You may have heard the term topy before and weren't sure what it meant. While the footwear community seems to be divided on their use, we'll give you all the info you need to decide for yourself. It is your shoe after all.
We think they have their use. At the end of this article you'll be able to decide for yourself. We'll also give you some alternatives if you don't want to use one.
What Exactly Is A Topy?
A topy sole is a rubber sole protector that's applied to the bottom of leather soled shoes. It is generally a half sole, meaning that it doesn't run the full length of the sole. Usually from the tip of the leather soles to about where you arch is on your foot. They rarely go all the way to the heel.
You also don't see them for heels since you can replace your entire heel with rubber if you want.
A close up of a topy branded leather sole protector.
Sole protectors like this come in all different flavours. A good local cobbler (or any shoe repairers) will usually have a few options for customers to choose from. Any good repair shop can perform this service.
Protective soles like a topy are almost always made out of rubber. Topy soles are usually about the thickness of a credit card. Though some can be much more rugged and provide you heavy traction.
So ultimately a topy is layer of rubber applied to your shoes. It provides protection to your leather soles from the elements. More on this shortly.
What Kinds of Soles Are There?
A shoemaker, like Allen Edmonds for example, has a wide range of choice when it comes to what sole to finish their shoe with. A leather sole is a historically popular choice.
Some people mistake a leather sole for a wooden sole. Unless you're wearing clogs, that's not the case.
A leather sole is made from layers of thick leather processed and pressed into a sheet. They become extremely hard and durable. They are still flexible and are likely the most attractive sole for dress shoes. Sometimes a shoemaker will paint leather soles to give them a certain look.
J. Redenbach, also known as JR, leather soles are considered some of the best leather soles on the market. These German soles are often seen on quality footwear.
A close up of a high quality leather sole with a little bit of wear. You can see how they can get gnarly fairly quickly. These by Zonkey Boot.
Leather soles, while attractive, have draw backs. They are a nightmare to walk with on slippery surface. Hardwood, marble, or carpet will have you feeling like you're on a sheet of ice. Especially if they are new soles.
They are also worn down quicker in bad weather conditions. Water, salt, or snow can break down a pair of leather soles fast.
Leather shoes would always have leather soles until recently because leather was all we had!
Since shoe material technology has advanced we now a wide range of options. This usually means some type of rubber bottom. Rubber soles provide better durability and grip. Since we are wearing more casual shoes than ever we don't always need a sleek leather sole.
A Dainite sole, is increasingly popular. Of British origin, they are hard rubber sole and act and look a bit like leather soles. They have more grip and traction too, and provide better protection from water. Common on boots or a shoe made for more rugged wear.
While not branded "Dainite" this is what one looks like. On a pair of Crockett & Jones Pembrokes. A rugger sole for a rugged shoe.
A crepe sole is made from natural crepe rubber. It provides the most comfort out of our list. Also popular for boots. It is chunky and will wear poorly in wet conditions though.
Vibram soles are another great choice. Vibram is so popular that the brand name is synonymous with the item! Vibram half soles, for example, are really just a topy.
These are only a few examples. There are many options.
Side profile of the above Dainite sole. Very sleek still.
Note that topy soles can't be applied to soles that are already rubber. Only on leather. A cobbler simply glues the topy on top of your leather sole.
Why Would I Want A Topy?
There are two main reasons you'd want a topy.
First is that a topy splits the difference between a rubber sole and a leather sole. You get the feel of a leather sole and the sleek look. You also get more durability and less slipperiness. This is especially true if you also get a rubber heel.
This alone is reason enough to get one for many people. If you live in a place that is frequently raining or snowing (in other words any Canadian city) they are wonderful. If your office is all carpet or marble floors and you don't want to slip around, they've got you covered. No more sheet of ice.
Side profile. One with a topy and one without. Fairly hard to tell the difference, even from this close.
Second is a repair stand point. Not everyone lives close to a good cobbler who can perform great repair work. If you have a high end shoe you might not trust your local cobbler to replace your soles. That is a tough job to do well.
By having topy soles (which is an easy job/repair) you don't have to worry about this. When you wear through your topy sole you can simply have them replaced. A new pair is glued on. No need to replace the whole shoe sole.
If that is a concern, topy soles can save you from a poor repair job or the expense of sending your shoe back to the manufacturer. A wonderful option if you don't live in a big city and want to wear nice shoes or boots.
What If I Don't Want To Get A Topy?
Regardless of topy or no topy, always start with shoe care 101. Use shoe trees, regularly brush your shoes, and condition and polish as needed. That keeps leather healthy.
Remember how we said your soles are leather too? When was the last time you took care of them? Your soles need attention too.
Thankfully, Saphir makes a product for that. Saphir Sole Guard is specially formulated to hydrate, nourish, and protect the sole of your shoe.
It is a vegetable oil base that adds essential nutrients to the sole. This keeps them supple and flexible. The fats in the oils are also hydrophobic (repel water) so they help keep water out. All this increases longevity.
Apply a generous coat to any pair of leather soles with a spatula brush or a soft cloth. Allow them to dry overnight before wearing.
Reapply every 2-3 months.
Regardless of which route you choose to take you can now make an informed decision.
Let us know, do you like a raw leather sole or you do prefer a topy?
You can’t really put a topy on a crepe sole. It would be difficult to have the glue keep it on there. Additionally, it won’t have as much benefit as crepe is fairly grippy (on dry conditions, at least). So I would recommend you wear and enjoy your crepe soles as they are.
Is it possible/wise to put a Topy on a crepe sole? E.g. chukka boots?
Many thanks for your informative website!
I live in England. There are “similars” available, but not quite the quality and thinness of the Topy`s I used to get.Always had them put on before I ever wore the shoes.
Yes! It can be a bit tricky. We find most local cobblers will have several options. Especially if you live in a larger city. If you’re in a Canadian city, let us know and we can see if we know somewhere that might do it for you locally.
Topy every time! But difficult to find a repairer who stocks it.