Are Toe Taps Necessary?
Toe taps with sole guards

As little as ten years ago, few people used toe taps. Like most myths created by people who do not know any better, the naive always shouted “they make so much noise.” Of course, the same people that said this never had toe taps on their own shoes (i.e. no real world experience) and must have had some recollection of knowing someone who used heel taps, which of course by nature of the difference of the words and location of the toe and heel, are two completely different things. And with two very different sounds made by them when affixed to one’s shoes and thus hitting the pavement.

Are Toe Taps Necessary?
Heel Plates, courtesy of Monsieur Chassure

You see, the heel and toe are the places we subject the most abuse to. The way that we walk is that we start by planting the heel on the pavement, pronating inward (majority of us) and then springing off of our toes. The fact that we hit the pavement with our weight in the heel is what causes all of that noise as that first contact point is metal on concrete. But you see, with toe taps, we have already planted our weight down. When we spring off we are already on the pavement so what it does is actually scrape the metal to the concrete. Very minimal noise actually created. Myth busted. Once people started understanding this and the importance of protecting that region, the world of toe taps exploded and now you can find many cobblers that can install them and even shoemakers that offer to install them before shipping out your shoes.

 

Are Toe Taps Necessary?

 

So let us get to the question of their importance and being necessary. And I guess one asks ‘are they a necessity?’ Of course, there is no right or wrong answer here. It is just like asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’. Whether one needs toe taps has many factors to look into before deciding the answer. But one thing is 100% for certain. They do help by diminishing the chances of needing to prematurely resole your shoes. Why, you ask? Because of that spring like motion we make, with each step you get one bit closer to the welt by wearing off a touch of the sole. Now the more you walk the less you wear down per use. The first wears are usually the worse and take off the most of the sole at the toe. It then does decline in its scraping off the leather as your sole now has been softened down in its edges. See photo for example. See the ‘scraping’ and the softened toe edge, on the shoe with not toe taps. Yet even on the shoe with taps you can see how my walking has condensed the sole and is essentially still get worn down, although far more slowly.

 

Are Toe Taps Necessary?Are Toe Taps Necessary?Are Toe Taps Necessary?

 

So, the question you have to ask yourself is how often you will be wearing the pair in question. Personally speaking. I have about 200 pairs of “dress style shoes/boots”. Lets say that 150 have leather soles. I put toe taps on all of them (for the most part). I walked hard and know that if I do not, I will wear that toe down to the welt. Once it reaches that welt and if the welt gets damaged, you can run into a bigger problem depending on the caliber of your shoe. (This is another discussion but re-welting can be costly, especially if handwelted and done by a cobbler). And yet if you manage to not ruin the welt but get to it while still having life left on the rest of the sole, you ended up have resole prematurely and that cost is far greater than a pair of toe taps. So that is my personaly rationale on it. Inprefer the upfront cost of toe taps, than the future cost of resoles.

 

Are Toe Taps Necessary?
Examples of toe taps by Bedos Leatherworks
Are Toe Taps Necessary?
Examples of toe taps by Bedos Leatherworks
Are Toe Taps Necessary?
Examples of toe taps by Bedos Leatherworks

Again, if you are someone that has as many shoes as I do, chances are you do not need toe taps outside of the pairs you wear more favorably. If you have shoes that see the light of day once a year, chances are they do not need toe taps. But if you are a guy that wears one shoe to death, you most certainly need them. If you have 2-3 pairs that you rotate, I highly recommend that you get them on each pair. It will save you significant time and money by not having to resole as quickly and be down a pair or two for certain periods of time. And even if you rotate with 5 pairs, one for each day of the week, I still highly suggest it, as once a week wear is significant in all honesty.

 

Are Toe Taps Necessary?
Examples of toe taps by Bedos Leatherworks

People sometimes have a hard time swallowing yet another cost on top of an expensive shoe. But this is no gimmick product. It’s really logical in how it helps. Lets break it down very simply: Metal is strong than leather. Metal protects toe from excess wear. Metal prolongs life of toe. Prolonged toe life equals more use of the sole. More use of the sole equals less money spent on resoling. Less money spent on resoling equals great initial investment.

And the reality is, even if you didn’t add then when new, a cobbler worth his salt can add them to an existing shoe by building back up what you tore down of the sole tip. Just see the example below by Bedos Leatherworks.

