How to fix hardened crepe soles

by Ziggy on March 27, 2013

Shoes made with crepe soles are absolutely the most comfortable shoes money can buy. Styles like Clarks Wallabees, Clarks Desert Boots, various Red Wings styles and many others are literally like walking on a heavenly cushion of air. Crepe soles are made from nearly raw plantation rubber and should be squishy and soft to the touch. But what happens when you receive a pair of shoes with crepe soles that are extremely hard to the touch? What should you do when your crepe soles go hard over time?

I personally own a pair of Clarks Desert Boots and a pair of Clarks Wallabees. Both soles were extremely soft and provided a great cushion to walk on. I fell in love with both pairs of shoes when I got them. I have a mild shoe addiction, and when I saw on a large national retailer site that I could get a pair of Clarks Wallabees, the boot version, for $50 shipped I jumped on it. This particular style typically retails for $130-$150, so I assumed the pair I chose was going to be a closeout – a color or style Clarks no longer produces.

When the shoes arrived I was extremely surprised at the condition of the crepe soles. While brand new, they were extremely hard, not soft to the touch at all. When squeezing them the soles barely gave at all. I wasn’t sure if they were just extremely old, or were stored improperly or what, but I was definitely not happy.

I stopped at a few local cobblers and they all told me Clarks must have changed the formula and there was nothing I could really do. I wasn’t satisfied with this answer and knew Clarks didn’t change any formula, so I turned to online searches. I found a few shoe and style forums that talked about this very topic.

Many suggested you put the shoes in the oven at a low temperature, enough to warm them up a bit. They couldn’t explain why, but most suggested this caused some sort of natural chemical reaction within the rubber and softens it up. I was a little skeptical at this, so rather than trying an oven I broke out a hair dryer. About 7-10 minutes of blowing the soles on high heat warmed them up enough to return them to their squishy and soft crepe glory. I hoped that once the soles returned to room temperature they would retain their softness, and they did!

So the lesson here is that I have no idea how or why the soles go hard, but I do know you don’t have to put them in the oven to return them to the way they’re supposed to be. Try out the hair dryer method, and let me know your results!

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