The Shoe Snob Blog

February 21, 2017

The Importance of Toe Taps

Growing up in America and selling shoes at Nordstrom, I never really understood what toe taps where all about. I had seen the ones that are simply nailed on and look like little boomerang’s (you know the ones you can easily kick off and are pretty much worthless? Yea those ones!), but had never seen anyone with a pair of proper toe taps on. Occasionally I had seen (or better yet heard) the few people –who for some reason I don’t understand– wear heel plates (with as fast as you can replace a heel’s top piece those outdated loud bits don’t make any sense in this day and age). Like anything, most things in the sartorial world are lacking in America for two reasons; 1. Availability and 2. Lack of education. Maybe it’s changed now, but I bet that there are few cobblers in the US who can install a pair proper toe taps, for that matter you don’t find many here in England neither, whereas in France and Switzerland it’s like second nature. So it’s not just the US in this case, but a worldwide issue: understanding the importance toe taps play in maintaining the integrity of your sole’s toe region.

2012-02-13 12.09.00 french sole treatment

The Crappy ones you dont want to waste your money on. Photo courtesy of StyleForum

The Crappy ones you dont want to waste your money on. Photo courtesy of StyleForum

How Indented Toe Taps Benefit?

The natural way we walk as humans automatically harms our toe’s region due to our weight/gravity and the spring we put on every step in order to make the next one. And that constant grinding on the pavement wears down the sole in that area, especially if you are a hard walker like I am. That being, if you wear welted shoes, you could easily chew through the sole and start grinding down your welt. And the problem with that scenario is that while we can always get re-soles, most people cannot replace a welt as you basically have to make a new shoe. Therefore if you ruin your welt, your ruin your shoe. And that is on welted shoes not to mention blake stitched ones where you basically start chewing into the leather of the upper which is even worse and irreparable.

A lot of times too, if you do not put on toe taps it can lead to premature resoling as you get down to the welt but still have a lot of life left in the actual sole and if you do nothing you run the risk of starting to damage the welt. So that initial protection can ultimately double the life of your sole in reality.

On a more aesthetic note, it just looks bad when the front of your shoes are all chewed up and more than half worn down and all the edging dye worn off. That is a rookie mistake and look. When wearing nice shoes your toes are the bits that everyone looks at and appreciates and maintaining that region not only shows how much you appreciate your shoes but also how aware of a person you are, which can speak highly of yourself in a non verbal way.

Photo Courtesy of Style Forum

Photo Courtesy of Style Forum

Photo Courtesy of Style Forum

Photo Courtesy of Style Forum

 

Protecting a Closed Channel with Indented Toe Taps

In the upper echelons of welted shoe brands, you find that all of them offer a closed channel sole. For those of you that don’t know what that means, well basically when the sole is stitched on, you can do it two ways: 1. Showing the stitch (open channel) or 2. Hiding the stitch (closed channel). While the closed channel sole is a sign of quality shoes, it does have one flaw. You see, in order to close the channel, you have to cut into the sole to make a very thin flap (see pics) that then lifts up to allow you to sew the sole on. Once sewn, you then close that flap down to thus ‘hide’ the channel stitch. But you see, closing that flap is done with shoe glue/cement etc which is not indestructible and can be reopened over time, particularly in wet environments as water is one of the elements that breaks down glue’s holding components. The channel often starts to lift at the toes and works its way down. So getting toe taps actually helps to prevent that from the very get go.

The making of a closed channel, photo courtesy of readsfootwear.co.uk

The making of a closed channel, photo courtesy of readsfootwear.co.uk

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Common Misconceptions About Toe Taps

1. They make noise

— This is actually not true at all. Heel taps make noise and a lot of it. Toe taps really don’t make any, unless you start tap dancing with them. But walking like a normal human being you would be surprise to ever hear them striking the pavement. The one exception might be marble flooring, but the noise would still be minimal.

2. They scratch floors

— Yes and no. On most floors they won’t providing that they were affixed properly. You see, they need to be properly sunken in and sanded down so that no sharp edges are sticking out, which will indeed scratch floors and other things for that matter. But that is down to the person that affixed them. If put on properly, the only floor they would/can scratch again is marble flooring. All else is quite safe.

3. They can harm my welt/channel stitch

— Again this is down to the person putting them on. Yes, if the cobbler/shoemaker does a sloppy job and cuts too deep into the sole, then yes, it can expose the welt and/or channel stitching. Again goes for screws that are too long. But providing the cobbler/shoemaker knows what he/she is doing, then this is a non-issue.

4. Once I have worn the shoes, I cannot have toe taps installed?

— No, actually a good cobbler can build up your sole with leather and add them after the fact. But it is best doing it on a brand new pair of shoes.

Conclusion

If you wear nice shoes, you need toe taps especially if you do any sort of walking on anything outside of carpet. Fair enough, if you go from front door of your house, to car in driveway/garage, to underground car park and then carpeted work place, you don’t need them. If you walk on pavement and suffer through rainy days, you need them. It’s that simple really. And you especially need them if you are a hard walker. Look at the picture below of my bespoke shoes that I have worn probably less than 20 times. You can see, that I even wear down the toe taps quite significantly. Imagine what I would do without them on?!

Places to Get Them Installed

— Many brands these days are offering them as adds on to your shoes when you buy them, such as J.FitzPatrick Footwear, Carmina, Gaziano & Girling, Vass and Saint Crispins.

