How to repair your old running shoes

Pair of worn running shoes with sole separating from upper
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When running shoes start to wear out, you might be wondering if you need to buy new footwear, or if you can make some repairs. After all, running footwear can be expensive. In addition, it is more environmentally friendly to try to prolong the life of clothing and footwear.

There are many different areas of running shoes that are prone to wear, including the soles, uppers and laces. especially at the toe box, tongue, ankle cuff and laces. 

If the running shoes have a Gore-Tex membrane that is no longer working to keep your feet dry, you could reserve these shoes for running in drier weather or use them in the summer when wet feet do not matter as much. 

Let’s take a look at different running shoe repairs and different circumstances. 

worn running shoes

Your running shoes might be showing signs of wear, but you don't necessarily have to replace them yet (Image credit: Getty Images)

How to make an emergency running shoe repair  

If you are in a race or mid-way through a long-distance run and your running footwear starts to fail, you’ll probably need to make an emergency repair. 

It could be that the sole has come away from the upper part of the shoe or you develop a sudden hole in the upper part of the footwear. If you need to keep on running, then a quick running hack on the trail could be simply taping with duct tape.

Duct tape can be used to hold together a sole or to patch a hole in a running shoe. If the laces fail, wrap duct tape around the shoe to keep it on, or carry spare laces just in case a lace snaps during a race. Duck Tape brand tape is available on Amazon from $5.99 for a 20yd roll.

How to repair worn running shoes

Lightly worn running shoes

There are several different ways to extend the life of worn running footwear (Image credit: Getty Images)

Replace insoles

One of the simplest ways to breathe new life into running shoes is to buy new insoles. You can’t reinvigorate the cushioning of the outsole, but a new insole can make the footwear feel more comfortable and springy. In this case, you might want to repurpose your running shoes to walking footwear. 

Try darning

If you notice a hole in a fabric upper you should act quickly to stop it getting any worse. Firstly, you can sew together a rip or a slit in a fabric upper. If the hole has stretched or it is slightly larger, try darning.

Darning is a sewing technique for repairing holes or worn areas of fabric. Because of the use of the running shoe, you will want to use polyester thread, tough cotton, wool or even gardening string to darn the hole. To make it easier to darn, remove the laces and insole to give you more room for your hand to get inside the shoe while doing the repair. 

Another tip is to start with the knot on the outside of the shoe, rather than inside as you might do when darning clothing. If the knot is on the inner part of the running shoe it might rub your foot when you run. You can also improve the feel inside the footwear by adding a piece of tape to the backside of your darning repair.  

There are plenty of on-line tutorials for darning repairs, such as how to repair a hole on YouTube.

Tape it

There are purpose-made patches and tape that you can buy to patch a hole in a shoe or a worn cuff. Check out the options and make sure you buy the right size to suit the repair. Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Patches (available for $9.99 at Amazon) are a good option for most materials.

Patch the sole

If you have slightly worn soles of your favorite running footwear, try a patch repair. The tools for this repair for running shoes includes a good quality contact adhesive, a spare rubber sole (you can use other bits of the sole for future repairs), a sharp knife, sandpaper, masking tape, and alcohol wipes. To find our more about this type of patch repair to running shoe soles see this YouTube video, or similar.

Stick it together

If the sole of your running footwear has started to separate from another part of the sole or the shoe itself, you can glue repair it. The best type of adhesive for this is contact cement like Shoe Goo (available for $15.99 on Amazon).

First, you need to sand the surface where you hope to repair the sole. Sanding the area of rubber helps to roughen it  and it means the contact cement will hold a stronger bond. There is a YouTube video to show this type of repair, too.  

Seek professional help

Seek expert help if you need a more solid repair. There are companies that will resole a running shoe if you are happy to send them away and pay for the work. It can be cheaper to have running shoes repaired, compared to buying a new pair, and it’s also more environmentally friendly to repair and reuse rather than always buying new. 

Don't throw away old running shoes

If you have tried these shoe repairs or you feel the footwear is past it's best, you should consider donating the items to a charity that ca re-use or recycle. Even if the running shoes do not serve your purposes, there will be other people grateful to wer them. 

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.