Curing squeaky shoes is quite often a fairly simple process. But you have to know where the sound is coming from first. Squeaks are usually caused by:
- Friction. Caused by shoe parts (or feet) rubbing against other shoe parts or the floor.
- Moisture. Inside the shoe-generally caused by sweat. Also by walking in wet locations like puddles or wet grass.
- Air. Quite often trapped inside the shoe during the manufacturing process. Air can also infiltrate parts of the shoes if they are damaged or wearing out.
- Separation. A nice way of saying your shoes are wearing out. Or at least need attention.
If you are not sure of the cause, you can try any, or all, of the following cures until you eliminate the problem.
Stop Shoes From Squeaking
Squeaking from Inside the Shoe
- Squeaky Insoles. If your shoes are squeaking regardless of the surface you are walking on, there is a good chance your insole is the cause–loose, too small, too tight.
- Bare Feet. Going barefoot may work well in cloth-lined footwear with solid insoles. Not always in leather or vinyl interiors. Everyone’s feet sweat. And most feet move inside shoes a little–unless they are lace so tight there is no circulation getting past the center point of the foot. Sweat causes the skin to stick, so the movement of the foot can cause squeaking.
- Moisture. Moisture that gets trapped inside the insole or even the lining of the shoe can be squeezed out of its hiding place with each step. Does not have to be much to make a noise every time pressure is applied or released.
Squeaking from Outside the Shoe
To check out if squeaking is coming from the outside of a shoe, put them on, tie the laces, and walk on a soft carpeted surface. If you do not hear any noise, then the squeaks you hear are coming from somewhere else on the shoe.
- Lace/Tongue Friction. Shoelaces can move around in the eyes or hooks of the shoe. Or they may rub against the shoe tongue–which may be aggravated by the type of gait you have. All lace movement can cause squeaking, but leather laces are probably the worst offenders, such as leather laces in leather work boots.
- Leaking Gel & Air. Gel shoes are great for comfort and fit–until you have a blowout. (Like stepping on a nail.) Then every step is going to make noise. This usually happens after some of the gel has leaked out and every step compresses the gel sack, squeezing the air out, then sucking air back in. Air shoes are even worse for squeaking. Once the air pocket breaks, you will hear a squeak every step. Both when pressure is applied and upon release.
Squeaking from the Sole of the Shoe
Finding the squeak in your shoes tends to be a process of elimination. Once you are sure it is not the inside or outside, it must be the sole–probably.
- Friction. Smooth, clean soles and smooth, clean, polished floors are not a good combination. But it should be easy to figure out if the squeaks are coming from the sole.
- Loose Parts. Check that the sole is still firmly attached to the main body of the shoe.
Squeaking from Wet Shoes
If getting your shoes wet was not the original cause of the problem, it will certainly make squeaks worse. Water is not a friend of your shoes for many reasons. Getting your shoes wet occasionally, or regularly, will almost always cause squeaks.
With leather shoes, this should be obvious. Leather generally reacts badly to water. (Even good work boots need some TLC to repel water.) Athletic shoes have a problem with water because they are a combination of cloth, leather or pretend leather, rubber or pretend rubber, glue, stitching, etc.
Water on your shoes not only makes for lovely stains, but it will also find every way possible to be absorbed into every possible gap or opening. It makes leather stiff, other material loose or tight, and can dissolve the glue holding your shoes together.
Miscellaneous Squeaking Noises
- Sometimes the squeaking noise is not caused by your shoes. In my case, it is caused by walking splay-footed and giving a slight twist to each foot as I push off–making it impossible to be quiet on a nice clean floor wearing nice clean shoes. The shoes get the blame, but I am the cause. You may have the same affliction.
- Foot dragging. Same nice clean shoes and nice clean floor. If someone’s heel moves after it touches the floor because she/he never listened to his/her mother’s admonition to “Pick up your feet”, it will squeak.
Stop Shoes From Squeaking – Cures
Now that you know what is causing the problem, it is time to get it fixed. None of these will take very long or cost very much. But the relief you will get from not squeaking around the office is worth more than the effort you put into the job.
Curing Squeaks Coming from the Inside
New shoes will likely squeak–a lot. Because all the parts and pieces are new, and your foot has not spent enough time inside the shoes for everything to get used to each other.
- Lubrication. Some of the products you can use are: petroleum jelly, baby oil, baby powder, cornstarch, or coconut oil. Remove the insole and apply a lubricant to the underside and edges of the insole. Apply sparingly. You can always add a little more later if required. You want the insole to be able to move freely against the rest of the shoe. You do not want the insole to slide around too much. Dry Silicone Lubricant works very well but use it very sparingly. (Never get it on the bottom of your shoes. It is very slick.) Make sure you let the accelerant evaporate before replacing the insole.
- Padding. Place dryer sheets, paper napkins, or paper towels folded to fit between the insole and bottom of the shoe. This will pad the insole, keeping it snug to your foot. All of these have the added advantage of absorbing any moisture under the insole. (The main disadvantage is that they will have to be replaced every 2 – 3 wearing’s to keep them dry and prevent odor.)
