Shoes that fall apart in the cupboard

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st shoes1 . Well-heeled: Wear PU-soled shoes regularly if you want them to last.

Quite a few readers responded to last week’s story about the moulded polyurethane (PU) soles of shoes disintegrating after they were stored for months in a cupboard without being worn.

Among them was Sue Rose, who bought several pairs of PU-soled shoes from a factory shop, and kept one of them in her cupboard for 10 months before she wore them.

“When I did wear them to a luncheon, the one sole literally fell apart to nothing,” she said.

“Thank you for educating me and everyone else on PU soles. From now on I will ensure I wear all my shoes regularly.”

PU soles are widely used in brands of “comfort” shoes such as Froggie, Tsonga, Green Cross, Clarks, Hush Puppies, Scholl, Bass and Ecco.

While being extremely light, comfortable and durable, these soles need to be worn constantly to avoid them succumbing to hydrolysis, especially in coastal areas.

Apparently wearing them puts pressure on the soles and squeezes out the moisture, which would otherwise break apart the foam-like structure. The point of my story was that most stores which sell these shoes do not warn people against leaving them unworn for any length of time – a season, for example – in order to avoid the soles crumbling into a sticky mess.

Commendably, Froggie has now had swing tags printed, advising consumers who buy their PU-soled shoes how to prevent the soles from disintegrating.

The tags should be introduced to stores this month.

Patrick Largatzis wrote in with a remarkable story of after-sales service, relating to PU-sole failure.

“I had a similar problem with a pair of Tasmanian-made Blundstone (boots) which I bought in Cape Town more than 10 years ago,” he said.

“Shortly after buying them, I moved overseas for a few years, and I packed these almost-new boots away.

“Ten years later I finally unpacked them, thinking that these good-quality boots would be as good as ever, but I found the soles perished and crumbling, leaving the boots unusable.

“I wrote to the manufacturers, including photos of the boots, in the remote hope that they might offer replacement under guarantee. To my surprise, they responded within a day, explaining in the same manner as you did the reasons for the perishing of PU soles, and, as a gesture of goodwill, posted me a new pair!

“Needless to say, I am sold on this brand, and will forever recommend them.”


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