Ripple soles – fun or function?

A while back I wrote a post about shoe soles, listing up the most important types and ranting a bit about ones I consider to be confusingly misnamed. One sole I decided not to include in that post were the ripple soles. Why? In my ignorance I considered it a bit of a novelty sole. In my defense it’s not one of the main types and I usually see it only on more specialist offerings from companies such as Yuketen and Fracap.

Vintage advert for footwear with a ripple sole, "You'll whistle while you walk!"

Vintage advert for footwear with a ripple sole, “You’ll whistle while you walk!”

Ripple soles, the history lesson

I was wrong to dismiss the ripple sole as a mere novelty sole though. As soles go it’s actually one of the more noteworthy. Why? It has a genuinely kickass story behind it. Indeed it does.

From the ripple sole patent application, 1955.

From the ripple sole patent application, 1955.


An inventor with the evocative name Nathan Hack patented the ripple soles back in 1955. Being a proper engineer, Mr Hack described his new soles as: “A resilient shoe sole formed with a series of spaced parallel resilient projections extending transversely of said shoe sole and at right angles to the length thereof, said projections being inclined rearwardly, whereby weight thereon causes a straight forward movement of the sole as said projections yield under weight.” (This is a description I found in the documents in a later court case upholding his patent).

Ripple soles on vintage army boots for sale on eBay.

Ripple soles on vintage army boots for sale on eBay.


The big idea behind them though was to reduce the amount of leg injuries experienced by Paratroopers when landing.So the result of having the ribs, or ripples, along the sole was to both increase traction and to providing better damping. And on top of that he created some very distinctive and functional soles indeed.

Fracap M120 with ripple soles.

Fracap M120 with ripple soles.


These days they are mainly used on Italian mountaineering boots and American heritage-inspired footwear. The fact that they are so distinctive means opinion is divided as to the look of them, some adore the cheeky style, while more conservative eyes find them a little frisky.

Another vintage advert for ripple soles, "To put you on easy feet!"

Another vintage advert for ripple soles, “To put you on easy feet!”

Ripple soles, a verdict?

What is the actual functionality like though? I’ve been unable to contact any paratroopers with actual experience of them, although Google did produce results indicating that they can put a bit more spring in your step. My concerns in this respect would be using them in snow, where the traction in a strictly forwards direction should be about as optimal as you can imagine, but if there are sideways forces at play, such as when traversing a hill, those ripples could see you sliding sideways with nothing to reduce friction. Perhaps not such a common occurrence in urban areas, but surely a potential issue when doing a spot of mountaineering?

Ripple soles on Yuketen Derby shoes.

Ripple soles on Yuketen Derby shoes.

As goes for most soles today, it is Vibram that produce the ripple soles, although you’ll find them listed in the “Dress & Casual” section under Lifestyle soles. This is on the other side of the screen from the hardcore mountaineering soles. So while the story of Mr Hack and his paratrooper innovations gives a nice historical backstory, we can safely assume that the state of the sole art has seen further innovation in the 60 years since.

Vintage ripple sole with "HACK" molded into the rubber.

Vintage ripple sole with “HACK” molded into the rubber.


  • Scratch 19/03/2015 at 10:35

    I have never owned a ripple sole shoe but I’ve always liked them. However I cannot remove the thought of just how catastrophic it would be if you were to stand in a dog egg while wearing a pair.
    Dog eggs notwithstanding, those Yuketen Derby’s are really, really nice.

    • Well Dressed Dad 19/03/2015 at 10:48

      In the ripple soles favour though it must be a lot easier to hose them off than a pair of commando soles, where a toothpick might be required to remove it from the intricate narrow pathways.

      • Randy 14/07/2020 at 16:08


      • Stephen Richmond 17/07/2020 at 04:18

        My Ripple Soles always seemed to know exactly where the pet pies were located; it’s like they had pet pie radar!

  • Scratch 19/03/2015 at 11:23

    It’s certainly a visceral image so thanks for that.

    • Well Dressed Dad 19/03/2015 at 11:32

      I’ll take that as a heartfelt compliment, though will point out that I was not the originator of the original image of a splendidly soled pair of shoes standing stoicly in the sphincteral solids of a slavic shepherd. Or something to that effect.

