Leather is of course the perfect material with which to make shoes: it is hard wearing, attractive, breathable, fairly water repellent and easily worked into beautiful designs. It is also completely bio-degradable – eventually. Numerous attempts have been made over the years to come up with an alternative but nothing comes close. It isn’t just Sanders, Loake, Trickers and Sebago that have used almost entirely leather for shoe production over the last couple of hundred years. But all the best shoe manufacturers of the world have done the same.
However the one component of a leather shoe which could be improved is the area of sole leather which hits the ground as you walk. A rubber top piece on the heel above a layered leather heel block works perfectly as it possesses perfect cushioning provided by the leather block and the durability and traction provided by the rubber top piece. However a leather sole forepart could provide a little better traction and, unless an extraordinarily durable oak bark leather sole has been used, the sole leather could wear a little longer. Loake and Sanders have come up with the superb solution to overcome this by offering certain shoe styles with a rubber insert or total rubber forepart which has been stitched to the welt by the traditional goodyear welted method. Have a look at Sanders Flexwelts and the Loake Shoemakers and Design Loake collections at bradshawandlloyd.com.
Now there is a perfect solution if you happen to have a pair of Trickers, Sanders, Sebago or Loake shoes that already have a leather forepart but you would like a little better traction and a greater interval between your shoe repairs wouldn’t go amiss. Fortunately these shoes are traditionally goodyear welted on the whole so stitching on a replacement sole when the original sole wears out is straightforward for a traditional cobbler. Therefore simply ask your cobbler to stitch on a half rubber forepart instead of a leather one. Because the remaining sole is still leather you will retain all the benefits of leather for the rear half of the shoe and you will obtain all the benefits of a rubber sole as the shoe hits the ground – no more slipping on wet pavements.