What Are Breathable Shoes? (2024)

Table of Contents (click to expand)
  • The History Of Breathable Shoes
  • Need For Breathable Shoes
  • What Are Breathable Shoes Made Of?
  • Why Aren’t All Shoes Breathable Shoes?

Breathable shoes are shoes made of materials that allow air and water vapor to escape from inside the shoe, while also allowing cooler air from outside to enter. This prevents sweat from accumulating inside the shoe, which can lead to fungal or bacterial infections of the foot.

If you’ve ever had a moment when you take off your shoes after a long day of work and the smell overwhelms you… you’re not alone. We’ve all been embarrassed by smelly shoes in our lives… I mean, who hasn’t experienced this at some point in their lives?

What Are Breathable Shoes? (1)

Most shoes are made of rubber, which traps heat and moisture, resulting in smelly shoes. To combat this, a gentleman in Italy invented shoes with breathable soles that allow the trapped odor and heat to escape. This new range of shoes not only releases any stink, but also releases heat, keeping your feet comfortable all day.

Recommended Video for you:

The History Of Breathable Shoes

Mario Moretti Polegato, an Italian entrepreneur, developed the concept of breathable shoes. He belonged to a family of winemakers, not cobblers, and during a visit to a wine fair in Nevada, USA, in the early 1990s, he had a Eureka moment.

During the fair, his shoes overheated due to their rubber soles, and as a result, he made holes in the bottom of his shoes to let them “breathe”. That simple solution led him on a path to let shoes breathe all over the world. He committed himself to developing a technology that could provide shoes with a breathable sole containing holes, while still being waterproof.

What Are Breathable Shoes? (2)

Also Read: How Have Shoes Changed Our Feet?

Need For Breathable Shoes

Fabrics like cotton are great during the summer, as they let air move through their tiny pores. Cooler air from outside can enter inside, while warm air can move outside, giving you some level of comfort. This property is known as the breathability of a fabric. The fabric does not trap any heat and, as a result, provides a cool feeling, even if worn for many hours.

Shoes, on the other hand, are made from materials like rubber and or plastics, including polyurethane or polyvinylchloride (PVC). These materials are particularly prevalent in the soles of the shoes.

A shoe sole is either single- or multi-layered. In the latter, the sole is divided into 3 parts—the insole, midsole and outsole. The insole comes directly in contact with the foot and, at times, extra cushioning is added for comfort.

Unlike cotton, rubber and plastics are non-breathable materials. They trap the sweat and bacteria, as well as heat, inside the shoe.

Breathable shoes, on the other hand, have a waterproof porous membrane on the upper sole that allows heat to escape. The upper membrane of the shoe is made of a breathable, waterproof and microporous film of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (e-PTFE).

What Are Breathable Shoes? (3)

The e-PTFE microporous membrane has over a billion pores per square centimeter. This is smaller than even the smallest water droplet, but several times larger than a water vapor molecule. As a result, water cannot enter the membrane, but any water vapor that is formed due to sweat can easily escape the membrane. That’s why these membranes are called breathable membranes, as the pores are smaller than water molecules, but larger than a water vapor molecule.

What Are Breathable Shoes Made Of?

Since the inception of the first breathable shoe in 1990, it is safe to say that people found other ways to wear shoes without cutting holes in them! Inventions in the field of breathable shoes by companies like Mario Moretti Polegato’s own, Geox, led to innovations to make the breathable shoe practical.

Some of the best breathable shoes on the market contain a membrane that is made with e-PTFE, whose commercial trade name is GORE-TEX. Bill and Genevieve Gore, the first to identify the waterproof qualities of e-PTFE, began using it in fabrics.

The expanded polytetrafluoroethylene membrane is a microporous membrane that is not only strong, but also waterproof and breathable.

What Are Breathable Shoes? (4)

While e-PTFE was first used by Gore, PTFE was discovered by Roy Plunkett at the DuPont Company’s Jackson Laboratory in 1938. The preparation of e-PTFE is quite a long and complicated process.

In brief, PTFE is made by polymerizing tetrafluoroethylene by heating chlorodifluoromethane at 600 to 700 °C. Expanding PTFE at high temperatures, anywhere around 300 to 320 degrees °C, gives you expanded-PTFE or e-PTFE. The high temperature allows PTFE to expand 10 times its original size. The end product is lightweight, as well as strong and sturdy.

This e-PTFE material is used in shoes that allow for the creation of a breathable and waterproof material.

To geek out about e-PTFE’s synthesis and chemistry, you can read more about it here.

What Are Breathable Shoes? (5)

Why Aren’t All Shoes Breathable Shoes?

Though breathable shoes are great, they’re still part of a niche market, which is why many might not have heard of them. Is there any reason why all shoes haven’t been made using breathable materials? Yes.

The technology behind breathable shoes is patent-protected. Patent rights are sole rights granted to the inventor (either an individual or a company). Registering a patent itself is an expensive business and, as a result, any product made from it is bound to be expensive. Breathable shoes are no exception, as most of the technology is protected, which leaves little scope for making it universal.

That being said, breathable shoes have changed the way we look at comfort and fashion, sending a strong modern message that “Fashion can be comfortable too!”

Also Read: Can Shoes Really Improve A Runner’s Performance?