  • Sid 05/04/2015 at 13:06

    I used ripple soled running shoes (Kingswell brand?) about 1966-70 for cross-country running. Worked well in extreme mud, shed the mud well on the dry sections and were nice on tarmac. I loved them. The sole itself was rather heavy because there was lots of rubber.

  • Bobby 08/08/2015 at 08:39

    I just picked up a pair of 1950’s Endicott & Johnson black leather low ankle shoes with the Nathan Hack ripple sole in excellent condition at a thrift store for $5! Found this site while looking for information about them. Thanks for the good read!

    • J 14/12/2018 at 07:47

      U ever get a value on them . I have a pair 1965 excellent shape black !

  • Leo Hernandez 25/10/2015 at 16:47

    This Ripple Sole section was very informative as I am a fan of the Ripple Soles. I have been a Border Patrol Agent for approximately 19 years. For those of you that don’t know, we walk a whole lot in my job, still utilizing the old Native American techniques of sign cutting/following foot prints.

    I have worked in various terrains such as the deserts of Arizona, Texas and California. In Arizona it is not unusual for an agent to walk anywhere from 6 to 11 miles through the mountains and desert following a group of undocumented aliens. In 2004, I worked and walked many miles of the Southwest border with Mexico. And yes, I was wearing my Vibram boots, that I had recently resoled with Ripple Soles at a local “old fashion shoe repair place”. Their gripping action, while climbing and descending hills or mountains, were extraordinary. The dampening action is also extreme to note. I weigh 265 lbs. and stand 72 inches tall, so it made a difference in the springing action when I walked on hard surfaces, such as concrete or even at the office. All in all, I love my Ripple Soles! Thanks Mr. Hack for your invention.

  • Net King 05/06/2016 at 01:13

    They were very popular when I was young and seeing people wear them drove me crazy especially when they squished on smooth floors as the ripples bent and flexed caressing the floor. I have come across a few other guys on the internet who were also driven crazy by them but loved it. I purchased three pairs at different times – downsides were that the heel wore down too quickly and they could lose traction on wet surfaces.

    Interestingly Altama has stopped making ripple military boots. I wonder why? Did they fall out of favor with the armed services?

  • David 14/06/2016 at 17:24

    Ripple Sole have to be one of the most unique ideas in footwear. Thanks to a man named Nathan Hack who invented these wonderful soles way back in the 1950’s. I have worn them since my high school days back in 1968 and still have quite a few of them in my wardrobe to this day.
    I must admit I have always had a passion for Ripple Sole Shoes and as the previous guy stated I used to love to listen to the squishy noises they made on polished floors. So many of the boys wore them in school and the sound of them were probably most annoying to the teacher.
    Fond memories of Ripple Sole Shoes

  • Paul 25/12/2016 at 08:24

    In my opinion, the ripple sole is excellent. I had my issued boots re-soled with them for my second deployment to Iraq in 2004 where they performed great in the desert as well as the urban terrain. I still use those boots to weedeat around the house with those same soles. I am a state trooper working in Appalachia now and am going to have ripple soles put on my uniform shoes. There’s nothing better for traction when trying to run up a muddy hill. The design allows for flex in the sole so cleaning is very easy just by banging the bottom of the shoe on a hard surface.

    • Steve Richmond 31/12/2016 at 15:58

      Really enjoyed your comments about the Ripple Soles. One thing I found is that you can’t enter a room quietly and discreetly (especially if you’ve been out in the rain) because of the squeegee-squeegee sound they make on a well polished wood or tile floor. Everyone looks at you and whispers “Sh, you’re making too much noise!!”

      • nick 31/12/2016 at 16:05

        Thanks, Steve!

  • Joe Goergen 05/03/2017 at 18:40

    As a security guard in the late eighty’s & early ninety’s I had a couple pairs of Knapp brand shoes with those ripple soles. Really did help my legs while standing on granite floors inside a bank. I have had those shoes resoled over the years with the same style soles. A bonus for me was the extra traction I received on my steep concrete driveway while shoveling snow. Yes if you turned sideways to the slope you would start sliding downhill. A previous reference to dog eggs or what I call dog mines can addressed with a hand held weeding tool. The kind I mean is shaped like a large screwdriver and has a good sized v-shaped notch on the business end. This really helped. Are there any brands besides Yaketen or Fracap that make a men’s basic black shoe with a Ripple sole?

