On Doc Martens: Was I alone in experiencing these problems?

At school I used to wear Dr Martens shoes which had a certain cachet amongst the other students – yet they were “orthopaedic”, and therefore probably good for me, and therefore they were one of the few things which my parents could afford / would buy but which by coincidence also aligned with a counterculture which made school marginally easier.

So at least my shoes were “OK”.

However my memories of them is that they were terrible: the foot bed would sink, the “Air Ware” soles would blow-out, crack, or split along one the “strata” along the edge, and I can’t count the number of times I had to do the “heat up an old knife on the stove, insert into the hole, melt the plastic and press together trick”.

Also: once the tread was gone the shoe’s soles were glossy and afforded little grip. And they leaked, because of the aforementioned sole issues.

Was this me, or was this everyone doing this but just not complaining?

29 Replies to “On Doc Martens: Was I alone in experiencing these problems?”

  1. I dunno. I’ve had a pair of the boots for about four years now. I only wear them during the winter, and they’ve shown very little signs of wear. The soles are solid.

    They do encourage the Peeler skill of proceeding.

    Vimes’ Theory of Boots perhaps?

  2. On the other hand, most kids/womens boots/shoes are an order of magnitude worse made than DMs.

    When walking to/from work each day, it took me about a month (two if they’re well-made) to wear through a ‘normal’ pair of shoes, whilst it took about a year to destroy a pair of DMs.

    David estimates the cost of shoes to be ~10p per mile – approximately of the same order of magnitude as the cost of petrol for the same mileage in a normal family car.

    This is based on the number of pairs he wore out as a member of the LDWA, doing 20 mile walks on a regular basis.

  3. I’ve worn almost nothing but DMs on my feet for about 20 years, and had none of the sole problems you describe. I find the soles invariably outlast the uppers. You’re a big bloke. Are you generally hard on footwear?

  4. I’m afraid that my family couldn’t afford Doc Martens, so had to wear Clarks instead. They had other sole-based issues (split across the ball of the foot), though usually died due to scuffing of the toe (or I merely grew out of them).

    The shoes with the worst sole problems I found were “Hush Puppies”. Within a year the plastic sole perished. The ball of the foot section split straight across and the heel became a gooey mess.

    1. Interesting; I moved onto Clarks eventually (“Natureveldt”) but dumped them at UCL because the rounded edge to the heel meant I kept turning my foot over and then having to hobble around for a couple of weeks.

      Then moved to a combination of walking boot and Dunlop “Green Flash” which were a lot nicer then than they are now.

  5. Yes, my Doc Martin boots (only had one pair, but they did last a long time, possibly though not wearing them daily) did die of the same problem, and the leather upper cracking and holing. I didn;t know about the heat/seal trick, but they had probably had their day anyway.

    Interestingly my doc martin shoes, bought ages ago for a wedding are still new because I can only wear them a few minutes before they kill my ankle. Rubbing, pressing on the achilles I think.

    My wife destroys heels very rapidly, far less than a year for boots. She is not big, but is not lightfooted and walks a lot.

  6. I remeber all those problems with DMs as a kid, however as an adult I’ve not had those issues. I think the biggest difference is that as a kid I was wearing the same shoes 5+ days a week for hours at a time and doing all sorts of hardwear activities in them that as an adult we buy specialist shoes for. Plus as an adult I just have more pairs of shoes than my parents could afford to supply me with as a kid.

  7. Yup, and it seems we’re not the first to consider DMs overrated:


    I’ve been wearing DM boots for about 17 years. My first pair wore through the card/fibre insole, but I was able to get the soles replaced by the DM factory. On my next pair, I bought semi-disposable gel insoles to improve the comfort and protect that card/fibre insole. They don’t repair the soles any more, since moving manufacturing out of the UK, though.

    So now, my views on DMs are; expensive (£80+ for a pair), needs consumable gel insoles for comfort (£2-3 every 3 months from Lidl), take a few months to break in, then get slippery and less comfortable as the sole and tread harden and wear out. So I’ve sworn of them in favour of cheap walking trainers/boots from Lidl and Aldi at £15 or so a pair. They don’t last a fraction as long (seriously worn after a month, but still hanging in there after 3), but they’re comfortable throughout their entire short life.

  8. i just bought a pair of dr martens 1914 boots and i’m having to take them back to get them replaced as both my air soles are leaking and only wore them round the house when i noticed a small hissing sound, i can see where the air is coming from now. least their replacing them straight away without argument although for £215 i should think they are. but my overseas(made in vietnam) docs have been fine and are showing signs of wear but nothing major to say ive worn them almost everyday.

  9. I’ve been wearing DMs for over 20 years and not had those problems, my only problem with the old ones is that they were a nightmare to break in. I have noticed that since they started making them in Thailand the soles have gone downhill though, they wear out faster and they actually use foam insoles, whereas the older ones had a leather sole inside which moulded to the shape of your foot, the new foam insoles don’t do that, which is a real shame.

