Originally Posted by DWFII
Sure, if you're making high-end shoes and feel a need to cater to that segment of the population that has bought into all the hype about Danite, Vibram, etc., you can increase your profit margin marvelously by putting rubber soles on a good leather shoe...especially if you charge the same as for leather. For the most part...again when we're talking about high end...rubber soles of any kind are always going to be cheaper in terms of materials costs than leather. They are less labour intensive to produce, if nothing else.
And when you come right down to it , it takes less skill to mount a rubber outsole than it does leather and even a good maker can never exhibit his skill or bring any kind of finesse to the final result. In the end they will always look utilitarian and somewhat crude.
BTW, I occasionally put rubber outsole on shoe and boots I make for customers. But I'm never happy about it and usually forgo adding a maker's label in such cases.
It's fair enough to say that shoemakers enjoy a financial benefit through charging the same for rubber soles on their high-end products when they actually cost less than the likes of oak bark tanned leather. The thing is, if those shoes are going to be worn in conditions that are not good for leather soles, the buyer will probably be compensated for that initial rip-off and the aesthetic costs with soles that last longer and are generally still very presentable (to the extent that they still look better than most other footwear in the vicinity).
When I choose rubber, it is always a utilitarian matter. Leather wins hands down when it comes to aesthetics, and I don't think many people question that. It's a utilitarian consideration and a compromise made for practical reasons - for me, because I want to wear nice shoes in conditions outside an office, walk long distances, and cannot easily access factory recrafting services or most traditional shoemakers etc. and find overshoes a hassle to carry unless I am going to work, and in any case impractical for walking any great distance in the wet. I don't like taking leather soles into haunts of the night, public toilets etc. either.
I've never bothered to use a factory recrafting service before, instead trying my luck with the dearth of local cobblers with mixed results, but I have read about its benefits from people like DWFII. The trouble is, leather soles don't last awfully long when they are actually walked on as opposed to babied in air conditioned offices, and for decent shoes, return airmail + recrafting costs = well over 50% of the price of a new pair of Church Chetwynds delivered to my door. I really wanted to stick to leather for "good" shoes, but eventually decided to try alternatives to address the issue and, despite my reservations, arrived at the Harboro Rubber Company Ltd., of Market Harborough, Leics., and their Dainite product. Dainite as an alternative to the Topy and toe tap method is an ongoing experiment, and so far, I like the results. However, I am by no means a 100% Dainite man.
I suppose another objection to Dainite would be that while leather soles can have Topys replaced, Dainite is not Topy'd when it eventually does wear down - but can it be?
I can't recall ever reading anything about it.
Perhaps the real answer is that it's simply not a good idea to wear luxury shoes in anything other than dry city/office conditions, and I'm trying my best to ignore that salient fact.
Given all that, I suspect that, especially on a forum such as this (StyleForum) it is more a wonder that rubber soles are extolled for any reason than that they would be associated with cheap shoes or the cheapening of a good shoe.
Rest assured, there aren't too many people who seriously get behind rubber soles on here, so far as I can tell.
And if you're willing to overlook the aspects of not breathing and spreading, you probably don't care that they are almost without exception products of the petro-chemical industry and contribute to the destruction of whole eco-systems.
Leather is, of course a renewable resource...until pollution makes pastures and raising cattle unsustainable.
In fact, the environment is a matter of concern for me, and the environmental benefit of leather over synthetic products was one of the three benefits I said I could think of in my first post in this thread: Many ways? Perhaps you were being diplomatic there, but I don't think there are many ways in which a good quality leather sole is truly superior to a good quality rubber sole. There are only about three I can think of...
I later added that after reading your posts I had four benefits on my list. As it stands now, I think I can still say about four, viz.
(1) superficialities - a well finished leather sole looks great, even with wear, and they sound great,
(2) comfort - they are comfortable for me under certain conditions,
(3) environmentally friendly,
the fourth, wherewith I have no experience but wherefor I have taken your word, that
- they don't spread like rubber, which helps maintain the structural integrity of Goodyear-welted shoes, and
a possible fifth,
- honouring the craft, traditional leatherworking and other political-economic concerns, although as consumers, their choices show that, for whatever reason, many people don't give much consideration to these parts of the equation (which could also easily be said about nos. 1, 3 and 4).
Then, there are what appear to me as conditional benefits, such as moisture wicking, effectively restricted to high-end shoes with a real leather inner sole and leather, felt or no filler between that and the outer sole; and a thermal permeability benefit, which can keep a foot cooler while walking in cool environments but will not be fully realised while walking on warm or hot ground (as I often find myself doing).Edited by nh10222 - 10/19/13 at 4:39am