- Remove Moisture. Use baby powder or cornstarch if you find lots of moisture between the insole and body of the shoe. They will absorb much of what is there. (You will likely have to remove and replace any powder every few days. If your shoes are really wet–whether from puddles, grass, or sweat–dry them out first. Remove the liner and set them out in the sun until dry. Or put them in a shoe wash bag into the dryer on low setting for 10 minutes at a time. Good for cloth and polyester mesh shoes. Do NOT put leather or suede shoes in the dryer–unless you like cracked or stiff as a board shoes.
- Moisture Absorbing Socks. Although I have never understood the attraction of not wearing socks in my shoes–apparently it is a thing. It is also a good way to get lots of moisture (sweat) into your shoes. Try wearing moisture wicking socks that absorb sweat to help get rid of insole squeaks. Most of these socks also help control odor.
Wet shoes will almost always squeak–eventually. Make sure your shoes are kept dry. Remove the insole after every wearing. Unless you were slopping around in very wet locations, your shoes will usually dry out overnight.
Curing Squeaks Coming from the Outside
Lace and Tongue Friction
Shoelaces can be subjected to quite a bit of pressure. They get tightened enough to keep the shoe in place regardless of what walking or running stresses come along. At the same time laces have to be loose enough not to cause foot pain. Almost invariably there is some movement between laces and shoe tongue; and between laces and lace eyes. All of the friction can cause squeaking from your shoes.
Saddle Soap, a good Shoe Conditioner, even regular shoe polish can solve this problem. All of these products will lubricate the shoe tongue allowing the laces to slide more freely over the tongue. (It is also a good idea to apply the soap or conditioner to the laces themselves.) Keep in mind that all of these products will eventually wear off, and you will have to reapply them if the squeaking starts again.
Of course, if you maintain your shoes regularly with these types of products, the issue may never come up.
- WD-40 is a lubricant that is formulated to drive moisture out of gaps and cracks. Spray it along outer edges where the shoe body meets the outer sole to get rid of any water that may have accumulated there. It also provides lubrication to increase free and easy shoe movement when walking, and will seal most tiny air holes. Use sparingly.
Leaking Gel & Air
There seems to be no sure-fire way to cure this problem. If you can find and access the hole, try to patch it with superglue like Gorilla Super Glue Gel. Unfortunately, most people put up with the noise and aggravation for as long as possible, then get new shoes. Or take them to a cobbler.
Curing Squeaks Coming from the Sole
Friction of Shoes on Floor
If your shoes are squeaking on different types of floors–usually tile, linoleum, hardwood, laminate–you will need to address the shoe sole. Quite often the soles are too smooth and will slip a bit with each step, causing squeaks. New shoes are usually the worst offenders.
- Scuff Them Up. Wear your shoes outside and drag the soles gently over a sidewalk or asphalt until they become a little scuffed. This will provide better traction on the smooth floors and get rid of squeaks. (Note: Make sure you clean them to remove any sand or small stones.)
- Sandpaper Them. If dragging your new shoes over concrete offends you, working them over with about 120 grit sandpaper achieves the same result.
- Dryer Sheets. Rubbing the soles with dryer sheets will improve grip and get rid of squeaks. (Note: You may have to do this a few times a week until the squeak is totally eliminated.
- Spray Them. Use hair spray, WD-40, or rubber sole spray. All of these will give your soles much better traction. And you will not leave a trail where you walk. (Note: Do NOT use Dry Silicone Lubricant. It will eliminate squeaks but you may slip and fall a lot.)
- Shoe Pads. Stick non-slip shoe pads to the bottom of you soles. If your shoes do not slip, they probably do not squeak.
A loose or flapping sole will not only cause your shoe to squeak, it may make all kinds of other noises, not to mention cause you some discomfort. Usually you have a good chance of repairing loose parts with Gorilla Super Glue Gel. Make sure the area is clean and dry. Then apply the glue. It dries clear in less than a minute. Trim off any excess with a sharp knife.
Stop Shoes From Squeaking – The Shoe Doctor
Although we seem to be living in a disposable society, replacing my zippy tasseled dress shoes with something that could cost upwards of $1000.00 is not going to happen without a trip to a cobbler. If you have tried all of the different squeak cures above and have not solved the problem, it might be time to seek professional help.
Although you can find online cobblers who will accept shoes by mail (which may be the only logical option, if you live in the back of nowhere), your best option is to wear the shoes when taking them to be repaired so they are warm and flexible–the way they are normally. And it will give the cobbler a better chance of seeing what is wrong. (Take a spare pair of shoes with you.)
Note: In this case, a cobbler is someone who fixes shoes, not a fruit pie.
There is one more cause of squeaking shoes and boots that I did not touch on. Walking on dry snow/ice at 30 below zero. The only cure I know of is to stay in the house.