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Polyurethane soles crumble, disintegrate: Walking Cradles, Ecco, others

I loved Walking Cradles until I had two pair, several years apart, suddenly crumble while I was wearing them. One I had worn quite frequently, the other I had stored in my closet and were practically new, was wearing them on a trip away from home. Looking on the Internet I see that numerous people had similar experiences with Ecco shoes.

It seems the culprit is polyurethane soles. Evidently manufacturers expect these soles to last 2-5 years. Ecco shoes have been recommended here in the past. I wonder if anyone has changed their opinion of certain shoes because of this issue.
Are there any brands that are very comfortable that do not have this issue? Is there a way I can look at the soles of shoes in my closet and tell if I am likely to have this problem?

Posted by
20259 posts

My first pair of Ecco's bought in 2010 wore out very quickly, about 4 years. Next pair were a bit better, lasting 6 or 7 years. Problem is they fit my feet so well and are so comfortable, I put up with them. The particular model can be hard to find, so when I spied a pair last year, I bought them so I would have a reserve pair when my current ones wear out, but so far, they are holding up pretty good.

Posted by
27233 posts

I'm a bargain hunter if I shop at all. In the past I sometimes bought two or three pairs of the same shoe if I found it at a really good price. I no longer do that since I realized the shoes were sometimes disintegrating as they sat in the box. I've had the leather crack, not just problems with man-made materials.

My travel shoes don't have a chance to undergo the sort of deterioration you're reporting, because I just plain wear them out over the course of a single trip with 800 or so miles or walking.

Posted by
8525 posts

I have one pair of Eccos > 10 years old still going strong. Four others newer but not showing any unusual wear on the soles. I've had some non-Ecco workbooks where soles crumbled from UV, off gassing and oil exposure, but I don't know what they were made of. My understanding from our safety people that this was expected.

Posted by
159 posts

A pair of SAS sandals I purchased a several years ago crumbled. I seldom wore them as I live in a sandy area and didn't want to get them damaged by sand. They had been stored in a closet. Well, I wore them to a 4th of July parade a few years ago and while walking back to my vehicle after the parade they fell apart, crumbled. Was I ever surprised. I had never experienced such a thing before. And haven't since. The sandals were likely 4-5 years old at the time of their demise. What the soles were comprised of I have no idea. But after reading thecarters post I suspicion polyurethane.

Thanks for likely solving my mystery!

Traveler Girl

Posted by
14058 posts

Interesting you should mention this. I was on a small group tour in Northern England in May and the guide's Eccos separated from the sole at the toe one day when we were out and about. He said he goes thru a pair a year BUT he also walks way more than most people do so he felt he'd gotten his money's worth out of them.

Long ago and far away I was on a hiking trip in the mountains of Montana and a couple, wearing the same brand of boots and bought at the same time had their boots blow out on a trail. Very weird. First one, then a few miles later the other. The hiking guide had duct tape so got them together enough to last to the end of the trail.

Posted by
57 posts

I don't know about Walking Cradles, but I have been wearing the Ecco Yucatan sandals for the past 5 years. They are not cheap, ($100+) and are a very comfortable "hiking sandal". Mine look pretty beat up, however, nothing wrong with the soles and structure of the shoe has held up very well and I will keep using them as hiking sandals. They are very highly rated on Amazon and other independent sites that just rate hiking sandals in general. I just bought a new pair that I will take to Europe because as I said they are comfortable and can be used for light hiking and walking around town. I have zero concern about the sole crumbling.

If you have experience with a brand of shoes crumbling I would not buy that brand again, but I am not sure I would avoid other brands. Below is a link that has information on polyurethan use in hiking boots, it might explain some of the problem:
https://www.12degnorth.com/single-post/hydrolysis-and-tips-to-avoiding-it

Posted by
2708 posts

I had a pair of Ecco’s on our RS Sicily tour. These shoes were old in years but not in wear as I saved them for travel. Walking in Taormina one sole literally snapped in half. Since I pack light this would have been a real hardship had we not been in a place where there are a number of shoe stores. So, yes, it happens. I think many brands use similar materials as do other items. I’ve had a travel umbrella crumble as well.

Posted by
120 posts

I’m so glad you posted this - I mean I’m sorry it happened to you, but before reading this I had never heard of it happening to anyone but me.

I had a pair of Swedish clogs for years- don’t remember the brand - that were sooo comfortable. Leather upper, thick polyurethane soles. A few years ago I was wearing them at work, and suddenly they began to feel very strange, as if my heels were lower than my toes. I looked down and saw that the soles were crumbling, then I looked behind me, and all the way down the hall I had left small black bits of my shoes. It looked like Hansel and Gretel had left breadcrumbs to find their way back. As I retraced my steps, I saw that I had been leaving these crumbs all day, and hadn’t noticed until enough of the soles had been lost that the shoes felt different. I taped them up with duct tape to make it through the rest of the day (lovely – lol), which didn’t make walking any easier, but kept me from leaving more crumbs all over the building. I threw them out as soon as I got home.

