Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world and two-time winner of the 100-metre race in the Olympics, dons this ultra-lightweight footwear for races. Samba, which is one of Puma’s most popular brands, have made an appearance in the recently released Step Up Revolution movie.
When we entered the Puma office, it was filled with unreleased designs for the next season and a large replica — a size 45 — of the pair Bolt wears. We didn’t know too much about sneakers. By the time we left, we knew more about sneakers than ever before.
Colin Lim, assistant merchandising manager of Puma said there are six steps to the process of making a pair of sneakers. First, one must form the “last“, the most important part of the shoe-making process. The last, usually made of wood or plastic, is the form over which the shoes are moulded. It determines the fit and feel of the shoes as well as their performance.
Next is pattern cutting, where specific shoe parts are produced. These parts generally consist of a sole, the bottom part of the shoe; an insole, the internal part of the shoe that is directly under the foot; an outsole, the layer that directly touches the ground; a heel, the bottom back part of the shoe that can be high or low; and the upper part, which holds the shoe on the foot.
Then comes “closing“, which is a method of combining the parts of the shoe. The uppers are pierced, punched, wedged, ridged, covered with lining and sewn together. After that comes lasting, which involves stretching the upper over the last. A certain amount of force is applied to stretch the upper onto the different points of the last to match its shape.
Next, the upper and the sole are put together in the attaching process. Finally, finishing involves the final cutting, trimming, cleaning and polishing of the shoes. If the shoes are made for a certain business, the shoes are tagged and boxed for distribution after the manufacturing process.
Colin also shared the difference between soles. For example, Football FG boots have a high-performance thermoplastic elastomeric-injected outsole with conical and bladed mixed studs for use on firm natural surfaces. A running-carbon rubber outsole with deep flex grooves offer optimal flexibility and comfort. The outsole provides durability by resisting wear, providing traction and absorbing a small amount of shock. The design and material make the shoes lighter and able to flex correctly; they also enhance the traction and durability of the shoes. “Yes, materials do have an impact on footwear,” Colin said. “For instance, running shoes with a mesh material have better air circulation and are lightweight. Synthetic leather provides softness, comfort and water resistance.”
The main difference between footwear for men and women is the size. Sizes for men range from 6 to 14 (UK), and sizes for women range from 3 to 9 (UK). Colin said women’s shoes are narrower than those made for men. A regular-width shoe for a woman has the same width as that of a narrow men’s shoe. A woman’s wide shoe is the same width as that of a man’s regular shoe.
Nowadays, teens are breaking out from traditional shoe colours. Sports shoes used to be “black, white and silver,” said Tim Tham, a senior marketing executive of Puma. “Colour blocking, that is, setting contrasting colours against each other, is on the rise. The colours vary from place to place, but designs generally remain the same.”
Did you know that getting the perfect pair of sneakers depends on your feet? Yup, it’s not just about what’s cool and trendy but also about choosing what’s comfortable for your feet. Tim noted that weight is the main factor when choosing shoes. You don’t want extra bulk on your feet when you’ve got other weight to worry about, such as heavy school bags.
Tim also showed us a trick on how to tell your exact shoe size: Remove your shoes, and cover the bottoms of your feet with something coloured like mud or paint. Then, step onto a sheet of paper. This way, you’ll know where your feet place the most pressure (those areas will be darker on the paper). You will also know your shoe size and have a better idea of the types of shoes that will fit you. It can be helpful to wear shoes suited to a particular style of walking.
We also learned that shoes are multipurpose. Tennis shoes don’t have to stay on the court, and running shoes can be worn for motor biking. Some shoes, however, work better with certain sports. For example, Puma has a special shoe for motorsports, with the sole of the heel extending around the back to provide extra support for the foot. These metal heels also will not get worn out from being exposed to the exhaust.
With so many types of shoes, there is no denying that everyone has at least one perfect pair waiting for them. So what are you waiting for? Go out, and find the right shoes for you!