Public enemy number one for your shoes is without a doubt, your ExoSyms. Great mother of all that is holy, this is a tough one. I’m used to $50 shoes lasting about three months before the side sole breaks down. Having $175 shoes blow out in three months tends to bring on serious colorful metaphor use in my house.
I had a heart-to-heart with Dominic at Wide Shoes Only (aka, Shoe God) about this as I coughed up $220 for waterproof hikers. He said in all his years in this business, he’s not seen an AFO (ankle and foot orthosis, of which the ExoSym is one) that doesn’t destroy its shoes before the shoe really has worn out. He did have a tip though.
The Leather Reinforcement
Dominic suggested buying buckskin leather (soft thin and flexible leather) and gluing it to the inside parts of the shoe where the ExoSym rubs. This, he said, would certainly extend non-leather shoes’ life (like mesh-top athletic shoes) as well as others.
He also shared a cobbler trade secret. He said the best way to do this is put rubber cement on the inside of the shoe where the leather will go and on the leather. Then let the two sit for about 15 minutes to get tacky. Once the glue is tacky, put the leather into the shoe and rub well to assure it’s on good. That extra waiting step makes for a stronger bond!
Money-saving tip: You don’t need to go out hunting or to a cobbler for the leather. Hit at thrift store and buy an old leather purse or jacket with this leather and you’ll have enough for several shoes.
I must admit I’ve not tried this because, like other Clubbies, I have WIDE feet. The problem with my feet blowing out of shoes is on the sides because the shoe is already tight. Imagine what putting more leather in will do? Going up another size will increase the unused front of the shoe even further and assure I trip more often (and most certainly in front of someone famous I admire when I’m wearing a skirt and no leggings underneath).
My physical therapist gave me a mile of this stuff when I was having bad tendonitis prior to my ExoSyms. That stuff is tough! I’d used duct tape already in my shoes and was disheartened to learn that the one thing that does break through duct tape is the ExoSym. Lots of people swear by it, so don’t disregard it right away. It just didn’t work for me.
So I pulled out the athletic tape.
I’m here to tell you guys, that there stuff works! I put it on a brand new pair of shoes, about three layers thick. I started doing this about two months ago and I’ve yet to have the stuff rip through. I did have it start to roll up on itself in a couple of places at the ends of the taped on section (no where near where I blow out). I cut off the rolled up edge and apply another layer if needed. Like everything else, I’ve had to reinforce it ever month or so.
Honorable mention goes to Gorilla Tape. This is recommended by Ryan Blanck, ExoSym creator and maker of the magic bionic things. He suggested this to me last week so I went out and got some and am putting it to the test in a pair of shoes.
His recent inspection of my athletic tape solution was a thumbs up, but it’s worth mentioning he recommended I try Gorilla Tape if it started to fail. He said this worked better than duct tape. I have one pair of shoes now in Gorilla Tape and will let you know how it goes.
UPDATE: Gorilla Tape for the WIN! I only use this now on my shoes and have had no wear through. The soles wear out from use and the sides are no worse for wear on the inside due to the Gorilla Tape!!
Fit and Material
As a final thought, when trying on the shoes, take a moment to assure the fit is correct. If the ExoSym is busting through the sides from the get go, you might have an issue sooner rather than later. I know this is hard for us clubbies who tend to have wider feet than others who use the ExoSym. However, at the same time, you don’t want them so loose your heal comes out on every step. Be mindful of fit and you can extend the life of your shoes.
Also, mesh shoes will wear through faster than leather, so consider this when buying. Extra reinforcement out the gate on the mesh ones will help. However, I use my athletic tape on all kinds, as even the leather ones have nice soft fabric interior you don’t want to wear away.
I’d love to know what you think. Do you have a trick to keep your ExoSym or AFO from blowing out the sides or toes of your shoes? Please tell me what that is in the comments below for others to see. Thanks so much!