The Secret Life of Sneakers

You probably don’t give much thought about your Asics sneakers. You wear them, run in them, and then toss them in a corner until next time you need them. But really, what goes into the design of your shoes? How are shoes made? And once you own a pair of sneakers, what happens?

In the Beginning

Whether running trainers with arch support, comfy footwear for casual walking, or the perfect yoga shoes, footwear starts as an idea in the mind of a designer. This might be an entrepreneur looking for a new type of shoe to wow consumers or a professional that works in research and development for a large multibillion dollar company. In either case, sneaker designs are drawn up, revised, and approved taking into account many factors. Some of these factors are marketability of a sneaker, materials available, cost, and labor.

To the Manufacturer

There are three basic levels of creating a shoe – Cutting, stitching and the final assembly. Shoes in factories are cut by large machines. Multiple dies are pressed, each with a different component of the sneaker. Workers place the dies on the fabric and materials. The press makes the final cuts. The factory workers then organize the parts. Some shoe parts will have logos added. An assembly line will do the stitching by hand. Afterwards the shoes go to final assembly where the soles are cemented to the upper part of the shoe and a process called lasting sets the shoe’s correct shape.

On to the Consumer

Your sneakers are then shipped all over the world. They may be sold online, in a boutique shop, or at the mall. Sneakers come in almost an infinite number of styles, colors, and shapes. There are sneakers for men, women, and children. There are shoes for runners, soccer players, yoga instructors, and school athletes. There are sneakers made for those with medical conditions. Maybe you bought a pair of running shoes to get some great exercise outside, or your family needed sneakers for sports. No matter the case, now the shoe is yours.

And on Your Foot

Now the sneaker begins to do its job. The shoe will protect your foot from the elements and debris on the ground. It will support your arch and heel. The sneaker will provide you with the stability you need in your active life. A good shoe will last months and months, even a year, with regular wear. Some athletes that are particularly hard on their shoes may have to replace them every few months or so. In general, your shoe will last over six hundred kilometers before it starts to break down.

Not the End

After your shoe has been worn out from use, you can give it a second life by donating it to a recycling center. Many of the major shoe name brands have recycling programs that allow you to donate old sneakers. There they are broken down into their separate parts and recycled. Gently used sneakers can be donated to programs that help people living in poorer areas. Your sneakers can get a second life.