Let’s face the facts:
1. If you skateboard, you are going to wear out your shoes much quicker than the general population.
2. A hole will blow through your shoes right when they finally start to feel broken-in.
3. Rubber toecaps are rad.
4. Life is too short to keep breaking-in new shoes.
There are many techniques we can try out to keep our favorite shoes in action and in my 15 years of skateboarding, I have tried them all to extend the usable life of my shoes. Duct tape, Shoe Goo, Skate-Aid patches, super glue, skate stickers, leather scraps, iron-on patches, hot glue – you name it, I’ve tried it.
The trouble is each method is usually an afterthought, a measure taken only when faced with an imminent blow-out. Even when any of these methods are applied to a new shoe, they all look out of place. Unless you have a shoe sponsor, you are going to need to try something to keep your shoes from going on you. For all you vegan skaters or bargain hunters who swear by canvas shoes, it’s always an uphill battle.
About a year ago, I realized the potential of Plasti Dip. It’s a liquid that cures into a rubber, and can now be found in spray can format. The initial liquid state allows for the rubber to bite deep in the grain of your suede or the weave of your canvas. Depending on your patience, you can build it up pretty thick with very clean results for better abrasion resistance and style. If you are thoughtful with your layout and execution, people will definitely do a double take and ask you how you got some samples.
The fine folks at Ripped Laces and DC were kind enough to provide me with a pair of canvas Nyjah Vulc’s to use for a demonstration, so follow along to see the whole process.
Step 1: Getting Started
-Shoes (ideally brand new)
-Plasti Dip spray (available in clear, black, white, and red at hardware stores, and a plethora of other colors online. Between $7-$10 for a can)
-Duct tape (or even better, thick vinyl tape)
-Pencil and/or Sharpie
-Waxed paper (or griptape backing paper)
Step 2: Create A Template
1. Lay down some masking tape on the area you wish to add some rubber.
2. Sketch out the shape of a toecap that fits your wear-patterns and/or the design of the shoe.
3. Repeat for the other shoe (in case there are any slight variances between left and right).
4. Cut out the negative space to use as a template for your mask (think of the mask as a stencil).
5. Evenly lay two layers of thick tape down on the slick side of your griptape backing paper. Your final spray masks should be thick to allow for a thicker build-up of Plasti Dip rubber.
6. Lay down your left and right masking tape templates on your thick tape. Cut carefully along these to create your final thick spray masks.
7. Lay down the spray masks.
8. Use your electrical tape to cover the outsole.
9. Tape around any panels that weren’t included in your duct tape spray mask. Burnish the tape with a something blunt to make sure it wraps well.
10. Cover the rest in newspaper and masking tape.
Step 3: Spray some rubber.
1. Lay down a light (but full-coverage) first coat.
2. Take out a rubber glove, and rub the first coat in to the canvas (or suede) beneath to ensure it solidly bonds to the base material.
3. Spray more coats, allowing about 10 minutes between coats. Repeat as many times as necessary to get that rubber toecap on point. Lay your last coat on a tad bit thicker if you want a glossier finish.
4. Remove your tape and masks while the last coat is still a little wet. Maybe 5 minutes after spraying.
5. Right after removing the masks, run your finger around the edge to mellow out any ridge that might have built up at the edge of the mask.
6. Bust out the Exacto to quickly scrape away any rubber that might have bled under the mask.
And just like that, you’ve got your own DIY rubber toecap! For this demonstration, I also sprayed a couple of coats of clear Plasti Dip to the raised eyestay panel to add a little ollie protection and to show how the clear version looks.
But how does this DIY hack hold up, you might wonder? Glad you asked. After 8 hours of skating, these shoes have done one thing that canvas shoes have never done before- they have lasted more than just one session. The added material of the rubber toecap makes for a slightly stiffer fit at first. But just like a stock rubber toecap, this DIY version will break-in after a couple of days.
An ollie hole is developing, but that is likely due to the fact that I went a little light on the clear Plasti Dip. I should have sprayed about double the amount of coats. The real take-away from this wear test is the thick rubber toecap is still largely intact – no holes have developed through the canvas where the black Plasti Dip has been thickly sprayed. Yes, a little bit of blue canvas is finally peeking through and a new coat of Plasti Dip or Shoe Goo will be needed to keep the shoes going, but the same would probably be true for many suede shoes skated for 8 hours. This shows how well the DIY rubber toecap held up and effectively extended the usable life of an inherently non-durable canvas skate shoe.
So go ahead. Take durability and footwear design into your own hands. Spice up some boring one-piece toe shoes. Stand out among the masses. If you aren’t content with how long your shoes last or how they look, this DIY mod is for you. A great rubber toecap can be yours with a little patience and a nice spray mask, and for a minimal investment.