Posted by
3264 posts

I had a pair of wonderful and expensive Josef Seibel shoes - possibly the most comfortable shoes I ever owned - until the soles started disintegrating on a business trip. It turns out that I was the disgusting person leaving a trail of black crumbles (what exactly was that ***"?) all over the office. I had to go shopping in a blizzard to find new shoes.

I was mad enough to put them in a hotel laundry bag and return them to the store where I bought them. It turns out that the shoes were a bit older than I thought, and was I ever glad that I was polite and had enough money to buy a new pair of shoes.

Posted by
8729 posts

I swear by Keens brand. Have lace ups, sandals, boots, and slip ons. Costly, comfortable, and durable. Have been to UK, Cuba with them. Wear their Uneek sandals daily here in LA.

Posted by
14058 posts

@samatudd and Estimated Prophet....while it was not funny at the time, it's pretty funny now with you 2 leaving black crumbles down halls and corridors. Yikes.

Posted by
120 posts

Pam - lol - It was actually kind of funny at the time - I was embarassed that I was making such a mess, so I kept trying to clean up my crumbles and at the same time leaving more, and while I was doing that I could also imagine the big picture of what the whole situation must look like and it was quite hilarious. And of course people who saw me trying to clean up my mess asked me what in the world I was doing and what were those weird crumbles anyway, so I was earnestly explaining to them about my shoes and that I didn’t want to leave a mess and the whole time I was talking I kept thinking “This is ridiculous - just stop talking!” But I kept explaining and cleaning. And laughing at myself.

Posted by
378 posts

I had a pair of sandals suddenly crumble on my very short walk from car to office. I put rubber bands around them on my feet so I could have a bit of protection as I walked back to my car. Headed to a nearby G B Shoes, walked/shuffled in, leaving crumbles along the way, told the clerk about my issue, then trashed what was left of my shoes. Found a quick replacement and headed back to work. (Returning home wasn’t an option - that would take 30+ minutes each way). The leather uppers were still in good shape when the soles crumbled.

Posted by
729 posts

I bought a pair of Ecco leather walking shoes 7 years ago which are holding up really well. With a little polish they look virtually new even after 7 years and many miles walking on challenging surfaces. There's little discernible wear on the soles with no breaking up. They are really useful because black appears dressy enough for the symphony. I think the sizes and fit are much better for me than any of the other shoes available.

Posted by
355 posts

I wear only SAS shoes now because I have a hard to find size (very narrow). I have had multiple pairs that lasted for years and have never had a problem. They are all very comfortable for walking.

Posted by
345 posts

ha, this brings back a memory! many years ago i had the sole of a wolvarine boot suddenly fall apart on me. the not funny part of this was that i was shooting a movie in a multi-million dollar home in palm springs. goes without saying that the producer and the homeowner were not happy. never bought another pair of wolverines again.

Posted by
159 posts

Linda,

Even though my SAS sandals fell apart I continue to like the brand. In 1985 I purchased a pair of SAS shoes to wear on a trip to Europe. They were worn a lot in subsequent years. I still have them and wear them for short stints in the flower garden! They are in good shape, except for the paint on them. I wore them while renovating a house.

Traveler Girl

Posted by
10261 posts

This is the exact reason I always travel with 2 pairs of shoes. If you only have the shoes on your feet and something happens you’re in big trouble.

Posted by
14058 posts

Andrea, you are right about having a back up pair. I just would never find anything to fit if my one pair went to pieces. I didn't take a back up last fall to Italy and worried in the background of my cluttered mind the whole time.

Posted by
331 posts

I thought it was just me! I didn’t realize this was a thing.

The soles of a pair of Munro sneakers fell apart on me at a physical therapy appointment. I mentioned to the PT that I was feeling particularly wobbly that day - what did he think that might be? We turned the shoes over to see the heels were gone! I was mortified (for a minute.)

The shoes had been sitting in my closet unworn for several years. So there’s that.

OP I’ll be interested to hear from others if there are any tell-tale signs of imminent sole disintegration. Now I will be checking the integrity of my footwear more often.

Posted by
1 posts

Ecco also uses bad materials for their insoles. I have a barely used pair of Eccos that I wore today, several years old.

Shoes are in great shape and seemed to be fine. But when I took them off, my socks were runied with crumbled orange material from the insoles, which are disintegrating.

Expensive shoes with bad quality materials. Say no to Ecco.

Posted by
46 posts

I bought a pair of Ecco low booties in 2010 for $130 from Zappos. I haven't worn them much over the years, but when I did it was just around town (on sidewalks). I'd estimate that I'd worn them MAYBE a dozen times since I bought them.

