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Will Your Footwear Survive the Holiday Shopping Run?

A new festive season will soon be upon us and with that comes cold wet winters in many parts of the world with many people pulling out their old winter boots, or replacing them with new ones. Festive gifts will also be exchanged, including boots, shoes, slippers and high summer footwear. But what of the technical advancements made over the past 120 years? What benefits can people now expect from their footwear, compared with the footwear on offer over a century ago? Should people be concerned about the health and safety risks of modern footwear?

Materials Evolution

A hundred years ago, boots were traditionally made using old heavy cow hide leather, with commonly utilized leather soles and heels nailed and or stitched on and the very basics of comfort systems added. Additionally, with the lack of anti-bacterial systems and modern tanning techniques, bad smells were a common issue. Health and Safety advancements such as improving slip resistance, ankle and leg support and reinforcing vulnerable areas of the foot was not possible at the time due to the lack of modern technology and available materials. Although leather has good breathable, warmth and protection properties, it lacks in slip, abrasion and price when compared to modern materials.

Boots are not the only footwear that has advanced technically over the years. Technical advancements have occurred with some of the oldest forms of footwear including espadrilles and flipflops, which were previously made up of leather, twine and wood. Wood and twine are in fact still used in footwear today; however, modern advancements in rubbers and plastics have considerably increased the performance of footwear.  Depending on the footwear and the environment it is being developed for, sole materials – including PVC, TR, EVA and vulcanised rubber - have now replaced the outdated leather ones.

Footwear Quality Improvements

Other materials, such as upper materials, also have progressed and now offer higher flexibility, water resistance, warmth and dryness. PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) has developed to make an increased impact within the footwear industry; this has offered technical advancements in protecting the foot, such as slip, oil, static and heat resistance. Advances also have been made in steel toecaps, metal plated insoles and ankle protection; the list goes on, depending on the specialist type of footwear involved.

Underfoot comfort has vastly improved with materials such as Poron and Memory Foam being used in footbeds, particularly in sporting products. Footbed covers and lining materials have advanced, offering greater comfort, and added moisture wicking properties which help to move moisture away from the foot. This helps to keep the foot dry, just as thermal properties keep the foot warm. Anti-bacterial agents are used in footbeds of today, to help reduce the unpleasant smells found in damp footwear.

Improvements also have been made to the water resistant properties of footwear, with upper materials, seam sealants, waxed threads, water resistant linings, or even inner bag constructions, which add to the vast improvement of water resistant footwear.

Chemicals used in developing more modern materials, are now under the spotlight, with many government and private companies actively reviewing the substances used in modern footwear and replacing them with more environmentally friendly ones.

With all these advancements within the footwear industry, people around the world can feel confident over the festive season, in the knowledge that their footwear will be as technically  advanced as any in today’s market and safe to wear. They also will have the added confidence to know that a company such as SGS can reassure them that the footwear is fit for their intended purpose.

Find out more information on SGS Services for the Footwear Industry.

Karen E. Kyllo, Ph.D.
Deputy Vice President, Global Softlines
SGS North America Inc.
t: +1 973 461 7934

About SGS

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 70,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,350 offices and laboratories around the world.