    • Lee 03/05/2018 at 23:33

      Dr. Martens has a limited release right now.

  • Pat 25/10/2017 at 18:41

    They were awesome on ruck marches and going up hills. Coming down slippery slopes, not so much.

  • gordon turner 02/01/2018 at 19:17

    Where can one order this ripple sheet in black to be put on a nice pair of Stacy Adams black dress shoes.

    • Joseph goergen 03/01/2018 at 00:18

      Mr. T, I was able to get my pair of old Knapp shoes resoled at a local shop. If that is possible where you are you might ask if you should bring the new shoes in right away or put a few miles on them to break them in for yourself. Good luck.

  • Ed Gionest 07/05/2018 at 21:26

    I am a 72 YR. old Marine with experience with Ripple soled combat boots. I injured my back at 17yrs. old and the military doctor ordered ripple soles to be put on my shoes and boots. I recovered from the back injury and had no problem with long marches with full gear. The ripples create a cushion of air and help absorb the shock to the back from walking and running. They were the absolute best foot-wear I have ever owned. I am looking now for the right pair to purchase. The ones I would like to get is “full ripple” no flat areas, but hard to find and not cheap for the good ones, I’m on S.S. so money is tight.
    But for your sake, great way to go. Arches are essential as well.

  • Jay 17/07/2018 at 23:13

    I wore ripple soles on two pairs of boots that I owned back when I was a Paratrooper apart of the 504th PIR, 82nd ABN DIV, FBNC. I added the soles post boot issue / purchase. One of the boots that I wore ripples soles on was a pair of Altama green jungle / black leather boots and the other boots were a pair of my black leather standard general issue leg boots. I remember liking the ripple soles and had no issues of quality with them, although they did add notable weight to each pair of boots when compared against the factory offering…a not too small consideration when one is executing lengthy road marches apart of the light infantry. With regards to jumping with these boots and soles, I remember them feeling pretty good upon landings. How time flies – where does it go? Cheers!

  • bootZburgh 21/07/2019 at 22:15

    Posted a comment on “Boots on Line” thanks for the tip.

  • Stephen Richmond 22/07/2019 at 01:12

    Between roughly 2010 and 2012, Reebok introduced athletic shoes with the Zigtech sole, having an appearance amazingly similar to the Ripple Sole. Reviews by wearers of the Zigtech Sole enthusiastically cited the same advantages that Ripple Soles had 50 years earlier.

  • L.S. Phillips 20/12/2019 at 19:00

    I used strictly ripple sole combat boots from 2000-2005 and loved them. They were harder to find from 2005-2008 when I got out as everyone were trying all sorts of random desert and mountain soles during that time frame. I am looking to resolve a pair of Redwing Heritage Moc Toe boots with them now, and can’t wait to get my feet back in some ripple boots. I’ve had great luck traversing mountains, sand, snow, even in the ocean and rivers with my old ripple soled basic combat boots.

  • DAVID IRWIN 19/01/2020 at 04:35

    I wore ripple soled basketball shoes. They were great!

  • JASON 19/05/2020 at 01:40

    I had a squad leader in the Army who had a pair of jungle boots with these soles. He only wore them for the long road marches. He swore by them.

  • Pete B 10/08/2020 at 05:14

    Served in the Army as Cavalry Scout from 2000-2007. For ruck marches on asphalt/concrete/packed dirt/ they are without match. You take the basic combat boot or jungle boot, have them ground flat, remove the spike protection plate if applicable, then do a 3/4 inch wedge sole, then add the ripple sole. You want the bottom completely flat. No raise at the arch of the foot, no heel. This allows your body weight to be distributed over you entire foot evenly. The max height at the back of the heel should never exceed 1 inch. Then it tapers toward the toe as the wedge sole is tapered. This is so you do not roll an ankle due to the sole being too tall. However, for wet conditions on hilly wooded terrain, such as Ft. Lewis WA, you will want to go with a standard Kletterlift or Sierra sole. The ripple sole offers minimal lateral traction on things such as wet logs. I used the sole with great success in Iraq and Kuwait on desert combat boots as well. Just my two cents.

  • Justin Ness 15/09/2020 at 04:53

    I had these type of soles on my combat boots and they felt great in respect to cushion and stride launch. They also dug into the hills of some pretty steep terrain and would rip into the duty desk when you’re bored pretty satisfying too.