  10. Bought a Kenyon pair a week ago and the stitching around the tongue has come off. I went back to the store to get the same pair and when the sales person gave me the new pair to try I noticed the stitching is already off the same area with the new pair ! What a shame !!! Poor quality !

  11. My experience with DM’s has been the upper (leather) and lower (soles) holds up fine but the problem is with the foam below the footbed which starts to deteriorate thus allowing your foot to lean where the foam is collapsing. Not sure if anyone else is experiencing this problem (?) but I just threw away my second pair of DM’s for this reason. Both pairs where purchased in the early to mid 1990’s so I figure I’ve gotten my moneys worth out of them! It’s just sad to see something go that you’ve had so long and enjoyed wearing so much! 🙁

    1. I have had my DM’s since early 80’s and they were second hand then! I had problems with sole of my right foot coming away from the upper about a year ago and had it repaired by local shop. Now both soles are coming away from upper and I don’t know what to do? They have always been so comfy-I bought a pair about a year ago but could not get on with them as they rubbed so gave them away.What can I do?

  12. Purchases a pair of 1490’s end of juli, today the ‘cardboard’ hardening thing making the heel stiff got broken. Also quite noticeable wear on the heel, wouldn’t have expected that to happen so quickly ( admitted 3 months of daily wear, mostly to/from work ).

    Is it normal for the heal to break ?

    1. The heel liner is usually the first thing to go. The last few times I watched out for it happening and they crack at the heel liner within two to three weeks as a prelude to the usual heel leather tear.

    2. The heel reinforcement (polyurethane?) reliably cracks within two weeks most times which allows the leather to flex and split within three months. Has happened with every pair I ever had going back thirty years.

  13. I am a long serving wearer of DMs, first pair purchased in 1973, I purchased a pair of Ben 939s in 1998, they have just bit the dust. Can’t find a replacement pair so have opted for Crazy Horse, when arrived, they were a bit tight, so ordered another pair next size up, after 2 weeks sole has a 50mm split in side of instep by ball of foot, I have sent them back awaiting replacement, so had to use the first pair I bought, even though a bit tight, after 2 weeks, same thing has happened, but split is 100mm. they are not the same as they used to be, seemed to have gone downhill.

  14. I have been wearing DM since 1997. Until now. I bought my first Chinese Martens in 2011, and it is a pair of shit. The soles cracked, and the upper is also in worse condition than my previous boots from 2003. And it was a year to break in.
    “they are not the same as they used to be, seemed to have gone downhill.” I must agree.

  15. Seems to be a common complaint, footwear from the olden days lasted for years, recent stuff, all outsourced, keeps the good brand name, but with zero quality- just returned Camel boots, brashers, and won’t buy DMs anymore……. Douglas Adams was right- the planet will die under layers of crappy shoes.

  16. My husband still wears these boots, we’re in our mid 30’s, just recently, the soles became unglued, so the backs of the heel part are flopping around. These boots are not cheap! I think he has had them for 7 months, I don’t know what kind of return policy there is, we bought them at Journeys, I’m pretty sure they would say we’re on outer own, at this point.

  17. Same problem as Laura T — the sole, upper and even the footbed are pretty much fine, but the inside of the sole is disintegrating, so the footbed is starting to separate. If the foam was stable, this would NOT be happening. VERY disappointed. These are NOT inexpensive sandals.

  18. I read somewhere that the quality gone down since Solovair stopped working with Dr Martens and that Solovair makes boots that look just like Docs but are better quality. Just thought it would be worth a mention.

  19. I wore “English manufactured” Doc Martens in the 70’s (1970+), as I got older I developed foot issues. I got a new pair around 2013, usual boot break-in, they became pretty comfortable on the upper, now the soles are a different matter, in my opinion the soles are not they same as they used to be. I kept hoping they would get better and wore them out, the whole time it was like walking on concrete slabs as they were so hard. No more! I now wear a different brand, they cost 2x more and are probably work type boots, but feel great and good comfortable soles.

  20. 2 pairs of 1460’s with sole spilts in less than a year. Went through a mess trying to get the first pair repaired after only owning them 2 weeks! I finally had Journeys drop ship me a replacement, and they just split on the same place. Outsourced junk. Nothing like the ones I wore for a decade in the 90’s, which were hell to break in, but tough as nails and comfy once broken in. These new ones are soft thin leather, and the soles are garbage. Solovair is who will get my boot money the next do-around.

  21. I’ve had several “sole split” problems with 1461’s and some “Sawyers”. They replaced the 1461’s, waiting on the Sawyers. My shoe repair folks in San Diego tell me not to buy Docs anymore because of so many complaints on “chinese” made boots/shoes. Mine say “Thailand”. Maybe chinese made soles and assembled in Thailand? K

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