What are the pros and cons of EVA foam?
EVA foam, or ethylene-vinyl-acetate is a synthetic material used to make sneakers for over half a century. Thanks to its shock-absorbant, customizable properties, EVA has begun to appear in boot and shoe construction.
EVA is more comfortable than most materials, and it’s great straight out of the box; if there’s one issue with EVA, it’s that it won’t remain durable for as long as other materials.
I’m a traditionalist at heart, and I’m always wary of footwear innovations when it comes to my boots and shoes. So when I recently spotted a pair of boots with an EVA sole, I decided to do my research.
I had no idea whether an EVA sole was comfortable, so I decided to see what EVA foam is and how it can be used.
EVA has been used on sneakers for decades, but can it benefit boots? After researching what EVA brings to the table, I was pleasantly surprised at how beneficial it can be.
Pros and Cons of EVA Foam in Boots
EVA foam in footwear is hardly revolutionary, but it’s more often seen in sports footwear, such as running shoes, than it is in dress shoes or boots.
EVA is becoming more commonly found in boots and shoes because people now expect the same comfort in their shoes as in their sneakers.
Most of us over the years have worn a pair of dress shoes, and often they can be pretty uncomfortable, especially if you don’t wear them often.
I’ve seen my wife hobble around in heels, with her feet covered in band-aids. Her “they hurt like hell, but they look good” just doesn’t cut it for me. I want style and comfort.
You wouldn’t put up with painful sneakers, so why put up with painful boots? EVA foam is an incredibly versatile material and, used properly, can make your dress shoes feel like your favorite pair of sneakers.
Benefits of EVA Foam in Boots
Unlike many materials used to make boots, EVA is immediately comfortable; there’s no breaking in period, and EVA foam immediately cushions your feet. Often used in making midsoles, EVA foam is pliable enough to mold to the contours of your foot, making it one of the most comfortable choices if you’re wearing your footwear straight out of the box.
EVA foam retains its shape very well, too. Unlike materials such as cork, EVA will compress and then return to its original form. This feature makes EVA an excellent shock absorber when walking; while leather will mold to your feet, it’s not great at absorbing impact, EVA is superb at it.
Manufacturers don’t just use EVA for midsoles; more and more dress shoes are available with an EVA outsole too. An EVA outsole is more rigid than an EVA midsole would be because EVAs can be manufactured to different densities.
1. Waterproof EVA vs. Leaky Leather
If you’ve spent time trying to keep your leather dress shoes dry, you’ll know it’s not easy. You must keep applying something like mink oil to try and maintain its water-resistant qualities.
With an EVA sole on your dress boots or shoes, you can happily splash in puddles and see no lasting issues. EVA foam is a closed-cell foam, which means water can’t get in. Leather is a superb material, but it is also porous, which doesn’t help with waterproofing.
2. EVA Can be Made to Order
Leather can be cut to shape, molded, and stitched and has been a staple of footwear manufacturing since the first human stood on a thorn and decided enough was enough. EVA foam, though, can be manufactured in low or high quality, poured into shape, and can be used to create several parts of a boot.
You can even buy footwear that’s completely made of EVA foam; Crocs are made entirely of EVA and are some of the most comfortable footwear created. This flexibility and comfort make using EVA a no-brainer; I expect to see more boots and shoes made of this versatile material in the future.
Your new dress shoes could have an EVA sole that’s rigid enough to be durable but flexible enough to absorb impact, with a lower quality, more pliable midsole that’s there to keep your feet insanely comfortable.
3. EVA is Recyclable and Cost-Effective
Green is definitely the new color; companies need to reduce emissions, cut costs, and prove they’re trying to impact the environment positively. EVA is inexpensive, can be recycled, and allows companies to show they are using renewable materials.
Buying environmentally friendly boots may not be your primary concern when shopping, but it’s a start in the right direction. Pretty soon, you could be driving your electric vehicle to the office and then walking around all day in your EVA dress shoes.
4. Manufacturers can Vary the Hardness of your Soles
Allowing manufacturers to vary the hardness of EVA is a great way to alter the feel of your shoes. EVA hardness varies, unlike most materials used for outsoles, such as leather and rubber. You either have a hard leather sole, or you don’t; you can’t make a leather sole more shock absorbent or softer.
EVA hardness is measured in degrees, from 5 to 70 degrees, and the higher the degree, the harder the EVA. There needs to be a balance between hardness and stability, though; a 7-degree EVA outsole will be like walking on a bag of jello, just as a 30-degree EVA midsole would mean your feet wouldn’t feel stable.
