8 Steps to a New Rock Shoe

Climbing - - GEAR SHOE DESIGN -

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.

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