The journey of shoes began millions of years ago when prehistoric men started fashioning primitive protective footwear out of animal hides. Well, that may have been a long time back but the fundamentals of a good shoe still remain the same. A great shoe needs to be comfortable, light, durable, and provide adequate protection. In today’s world, New Balance is a brand that’s known to manufacture shoes that have all those fundamental qualities. The company has been around for over 100 years and their shoes are loved by athletes, fitness freaks, kids, teenager, and almost everyone. There is something about New Balance shoes that instantly grabs your attention. To uncover the secret behind their nationwide success, we go behind the scenes and take a look at how these shoes are made.
The Shoe’s Upper Gets A Steam Bath
The first step of the shoe making process starts at the Conditioning Station. The Conditioning Station is basically a machine that generates a lot of steam very quickly. This is where the factory-made shoe upper, that’s the upper portion of the shoe without the sole, gets a 15 second steam bath. The objective of this bath is to make the shoe more flexible, so that it fits perfectly on a feet shaped mold. The mold is responsible for making the interiors of the upper shaped perfectly like a human feet. Therefore, next time you’re awed by the perfect fit and comfort of a New Balance sneaker take a moment to thank the Conditioning Station and the feet shaped mold.
Marriage Between The Upper And The Sole
The shoe’s upper and the sole are manufactured separately and their existence is futile without one another. Like a fairytale wedding these two vital components of the shoes are joined together forever by a press. The press itself does not attach the two pieces together. All it does is it holds the two pieces in place while a technician carefully draws an outline between the two pieces using a marker. This outline acts as a guideline for the technician for applying glue and finally attaching the two pieces. The gluing process happens in the gluing station as the technician carefully applies the special glue within the outline.
Off To The Oven
Did you wonder why we called the glue, "special"? Well, this is an industrial adhesive that’s only activated by heat. This is why, after the gluing process is completed, the upper and the sole goes into an oven called the Flash Activator. Once both the components are heated, the glue applied on them becomes activated or in other words extremely sticky. This is when the technician joins the upper and the sole together under a UV light. To ensure the sole and upper really sticks to each other, the two components are pressed together for about 25 seconds by a machine aptly named the Sole Press. Once that is done, the mold is removed and the shoe goes on for final inspection.
Unlike other sneaker companies, a big part of New Balance's shoe materials are made in the USA.