Red Wing soles – keeping the Christy soles crispy – shoecare

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Vibram Christy soles enjoyed a major resurgence in popularity in recent years, as the casual option for a pair of brogues, or as the hipster de jour sole on a pair of classic Red Wings. Pretty comfortable to stride around on and they look nice and crisp when new. In this piece I’m looking at a pair of Red Wing soles, but the principles apply for other brands such as Grenson, Yuketen and what have you.

Once you’ve used them for a while though they don’t half let the side down. While the leather is oiled, polished and looking pukka, that sole gets grey, grimy and pretty darn nasty. So what can you do about it?

My 877 Red Wing with their scuffed and dirty Christy soles. Not looking so nice now!

My 877 Red Wing with their scuffed and dirty Christy soles. Not looking so nice now!

There are several options. I’ve tried the toothpaste on a rag method, and it does work. The very mild abrasive in the toothpaste and the rubbing of the coarse rag did clean it up. A waste of fine toothpaste though and it took time to get a result. Another option I’ve seen mentioned is to use sandpaper to actually sand down the edge of the sole. This seems a rather thoughtless method, as removing a layer of sole will, if repeated, mean you will also remove the leather where the stitches are and thus make it that much harder to replace the soles (which you most likely will want to, as some of them wear terribly).

Red Wing 877 with dirty Christy soles, a soapy brillo pad and a fine, sunny Spring morn

Red Wing 877 with dirty Christy soles, a soapy brillo pad and a fine, sunny Spring morning.

So I’ve ended up using a scouring pad (aka brillo pad) and some warm water with a few squirts of washing up liquid in. It took me about 5 minutes to scrub the soles of both boots from the dirty photo to the clean photo. Ok, toothpaste may have got them whiter, but an occasional 5 minutes to keep them crisp works for me!

5 minutes work and a quick dry later. Much improved, yes?

5 minutes work and a quick dry later. Much improved, yes?

Just take a little care not to get the leather too wet while you’re working. Leather tends to dry out stiff after a soak, so have some leather oil on hand for later.

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4 Comments

  • Mr Brown 19/04/2016 at 19:44

    Christy soles are a bit shit though; they wear down quickly so for most their life are deadly smooth. Comfortable, but dry weather need only apply.

    Reply
  • Gary Stanbridge 21/03/2018 at 22:58

    I clean mine using a toothbrush dipped in a mix of oxiclean and warm water. Then rinse off gently with fresh cold water and rub dry with a towel. They come up like new!

    Reply
    • nick 22/03/2018 at 07:11

      There are many ways to achieve a result. I’ll try Oxiclean next time. Some swear to toothpaste, which seems rather wasteful to me, and others actually use sandpaper, which over time will mean they can’t resole their boots. At the end if the day, maybe it’s just a really dumb idea to have white soles?

      Reply
  • Daniel Sosa 08/06/2018 at 21:09

    Good-looking soles after cleaning! Will try this with mine.

    Reply

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