What’s in your shoe?

You probably never think about it, but your shoe consists of more than 5,700 parts. In addition to leather or textile, it also concerns glue, metal, coatings and dyes. NEMO Kennislink delves into the story behind the making of your shoe and tells you what is involved.

You walk in your shoes every day. Whether sneakers, sandals or pumps. You walk with them through the snow, the sand and on the sidewalk. We use them all the time, but actually we have no idea what they are made of and how many pieces they are made of. We often know whether they are made of leather or nubuck, but that is only part of the footwear. Because in one shoe there are no less than 5700 parts, Judith de Leeuw explained see her documentary ‘My Shoe’.

Just think of leather and textile (for the outside and the lining), rubber and cork (for the sole), metal (for the rings through which the laces go or for a zipper), and plastic (for the nose of a shoe. or the end of a lace). Not to mention glue, coatings and various dyes. By mixing and processing different types of materials, the desired effect is achieved: being able to sell a sturdy, well-fitting, waterproof and fashionable shoe. In addition, there is the use of chemicals in making all these parts, CO2 emissions and water consumption in production and of course transport by truck, boat or plane to bring all the parts together.

What is involved in making one shoe? Click on the image for a larger view.

Can that be done more sustainably?

If we want to make more sustainable shoes and also garments, then we have to look at all these parts. They are, as it were, all puzzle pieces with which your shoe is built. Producing one part greener is of little use, because that is just one piece of the puzzle of a much larger building. NEMO Kennislink interviewed Pim Croes about a new approach whereby companies themselves can calculate a fair price to produce their clothes and shoes sustainably and without child labor. We also spoke with four experts who will tell you how you can make your wardrobe greener. For example, by buying clothes made from one fiber and recycling garments. You can read more about it in this article.


  • Harmsen, P., & Bos, H. (2020). Textiles for circular fashion: Part 1: Fibre resources and recycling options. (Groene grondstoffen). Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. https://doi.org/10.18174/517183
  • Jia, F., Yin, S., Chen, L., Chen, X. (2020). The circular economy in the textile and apparel industry: A systematic literature review. Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 259, 120728, doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.120728.

Source: Kennislink by www.nemokennislink.nl.

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