There is more to a shoe than meets the eye. To be able to determine if a shoe is sustainable or durable you can look at the components. A shoe has a lot of hidden components to ensure the firmness and comfort.
The upper part of the shoe
The upper part of the shoe has a visible upper material, with a lining underneath that you can see on the inside of the shoe (mostly leather, plastic or a textile fabric), a toe puff and a heal counter for firmness (mostly plastic or leather). Depending on the model it can also have padding, laces, cushioning and eyelets. All these components are either sewn or glued together.
The bottom of the shoe
The bottom of the shoe has a lot of components; the insole (leather, EVA or a plastic material), a metal shank for firmness, a midsole, cork filling, a heel pad, a welt, an outer sole and heel (mostly leather, rubber or EVA and plastic materials) and a heel tip (rubber). High heels starting from 2 inches also have a screw inside to insure firmness. Depending on the model a shoe contains all, or some of these components. The parts are sewn and glued together depending on the model and quality of the shoe.
The more sustainable choices are for example organic fabric and sewing thread, recycled plastic or naturally tanned leather. One might argue if leather may be considered sustainable at all, but I choose to add leather to the examples, because it commonly is a by-product of the meat industry (source: MVO-Nederland).
EVA (a wear-resistant plastic) has a lot of benefits, but the material is non-recyclable and therefor not the most sustainable choice. In almost all cases to make a shoe, some kind of glue is used to bind the materials. A natural glue like Hirschkleber can be used, but most shoes are made with a chemical glue, because it dries faster and insures the firmness.
Once you know most of the components, it will be easier to determine whether a brand is producing sustainable shoes or not.
BLOG BY Manuela Boers di Maio
Photo’s: Manuela Boers di Maio