Shoemerang

I was recently introduced to an interesting product called the Shoemerang. This product is an attempt at addressing the problems around traveling with shoe trees in your luggage.

The product gets its name due to its unusual 3 pointed shape. Although, if you throw one across the room it does not come back, unless you hit your spouse and then comes back rapidly. Fortunately, the Shoemerang is made of foam rubber, which also makes them very light.

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To put the Shoemerang into a shoe simply curve the longer point lengthwise and stuff it into the shoe as far as you can, then fold the other two points into the heel end of the shoe.

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The product I received fit my 11.5 D (US) shoe fine, but for shorter shoes you can trim the heel ends to better fit in the shoe.

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While the solution is lightweight, and therefore a big benefit when traveling, it does not provide nearly the support that a normal wooden (or even plastic) shoe tree provides.

If weigh was a major consideration when traveling, the Shoemerang would be useful in a pinch, but it is not a product I would use as a replacement for shoe trees on a regular basis.

For $20 a pair it is worth it to have them available if you need them for a trip.

You can find out more about the Shoemerang at www.shoemerang.com

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Used Shoes

I recently received a request to review an app that allowed people to sell their used shoes. In this case the app was specific to women’s shoe, but I have seen other solutions/sites for this same purpose for either gender. And, of course you can buy used shoes from eBay as well as some fashion forums.

This is sometimes referred to as “thrifting” and can extend to garage sales, estate sales and of course thrift shops. The idea is to buy quality made shoes for a fraction of the retail cost.

Unfortunately, unlike most other items you can buy used and get some utilitarian function out of, shoes are very physically intimate. Although not quite the same as buying used underwear, used shoes will have bacteria in the leather that was introduced by someone else. All leather has some degree of bacteria, if it has been worn.

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The main source of bacteria in used shoes is due to foot sweat. While some people sweat very little through their feet, other sweat quite a lot. The average foot has about 125,000 sweat glands with the majority being located in the sole and ball of the foot.

Sweat itself is odorless, but it creates a beneficial environment for certain bacteria to grow and produce bad-smelling substances. These bacteria are naturally present on our skin as part of the human flora
Brevibacterium is a genus of bacteria that is extensively present on the human skin, where it causes foot odor. The familiar odor is due to Sulphur containing compounds known as S-methyl thioesters.

Propionic acid (propanoic acid) is also present in foot sweat. This acid is a breakdown product of amino acids by Propionibacteria, which thrive in the ducts of adolescent and adult sebaceous glands. The similarity in chemical structures between propionic acid and acetic acid, which share many physical characteristics such as odor, may account for foot odors identified as being vinegar-like. Isovaleric acid (3-methyl butanoic acid) is the other source of foot odor.

The acids in the various bacteria slowly break down the amino acids in the collagen proteins that the leather is composed of. This process happens quicker with the presence of water moisture (like sweat).
It is not a question of if there is bacteria in the leather of used shoes, it is simply a matter of how much and how active.

The second concern with used shoes is the shaping that has taken place in the insole foot bed and the leather shoe upper.

Most men’s dress/business shoes have a mid-sole (between the insole and the outsole) that is typically made of thick cardboard (<$200 shoes), corkboard composite, or thick leather. The insole is then laid (and sometimes glued) on top of the mid-sole. Over time, as the shoe is worn, the insole and the mid-sole will begin to compress when they receive pressure from the toes, ball of the foot, and the heel. Since each person’s foot is unique to everyone else, the compression patterns will be as well. Insole-worn

It will take a while for these compression patterns to be created, and the time will depend on a number of factors like how often the shoes are worn, length of rest periods between being worn, the weight of the person, how much the person’s feet perspire, the quality of the materials in the mid-sole and the insole, and so on.

Because it takes a while to create these compression patterns it also takes a while to create new compression patterns. Unfortunately, because the compression patterns already exist (to one degree or another) in a used shoe, your bone structure (toes, ball of your foot, and heel) will be pulled into the existing compression patterns, much like tires into the ruts of a road.
This can be mitigated to a large degree by replacing the outsole with a new outsole, but it will still have a tendency to compress into the existing compression patterns in the mid-sole.