References (click to expand)
  1. Breathable Shoes: Branding Success through Patenting - WIPO. The World Intellectual Property Organization
  2. History - Geox.biz. Geox
  3. The GORE-TEX Membrane: What it is, how it works and why .... Gore-Tex
  4. US20020157278A1 - Breathable shoe - Google Patents. Google Patents
  5. US4187390A - Porous products and process therefor. Google Patents
  6. Vapor-permeable shoe with waterproof and vapor-permeable sole - patents.google.com
  7. Polytetrafluoroethylene | Definition, Structure, Uses, & Facts. britannica.com
What Are Breathable Shoes? (2024)


What Are Breathable Shoes? ›

Breathable shoes contain fabrics and technologies that allow heat to escape, helping to regulate the temperature of your feet.

What is the difference between breathable and non breathable shoes? ›

Breathable shoes differ from ordinary shoes primarily in their construction and materials. While ordinary shoes may collect heat and moisture inside, leading to discomfort and potential foot problems, breathable shoes are particularly made to allow air circulation and have moisture-wicking properties.

What kind of shoes to wear for sweaty feet? ›

Well-fitting shoes made of leather, which allow your feet to breathe, are best. Athletic shoes using nylon mesh for breathability are also recommended for sweaty feet.

What happens if shoes are not breathable? ›

A number of shoes are not made out of breathable material which, coupled with a lack of socks, keeps moisture on the foot and can make you more susceptible to foot ailments like athlete's foot or toenail fungus.

Can shoes be breathable? ›

Therefore, breathable mesh shoes are great for running as it guarantees maximum air circulation and has breathable holes to add fresh air to your feet; breathable fabric moves the moisture away to sit on the fabric rather than your foot which minimises chafing and maximises comfort.

Is Crocs good for sweaty feet? ›

They can cause sweating and irritation

Additionally, Crocs are made from plastic. Although they have drainage holes that can make them feel breathable, the plastic can still make your feet sweat. In some cases, friction between your skin and the plastic can also lead to irritation and discomfort.

Are polyester shoes breathable? ›

Polyester- Polyester is a plastic based fabric making it durable, lightweight, breathable, and non-absorbent.

Can you wear breathable shoes without socks? ›

Sneakers without Socks

But did you know they're also a great option for going sockless? Look for sneakers made of breathable materials like mesh or canvas, which allow your feet to breathe while keeping them cool and dry.

Why should shoes be breathable? ›

Breathability is the key to keeping your feet cool and dry. For sweaty feet, breathable athletic shoes are an absolute must because they help with odor control—big time. Proper breathability in athletic shoes also impacts overall foot health and prevents common foot problems, including those from pesky moisture.

How do I stop my feet from sweating and smelling in my shoes? ›

Wear socks made of wool, acrylic, or polypropylene: These fabrics help wick moisture away from your skin. Rotate your shoes: Change them daily to give each pair a chance to dry out before you wear them again. Change your socks often: Changing them daily, or even more, helps keep your skin dry.

What material is best for sweaty feet? ›

There are the two main features to look for when choosing socks for sweaty feet — moisture-wicking material and breathability. Moisture-wicking socks are made from fabrics like merino wool, nylon, and polyester that are designed to transfer sweat away from the skin so it can be evaporated.

Is it better to wear socks or go barefoot? ›

Walking barefoot at home for an extended amount of time can result in the development of foot deformities, this is from the imbalances in pressure that happen when you walk barefoot. Wearing socks at home alleviates this as it provides a cushion effect to improve your balance, when walking.

Can you get foot fungus from wearing shoes without socks? ›

Socks are designed to keep your feet safe from uncomfortable friction, infections, and bacteria. Without socks, perspiration is absorbed by your footwear, setting up the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive, and it's your feet that pay the price.

Can waterproof shoes be breathable? ›

It's important to note that there is a range with *how* breathable waterproof footwear can be. For most of us - we don't need to get too hung up on those numbers. Without getting too science-y, the waterproof layer has tiny vents that allows moisture/sweat to escape but small enough to keep water out.

What is the most breathable fabric to wear? ›

Plant-based fabrics, like cotton, linen, and bamboo, are the most breathable fabrics, making them ideal for clothing and bedding. Animal-based fabrics like silk and wool are also breathable, and all of the above allow for easy air circulation, wick away perspiration, and to help keep the body cool.

Which sole material is best for sweaty feet? ›

A leather-soled shoe is also better for people that experience issues with their feet, such as sweat or foot odor. Another tremendous benefit of these soles is the resistance they offer from the ground and providing you a temperature regulation. For these reasons, leather-soled shoes are the most popular in the summer.

Are Air Jordans breathable? ›

Ventilation – Perforations are found on the toe box. This is the only area in which heat will be able to escape other than the Nylon tongue. Nylon is fairly breathable and is still used today so ventilation will most likely perform similar to some of today's performance models. Support – There isn't any…


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Moshe Kshlerin

Last Updated:

Views: 6630

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (77 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Moshe Kshlerin

Birthday: 1994-01-25

Address: Suite 609 315 Lupita Unions, Ronnieburgh, MI 62697

Phone: +2424755286529

Job: District Education Designer

Hobby: Yoga, Gunsmithing, Singing, 3D printing, Nordic skating, Soapmaking, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Moshe Kshlerin, I am a gleaming, attractive, outstanding, pleasant, delightful, outstanding, famous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.