There is nothing more frustrating to the purchase of fine leather shoes than watching them deteriorate prematurely. The least obvious and often most costly damage occurs when friction or walking habits erode leather toes, which requires resoling to repair.
A trip to the cobbler can cost you upwards of $100 depending on the quality and construction of your shoes. Considering this process may be required in as little as a few months of regular wear, the equipped gentleman can install heel and/or toe taps to prevent wear-down on the soles of their dress shoes.
We all walk differently, some men heel forward or other men toe forward. Even more painful than doing this barefoot is gouging the toes of your favorite pair of new shoes. Enter heel and toe taps.
Heel and toe taps bear the wear instead of the outsole or sometimes even the welt of the shoe. The welt is the strip of leather, rubber or plastic stitched to the upper and insole of the shoe. Depending on your gait, your shoes may wear down on the inside or outside of the heel, toe, or, in worst case, the welt of the shoe, which makes it much more expensive come resole time. (Read this post on When to Resole Leather Dress Shoes).
Plastic toe taps can be purchased at most cobblers for as little as $4.00, but we would highly discourage against their use. The problem with plastic toe and heel taps that one can purchase at the store is that they dramatically reduce the stability of shoes because they are affixed on top of the flat surfaces, making it easy for your shoes to slide out from under you.
An experienced cobbler, such as B. Nelsons in New York, can properly install high-quality toe taps to even the finest shoes. In order to prevent a shoe from becoming unstable, metal taps should be installed flush with the sole.
You will not notice taps on your shoes after you walk in them a bit, but if the feeling concerns you, these “sunken” taps may be the right solution.
The above picture from Ich-Dien on the Style Forum shows sunken metal taps on the heels and toes of leather soles.