Comfort – a thing of the past?

The Toggler blog
Published:  25 November, 2013
The Toggler

In the 1980’s and 1990’s there was a lot of discussion about comfort in consumer products and shoes in particular. Sore feet at trade fairs or when wearing inappropriate shoes are not pleasant. So whatever happened to comfort, nothing has been heard on this topic for the last 10-20 years. So as we deal with leather prices, hide supply and finding out what our competitors are doing, we have forgotten a key characteristic of leather, for shoes it is the material that provides the most comfort – and we don’t mention it anymore!

Approximately, 50% of the world’s leather is still consumed by the shoemaking sector. Do they realise what a wonderful material they have at their disposal, I think not. The first characteristic that is noteworthy is the fact that it breathes. The fibrous nature of leather means that there is a lot of space (air) in leather. This makes it a wonderful insulator and also enables it to breathe; air and moisture from perspiration can move reasonably freely through the material. This means that the foot remains cool inside the shoe – provided we don’t destroy this. Many brown leathers and suede’s preserve this quality in their structure. PU coated and action leather splits, heavily finished leather and the mass of foil-coated leathers have all totally destroyed this key aspect of leather quality. They may look OK, be fashionable and meet market demands but we have forgotten that in the process we have discarded a unique characteristic of leather.

Another key characteristic of leather is its ability to take the shape of the foot that inhabits a shoe; over time the shoe moulds itself to some extent to the foot shape. Leather does this because it can behave both plastically (be extended and stay extended) and elastically (be extended and come back to its original shape). Synthetics eg PU materials and PVC do not do this.

It is time again to remember the old values and not treat leather as an expensive version of a synthetic material. Leather has many unique characteristics that are ideal for shoe making and create a level of comfort way above these other materials. Let us remember this and not destroy the wonderful attributes in our chase for price and fashion.

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