Hanwag: honesty is the best policy

Editor, 4-Seasons
© Fotos

…and it’s served Bavarian shoemaker Hanwag well for 100 years. Touring shoes and hiking boots have evolved massively, but craftsmanship is and remains utterly crucial.

When Hanwag’s founder Hans Wagner set up his workshop in the Bavarian town of Vierkirchen in 1921, shoes were made by hand. This process encompassed various labour-intensive steps: cutting, sewing, shaping, soling. The physically demanding work saw the shoemakers sit on small stools with the lasts in their lap, forcefully pulling leather over them. Back then, a good craftsman would only make a few shoes a day. The quality of these shoes, though, was fantastic, even then: for customers – often farmers and labourers – a shoe was a purchase for life. They’d just have a new sole fitted every couple of years. As time went on, machinery became available to assist the shoemakers, with, say sewing or lasting. Alongside traditional leather, high-performance synthetics and textiles are now used. And, of course, computers play a major role in planning shapes and creating designs. However, it remains the case that vast amounts of experience and craftsmanship feed into a good shoe. Hanwag’s philosophy is exemplified by two points that have already been mentioned: their lasts and the fact that their shoes can be resoled.

Resoling Hanwag shoes and footwear from other brands

Once you’ve broken in your climbing shoes or hiking boots, you won’t want to buy new ones in a hurry. But what if the sole is so worn out that you can’t use them or there’s even a hole in the rubber? In partnership with our suppliers, we can offer you new soles so you don’t have to go out and buy new footwear.

Everyone knows the saying ‘Cobbler, keep to your last’, which means you should concentrate on the things you can do best. But what even is a last? It’s a piece of wood, plastic or metal shaped like a foot and used for the construction of a shoe. In other words, it’s an artificial foot that determines the subsequent fit of the footwear.

The perfect fit – even for tricky feet

While most shoe manufacturers use standard lasts that fit as many feet as possible, Hanwag has specialised in diversity. Lots of its shoe models are available in wider or narrower fits, and Hanwag will stop at nothing to solve problems suffered by just a handful of customers. Their ‘bunion’ last is typical of this. This name refers to the medical condition ‘hallux valgus’, where the big toe juts out at an angle and causes issues including stiffness of the big toe joint. Women in particular are afflicted by this complaint. Recently, however, growing numbers of boulders and sport climbers of all genders have been affected by it, as they often force their feet into overly narrow slippers. The ‘bunion’ last includes a correspondingly large opening near the big toe and offers relief for anyone who has not opted to treat their bunion surgically. People suffering from this condition can purchase a ‘bunion’ last version of bestsellers like the Tatra II trekking shoe from Transa.

  • Alte Wanderschuhe von Hanwag.
    Photo © Hanwag
  • Fünf Personen stehen vor einem Haus, die Frau hält ein Kind auf dem Arm.
    Photo © Hanwag
  • Ein Mann voor einem Regal, in dem Schuhschablonen gelagert sind.
    Photo © Hanwag
  • Schuhsohle mit einem Sticker, auf dem "Wiederbesohlbar" steht.
    Photo © Hanwag

A sustainable start to the firm’s second century

The same goes for resoling the shoes: cheaply produced shoes usually have the soles cemented onto them (‘Strobel construction’), so it is not possible to replace them. The lasted approach is expensive and labour-intensive, but soles can be changed if required. You might have already guessed that all Hanwag’s shoe models are lasted and can therefore be resoled. ‘If your Hanwag shoe has done lots of lovely tours and has now seen better days, just take it to Transa. They’ll send it to us and our specialists will resole it. This is sustainable and much cheaper than buying a new pair,’ says Alex Gamper from Bus Sport. This company, based in Buchs in the canton of St. Gallen, has been distributing Hanwag products in Switzerland since 2004. ‘Hanwag is a perfect fit for the Swiss market,’ says Alex, ‘thanks to its honest craftsmanship, flawless reliability and long-term approach.’

As Hanwag’s largest retailer in Switzerland, Transa also stocks the biggest range of lasts. Now, it’s time for the company to step into its second century in sustainable style with its new Blueridge range of shoes, made predominantly from recycled materials and totally PFC-free. They will be available from spring 2022 in the Markthalle Bern and Zurich Europaallee stores.

Hanwag shoes

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