The shoe upper will have also formed to the shape of the previous owner’s foot. And on contact points where the upper touches the foot, even a single millimeter of give can make the difference between comfort and tired feet at the end of the day.

The leather upper can be stretched in the proper placed for the new owner, but the stretch points created by the previous owner do not go away.
For me, I simply cannot find any value in buying used shoes.

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Mailorder Bespoke Shoes

The idea of having bespoke shoes produced through a mail order process would have never crossed my mind. Having gone through the multiple fittings, fitter’s model, and fine tuning of the Last, there is no way I could see this being done through a mail order process. That was until I was introduced to the concept of sending my feet to the shoe maker.

I was contacted by a representative of Adler Shoes a while ago to see if I would be interested in writing an article about their shoes, and their bespoke process. After doing a little research I thought it would be quite interesting to try their process out.

The package containing the casting socks and other materials arrived a couple weeks later. And, I have to admit, that at first I had a little trepidation about trying to make the casts. The kit came with latex gloves and plastic sleeve socks, along with the casting socks.
AdlerKit

I put off making the casts until the following weekend.

It wasn’t as hard as I had feared, but it wasn’t as simple as putting on a sock either. Once the casting sock is soaked in a bowl of water it becomes progressively sticker before it dries. The plastic sleeve socks and the latex gloves keep it from sticking to your hands and leg hair, but not from sticking to itself to some degree and making the process a little more challenging.

From this experience I derived a number of suggestions to make the process less challenging.

First, make sure to use very cold water, this slows down the curing process while you are putting on the casting sock so it is a little less sticky, and it gives you have a little more time to get it on. Also make sure to use the plastic sleeves as they are absolutely necessary.

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Second, you have to roll the sock on. In the US the typical men’s dress sock comes in crew length, so it is common for men to stick their thumbs inside the sock and pull it up around their foot and ankle in one motion. Over the calf (OTC) socks must be rolled (or compressed) so that you start at the toe and roll the sock up around the foot and leg. You must roll the casting sock up around your foot and ankle.

Third, even though it looks like there might be a heel in the sock because of the way it is folded, there is not. Find the seam across the end of the toe of the sock and use that as your guideline.

Fourth, have a comfortable place to sit while putting on the sock, and be sure to use something to protect your floor from the sock, and your sock from the floor.

Actually, I think the best advice would be to have your spouse or a friend put the sock on for you. It will actually be much easier, but make sure they know how to roll a sock on to someone else’s foot (perhaps practice with a real sock first). My wife opted out on this suggestion, so I put the socks on myself.

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Fifth, once both socks are on be sure to stand up, and stand still, for about 6 minutes (instructions on timeframe and process are included with the kit). Have your cell phone close by in case someone calls. This gave me a chance to catch up on some current event news on my smart phone while I waited.

Sixth, after the casting socks have cured you will need to cut them off your feet. You may want to use safety scissors (with the blunt rounded tip). I used regular pointed scissors, but I was careful not to poke myself. Be sure to have your scissors within reach because you will not want to (and should not) walk with the casting socks on.

You will want to cut the socks from the top down to your heel, next to your ankle. Pull the cast away from your leg gently while wiggling your foot. Try to keep from cracking the cast across the heel. The more intact the cast the better.

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Once the casts were off I used the rubber bands, I had used on the plastic sleeves, to hold each cast together. I then boxed them up and shipped to back to Adler Shoes. Since I live in the United States I was able to send them to their Chicago processing center.

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Now I just had to be patient and wait the 3 months it takes for Adler Shoes to create a set of lasts based on my foot shape, and hand build a pair of shoes around them. This timeframe is much shorter that a typical bespoke build time that takes around 9 to 12 months (sometimes longer).

Once Adler Shoes has the foot shaped casts, forms are made, trimmed and modified as needed with the result being a set of lasts that represent the shape and size of each of my feet. It is important to note that no two feet are alike (not even your own two feet). It is typical for one foot to be almost a half-size larger than the other, and the other being thicker than the longer one. This issue is addressed with bespoke shoes. My shoes will not be my typical US 11.5 D, but rather fit specifically for each foot in size Glen.