This week I went on a trip to New Mexico and thought it would be nice to wear these booties with jeans. I wore them for a couple of days, walking on sidewalks or in stores. Tonight I noticed that they were sticking to the floor in my hotel room for some reason. When I took them off I realized that they are totally breaking on the bottom. The rubber bottom is crumbling and is falling apart! The booties are in almost new condition except for the bottoms. I am extremely disappointed because I thought that Ecco was a high quality brand. Fortunately, they are not the only shoes I brought with me on my trip!

I did some research and came across this from a consumer watchdog website:
https://ctwatchdog.com/business/ecco-shoes-warning-almost-new-expensive-shoes-disintegrate

So I'm not alone. LOTS of people have experienced the exact same thing. The bottoms of their Ecco shoes or boots disintegrate after a few years, even if they haven't been worn much.

I submitted a complaint to Ecco and I'll see if they'll reimburse me. If not, maybe Zappos can help me or the local TV consumer reporter. I've never seen anything like this!

One thing is for sure: I doubt that I will spend any money on Ecco shoes ever again, and I will certainly never take a pair of their shoes on a trip! It makes me wonder about other shoes that have that same sort of rubbery bottom -- will those also disintegrate with no notice??? Is this a widespread problem with the rubbery bottomed shoes and boots?

So, I guess there a few morals to this story:

  1. Take at least two different pairs of shoes on a trip
  2. Make sure none of them are Ecco
  3. Make sure that at least one pair does NOT have a rubbery bottom
Posted by
729 posts

It's disappointing to hear so many people have had bad experiences with Ecco shoes. I purchased Ecco walking shoes that can pass for dress shoes way back in 2015 and have walked many miles during our travels the past 6 years. I use them for the most rugged surfaces and alternate occasionally with lighter weight NB trainers. I've waterproofed and polished the Ecco leather several times and see very little wear and the soles seem to have barely aged. The soles seem more like thick rubber than polyurethane and have certainly held up better than any other brand I've had in the the past few decades. I can't find any evidence that they are breaking down. I suppose I just got lucky.

Posted by
2425 posts

I suspect different sole materials are used by any given shoe manufacturer, so the whole brand might not be suspect. I guess it's a buyer beware and read the labels kind of thing.

I have worn a number of Aravon shoes for years with no issues, but I had a sole on one pair disintegrate while walking in NYC last year. I kinda regret leaving them. The uppers were in great shape and I should have had them resoled because I'm having trouble finding a suitable replacement.

Posted by
2749 posts

My Ecco’s have held up incredibly well. I had one pair of their sports sandals and after wearing them for about five or six years they did fall apart. I would say by that point I had gotten more than my moneys worth out of them. I think they cost $100 so $20 a year with a lot of wear in the summer. They’re not supposed to last for an eternity.

Posted by
269 posts

Like Liz in PA, I also had a pair of Aravon sandals that were my go-to summer travel shoes. I lived everything about them, absolutely ideal, and then one day when I pulled them out of the closet to wear them, there it was! The crumbling sole everyone is mentioning! I was pretty disappointed, but assumed that because I hadn't worn them in a while, they had developed a case of dry rot in protest. I had no reason to think this was an inherent material defect. Like Liz, it probably would have been prudent to resole them, as the uppers were pristine. After reading this post, I looked up their site on the internet, and lo and behold, PU soles.

Thank you for posting to let all of us be more informed when making choices in the future!

Posted by
350 posts

I had a pair of Swedish clogs for years- don’t remember the brand - that were sooo comfortable. Leather upper, thick polyurethane soles. A few years ago I was wearing them at work, and suddenly they began to feel very strange, as if my heels were lower than my toes. I looked down and saw that the soles were crumbling, then I looked behind me, and all the way down the hall I had left small black bits of my shoes.

This really made me laugh. And I kept laughing because I can totally imagine the situation.

I never had Ecco shoes but I did have several pairs of Dansko clogs. This was way back in 2000s when Dansko was just becoming popular in the US. I had these pair of oxblood red leather Dansko professional clogs (dressy) which I wore sometimes. At one point, I put them away and did not wear them for about maybe a year. I took them out one day and wore them and soon saw crumbly bits. I looked at my soles and touched them. It felt sticky and a chunk of the sole was gone. I don't know if the soles are made of polyurethane but the soles look to have devulcanized (when petroleum products that have been solidified return to its natural state of being more liquid-like).

I did go to a shoe repair shop to see if something could be done. Because the soles are molded, the cobbler said there's no way to repair it. The whole sole would be crumbling away. The leather upper was still very, very good though. I threw out the shoes. I think back in the 2000s, these cost maybe $120?

I haven't worn Dansko shoes since maybe 2012 or so. I don't wear clogs any more....

Posted by
60 posts

Thanks for posting this. Lo and behold, I too had a pair of slightly worn ecco shoes from years ago. The soles were decomposing and luckily, I caught it before they ruin the carpet. I packed up those slimy shoes and sent them out. We're see what happens, but thanks for the heads up.