Squeaky shoes are a nuisance to both the wearer and innocent bystanders. If you wonder how to stop shoes from squeaking, simply have a look at our all natural and sustainable tips.
It might be tempting to throw persistently squeaky shoes away, but in the interest of reducing waste, try fixing your shoes first. The first step: figuring out why your shoes are squeaking in the first place.
Figure Out Why Your Shoes Are Squeaking
In a 2017 article about basketball shoes, biologist Sheila Patek explains that squeaking happens “when two relatively smooth or flat surfaces become repeatedly stuck and unstuck by the forces of friction, creating a vibration that becomes a noise.”
The first step to finding out how to stop shoes from squeaking: figuring out where the squeaking is coming from. Squeaks can come from the sole, the insole, or the outside of the shoe.
Sole squeaks happen when the smooth surface of your sole rubs against another smooth surface, like a tile or wood floor. Finding a shoe squeak requires a diagnosis of exclusion; if your shoes are squeaking all the time regardless of your walking surface, another area of the shoe is likely the culprit.
Insoles also squeak as a result of friction. To determine if you have an insole squeak, put your shoes on without tying the laces. Stand up and rock back and forth inside your shoes, putting pressure on different areas. If you hear the squeaking while you’re doing this, you have an insole squeak.
Outside squeaks are also possible. If you’ve ruled out an insole squeak, tie your laces and walk on a soft surface, like a rug. If your shoes are squeaking while you walk on this surface, you have an outside squeak. If you don’t hear squeaking while walking on a soft surface, go back to a smooth surface and listen for squeaking.
How to Stop Shoe Soles from Squeaking
Once you’ve identified that you have a sole squeak, there are a few options for treating your squeaky sole.
Rough up the Soles
If your soles are squeaking on smooth surfaces, the surface of your sole is likely too smooth, creating friction. The solution: Rough up those soles!
Put on your shoes and find a rough surface, like a concrete sidewalk or a paved road. Gently slide your soles along the rough surface, giving the sole a bit of texture. Slide each sole back and forth a few times and test your soles for further squeaking. One pass will likely do the trick, but repeat this step as necessary to conquer the sole squeak.
Reattach Loose Soles
Your soles may be squeaking because a part of the sole is loose and needs to be reattached. Where the sole of your shoe meets the sidewall material, gently pull the sole down to expose any vulnerabilities. If you find a loose section of the sole, you can reattach it with super glue.
Performing small repairs like this to shoes and clothing can help extend their life. The most sustainable products are the ones that last the longest, and the longer you can keep from buying new shoes, the better for the environment. If you do need to get new shoes, you can buy secondhand or choose other sustainable options. Read about them here: 3 Simple Questions That Will Make You Quit Fast Fashion.
Sand the Soles
While roughing up the soles of your shoes outside is the most environmentally-friendly option (because it doesn’t require you to purchase any products), sandpaper is another method that could reduce sole squeakage. If you already have sandpaper at home and want to take a little more care in giving your soles some texture, gently sanding the bottom of your soles could help you relieve the squeak.
How to Stop Shoe Insoles from Squeaking
Insoles are the pad in the inside of your shoe, where your foot rests. Usually, insoles are removable (and removing insoles before you wash your sneakers or other shoes is recommended) and they can move around inside your shoes. Just like squeaky soles, squeaky insoles usually indicate a friction problem.
Get Rid of Moisture
Moisture in your shoes could be causing a squeaky insole. Water can disrupt the natural movement of the insole against the bottom of the shoe, causing friction and squeaking. While you can put your shoes in the dryer to remove the moisture, you can save energy by drying your shoes in the sun or indirect sunlight.
Lubricate the Insole
If you suspect a squeaky insole, try lubricating the inside of your shoes. Remove the insole and apply an oily lubricant that you already have at home (like coconut oil, vaseline, or baby oil) to the underside of the insole. The oil will make it easier for the insole to move more freely inside your shoe, which could alleviate the persistent squeaking.
Pad the Insole
If your shoes have not stopped squeaking after drying and applying lubrication, you can muffle the sound by padding your insole. You can create an insole pad from a number of products you already have at home. Paper towels, recycled newspaper, or an old t-shirt cut into squares would all work.
Fold the materials to fit the inside of your shoe. Remove the insole, place the pad inside your shoe, and replace the insole. Be sure to try on your shoes to make sure they’re not overstuffed. The padding will likely muffle the sound of the squeaking, or make it go away entirely.
Fixing Shoes with Outside Squeaks
While outside squeaks are less common than their sole/insole counterparts, they’re still treatable with a little DIY cobbler magic.
If the squeak is coming from your tongue and laces, you need to alleviate the friction with a lubricant. Before you do, make sure that the lubricant you’re using won’t stain or degrade your shoes (be especially careful with vegan leather). Once you’ve chosen a suitable lubricant, remove your laces and apply it to the tongue of your shoes. The oil will help the laces move more freely across the tongue, causing less friction and squeaking.
Check for Moisture
Moisture doesn’t just cause insole squeaks. Retained liquid in your shoes can cause the materials in the outside of the shoe to squeak as well. If your shoes feel damp, or if the weather has been particularly rainy lately, dry your shoes in direct or indirect sunlight. You could put them in the dryer in a pinch, but air drying will save energy.
Squeaky Shoes: Keep or Donate?
Squeaky shoes are annoying, plain and simple. But, try some of the methods listed above to fix the problem before throwing your shoes away. If you solve the problem, you’ll feel accomplished, and you’ll reduce your household waste.
But, if a solution eludes you, consult a professional before chucking your squeaky shoes. A professional cobbler may be able to diagnose and fix the problem, increasing the chance that your shoes will last. If you do not have one in your neighborhood, you can also use online shoe repair services that work via mail. A professional will definitely know how to stop your shoes from squeaking.
If all else fails, consider donating your shoes rather than throwing them away. If you’re thinking, “Why would I let someone else suffer through squeaky shoes?” consider that the squeaking problem could resolve itself by the time the shoes reach their next owner. If you have a persistent moisture problem, for instance, the remaining water could evaporate before the shoes are worn again, which could stop the squeaking.
Whether you use the tips above, consult a pro, or donate your shoes, extending the life of a product is always an eco-friendly choice.** Links to retailers are partially affiliate links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org because we get a small portion of the proceeds.
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