  • Oliver Jones 30/12/2020 at 18:12

    Hi all

    I have Ripple sole Fracap boots and live in Switzerland. They are super cool around town and for walking in however they are not good in snow or slippery mud. As the author points out they have no sideways grip and you easily slip on your side. I went out sledging with the kids the other night and wore them and it was a disaster! I’m a little disappointed in this as here in Switzerland snow is pretty common and I thought they would be perfect boots for the mountains – which they are bar the ripple sole which I think would be better in lose rocks and dirt.


  • James 26/01/2021 at 14:17

    As a retired Army veteran who wore ripple soles, I can say they’re great when marching under weight on a forward direction of travel. As a guy who wore them in snow/ice, they’re also great when moving forward. They get a bit wonky when trying to stop, back pedal, or not slide sideways though. Snow, ice, rain, slick mud, oil spill in the motorpool from the new private, all of these are not the environment for a ripple sole. They are bouncy and comfortable for long durations, just wear them in the proper setting and they will impress.

  • mark gamsu 01/04/2021 at 13:50

    I’ve recently bought a nice pair of Norman Walsh V ripple ‘fellsman boots” – – made in Bolton England – I am a big fan of their fell running shoes and these boots are great as a light summer walking boot. They also do a shoe version too –

    • mervyn jones 15/10/2023 at 19:44

      Norman walsh used to make a ripple cross country shoe back in the seventies they were very popular, they were my go to shoe, the late great Ron Hill used sell them and use them, a great running shoe.

  • biffula 22/03/2022 at 03:27

    They were huge in the 60s as a coaches athletic shoe. Riddell made some. Vince Lombardi wore them. They have a white lace around the top where your foot goes in.

    • Jocko 03/12/2022 at 17:34

      And the 70’s as well. I was so intrigued by these “Striders” (the actual name of the shoe) I scored an original new pair while I was in college. Mine were marketed by SpotBilt …a company in Massachusetts …I don’t know if SpotBilt was a subsidiary of Riddell or just a line of coaches and officials shoes sold by Riddell. I still have them. And wear them on occasion; they definitely have a cool retro vibe to them. Mine are the white version with a black strap around the ankle (used to snug the shoe to your foot) and black laces. And of course they have the iconic “shark fin” ripple soles. The original soles still had the Nathan Hack name on them. Unfortunately the original soles wore out so I had them resoled awhile ago …minus the Hack name on them. My “Striders” have held up remarkably well over the decades …the uppers are all quality leather …and I still enjoy wearing them. In fact, I wearing them now 😀

  • Larry 22/04/2022 at 04:42

    Hello, all ripple-solers!
    More modern & perhaps outlandish looking, to some, would be the Converse Run Star Hike series; high & low top canvas & leather, many color & texture varieties, some in totally recycled polyester. A pair of black leather high tops are my everyday work boots, & other canvas high tops for hiking & many other things. The comfort & support are terrific, the foot is held securely & solidly, and at age 61, with long history hiking and climbing, I love them. The ripple soles are in heel & toe sections, with the mid area open; heel & toe ripples curl up over midsole. All day on concrete, dirt, etc, & hiking trails is very comfortable.
    Vibram offers ripple resole material, for shoe repair, also.

  • Michael Loughlin 23/07/2022 at 21:23

    I was on the cross- country team in High School. The Ridells with the ripple soles were the go to shoe. We always referred to those soles as “dog-s%iT” soles for obvious reasons!
    They were great for running uphill. Not so good for running downhill, as the angle of the ripples would pressure the foot forward in the shoe, making for some pretty sore toes by the end of the 3 mile race.

  • Lawrence P. Schnapf 18/04/2023 at 07:04

    my dad used to wear them. they were very squeeky.

  • Arlo Thompson 22/09/2023 at 18:31

    I always had a fascination for ripple soles, and always wanted a pair, but somehow never got one. At the Jr. High school I went to, wearing Taps on your soles became a real trend in the early 1960s. I can still hear all of the racket they made.

  • Mike Soter 16/12/2023 at 20:54

    The big thing in the 80’s was to have your combat boots converted to ripple soles by the post shoemaker/repairer (yes, they were still a thing). Were excellent in the field as well as garrison. Made a boot made by the lowest bidder feel like walking on air.


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