Shoes - we wear them every day and everywhere. Some of us have multiple pairs, one for every occasion. Running shoes, dress shoes, school shoes, beach sandals, football boots, fashion boots, heels, and wedges.
They make up a big part of our wardrobe, and while some of us love nice shoes, they do much more than bring our outfits together. Shoes keep our feet safe, especially when we’re outdoors. Proper footwear keeps our feet warm and helps prevent slips and falls. For children, appropriate shoes ensure healthy foot development.
But do you ever wonder what your shoes are made of and what type of materials make the best shoes? We discuss this so that you’ll be able to pick the best shoes for you and your children.
What are shoes made of?
Besides its shape, design, size, and color, another important aspect to consider when choosing a pair of shoes is the material it's made of. The following are some common shoe materials you’ve most probably come across.
Leather is a popular shoe material obtained from animal hides (cows, pigs, crocodiles, snakes). It is often chosen for dress shoes as it doesn’t only look good but are also durable and comfortable. Leather shoes are breathable, minimizing the odds of smelly, sweaty feet. Additionally, it's a material that can stretch (to a certain extent) without tearing.
Leather shoes, however, do require some amount of care and can be quite costly. Nonetheless, a pair of genuine, quality leather shoes is often considered a good ‘investment.’
Canvas is a material that is often used for sneakers. It is versatile and easy to clean. Additionally, because it absorbs dyes easily, you will be able to choose from a large variety of colors when buying canvas shoes.
Canvas shoes have another advantage - they retain their shape well because they don't stretch easily. However, this material does not offer much ankle support, and thus, although perfect for casual wear, canvas sneakers should not be worn as sports shoes.
Synthetic leather has many names - PU leather, vegan leather, faux leather, and alternative leather. It is made from artificial materials such as polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride, and plastic or natural materials such as cactus, apple peels, cork, fruit waste, and mushrooms.
Although regarded as imitation leather, synthetic leather is versatile, easy to work with, and rich in color. In addition, high-quality vegan leather is comparable to animal leather in durability. Thus, your synthetic leather shoes can last almost as long as genuine leather shoes if you take good care of them.
For more on synthetic leather shoes, read ‘Vegan Leather: Why You Should Choose It.’
Textiles or fabric is also a common material used for shoes. Textile shoes come in many styles, colors, and varieties. With proper care, shoes made from textile can be worn for quite a long time. Common textiles used for shoes include:
- Cotton - lightweight, easy to clean, and typically comfortable for the wearer.
- Polyester - Quick-drying, flexible, and shrink resistant.
- Nylon - Insulated, affordable, and very durable
- Propylene - Able to resist most chemicals and withstand pressure
- Wool - Keeps feet warm and thus, popular in wintertime
- Rayon - Soft and comfortable
- Lycra - Strong and durable, elastic, and able to stretch.
- Denim - Durable, easy to clean, and affordable
Besides using textiles for the outer parts of the shoes, textiles such as microfiber are used for shoe linings and insoles.
Natural rubber is used to make the shoe soles. Latex is extracted from rubber trees and processed into natural rubber, which is flexible, abrasion-resistant, elastic, and wear damage resistant.
Rubber-soled shoes are economical and eco-friendly (natural rubber can be recycled), and they’re perfect year-round, no matter the weather.
Read ‘Natural Rubber Vs Synthetic Rubber: Which Is Better For Kids' Shoes?’ for more detailed information on this shoe material.
Foam is often used in the tongues and collars of shoes. It is usually made from plastic and provides support for shoes made from other materials such as leather and textile. Some foam allows air and water to pass through, while others can trap all types of gasses.
Cork is a sustainable material that is sometimes used as an alternative to leather. It gives shoes a vintage look as their appearance will change over time.
Mesh material is cooling, casual and comfortable. It is a good choice for exercise shoes because of their breathability. So you'll be able to stay comfortable when you go for a walk or when you're hitting the weight room. Mesh shoes can be pretty fashionable as well, so it’s a must-have if you’re the active type.
Faux suede is a naturally soft, warm, cozy material perfect for autumn boots. They are practical and very fashionable when paired with leather soles. You’ll be comfortable and able to walk around without your feet hurting in faux suede shoes. However, watch out for puddles as they shouldn’t get wet.
Which shoe material is best?
There is no one ‘best’ shoe material as it really depends on the type of shoe and its purpose. For example, while leather is a prime choice for dress shoes, it’s not suitable to use it to make beach sandals. As such, you’ll want to determine what type of shoes you need before considering the material. Nonetheless, no matter what material, your shoes should be comfortable and fit you nicely - your feet should not hurt when you wear them.
Which shoe material is best for kids’ shoes?
Again, the type of material you should choose depends on the shoe’s purpose. However, kids' shoes need to be soft and comfortable so that they do not hurt your child’s feet when worn. So, if you’re looking for children’s sneakers, they should also be lightweight, with anti-slip soles.
Additionally, rounded top caps help to protect feet from getting hurt, while removable insoles allow for hassle-free care. Finally, adjustable fasteners make kids’ shoes easy to put on, take off and ensure that the shoes stay on.
What is the most durable material for shoes?
Leather is one of the most durable shoe materials. However, it’s not suitable to make all types of shoes. Textiles are also a good choice as they can last a long time as well. As for shoe soles, rubber is the most durable material. Nonetheless, the best way to ensure that your shoes last is with proper care - even leather can be damaged when not properly cared for.
Which is better, EVA or rubber soles for kids' shoes?
EVA is a synthetic material made from ethylene-vinyl acetate. Its composition is almost similar to plastic wraps, and it feels rubber-like. EVA is a material that is easy to dye, which means a choice of many colors when it is used for shoes. It’s also resistant to ultraviolet radiation and does not crack under high stress. Both EVA and rubber are often used to make the shoe soles, especially for running shoes. But is one better than the other? Here’s a brief comparison:
- EVA soles are less durable than rubber soles
- EVA soles offer better comfort than rubber soles
- Rubber soles are 100% waterproof, but this is not true for EVA soles
- Rubber soles offer better traction than EVA soles
- Rubber soles are heat-resistant, and EVA soles are less so
- EVA soles have a higher shock absorption capacity than rubber soles
- EVA soles are lighter than rubber soles
- Eva soles have greater flexibility than rubber soles.
As you can see, both materials have their pros and cons. Thus, it comes down to individual preferences when choosing between EVA and rubber soles.
Do you need to wear socks with shoes?
Yes, it's recommended that you wear socks with shoes in most cases.. This is because socks help to prevent:
- Blisters from friction between shoe and skin
- Smelly feet from sweat
- Athlete's foot and ringworm
- Shoe damage
However, some shoes are designed so that the wearer does not have to wear socks. For example, children’s shoes from Two Little Feet come ready with breathable, sweat-absorbent linings and insoles. This ensures that your kids’ feet stay fresh throughout the day. Additionally, the insoles can be removed for easy cleaning.
There are many types of shoe materials, each suitable for certain purposes with its benefits. As such, it’s important to determine what type of shoes your child needs. Unfortunately, shoe shopping can be quite a hassle with kids, and we understand this at Two Little Feet as we’re parents ourselves.
So, whether you’re looking for baby sneakers, pre-walkers, or kids’ sandals, we have it. All our shoes are made with the best quality materials ensuring healthy foot development in children.