The World’s most comfortable shoes
Shoes With Wonderful Sole
Recently we raided the coffers for the latest four-monthly round of replacement shoes that witness the most incredible punishment and work harder than you could possibly realise. As we detailed out the order we began to realise very little is known in the outside world about what goes in to making our shoes, so we thought we’d open your eyes to the wonderful world of the ballroom & Latin shoe, and the incredible care and attention to detail that these handmade wonders command.
We’ve been wearing Supadance ballroom and Latin shoes for our entire dancing lives and have in that time seen many changes and quite sophisticated improvements in the styling and functionality. James was involved in testing the recent new patent leather material, the traditional version of which used to be prone to cracking until Supadance developed a new patent material with a Lycra component. More recently they were busy producing him a custom lass for his rather bespoke feet (Joanna: didn’t fix the odour control though!) to be fitted a whole new sized and tweaked shoe, such is the importance of our shoes!
But did you realise these treats for the feet are still made in good old Great Britain? Well they are, and don’t we appreciate it. Let’s take a little tour of their factory and we’ll explain a little more into what’s gone into these little works of art.
Supadance are based in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, with their factory just a little further away. They are one of the few dance shoe companies who are based and manufacture in the UK; this really shows up when, as we do, you have to liaise with them more carefully with very particular requirements. If you’ve ever tried getting anything customised, improved, refined or otherwise from another country without actually being there then you’ll know the pain we are sparing ourselves here!
Supadance Factory Tour
On the factory floor there is a hive of activity and you really begin to see the complexity of constructing the shoes from the plain fabrics and materials. It’s a busy floor with many staff working on the intricate parts of the shoe manufacture. Let’s take a look around and see some of the different parts of the process in a bit more detail.
Here you can see the materials for lining and insoles being punched from the sheet material using the template cutters and the huge press. Note this is a manual process and there is someone’s heart and soul going into the crafting out of these components. The materials used are carefully selected with considerations for usability, durability, cost and ease of handling. You may not realise but there is some degree of cushioning in the insides of dance shoes which adds a level of comfort often not noticed until you try a pair without!
The linings and insoles for all different shapes and sizes of dance shoe are grouped, stacked up and made ready for their fittings further down the factory line. Can you guess which styles these fit into? It seems amazing to think these shoes, born and bred in the UK, end up all over the world.
Some of the linings for the uppers require shaping and of course this doesn’t happen by magic either; this is carefully shaped and stitched as necessary, typically for men’s or enclosed shoes (You don’t see many upper linings on those open sandals do you ladies?).
The uppers go through a similar process. Here you can see the cutting table with that soft, fine leather sheet. The template for a man’s shoe (Are they James’ new ones about to roll off the line?) about to be punched out of the leather. The leather has to be cut carefully with consideration to ensuring any minor texture variations in the leather still produce a matching right and left shoe. This leather will also have been skimmed on the reverse side to ensure an even thickness throughout. Sometimes the leather might need functional perforations after the cut-out so these will be added next.
At a stretch
Once the materials are cut, most need shaping around a last, to form the shape of the shoe materials for the foot they are designed to fit. Here you can see the white outer shoe material being carefully stretched and shaped around it’s matching last. A last is needed for each style of shoe, each size of shoe, and then obviously for both the right and left, so that’s a huge number of variations to have to juggle around. James now has his very own custom last (perhaps we should Christen it James Last?) – now you don’t get that just anywhere do you? Supadance sizes are based on UK shoe sizes and we generally find the sizing to be very much in equality with normal shoes. Supadance have several times gone that extra mile for us though to produce a unique fit shoe making our dance shoes the most comfortable and functional they could possibly be.
The ladies shoes, and by that we mean the enclosed shoes, are shaped similarly. Here that fine satin for the court shoe is being shaped. The materials have to be pulled evenly around the shoe to ensure a nice smooth, even finish all round, and remember this is all being done by hand.
Here you can a men’s patent upper shoe being stitched on the sewing machine. Of course, that’s no ordinary sewing machine, it’s several thousand pounds worth of industrial Pfaff machine – yes, gents, that’s the model you all dream of owning! Typically there may be up to 200 manual processes involved in the shoe production from materials to completed, packaged shoe.
Even the lady’s intricate strapping for those wonderful Latin shoes have that soft cushioned inner lining hand stitched on before the excess is cut away (Yes, Gents, that is yet another Pfaff industrial Ferrari of the sewing machines you have spotted!). Crafty isn’t it?
One the shoes are shaped, those wonderful non-skid soles can be carefully glued into position, then all the heels and adornments can be fitted. Those who have ever tried re-soling their own dance shoes will well know they’re never the same as when they are done properly the first time by these guys who really know their art. They make it look easy, but we all know we’d be in a right mess here… it’s similar to being a professional dancer though, you have to make your trade look easy.
Is the Chairman free?
These shoes are extensively researched and tested and quality remains, in our opinion, second to none. Here’s Chairman, Barry Free, the driving force behind this wonderful team checking out his latest favourite style; we’re not quite sure it’s for him though.
So, next time you go to put on your shoes, spare a thought for the years of experience in all those Great British hands that have helped craft it. They’re a big part of the fun you’re having or the latest masterpiece you’re trying to create. If you haven’t tried them already, you can find them and read more about them here at the Supadance website. You can shop there 24/7 too!
To all at Supadance, we thank you for our shoes; the World’s Greatest Shoes.