What is the rule of thumb on this? Should leather soles be always protected by rubber or can I slip and slide on leathers till a wear them out?
Answer 1 (posted by @zjpj83): No, you do not need to put rubber over the leather soles. They should hold up to the elements just fine. The exposed stitching will be fine and should stand a great deal of wear. In my non-channeled soles (which means soles that do not have an extra piece of leather covering over the exposed stitching), the stitching has started to fray in the toe only after a lot of wear and the soles have been significantly worn down.
Of course, you may get a thin layer of rubber glued over, but it is not necessary at all. Be happy that you have a nice pair of leather-soled shoes!
Answer 2 (posted by @Charley): The wear you experience on the shoe sole will be determined by how hard you wear the shoes. I'm referring to frequency of wear. If you have enough so that you only wear them once a week, they can last a very long time. If you try to wear them every day, particularly following a day when the shoes, and particularly the soles, got very wet, the rate of wear will increase very fast as the wear is taking place on softened leather.
Answer 3 (posted by @RagnorakPA): I wouldn't replace the soles--if for no other reason than the sound of leather soles in an empty cathedral sounds great. I would recommend getting "taps" for the toe and heel to help protect it a bit. These come in either metal or rubber/plastic and are usually nailed in by a cobbler. They're inexpensive ($5-20) and will extend the life of the sole considerably. I'd worry less about the weather and more about walking across the street and accidentally dragging your toe--that's what these will help protect against. If you can't find them--check around a military post to see if they've got them.
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