What's the deal with cup sole shoes?
This entry was posted on May 12, 2016.
Last June we released the Court Classic Collection which was officially our first product launch that included a cup sole. Since then we've received lots of questions about cup soles; What is their purpose? why are we using them? Can they be re-soled? I'd like to address all of those questions and more, in this post we tackle "What's the deal with cup sole shoes?"
A cup sole is a rubber outsole that has a tall "sidewall". The sidewall cradles or "cups" the upper of the shoe, hence the name "cup sole". Cup soles are always made of an easily moldable material like rubber or PU, however, the soles we use from Vibram and Reltex Lactae Hevea are made from the highest quality rubber and natural latex. Due to the high sidewall, cup soles provide protection for the heel, toe, and sides of your shoes which made them a popular design for sneakers, casual lifestyle shoes, and other athletic footwear. They can also be attached without the use of a midsole or welt which makes them incredibly light and flexible.
The process for attaching a cup sole to an upper is rigorous and exacting. Since the sole has to be permanently bonded to the leather uppers we go through a six step process of cementing the soles and uppers using heat activated cement and high pressure. As an added measure we then use a specialized stitching machine call a "sidewall stitcher" to ensure a permanent bond. Each sole has a very narrow stitching channel in the sidewall which requires a steady hand and precise level of skill and expertise to complete successfully.
Without a midsole or welt the cup sole / sidewall stitch construction is one of the lightest and most flexible of all outsole constructions. The cup sole also gives any shoe a unique look, one that is cool and casual. The one drawback to a cup sole is that the soles cannot be replaced. Due to the sidewall being bonded to the upper, if we tried to remove the sole we would tear the leather uppers rendering them useless. Therefore, the quality of the cup sole is of the utmost importance and we use only Vibram and Reltex cup soles, two of the best sole-makers in the world, both are renowned for their quality and durability.
The Reltex Cup sole is slightly different from most in the market in that its made from 100% natural latex where other, albeit cheaper, cup soles are made from manmade rubber and/or polyurethane. The "Lactae Hevea" natural latex combines the unsurpassed qualities of extreme comfort and durability, two qualities rarely achieved in one sole. It also has a slightly shorter sidewall for an understated look. Our Essex Traveler collection was designed for the man who is looking for a comfortable and lightweight casual shoe but doesn't like the typical look of a "sneaker". I think the shining star of the collection is the Traveler Ranger-moc pictured above. It doesn't get any more comfortable and low maintenance than this.
Vibram is especially adept at creating slick designs and colors. The Strighton sole has an incredibly cool design and can be made in just about any color. Add that to Vibram's legendary quality and durability and you get a cup sole that is unmatched by any in the world. Check out our Court Classic Mid, pictured above, a clean and simple design crafted from the highest quality materials including the Vibram Strighton sole.
Cup soles are increasingly finding their way onto non-sneaker type footwear due to their comfort and ability to increase the cool factor. Our Traveler Beefroll Penny Loafer is a case in point. The cup sole refreshes a traditional look and makes it so light and flexible that they feel like slippers. Once you put these on your feet you won't want to take them off.
Cup soles are here to stay, take care of them and they'll take care of you. More cup sole styles will be coming later in 2016!