— If you are London/UK based, you can get them installed at Tony’s Heel Bar in Crown Passage. Prices are £30 per pair (with brass screws) and shipping to UK from £8

— If you are New York City based, I believe that B.Nelson Shoe Repairs offers this service. Prices are $45 per pair (with brass screws) and shipping to US from $20

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  • Giorgio

    And if you are in Germany, Shoepassion makes them, but for a lot of money, I remember, something like 40, 50 €. If you are in Berlin, go to Berliner Schumacherei: http://www.berliner-schuhmacherei.de
    Yours, Giorgio

  • error406

    In Amsterdam, the expert for toe taps is Nils Kalf: http://nilskalfschoenmaker.nl/embouts-plaatsen/

  • Roger Pinnock

    For my leather – soled shoes and boots, flush mounted toe taps are an absolute must. Good article.

  • Juan Manuel

    Silly question, I know… but, any expert cobbler in Madrid, please?

    Good article!

    • TheShoeSnob

      wish I could help you but I don’t know any

  • G3o

    Would having indented toe taps fitted by a cobbler stop you being able to have shoes resoled by the manufacturer? I know most of the time having shoes reheeled elsewhere is not an issue but I’m not sure where they would stand on sole additions.

    • TheShoeSnob

      this would be a question for each manufacturer

  • Enrique

    After purchasing my first pair of fine dress shoes about a year ago, I had flush toe taps installed by B. Nelson here in NY. They did a wonderful job and I’m really happy with them. However, I have the same problem as you–I’m really hard on the toe area, to the point that the taps have worn way down, (looks like your last photo). The double leather soles still have lots of life in them. This is probably a question for B. Nelson but can I replace toe taps once they’ve worn down?

    • TheShoeSnob

      yes you can replace toe taps in theory but best to ask the cobbler who installed them

  • kingstonian

    Nonsense. Blakeys and their equivalents have been the choice for generations of Britons. You can add them yourself quite easily. A cobblers last is useful (but many have inherited them and used them as door stops).

    With the other brand – with separate nails – you may need to use a pincers to trim the nails to size. With Blakeys it usually a reliable one piece item with nails on the underside. So you just hammer them in.

    All this paying top dollar and cutting into perfectly good shoe leather for a flush fit is an iGEnt affectation. ‘£30 my arse!’ ( as Jim Royce would say).

    • TheShoeSnob

      it does not matter that blakeys have been the choice of many Britons for generations. they are still a flawed product as they are not flush and are thus easy to kick off. I would much rather pay triple the price to have a good product that stays intact then 1/3 the price to have something fall off after a few wears. Cheap mentality only gets you cheap results!

  • Curt Hinson

    Justin, do you have any resources for exactly how to install flush mount taps? Recently, I have been installing 1mm vibram sheeting over my existing soles and doing my own heels. I have access to a shoe shop with all of the sanders, sewing machines, and polishers. It is just that the man who owns the shop only does basic resoles and heels. I’m trading odd jobs and being a friend for learning time.

    I assume with a closed channel shoe the overlayed channel portion would be removed by sanding flush, without removing the stitching, and the tap nailed on but what about a regular shoe? If you know of any books or videos that cover this I would love to know about them.

    • TheShoeSnob

      Curt unfortunately I do not know of any resources that show how to do indented flush toe taps, I am sorry. For closed channel sole, yes you said it exactly right and as per open channel, I had actually never thought about it before as the stitching is right there, but I presume it would be the same process in reality only to be a bit more careful

      • Curt Hinson

        Thank you for the reply. I imagine a tap could be applied before resoleing on a “normal” shoe by thinning the toe section then stitching followed by application of the tap. I’ll email B. Nelson and a few other places an see what they have to say.

        Again, thank you for the reply. Your blog is always interesting and has taught me so much.

  • Robin

    Hi all,

    Just to add to place to get this done, full works, I use a cobbler in Buckley, where I live in North Wales. A really interesting shop as well if you are in the area, full of unusual things: fox hunting horn, old spanish military helmet etc! No website but called Sadlers Shoe Repairs Tel: 01244 544851

    • TheShoeSnob

      thank you!

  • Nathan

    Would it be kosher to have metal toe taps installed on a pair of loafers?

    • TheShoeSnob

      what type of loafers are you referring to?

  • CGE

    The repeated caveats about marble raise the question: for those of us who regularly need to walk on marble floors, what are our options? If I were just walking on marble floors, I suppose having no toe taps would be fine, given the lack of friction, but I’d prefer not to change my shoes every time I switch between floors.

    • TheShoeSnob

      if you are only walking on marble floors, well you can add an indented rubber piece much like a metal toe tap

  • Greg

    Great article. Brings up a few interesting points: 1) does one only buy new shoes from those manufacturers you mention? Do people seriously buy their Edward Green or Crockett & Jones or whichever maker and then go straight to the cobbler to partially resole the toe area? Or are discerning shoe wearers only buying from GG, Carmina, JFF etc? 2) Reading this article and the article on adding to your soles, is the half rubber sole done properly a more effective/cost-effective way to protect the toe area – is it effective enough?

    • TheShoeSnob

      Thank you. To answer your questions: 1. No because you can have them added by cobblers. And yes, people do buy expensive shoes and then put toe taps. Just because a shoe is more expensive doesn’t make the sole invincible. And no discerning shoes wearers are not only wearing those brands. That was just to name a few, not the many great brands out there. 2. this is to protect all of the sole are, not just the toe area. It is no more effective than just having the toe taps for protecting just the toe area

  • Henry

    Don’t ever be late.

  • G8r

    Anyone know a cobbler in Chicago who can properly install toe taps like this?

  • TheShoeSnob

    brass does not rust like metal does