Are Toe Taps Necessary?
Examples of toe taps by Bedos Leatherworks

The last question is. Shall I put them on my rubber soles, too? Personally, I do not do this. But the reality is that if you just use the simple logic formula, it can make sense. It is harder to wear down the rubber toe tip than it is a leather sole tip though so unless you are that ‘one-pair-to-death-guy,’ chances are its not super necessary to add toe taps on rubber soles.

And finally, for the one downside of toe taps, the only type of floors that you have to be wary of is marble and that kind of old, untreated wood (that you see in log cabins etc). Both of these can be easily scratched by the toe taps.

The moral of the story: Toe taps are important if you see your shoes as an investment and want to get as much life out of them as you can and keep them looking nice. If you are a throw-away type of guy or have +100 pairs of shoes, then they might not be so important for you.

For those in the US, I highly suggest Bedos Leatherworks for a great installation and a good of options of toe taps to put on your shoes.

For those in NYC, I suggest Vince’s Village Cobbler.

Are Toe Taps Necessary?
Toe Taps by Patrik Frei Bespoke Shoemaker

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18 thoughts on “Are Toe Taps Necessary?”

  1. John Schmeelk @wishoeguy

    Thanks. I agree. While I’m still on my way to as many shoes as you, i do like having them. As you rightly point out I’m unlikely to wear down shoes with my rotation but I do favor some and it makes a big difference. I don’t put them on rubber soles, but may at some point. I do like the variety it can add to your shoe game as well. Da Schau is another cobbler who has done some really interesting ones. Warm regards, JS.

  2. Hi Justin, great sharing of knowledge here. I would like to ask though; How about shoes which come with toe nails in them? Would you recommend to get them removed and then install a toe plate? Or would they act as a toe plate and protect the sole from premature wear?

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      Hello Mubaarek, thank you for reading and glad that you enjoyed it. The nails in the toe are like a halfway point between no protection and toe taps. They are good for those that do not want to pay extra, but do not protect the same way toe taps do. And not to worry, the cobbler that installs the taps will take them out for you.

  3. I agree. The way I walk, I inevitably wear down the end by the toes first. I long ago learned that proper toe taps (which are flush, rather than screwed on top of the leather) don’t change your walking pattern or create much noise (and what is created often adds exactly the formality that is desired) and add a lot of longevity. My favourite pair of everyday loafers is over 20 years old and on its third set of soles, and yet would have been “used up” long ago without the toe taps. I’ve even printed out Shoe Snob articles to take to a new cobbler to gauge by their reaction whether or not I wanted to work with them. Where I live, in the PNW, I’ve often had to order the taps myself to get the quality I want (the ones recommended in a previous Shoe Snob article), but a good cobbler can then install them fairly easily.

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      Tillman, thank you for sharing and for your long time support. I love that you printed my articles to keep people honest. That is awesome. I hope that it always worked! Thank you for sharing

  4. Agree that toe taps definitely prolong life of your shoes, especially if you walk in a way where one put a lot of strain on the toe. A bit surprised you write that “if the welt gets damaged, that shoe is ruined”. I mean, of course the welt would need to be changed, but on a factory resole it’s no problem at all and doesn’t cost more, and many cobblers also can exchange the welt (albeit at a higher price, since those who do it usually do it by hand since they don’t have a Goodyear machine).

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      Replacing the welt is often more costly than buying new shoes or very next to the original price, which usually makes it not worth it (for most). From what I know, factory resoles do not usually include a new welt unless specifically requested and it will most certainly cost more. It is more time, work and materials used. It is also not recommended, as doing so will inevitably create potential weak points in the upper when having to refasten a new welt on.

      1. I believe you’re wrong here Justin. I’ve had shoes sent for factory resoles where they’ve exchanged the welt, at no extra cost and without asking about it. And if you look at the info some makers give on factory resoles they sometimes state that they always exchange the welt (as if that’s a positive thing, which is a bit off) or sometimes that it’s done if needed. See for example Church’s, Tricker’s and TLB below:
        https://www.church-footwear.com/gb/en/the-guide/repairs.html
        https://www.afinepairofshoes.co.uk/products/trickers-repair-services
        https://www.skolyx.se/en/content/66-resole-goodyear-welted-shoes

        It’s also mentioned by Jesper of Shoegazing that this is the case in this article:
        https://shoegazing.com/2019/08/09/guide-resoling-and-re-heeling/

        1. Justin FitzPatrick

          Hello John,

          Allowing me to say a few things here.

