Back in February of this year, I found out about Soft Star Shoes (521 Southwest 2nd St., Corvallis, OR) from the The Running Barefoot Yahoo! Group. I was impressed that they were minimal shoes to begin with, but more that they could be day-to-day shoes that could be worn comfortably. I actually ordered off-the-shelf to start with in two sizes which they shipped out and allowed me to return before designing custom Ramblers. They were even nice enough to send a swatch book of leather so I could really get a feel for the colors. I picked chocolate brown and purple. I had a minor problem after just a short time with them: one the split uppers was more split on one side than the other. They happily took the return and made a minor fix that corrected the problem.
Well, after just about 1 month, I had worn a hole clear through one of the soles. I don't think I was being unusually hard on them — I probably walked no more than 50 miles. I had also made a point of mentioning that I was looking for a long-wearing sole, as they had several options available. They suggested their thin rubber sole which they said is "durable and will last a long time". Maybe we just disagree on what's meant by a "long time", but I am very disappointed. As such, I decided to make sure "Soft Star Shoes" and "Suck" appear in the title, as that's how I assess new products with a simple Google search.
However, since I liked the style, I decided to have car tires cut to match the soles and stitch the uppers to that. I had made tire sandals before using a reciprocating saw with a metal blade, but the edges weren't well defined and I wanted holes to stitch through. I decided to go with Nifty-Bar, Inc. (450 Whitney Rd., Penfield) who I use for work for their water-jet cutting services. I provided an outline and asked that small holes be laid out along the edge about 1/4" apart. The water-jet machine made nice cuts through the rubber and various steel belts in the tire.
I took apart the Ramblers and reassembled them successfully with tire soles. I don't think I'll have to worry about wearing them out anymore.
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