8 Steps to a New Rock Shoe
Before we start, a few key terms:
Last: The unique, foot-shaped mold around which the shoe will be built.
sole: Where the rubber meets the rock—the shoebottom rubber you climb on.
Midsole: This interior sole brings the shoe together; different materials and variations will change overall feel.
Footbed: The fabric your foot will be in contact with.
Upper: The sock like upper portion of the shoe, often made of leather or a synthetic material.
Rand: The thin layer of rubber that covers the bottom and sides of the shoe.
1) There are two ways to build a last: • Board-lasting: The shoe designer will take a “board,” the stiff toe-to-heel shape of the shoe bottom, and attach it to the footbed. The upper is then fit around the last and attached to the footbed and board, creating a stiff shoe from end to end. • Slip-lasting: Slip-lasted shoes begin by first attaching the footbed to the upper, then slipping the combined footbed and upper over the last. Resembling a sock with an extra-thick bottom, slip-lasted shoes have very little structure until the midsole is attached. Because of this, they are much more versatile, and are used in most modern shoe designs. 2) Designers pick which material they’ll build the shoe with: leather or synthetic. Leather shoes will stretch, often up to half a size, whereas synthetics tend to hold their shape better. 3) Designers attach the midsole, giving the shoe its shape as well as determining its intended usage. Using a stiff, firmly attached midsole will yield a rigid, edging-type shoe, while a softer midsole makes for a more sensitive shoe that can also smear, heel-hook, toe-hook, and grab edges. 4) Next, warm rand rubber is fit around the base of the shoe. This thin layer covers the shoe bottom and sides. The sole attaches to this. 5) The thicker sole rubber is glued over the rand, which is still visible around the heel and toe box, though many brands will add additional rubber to fortify certain high-traffic sites. 6) Specialized machinery presses the final, glued shoe to make sure each part seals firmly into the next. 7) After the shoe has had a few days to dry, the sole is hand-machined to have crisp edges and a polished look. 8) The shoe is distributed to the testing team for feedback. From there, there may be further revisions based on that feedback or even a complete reimagining before market.