When it comes to shoes it’s sometimes hard to establish what makes a quality pair. Is it the brand itself? The way the shoes look? Their longevity? Or is it the finer aspects in how they’re put together that define their quality? The truth is that a combination of these factors come into play, and it’s important to establish what you should look for before parting with your money.
A good quality pair of shoes can cost a fair bit, however they’re also likely to last a great deal longer than a cheaper alternative, and that’s why we’ve looked at the things you should take into account when buying your next pair.
Production of the shoe
While the production of the shoe itself can’t be witnesses by you as the end user, keep in mind that mass produced shoes in large workshops are likely to lack quality. While a degree of quality control might take place to ensure there aren’t any major blemishes on the shoes, the attention given to with workmanship of each shoe is minimal with the vast majority of the process being automated.
Quality shoes on the other hand are more often made in smaller warehouses with more work being done by hand and as such a greater level of concentration and time being committed to each shoe. The epitome of fine footwear comes in the form of bespoke shoes, which are made to fit an individual’s foot perfectly and pieced together to suit their exact style preferences.
The material is one of the defining aspects of a shoe. A high quality pair should be made from premium materials, and this includes the sole as well as the upper of the shoe. The leather used for the upper part of the shoes can come in many forms. To broadly break it down leather comes in a number of grades, with the lower grade number representing a higher quality of leather. Beyond graded leather you have synthetic leathers which are man made using a mixture of raw materials – something that should be avoided if you care about the quality of your shoes.
The grade of the leather isn’t the only thing that needs to be considered, as each grade has further subgrades. A grade 1 hide still has sections of leather which are better (such as the spine) than others (such as the belly). The way a cobbler uses a hide can differentiate and ultimately set 2 shoes made from grade 1 leather apart. In many cases the better parts of the hide will be used for the most prominent and important sections of the shoe such as the toe cap, while the remaining hide is used for other areas such as the heel. The absolute finest of shoes are made from strictly the best leather on a hide, this approach means far fewer shoes can be made from a single hide but also allows for an all-round better-quality shoe.
As mentioned above, the sole of a shoe can also make for a tell-tale sign in revealing its quality. What you’ll most often find with cheaper shoes is that the sole will be made from rubber. This is primarily because rubber is a cheaper material to source than leather or wood – and is a clear indication that costs have been cut in the production of the shoes. It should be noted that some lower quality shoes might have what appears to be leather soles, however in many cases this is often a cheaper leather or a synthetic material.
Another difference in the sole of shoes that lack quality is that they’re usually glued on as opposed to stitched. Stitching the sole on is a more time and labour intensive production process and in some cases can require a greater degree of skill (for techniques such as inseaming), however provides a sole which is likely to remain attached to the shoe for far longer. A shoe which has had its sole stitched on is a good sign that it’s been made by a skilled cobbler who has most likely taken similar care with the rest of the shoe.
Just like a suit, the fit of a shoe also determines its quality, and this is where bespoke shoes come into their own. While there are a whole host of high end ready-made shoes made from premium fabrics fetching high prices, they don’t offer the tailored fit of bespoke shoes. Granted they might be comfortable, but they’ll struggle to compete with the fit of a shoe that’s been designed specifically for your foot.
Steer clear of wearing shoes that cause discomfort. There are far too many people who persist on wearing uncomfortable shoes for the sake of looking good, however dressing well is just as much about how you look as it is about how it makes you feel, and sore feet won’t ever leave you pleased.
We’ve addressed some of the key factors that can help differentiate a quality shoe. Remember a quality pair of shoes should last you anywhere between 3-5 years which is why they’re a worthwhile investment. Just be sure you know what you’re looking for so you aren’t left paying over the odds for mediocre footwear.