Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are Shoe Serious?: Materials & Parts of a Shoe

What are your shoes made out of?
Pretty much your shoes can be made out of ANYTHING. I'm going to go over the most basic types of materials and then we'll get a little more specific. If you are a Vegan then this can be very important for you... or if you are someone who likes to just shop American, Italian, etc.
Shoe Label

Shoe Label
If you want to know what your shoe is made of this is the first thing you are going to check. This is usually located on the tongue of the shoe or inside the shoe near the heel area.  The shoe label will tell you the materials used to make the shoe, the size and sometimes even the country where the shoe was manufactured.
Nine West Women's Caetlin Ankle-Strap Sandal,Pink Leather,8.5 M US
Leather Shoe

Common Materials Used to Make Shoes
Leather: Most common material used for shoes. This material has a distinct smell. You'll know it once you smell it...just walk into a leather goods store.  This material is skin of an animal... usually cattle but it can pretty much be any animal (ie: buck, snake, crocodile, ostrich, etc). Leather shoes break in nicely and last a very long time. 
    Patent Leather 
    • Patent Leather: This is a type of leather that is finished with linseed oil. It gives it a very high gloss look.  A lot of men's tuxedo shoes are made from this as well as women's heels. Patent leather is not  known for comfort so don't seek out patent leather when looking for something comfortable to wear.  They are known more for their sleek look and elegance. 
  • Suede: This is another form of leather however it is the "under side" of the animal skin and has a napped looked. That is why it looks a bit different. I LOVE SUEDE SHOES. They break in very nicely and once dyed the color is very vivid. Also, suede shoes tend to be less expensive than any other type of leather shoe.
    • Microfiber
    • Nubuck
        Funtasma Women's Hunter-200 Boot,Brown Microfiber,9 M US
      • This is a great alternative to suede because its artificial and if done well looks almost exactly the same. Its common to find microfiber on boots.  Oh yes and not to mention microfiber is super cheap so if you have a low budget microfiber is your friend.
  • Nubuck: This is another form of leather but the leather has been buffed and has a slight nap. I find that this material tends to be very flexible and comfortable. 
  • Satin: This is another formal material. Its made from nylon, polyester or silk. You will only find dress styles made from satin. Through out my shoe shopping adventures I have learned that satin shoes never run true to size! So listen to your shoe sales person if they mention that to you. 
  • Fabric: Your shoes can be made out of anything!! I've seen shoes made from straight cotton fabric, twill, embossed materials (faux snake, sequins, glitter)
  • Calf Hair: I know what you are thinking "Are you serious"... yes. All of those "hairy" shoes you see at department stores... well they aren't real leopard. Its CALF HAIR.  This is commonly seen during the winter months. Warning: After excessive wear the hair will eventually fall out and you will have a bald shoe.
  • Canvas: This is a very light but strong material that usually made from cotton. It is very popular during the spring and summer!!
    Big Buddha Arlene (Beige)
    Big Buddha Handbag
  • Leatherette: This material is your best friend if you are animal friendly. Though I will say that there are many companies that can fool just about any one with the quality of their leatherette. You just have to shop well. This material mimics the look of leather while using all man-made materials.  I have noticed that a lot of retailers have made deals with PETA and other organizations promising not to use leather on their hand bags. So if you'd like a good example of leatherette check out companies like Big Buddha.

Parts of a Shoe
There are 4 main parts of a shoe.

Parts of a Shoe
  •  upper
  •  instep
  • sole/balance
    • insole
    • outer sole
  • heel
The upper of a shoe is the part that actually goes on your foot and is most visible. This is the section of the shoe that holds your foot in. :) Easy as that. The inside of the upper houses what I call the "shoe label" which will tell you what the upper and balance are made out of. This is the spot you want to check out first if you are very specific on the types of shoes you wear.

This is the portion of the shoe that covers the area between the start of your leg and the end of your toes (which is also called an instep). Shoes that tend to have an instep are T-strap, Athletic Shoes, Gladiator styles, Trouser shoes, Boots, etc.  If you have a very high instep it can prove difficult to buy the styles I just mentioned. 

Okay so there are technically 3 parts to a sole but we are going to only cover two: the outer sole and insole.
  • Outer Sole: This is the area that touches the ground. This can be made from any material really... leather, rubber, wood, fabric, etc.
  • Insole: This is the part of the shoe that your foot rests on. Usually you want this portion to feel soft and comfortable. 9 out 10 times that is not the case with heels. lol 
This where your heel sits. This almost always the most elevated portion of a shoe. If you read the previous article you will see that heels can be made from a number of materials (cork, wood, leather, etc). Shoes that are less expensive can actually just be lined with a more expensive material and the inside will be plastic.

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