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How is our sheepskin footwear made? What to watch for when buying sheepskin footwear! One thing is for sure - you need to be very careful when purchasing sheepskin footwear these days for the following reasons:
Products are now appearing at very cheap prices which aren't made from natural sheepskin at all. They are made out of faux fur or a fake fur and won't be anywhere near as durable as real sheepskin. And yes - they sometimes call them natural sheepskin boots too which is 100% misleading. There are many products being sold that are called natural sheepskin boots which are made out of "single-faced" sheepskin with a suede leather outer (usually pigskin). Often these products are made in China and are also priced cheaply. Double-faced sheepskin / lambskin footwear versus single-faced Quality sheepskin footwear are made out of "double-faced" sheepskin unless the purpose of the sheepskin is to line a shoe style that is going to be made extremely durable on the outside using a heavy duty grain leather.
"Double-faced" sheepskin / lambskin is where the tannery produces a quality tanned product on both the skin side and the wool side of the sheepskin / lambskin. These are the most costly skins to buy because they are the best when making the original style of quality sheepskin boots.
"Single-faced" sheepskin / lambskin is where the tannery produces a usable tanned product on the wool side only. The skin side may have an unusually high proportion of marks and the dye is uneven therefore this type of skin is only suitable as a "liner". Sheepskin footwear manufacturers who use "single-faced" skins usually use them in conjunction with very cheap suede leather such as pigskin. Pigskin is one of the least attractive leathers because it is marked with visible holes all over due to pigs having very thick bristles. "Single-faced" sheepskin combined with pigskin is a far cheaper material to use for the footwear upper and doesn't have the same texture or quality that "double-faced" footwear have. Many such inferior products are being made in China using cheap labour and low-quality materials. But look closely and you will notice signs of pig skin or ripples in the upper where the pig skin does not quite line up with the underlying single-faced sheepskin.
All our sheepskin products that we promote and sell are all made from "double-faced", top quality sheepskin. Some of the styles that have a grain leather outer are made from "single-faced", quality sheepskin.
Soling materials and their benefits There are generally three types of soles used in sheepskin footwear: EVA soling - the most common. This is lightweight but very durable and is generally attached to the mid-sole through a heat activated gluing process.
PVC soling - similar to EVA but heavier. This is the same sort of material used on Doc Martens ® and is generally even more durable and oil resistant. This type of soling is also attached to the mid-sole through a heat activated gluing process.
SideWall soling usually a polyurethane or PVC/polyurethane blend. These types of soles are stitched to the upper using a SideWall sole stitching machine. SideWall soles are fine when the upper is made from a heavy leather or combination of heavy materials but are not suitable for use on sheepskin which is a soft leather. The side-stitching creates a "dotted line" effect on the uppers which effectively tears after some wear. Alternatively, if the dotted line doesn't tear first, the lip edge on the side of the sole eventually wears through the soft leather as the sole flexes from walking. Soling manufacturers insist SideWall soles only get used on re-inforced uppers. Most sheepskin footwear with SideWall soles deteriorate within 12 to 18 months of wear (sometimes less) as the soles cut through the upper. Whilst a SideWall sole may look more attractive, it builds into sheepskin footwear a reduced life expectency.
Mid-sole All sheepskin footwear have a mid-sole which is made from special particle board (of which there are a variety of types). Mid-soles can also include arch supports, gel inserts, etc. They can have the sheepskin inner-sole attached to it prior to sewing to the footwear uppers or they can be separate from a removable inner-sole.
Thread There is a variety of thread available but the most durable is a heavy duty nylon thread.
Binding tape Most good quality sheepskin footwear will have binding used at least around the mid-sole/inner-sole area and usually at the foot openings too. This provides strength, helps make the bottom of the uppers water resistant (by hiding the stitch holes from the overlocking process) and provides a pleasant aesthetic look.
Sewing machines Most sheepskin manufacturers use industrial overlockers and straight-stitch sewing machines. Some also do a short zig-zag style where the upper has a flat zig zag stitch which is ultra comfortable.