          1. We can both be right without me being ‘wrong’. Just a little fyi. But I am actually not wrong, at all, and will explain further.
          2. Not sure how much you know about me, but I have my own shoe brand, work with a factory, and a cobbler and have resoled a pair of shoes myself, by hand as a part of my bespoke shoemaking training.
          3. The article you are quoting from, i.e. Jesper’s, I will paste below as I believe you are contradicting yourself in reality.

          First, your direct quote ‘but on a factory resole it’s no problem at all and doesn’t cost more, and many cobblers also can exchange the welt (albeit at a higher price, since those who do it usually do it by hand since they don’t have a Goodyear machine).’ — being that you were quoting Jesper, but you added that ‘it does not cost more’. He did not say that. In fact, all of the articles you linked, actually never mention replacing the welt. Where are you getting this from??? They only refer to replacing the sole. The sole and the welt are two very different components.

          Now Jesper’s quote, that you seem to copy and add things on your own: ‘The main reason why the number of resoles that can be done on a Goodyear welted shoe is limited, just like with the Blake shoe, is that you risk making new holes in the material. This is partly the case with the seam that holds the welt and outsole together, which means that after some re-soles, the welt may need to be exchanged only because it has been punched weaker by new stitches, even if one has been careful and taken care of the welt well and never let it wear down in front of the toe or similar. Changing the welt is no problem in terms of new holes on the shoe if it’s done by a cobbler, as they almost always do it by hand and sews in the holes already there in the upper leather and canvas rib (very few cobbler’s have access to an expensive Goodyear machine). However, If it’s done in the factory, it’s made with a machine that makes new holes, which will weaken the upper leather. And an issue here is that when factories do resoles and refurbishments, they often replace also the welt, even if it’s not really needed (since it can actually be easier for them even if it adds a step, the rest of the resole job becomes more straight forward with a new welt)……Or you always send the shoes back to the factory for resoling, which then risks over time that the upper leather is so damaged by new stitches that it can no longer be used.’

          As you can see, Jesper pretty much says what I did. That you do not replace the welt for each resole. That would be counterintuitive and against the idea of what makes Goodyear welted shoes so easily resolable as you simply pop off the sole, leaving the welt attached and add a new sole, stitching to the welt and using the existing holes on the welt. Now if need be, a new welt can be added, but like I said previously, that is a risky option as if not done by hand (making it incredibly expensive) then it potentially leaves the welt and thus the entire construction of the shoe weak. And it will always be more expensive with a cobbler or a factory.

          Now, I do not mind being challenged, but it might be best to ask to explain further before calling me wrong. I tend to not discuss what I am not knowledgeable of.

          1. I’m sorry if you feel challenged, but I still believe you are wrong. I know very well about you. I’ve been buying and had an interest in welted shoes for 30+ years, and have picked up quite a bit of experience through the years.

            You wrote “if the welt gets damaged, that shoe is ruined”, and “from what I know, factory resoles do not usually include a new welt unless specifically requested and it will most certainly cost more.” When I said “no problem at all” I referred to the fact that factories exchange the welts without a problem, could maybe have phrased that differently but thought it was clear what I meant. As I explained, I have first hand experience of this to be the case, many of the shoes I’ve had sent back to factories for resoles have had also the welts replaced (in some cases because they were worn a bit and needed, but in many cases this would not be the case at least from what I could see before sending the shoes, still done), I have never requested or paid extra for this.

            You wrote “all of the articles you linked, actually never mention replacing the welt. Where are you getting this from??? They only refer to replacing the sole”. Now I paste from the products texts and articles I linked to:
            Church’s: “A typical repair will cover any or all of the following: […] – Stripping of the shoe to the upper and insole […] – Re-welting and resoling”
            Tricker’s: ” rebuilding a brand new sole and heel including goodyear welt.”
            TLB: “the welt is also changed if needed”.
            Note that all of the above is included in the basic resole/refurbishment, according to the info given, nowhere is anything stated about extra costs.

            Now, on Jesper’s article, I didn’t quote anything, I just said he mentioned the topic. If I’m specific now, here: “an issue here is that when factories do resoles and refurbishments, they often replace also the welt, even if it’s not really needed (since it can actually be easier for them even if it adds a step, the rest of the resole job becomes more straight forward with a new welt)”. So he sort of exactly writes what I tried to say and my experience (that it’s done at no upcharge, an in fact factories change the welt sometimes even if not needed).

