Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist, once remarked: ‘The shoe that fits one pinches another.’ While he was just using the shoe metaphor to advance one of his many theories, this saying has always held true – not only as a simple matter of shoe sizes but also in the entirety of the shoe.
For centuries, the shoe industry has seen a rise in the number of brands which allow customers to play a role in designing their own shoes – custom-made footwear!
When many people think about custom-made shoes, they usually just have a mental picture of the type of shoe, e.g. whether they are Brogues, Hightops, or Oxfords, the material, and color. However, there’s a whole lot more the buyer can influence when it comes to quality customized shoe making brands!
While the type of shoe and color influences how people see you and what story your shoes tell, another nitty-gritty shoe detail – the soles (which are not readily seen) is also quite important. The truly customized shoe makers help you make informed choices about everything; including laces, the shoe interior, patterns on different materials and the sole.
Now you may be wondering, why so much ado about the sole?
What’s in a shoe sole?
A wise man once said ‘Invest in anything that separates you from the earth.’
Many people see soles as a secondary requirement when trying to decide what shoes to choose. They look at the soles when they have already made the decision. Even certain self-confessed shoe lovers see them as only a way to measure the durability of the whole shoe.
While good shoes are durable and can be used for long periods of time with minimal wear, soles bring other qualities, such as grip to shoes. Soles also give shoes the predominant character associated with them.
Shoe soles – What are my options?
The most convenient way to categorize the types of soles available is by the material they are made of. Actually, there are very many materials that a shoe sole can be made of, so we can’t claim that our list is in any way exhaustive.
There are glass sole shoes, for instance! Remember Cinderella? We are, however, going to talk about the staple sole types, all of which are both aesthetically pleasing and practical choices.
- Rubber Soles
Perhaps the most popular material for making shoe soles is rubber. Over time, there have been many innovations on the rubber used to manufacture shoe soles such as the thermoplastic rubber soles. Some of the most common rubber soles include:
- Commando Sole
The 20th-century invention of Vitale Bramante which went on to become a ubiquitous rubber sole type mostly used in hiking and military grade boots (hence the name).
- Dainite Sole
These are similar to commando soles and you’d find them in many boots as well. It is less common than commando soles.
- Cork Nitrile
These soles are made of a composition of cork and rubber. They’ve got great traction as well, and are anti-slip.
- Crepe rubber Sole
These soles are made from rubber straight from the tree and you might have seen them below your favorite Clarks with a creamy color. They were initially used as military grade soles.
- Leather & Wooden Soles
They are also quite popular and the latter is made of varnished wood from sources such as Poplar, Alder, and Beech.
Pros and Cons of different Shoe sole types
Each different sole type has its pros and cons. These pros and cons focus mainly on durability, flexibility, and suitability for different weather conditions.
- Rubber Soles – Comfortable & Trendy
The first advantage that comes to mind about all rubber soles is the waterproof nature which makes them perfect for rainy/humid periods. Another quality is the flexibility of rubber. They’re quite the resilient material – they can be bent in an awkward shape and still return back to initial form.
- Commando Soles – More Grip and More Bulk
The downside is that they often add too much extra weight or profile to shoes. A typical example is the Commando sole. While they have a good grip and are rugged, they can make your shoe look bulky – one reason why many gentlemen avoid them for everyday wear.
- The low-profile Dainite
If this could be a deal-breaker for you when purchasing customized footwear, you might want to consider using Dainite soles – they are more compact than Commando soles, have a good grip, and are quite comfortable for daily use.
- Cork means lightweight
Cork Nitrile soles solve the weight problem of rubber soles. While they are just as waterproof and rugged as other rubber soles, the weight is drastically less and quite comfy.
- Leather Soles for Sartorial Elegance
Leather soles are the standard for elegance and are a staple choice for men’s dress shoes. However, the durability is usually just an additive effect of the number of layers used.
Usually, the more the layers of leather used, the sturdier the sole is. But the more the layers added, the bulkier the shoe profile and the more uncomfortable they get. Leather soles also tend to absorb moisture and this deteriorates them over time.
Like leather soles, wooden soles are an elegant choice for your shoes. They are a personal favorite for gentlemen who love the ‘click-clack’ sound they make against hard surfaces!
The downside to using wooden shoe soles includes the lack of grip that could have you slipping on smooth surfaces. They are also not too flexible and will obviously crack over time.
What type of shoe sole is right for me?
Choosing soles must be done individually for each of your shoes depending on what events and, by extension, outfits you want to match the shoes with.
Here are a few things you need to consider before making a decision:
If you’re going to be wearing a particular shoe in wet conditions, you’ll want to consider only waterproof soles such as rubber, synthetic or plastic ones. However, when the conditions are extremely hot, they are not the perfect choice and wooden soles will provide more comfort.
If you’d be standing or walking for long periods of time, it is natural to want soles that offer the best comfort and keep your feet from tiring quickly. In this case, you’ll want to go for a sole that is light and without a hard surface.
- Color & Style
You might be thinking: ‘The sole is under the shoe. Should I care about the color?’ Well, it all depends on your personal sense of style. Bear in mind, however, that the sole is an important part of your shoe’s style, and different soles are associated with different personas.
While some gentlemen prefer to keep a low profile and opt for dark-colored finishes for the sole, some might want to make a statement but adding a splash of color, say, red!
One sole does not suit every type of shoe out there! When opting for a custom-made shoe or ordering Ready to wear (RTW) shoes e.g. this double-monk, be sure to think critically about how your selection matches with your outfits, the occasion you plan to use the shoes for, and what persona you want to portray!