Why aren't all shoes made with non-slip soles?

Is the process of making shoes non-slip expensive and labor intensive?

In terms of non-slip I’m talking about the soles you get on most work (construction etc) shoes / boots. Even some of the best so-called walking or hiking shoes / boots that cost a bomb are actually quite poor when it comes to grip on the soles.

I’d guess because they don’t look as nice. I’m sure there are plenty of non slip shoe materials that look ‘normal’ now, but I think many people don’t want to worry that their dress shoes to look like sneakers because there’s a rubber sole on them.
There’s probably also a concern about leaking marks on the floor.

This question hits me where I live, as slip-and-fall accidents are my personal Kryptonite.

Work boots and hiking boots are pretty dissimilar, even when they look alike. Red Wing work boots have vibram soles, a very flexible rubber that finds the crevices and grooves in a flat surface like a warehouse or press room floor. This would be destroyed on a hiking trail, which needs a harder and more durable rubber for more varied terrain, but would slip like crazy on a treated concrete floor.

A shoe that splits the difference is the Mephisto Spinnaker ankle boot, available at Comfort One and (I think) Bloomingdales. I wouldn’t wear it to a wedding or a court appearance, but a great shoe, nonetheless.

Actually, Vibram soles are still a standard on hiking boots. The first use of Vibram was for mountain climbing boots in the 50’s. Keep in mind that there are several types of Vibram for different conditions, and there’s always a balance between grip and wear. But in general grip is extremely important in hiking footwear.

I guess it’s like car tires. Grippy high-performance tires use softer material, but they wear out faster than harder long-life tires that have poor grip. A good balance of softness/performance and durability is not easy to achieve. It requires more exotic chemical compounds and manufacturing processes, and the end result is usually at best a compromise while costing a good bit more. Work and hiking boots are like off roading tires in that they can use harder material for durability while making up for some of the lack of grip with an aggressive tread pattern. The tradeoff for tires is more noise and high rolling resistance on pavement, and for boots it’s a lack of slip resistance on smoother surfaces while being more prone to pick up mud and debris, plus the look.

There’s a number of sneakers, oxfords, and loafers available from certain manufacturers and/or in certain styles with slip resistant soles. They generally don’t have clunky “off road tire” type treads, and some even can work as dress shoes. I wish there were more available, as I find it to be a great feature.

Every pair of hiking boots I’ve gotten in the last 40 years has had a Vibram sole. I searched for “vibram” on Amazon and I see pages and pages of hiking boots, running shoes, walking shoes, etc. I didn’t see any work boots in the first few hundred results.

Non-slip soles that work great for oil or dust tend to work poorly on ice, and vice versa.

This is a video about a lab in Canada that rates shoes and boots for resistance to slipping on ice.


From the days when ballroom dancing was all the rage, men’s dress shoes have smooth leather soles. It’s hard to foxtrot in non-slip soles.

Non slip soles are designed to keep traction on wet surfaces, but take the non slip sole out in the snow and ice and the snow clumps in the tread and hardens like ice and down you go!

When you learn to walk in slippery shoes, it just isn’t important most of the time. When you are used to walking with grippy soles, you adjust your gait/turn/stop to use that.

Going back to leather soles, I notice that they are lighter shoes, you can feel the surface more, you can move your feet more gracefully, they last better… and they are slippery.

Also, their used to be a kind of syndicated cartoon in the newspapers that the artists called “big foot”. Beetle Baily, Hagar the Horrible… guys drawn with big shoes :).

A correction to my earlier post: Mephisto Spinnakers are loafers and their traction is nothing special. Ecco makes the really good ankle boots. My apologies.

A point of clarification. Vibram is not a material, Vibram is a brand. It’s an Italian rubber company that primarily makes rubber soles for many different manufacturers.

There are a number of Redwing boots that do use Vibram soles. The ‘supersole’ series of boots are the ones I use, they are the most oil,slip resistant soled boot redwing offers. ‘supersole’ is not made by Vibram. It’s a urethane sole. They are very grippy on hard surfaces, they are indeed very oil resistant. They lack deep texture so aren’t the best traction in mud and loose soil. They aren’t that great on ice. Urethane is more susceptible to tearing than other sole materials, so is generally not used for aggressive patterns. Urethane is very abrasion resistant, it takes much longer to where out urethane soles. I regularly replace the boots for reasons other than the soles.

My current hikers are Lowas. They use a Vibram, rubber sole. They offer very good grip on outdoor surfaces, mud gravel, asphalt, snow, ice. They are not very good on tile or other finished surfaces. Getting oil on them turns them to ice skates. They are softer and wear faster. My primary reason for replacing hikers is the soles wearing out.

Thanks for the link! http://www.ratemytreads.com/ratings/

[quote=“gazpacho, post:9, topic:823203”]

This is a video about a lab in Canada that rates shoes and boots for resistance to slipping on ice.


you can get addons that add non slip patches to shoes. (or you could in 1991 ) My wife got them for her wedding shoes

This is why my 17 year old Doc Marten shoes are still in great shape. In Vancouver, where I bought them, they are a great winter shoe, except for a few snowy days. In Thunder Bay ON, where I lived from 2003-2012, they were usually only worn outside for the months of October and April. Wearing them when it is cold or snowy cause me tp become a danger to myself and others.

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Thanks for all your responses on this one. Some interesting points.

For me vibram soles on a good well put together boot work well for all round use. My work environment is a lot of walking, inside and out, working on slick surfaces and a lot of outdoor work on concrete in all weathers. I like the polyurethane soles and they last the best for me, but probably lose out to a good vibram when it comes to snow and ice.

I’ve had mixed experiences with Red Wings, and have never been able to get on with any Dr Marten boot. For me, Carolina’s have served me the best. Just difficult to get where I am.

I just find on weekends if I put on a more “relaxed” non work shoe/boot I just don’t feel as secure under foot!

Check out Shoes For Crews. Not a plug, I’m just a satisfied customer of theirs. They started out making pretty much just a couple of styles for kitchen workers, but have branched out and partnered with brands like Dockers, New Balance, and DeWalt, so they have sneakers, dressy shoes, and work boots now.

I’ve only had their kitchen shoes - great for staying upright on wet tile or concrete floors.