How Vans shoes are made
Do you want to know how Vans shoes are made? The Vans classic slip on and skate shoes are made by the vulcanized shoe making process. The brothers, Paul Van Doren and James Van Doren, started The Van Doren Rubber Company in 1966. Over the next 40 years they opened factories in California and later contracted factories in China and Vietnam to make the classic Vans vulcanized shoes.
“vulcanize: The process of heating raw rubber to cure it. This process creates cross links inside the rubber compound bonding it together. Before the rubber is vulcanized it is stretchable, gummy and easy to tear. After being vulcanized the rubber is tough, stretchable and ready to wear.”
How Vans shoes are made: Vulcanized
In the Vans vulcanized shoe making process the rubber shoe outsole parts are assembled onto the lasted upper before the rubber is completely cured. With the sole attached, the entire shoe must be heated in an vulcanizing oven. The shoe must be heated to around 170˚C – that is over 300˚F! The heat required to vulcanize the rubber sole will melt nylon and polyester fabrics, certain types of foam like EVA and PE are also damaged by the heat. Vans shoes are made by the vulcanized process thus the uppers must be made of heat-resistant materials like suede leather and cotton canvas with metal hardware. This can limit the material choices for footwear designers.
The vulcanized shoemaking process must be made in a specific factory equipped with lots of special machines. The shoemaking equipment required is very different from the equipment needed to make cold cement shoes. A shoe factory will usually specialize in one process or the other, you will rarely find both vulcanized and cold cement processes inside the same factory.
The upper stitching and construction of a Vans vulcanized shoe is nearly the same as a cold cement shoe. The inside reinforcements for the toe and heel counters are made of thin rubber sheets instead of plastic. Again, due to the high temperature required for the vulcanized rubber, any kind of plastic or PVC logos or trim treatments must be avoided when designing a vulcanized shoe. The lining of Vans shoes are made from light weight cotton canvas.
While the uppers being stitched, the rubber components for the vulcanized sole unit must be prepared. The rubber components for vulcanized shoes have a shelf life of only a few days. If the rubber parts are made and set aside the rubber will begin to oxidize, partially cure, and will not properly cure when the shoes are finally getting vulcanized.
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