, but considering I have been banging these shoes around for almost six months it was my responsibility to fix this.
I contacted one of the best experts on Vibram Five Fingers that I know, Justin fromBirthdayShoes.com, and asked him what he thought my options were. They came down to applying a patch, sewing it up, or using Shoe Goo, depending on the location and type of tear in the shoe. If the tear was in the middle of the fabric or along a seam, sewing or patching would be the optimal solution. The fabric on mine tore away from the rubber toe guard on my big toe, so Shoe Goo was the path I would take.
(I later determined that the cause of the fabric tear/separation was from the longer toe nails on my big toe. Because I suffer from in-grown toe nails, I usually let them grow out somewhat so they are easier to trim down deep.)
Shoe Goo is a kind of glue and sealing agent that is commonly used to repair the soles or fabric on shoes. I bought some black Shoe Goo from a local sports equipment store for about six dollars.
This isn’t too bad of a price, but I didn’t use very much so if you can borrow some from a friend I’d go for it. Other than that, the only other tools I needed were some paper towels or tissue, and some tooth picks.
Vibram Five Fingers Repair
First, make sure there isn’t any loose dirt or debris near the repair site. After ensuring that the fabric is dry, next you will probably want to stuff some tissue or paper towels into the toe slot. This will help make sure the fabric is lined up with the rubber in the right spot. Finally, bust open that Shoe Goo and use a tooth pick to extrude some of the glue out onto the repair site.
The Goo is pretty viscous, so you don’t have to worry about it dripping or running. It holds its shape well enough so that you can pull some of the Goo out on to the tear and position it appropriately. After you have applied enough Shoe Goo to ensure coverage over the tear and the rubber, use a tooth pick to smear the Goo and and make sure it fills in completely.
You will want to wait a few days for the Shoe Goo to completely bond and seal before taking your Vibram Five Fingers out for some action.
With this kind of damage, it’s hard to say how permanent the fix will be. But, if the Shoe Goo keeps the tear from getting bigger, you can always apply more in the future to keep the rip in check.
Good luck with all of your own repair attempts. Just be patient and examine all of your options before trying anything.