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Rubber: The Heart and Sole

Since feet carry our body weight, wearing shoes that are comfortable and supportive is essential. As well as protecting your feet, quality footwear also ensures you don't suffer from slips and falls. As shoe designs have developed over the years and rubber has played a pivotal role in footwear construction, feet have never felt more cushioned or looked so stylish.


© Successo images / Adobe Stock


Origins of footwear

Footwear has come a long way over the years, but even as far back as 1600-1200 BC, mountain dwellers of Mesopotamia wore soft leather wraparound shoes. In Ancient Egypt, early forms of footwear weren't just for keeping feet warm and protected, as they also depicted a person's status. Slaves would wear sandals constructed from palm leaves and footwear made from papyrus was confined to common people. If you held a high status in society, you donned pointed sandals, while the elite wore red and yellow sandals.

High-heeled shoes were all the rage during the 16th century, when shoe heels were so lofty that ladies often needed help to walk in them. Reigning kings and queens also influenced footwear trends - Henry VIII, in particular, popularised wide-toed shoes and made it illegal for shoes to be less than six inches in width!

Early footwear didn't differentiate between the left and right foot until after 1818. An automatic method for lasting footwear brought shoes to the masses, and the invention of a sewing machine for shoes in 1858 also made it possible for soles to be sewn to the upper section of a shoe.



Rubber has played a huge role in the history of shoes and continues to be a popular footwear material to this day. It was as far back as 1899 when the first shoe heel was made from rubber, by Humphrey O'Sullivan. Manufacturing of shoes made from rubber then followed in the USA, going by various brand names, including Keds.

By 1917, American advertiser Henry Nelson McKinney brought the name of sneakers to the mass market for rubber-soled shoes. This was because the rubber sole was quiet to walk on, so you could 'sneak' up on someone unheard. By 1923, the sneaker had gone global, when German Adi Dassler made a rubber-soled shoe and named it after himself (Adidas).


Rubber benefits

Today, rubber shoe soles account for 8-9% of all footwear globally, and there are many reasons why rubber still plays a vital role in footwear production.

Rubber soles provide great levels of comfort, durability and functionality to the wearer, and they're suitable for use in all weather. For example, you're less likely to slip during wet weather in rubber soles compared to leather ones. With the huge choice of options on offer, lightweight rubber-soled shoes also provide excellent versatility for every budget.


Fashionable choice

The earliest shoe designs focused on functionality, later followed by comfort, but in more recent times, fashion has been prioritised.

For example, Converse, which designed the Chuck Taylor All Stars rubber sole shoe in 1917, has been a fashion success story, with sales topping 600 million.

Sprinter Jesse Owens also made Adidas rubber-soled footwear popular after his four gold wins at the 1936 Olympics - this brand still rules the fashion roost to this day.

Although rubber-soled shoes have been synonymous with sports, Nike's Air Max and Air Jordan footwear models from 1987 pushed these types of shoes into mainstream fashion. In particular, these shoe brands were popular with hip-hop enthusiasts.

More recently, rubber-soled shoes have taken less of a casual and informal edge, with upmarket brand Prada launching its own range of footwear with rubber soles. As well as hitting the high notes in fashion, rubber-soled shoes are also proving to be eco-friendly. Some brands are even making use of recycled rubber, using stitching rather than adhesives for their shoe soles.

Rubber certainly boasts versatile and popular appeal, not just for footwear. If you require a wide range of quality rubber products, take a look at what Coruba has to offer.

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