            Regarding that “it would be incredibly expensive” to exchange the welt by hand, that also doesn’t seem to be the case. My cobbler quoted $65 extra, here’s one who states $75: https://www.cobblersplus.com/products/mens-shoe-recrafting-products-replace-welt

            I know it’s better to not change the welt, and that it’s usually not done, I understand all that and wasn’t talking about this. But I don’t think it’s good that people read your article and think a shoe is ruined if they happen to wear down the welt, since I know from first hand experience that this is not the case. Also thought that what I shared backed that up rather clearly, don’t really follow how you think that it’s not.

          2. Justin FitzPatrick

            Hello John, I never mind being challenged. I am not the end all be all. I do also make mistakes, like when I was reading both the Tricker’s and TLB links you gave and magically overlooked those words. I did not read the Church’s one though. You see, the issue is that we are actually both correct and this is where I got annoyed as you simply said that I was wrong. But I am not. To say the shoe is ruined, yes, that was an exaggeration. But again, for some, it might be because the cost of repair can be more than worth it, and for some that can mean ‘ruined.’ So, if you know me, even though I am looked at ‘as authority’ and I understand what you mean when you say that someone should not think that it is ruined (for being misled), I do often put theater into my writing to make a point. And my point was about toe taps protecting your soles from overwear and premature resoling.

            More about us both being right, now. You see, there are many factors at play with this story. The shoe in question and its cost and finishing is a major factor. You see, it is not the same to resole a open channel, closed channel, handwelted shoe. Those will come at different prices for the different finishings, speaking in terms of a cobbler repairing. The more details, the more pricey. I know a cobbler that charges $200 more to handwelt a shoe. Another cobbler that charges an extra $65 to just machine welt it (on top of the resole price). Factories might do it all at one price. Others might have different pricing, in tiers. It is not smart for a factory to re-welt as it can hurt the integrity of the upper. So while you can find examples to prove yourself right, I have my own to prove myself right in terms of my exaggeration of it might not be worth re-welting which can mean ruin.

            But since you are correct, in that education is important and being more clear is probably better, I shall reword it to be more explicit. Thank you for sharing

            Edit next day* – John, as per factories, I stand corrected. You were right and I was wrong. I asked a few more and they confirmed what you stated, even my own which I swear said differently 4 years ago when I sent a few over. I recall 15 years ago Allen Edmonds having different tiers of refurbishment/resoling options and thought the rewelting one was a more expensive option with respects to their basic “quick resole”. I guess that has all changed. Cobblers are still the same though and have upcharges for every little detail.

            As per the ruined comment, again, while exaggerated I still stand behind the sentiment that for some it could mean having “ruined” their shoes or the opportunity to afford fixing them as the cost won’t be worth it. This can be a bummer if it happens prematurely. So while my original wording could have been more explicit not everyone can easily send back to the factory for refurbishment. As I believe you live in the UK, it will be easy for you to deal with British factories. Not if a US person has to pay to ship to the UK and back though. It gets costly. Now imagine someone that buys a $400 handwelted shoe from China. If they have to handwelt that at a cobbler in the US, it can come to the same price if not more depending om the cobbler. Sending back to China is a mission in itself. So while you took my words very literally and fair enough for that, the need for premature resoling can ruin a pair of shoes for certain people and the small investment of toe taps can prevent that. That was my point.

          3. (Couldn’t reply below so not sure where this comment will end up)

            ^^^ Fair enough! Respect for asking around and coming out saying that you were wrong.

  5. Hi Justin

    Great article makes a lot of sense.

    Know that you’ve been out of the UK a while now but as you’ve recommended someone in the US and specifically NYC who would you recommend in UK and specifically London?

    Also some of the taps you’ve shown in your pictures are quite decorative (and a step up from the basic Lulu tips commonly used) adding to the look of the shoe – do any of the places you know of inLondon do these type of taps?

    Mark

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      Hey Mark, thanks for reading and for commenting. As usual, for standard Lulu’s I recommend Tony’s Shoe Repair. I believe they moved to Finchley. As per someone trying more decorative stuff, check out Kings of Somerset. They do some great work. Best of luck

    2. It may not be in London proper, but another great option is Tring Shoe Repair. Like Bedo’s Leatherworks and some others, the proprietor, Dan, has a popular and really good YouTube channel.

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