Rob Kolakowski photo

If the felt on the bottom of your wading boots is warn out you don’t have to get new boots.  You can repair them yourself. 

    Spring is here.  Time for gear repair if you have not done it already.  If you have decent wading boots chances are that you will wear out the felts before the rest of the boot is bad.  You can replace the warn soles for a lot less than you can get new boots.  So here’s how to do it.

    First pick up some new soles and some cement for attaching them.  Sometimes the soles come with cement sometimes they don’t.  A common cement that works well for this purpose is Barge cement.  You can find it in a number of places.  I get it from the local hardware store.  You’ll also need a utility knife, sand paper or wire wheel, cleaning solvent(more on this later),  and some duct tape.

    The first step in replacing the soles involves getting what’s left of the old felt off.  It’s been my experience that if the felt is warn down next to nothing that they will be falling off already or they will peal off pretty easily.  If you have trouble you will have to peal the felt back and cut the glue joint as you go.  Kind of like filleting a fish.  Make sure you get it all off.  Use sandpaper, a rasp, or a knife.  Whatever it takes to get to the flat surface of the boot.

    Step two is to prep the bottom of the boot.  You want to create a fresh rough surface so the cement adheres well.  A wire wheel in a drill does this job quickly.  A sander, sandpaper or rasp will also get the job done.  Next use some solvent to wipe the surface clean.  This is to assure that there are no oils or other things left on the bottom of the boot that will weaken the bond.  Denatured alcohol, acetone, or nail polish remover will work well.  Mineral spirits contains oil, so don’t use it.

    Step three is to prep the replacement felt sole.  All that needs to be done is to trim it to size.  You can fit it exactly or just get it close and do the final trim after the soles are in place.

    Step four is to glue the soles on.  Apply a thin uniform layer of cement over the entire surface of the bottom of the boot and the entire surface of the felt sole.  Let then dry for several hours without sticking them together.  You don’t want to follow the cement instructions in this case.  Most contact type cements will tell you to stick the pieces together in a short amount of time.  I have found that this does not create a strong bond.  Your soles will come off.  You need to let the first layer of cement set a long time and reapply another layer to get the strongest bond.  I’ll apply the first layer of cement in the evening, let it sit overnight, and apply a second layer in the morning.  You can stick them together right away at this point.  Firmly tape down all edges of the felt sole to the boot.  I usually do this by wrapping the tape right around the boot.  Duct tape leaves some sticky residue, but I don’t mind.  You can use some other form of tape or clean it off if you care to.  The instructions with my sole kit say to let them dry for a day.  I usually let them sit for at least a couple days before removing the tape for added insurance.  After the tape is removed you can do any final trimming if need be. 

You should be good to go at this point.  Another skill learned and a few bucks saved.

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