Adler Last Large

The shoes are 100% handmade from the template production for each individual shoe to the leather cutting to the upper stitching (where they do use Singer) but then, their master cobblers do their magic with old fashioned hand tools. Even the Brogue holes are punched by hand with precision hand tools made in Germany. The finishing is also done by hand by their experienced finishers.

There are a number of shoe styles to choose from, as well as an array of colors and skins, from calf to crocodile and a number of animals in-between.

Adler Collection Small

This is just a sample of what is available. For more detailed information, and to get your own bespoke shoes, please visit Adler Shoes

The average price of a pair of Adler shoes is around $500 to $600 USD with the exotic leather getting up into the $1.5K range.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, I finally received my bespoke Adler shoes. And, although it seemed like forever, the shoes actually arrived within 3 month (almost to the day) from when I sent in the casts. Given the quality and craftsmanship that goes into the shoes, 3 months is actually a pretty quick turnaround.

The shoes are beautiful.

New Shoes

The fit was great, the shoes were comfortable, and after a day’s wear they were just as comfortable as when I first put them on. I suspect they will continue to be comfortable as the years go by.

I wanted to compare the Adler shoes to similar shoes I own to give you an idea where the shoes fit into my collection. I put them between an Allen Edmonds shoe and an RTW (Ready To Wear) Berluti shoe, which is quite a range. And, even this is not a direct comparison since the Allen Edmonds and this Berluti are machine built shoes.

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I felt that the Adler Shoes were a great value for the price because you get truly hand built shoes, constructed from quality material by master cobblers and craftsmen, built on lasts created from your own feet. And, while I would have to admit that a bespoke Berluti would be a superior shoe, it would also cost around 10 times what an Adler shoe would cost.

I love my Adler Shoes!
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Handmade Shoes

I was recently introduced to a line of handmade shoes that retail for a great price point. Handmade shoes usually fall into the +$500 USD price point simply because of the labor costs, and the materials tend to be of higher quality in handmade shoes.

Jose Luis Rocha of JL Rocha was kind enough to let me try out a pair shoe from his current line www.joseluisrocha.com. I chose the 419H Leather Loafer in honey stain calfskin.

JL Rocha Loafer

It is a beautiful shoe, inside and out. The shoe is fully leather lined with good overall flexibility. The finish on the leather was very good, and the attention to detail was very good as well. It is actually rather easy to see the handmade quality.

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Simply because a shoe is handmade is no guarantee that it is a quality shoe. It is also important to note that while a bespoke shoe is handmade, a handmade shoe is not inherently bespoke. What makes a great shoe is fit, quality craftsmanship, and quality materials.

The fit of the JL Rocha shoe was excellent. They were snug in the heel and comfortable around the vamp. There was no real break-in time required, and they had just the right amount of slippage for a loafer. The heel cup and counter was shaped very well, which I would expect from a quality handmade shoe.

The JL Rocha shoes are what I consider to be a little fashion forward, with a slightly longer toe in most cases, and a slimmer profile, as compared to something like Allen Edmonds shoes where the general shape of the Last line is more conservative.

Compare Shoe Shape

The Rocha family has been involved in the leather and manufacturing business for generations, and have been producing quality handmade footwear under the Ackerman brand in Mexico and South America. Jose Luis has now introduced the line to the United States, and the world, under the JL Rocha brand.

Hand Shoe

Now here is where it gets interesting: The handmade shoes in the current JL Rocha line sell for less than $300 USD. A quality handmade pair of shoes for less than $300 USD is hard to come by, so I had to let my readers know about the JL Rocha line.

JL Rocha Shoes


JL Rocha Logo

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New Shoe Brand

I was recently contacted by a company named InSoul Footwear that wanted to get the word out about a new line of footwear they are looking to release.

They refer to their shoes as a Dress Sneaker, and while I am no big fan of the slow drift the world is taking away from the classic concepts of dress/business footwear toward the more casual, I do understand the value and comfort of casual dress.

One of the things that I really liked about their footwear was the amount of style (and leather) they infused into the shoes to create a very interesting cool, casual almost rugged elegance type of footwear. Personally I would wear the brown low tops sockless with board shorts and linen Tommy Bahama camp shirt.

