Broadly speaking, all LOWA boots are produced using one of two production methods; the board-lasted method (also known as the cemented sole method) and the slip-lasted injected sole process. The board-lasted method takes considerably longer and is more labour intensive than the slip-lasted process, so the capacity is far more limited (approx 7200 pairs a week). These are manufactured at LOWA’s Jetzendorf HQ and factory in Bavaria. LOWA produces 60,000 pairs of boots a week using the slip-lasted injected sole method and these are manufactured in the Bošany factory in Slovakia. 100% of its footwear, uppers included, is manufactured in Europe and therefore LOWA benefits from much shorter delivery times.
Below, we’ll cover how both production methods are used to make LOWA boots but first, we’ll take a quick look at their benefits
Board-Lasted LOWA Boots
Board-lasting is the more traditional of the two methods and like all things, it has its pros and cons. A popular choice for footwear that needs to be hard-wearing and robust, board-lasting is still commonly used to manufacture military boots, hiking boots, and safety boots, amongst others.
Slip-Lasted LOWA Boots
Slip-lasted boots are more flexible than their board-lasted counterparts, making it an ideal production method for lightweight boots. The slip-lasting method is considerably quicker than the board-lasting process, allowing for a far quicker turn-around. That said, the manufacturing process is much the same as board-lasting, with only a few steps of deviation that really make the difference.
The LOWA Boot Production Process
Step 1- Cutting Leather For Our Footwear
It all starts here… a hydraulic press punches a pattern-cutter through the leather. The leather for LOWA boots must be cut precisely, not just in shape but the position on the hide. The exact location on the grain where the pattern is cut can impact structure and flexibility, so experience and know-how from the worker is a must.
LOWA uses a special pattern-cutter for each part of the boot, depending on the boots, shoe and size being produced.
Step 2 - Sewing
After the leather pieces are punched out by the hydraulic press, they must be precisely sewn together with robust sewing machines.
The sewing on LOWA boots is always done by an expert using an industrial sewing machine. This combination of human know-how and mechanical power ensures the stitching on LOWA boots is as secure as possible. It is at this point that inner linings are also sewn, such as the waterproof GORE-TEX linings used on many models. Once they are finished and depending on the style of boot the uppers are shipped to the relevant manufacturing facility if they are not manufactured at the individual factory.
Step 3 - Glueing And Fixing
An exclusive spray-on glueing process ensures that the material's pores for transporting moisture out of the footwear remain open.
Glueing is a vital part of the footwear production process, particularly when it comes to the outsole. A robust and durable connection is required to ensure the durability of any footwear. However, with outdoor boots, the shoe also needs to remain breathable, allowing air and moisture to flow out while keeping its waterproof properties. These high demands are why LOWA uses an exclusive spray-on glueing process during the manufacture of boots. This choice allows us to create long-lasting, durable footwear that is also breathable, for those long-distance treks.
This level of care is also taken when fixing other materials onto our boots, such as metal eyelets and hooks for our lacing systems. Here, we use specialised riveting machines to ensure they are just as durable.
Step 4 - Lasting
A last is what we call the foot-shaped form made of wood or plastic on which a shoe is made.
The boot is shaped over the last during the manufacturing process. Our unique and detailed lasts are what allow us to create the most comfortable footwear on the market. You can learn more about this section in our blog post all about shaped lasts.
Step 5 - Shaping The Uppers
The upper is the top part of the boot. Shaping the upper is the process of forming the shape of the leather and then attaching it to the last. These days this step is detailed and computerised machinery guides the process of drawing the leather upper over the last until it is firmly and correctly positioned. Once fitted, the lasting machine's pincers then pull the bottom edge of the material underneath the form. The upper is fastened onto an insole that's been placed on the last.
A board-lasted outsole will later be attached to this same insole using a chemical, pressure and heat process. The injected sole process as this point differs, in essence, the upper is bonded to the sole unit by the use of the LOWA-exclusive Monowrap frame rubber mould.
Step 6 - Rubber Rand
A typical quality hallmark of LOWA is the rubber protective edging, or "rand", that is mounted separately.The rand is part of the board lasted manufacturing method although not all board-lasted boots have a rand. The LOWA Desert Elite and LOWA Elite Evo do not have a rand and obviously, in these instances, this step is skipped.
The rand is a rubber strip that runs around the boot, often over the divide between the outsole and the upper material. This strip plays a vital role in the durability of outdoor footwear, protecting the edges of the leather from moisture and damage. LOWA rands are mounted separately with the precision of an expert to ensure they are perfectly fitted to the footwear.
Step 7 - Soles
LOWA almost exclusively uses rubber soles which are usually equipped with a cushioning midsole of polyurethane (PU) foam. As with the shaped and cemented upper, the sole of a boot must be extensively pre-treated before use. Once ready, a board-lasted boot upper will be cemented onto the footwear using a heated, chemical bonded pneumatic press.
The injected sole process is when the sole is moulded directly onto the lasted upper, PU is injected directly into the boot or shoe mould. Immediately after attachment, the bonds are cured in a cooling chamber to ensure the best connection and durability.
For more information on the products we offer, check out our article on sole technology.
Step 8 - Removal Of The Last
The last, which has given shape to the product during production, is then pulled out of the finished footwear. This task requires very precise handling. While it used to be done by hand, nowadays it is done with the help of dedicated machinery.
Step 9 - Finishing
During the final quality control, all footwear gets a finishing touch. Once the boot is complete, laces are threaded, footbeds inserted and product tags are attached before the footwear is packed and ready to go.
Step 10 - Packing and Shipping
Footwear is stored in the LOWA warehouse and then distributed to our customers to enjoy.