If you wear sneakers as part of your casual wear, I think these shoes would be a great way to bump up your style points.

Please help these guys make this project successful if you can so these shoes are available.

Below I have included an excerpt of their promotional text and images of the shoes:

Dress Sneakers by InSoul

So what do you get when you fuse athletic sneakers with beautifully hand crafted dress shoes?

Introducing DRESS SNEAKERS by InSoul Footwear.

InSoul is a brand that celebrates the evolution of shoes. The brand’s core is rooted in American sports styling but aspires to achieve the detailing of a rich dress brand. The toe shapes and silhouettes are kept understandable. They focus on all the right details. High quality materials including, hand oiled leathers, rich linings, classic waxed laces, antiqued eyelets and subtle logos are essential. Everything is purposefully chosen…all the way down to the stitching.

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Founder and creator, Sean OShea, has over 15yrs of design experience working for major brands such as Nike, Adidas, Converse, Ralph Lauren, Diesel and more. His vision of InSoul was born through personal evolution and experience in the professional fashion industry. He believed many people grew up wearing athletic sneakers, however as adults fell in love with the quality and craftsmanship only found in dress shoes. Sean’s idea was simple…he set out to bridge the gap between athletic sneakers and high quality dress shoes.

Now with final samples completed InSoul Footwear is challenged with raising the funds required to pre-pay for their initial round of production. To achieve this milestone they have launched “Dress Sneakers by InSoul” on Kickstarter:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/insoul/insoul-dress-sneakers?ref=search

You can help by “pledging” (pre-ordering) a pair for yourself or someone special in your life today. Other pledge options are available, please contribute and circulate.

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Shoeshine Box

I recently received a really cool shoe shine box from GOLD-N-RULE (www.gold-n-rule.com). They were kind enough to send the box (and optional kit) to me to review (with no obligation, or stated expectation).

The box is a decent size (big enough to hold a number of shoe polish tins/jars and shoe care equipment, but small enough to set out of the way), however you may want to show it off.

The box is designed structurally and graphically to replicate the old 5cent a shine shoe box of long ago. The shoe stand is made of a solid brushed gold tone metal, and the box graphics are bold, professional and retro.
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The shoe shine kit included the following:
• 1x black 4oz Angelus polish
• 1x brown 4oz Angelus polish
• 1x Flannel Buffer
• 1x 100% Horse Hair Shine Brush
• 1x 100% Horse Hair Circular Dauber Brush.
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I think this shoe shine box and care kit will be a great addition to my shoe care collection, and be something I can show off to my friends.

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Tassel Hassle

Every once in a while I get asked how to fix the tassels that splay out on tasseled loafers.

First it is important to understand why the leather strips that make up the tassel tend to curl in the first place.

A tassel is typically made of a single piece of leather with the top twenty percent or so remaining a solid piece of leather while the remainder is cut into strips (and sometimes tapered at the end).

These are made from very thin leather, but they are still leather which means that they have a grain side and a flesh side. The grain side of your shoe upper is on the outside and the flesh side is on the inside.

Because the grain side of the leather is exposed to the world, when a shoe is made a finish is applied to protect the leather to some degree. The same thing is done to the pieces of leather used for tassels. Then the tassel pieces are rolled around and attached to a leather strand that is attached to the shoe.

Since the leather of the tassel is so thin it dries out (loses its oils) much sooner than the leather of the shoe upper. The curling is caused by two factors related to the drying out of the leather:

First, leather is denser at the flesh side than the grain side, so when the leather dries the grain side compresses faster that the flesh side. Second, the finish on the grain side remains constant so it cannot shrink, it has to curl.
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So now the question becomes, how do I fix the tassels once that has happened?

In the past I have recommended applying some leather conditioner (like Lexol) to the tassels and putting a rubber band around the ends. This will add the oils back into the leather, and the rubber bands helped straighten out the curl. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it worked for the most part.

However, I recently came across a product that seems to be the perfect solution for this problem. It is called Tassel Mate. It comes with a leather conditioner and multiple wraps that cover the entire tassel.
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I think it is a great idea for people with tasseled shoes that want to take good care of them.

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