With experience and experimentation, it’s possible to find the perfect balance for your dress shoes, making EVA one of the most customizable materials around. I can see EVA being used more widely in the future, as it can be customized in ways that leather and rubber simply can’t.
Drawbacks of EVA Foam in Boots
EVA foam is an excellent material for footwear, and while the positives are incredible, there are always downsides to consider. EVA doesn’t have many drawbacks, but the ones it does have seem considerable.
1. EVA Loses its Cushioning Over Time
One of the significant drawbacks to EVA foam in shoes is that over time, the minuscule bubbles inside the EVA that provide your feet with cushioning start to degrade. It’s a lot like jumping into a pool that you can’t refill; at first, it’s full of water, so you’re fine; two years later, you dive in and hit bottom as the waters have slowly disappeared.
EVA manufacturers have found ways to reduce the loss of these bubbles by using molds to compress the EVA, making the EVA much denser. These techniques have been used to create better midsoles and outsoles, but there’s a drawback; the cost goes through the roof.
2. EVA Breaks Down Much Quicker than Rubber or Leather
EVA foam struggles in the heat, so if you’re in a warmer climate, you may find that your dress shoes degrade quicker than what you’re used to. Regardless of the temperature, EVA has a history of being less long-lasting than more traditional materials.
Used regularly, shoes with an EVA sole will only last around 1-2 years before needing to be replaced. Admittedly, the higher the quality of the EVA used, the longer they’ll last, but good luck finding out what EVA was used.
Compared to rubber or leather, EVA loses out in the longevity race, but you can have EVA boots resoled, and the old material can be recycled, so there is at least a positive there too.
3. EVA Doesn’t Grip as well as Rubber
If you are planning on wearing your EVA-soled dress shoes in colder climates, it’s worth noting that EVA doesn’t grip as well as rubber does. Ice and snow won’t degrade the EVA as they can do with leather, and EVA is waterproof, but you’ll have to be wary about keeping on your feet.
As EVA was first used in running shoes, comfort, not grip, was the primary concern; you don’t often jog 10k in the ice and snow. Now that dress shoes have EVA soles. The problem remains; you’ll have comfort and shock absorption, but the grip isn’t fantastic.
EVA vs. Texon vs. Polyurethane
A big difference between EVA and polyurethane is that while EVA won’t last forever, it does take some time for the material to degrade. Polyurethane will degrade regardless of how many times you wear your boots.
If you wear your dress shoes sporadically, the EVA will last longer as the reduced usage takes longer to degrade the EVA, so those shoes you bought for special occasions could last for years. If the same shoes were made of polyurethane, they would degrade even if you left them in a closet for two years.
Sustainable Texon and EVA materials
Texon is manufactured using natural cellulose materials, making it an incredibly environmentally friendly material. While Texon isn’t used to make outsoles, it is used to make insoles, midsoles, toe boxes, and heel reinforcements.
Texon can be made much thinner than other materials while still offering your feet great support; it’s a strong material, too, and will hold its shape much better than a rubber heel counter. EVA is a better material for an outsole, but Texon can be cut from a sheet and glued to a shoe, making it a much easier material to use in repairs.
Is There a Difference Between EVA and High Density Foam?
While EVA and high-density foam have similar chemical structures, EVA foam is usually considered a low to medium-density foam. EVA is more pliable and better suited to use in making footwear components than high-density foam.
High-density foam deals with high temperatures much better than EVA and is a much harder material. We’re looking at EVA because it’s great for making midsoles and outsoles; the density and durability lend themselves well to making shoes shock absorbent yet comfortable.
A high-density foam would potentially make a more long-lasting sole for your dress shoes but would lose a great deal, if not all, of the comfort that EVA brings.
I was impressed with just how versatile, and comfortable EVA foam is, especially the outsole, which I think could be a massive hit. A high-quality EVA outsole on a pair of dress shoes will add real comfort; they’re perfect for work or special occasions.
Until EVA foam becomes as long-lasting as other materials, I can see boots with these soles being used more for infrequent wear rather than everyday use, though for midsoles, you’ll not find a more comfortable bed for your feet.
What is EVA foam used for?
EVA foam is used for so many day-to-day things that you probably use it without realizing it. Anything from footwear to bike seats, packaging, and fishing rods. EVA foam can be manufactured to various consistencies and thicknesses, making it one of the most widely used materials around.
Does EVA foam melt?
EVA foam won’t melt unless it reaches over 150º Fahrenheit, so unless you plan on cooking your dress shoes, you should be fine. EVA does have a history of degrading quicker in warm conditions; a warm climate will affect the ability of the EVA to act as a shock absorber.
Does an EVA sole make noise?
While some materials make squeaky noises on hard surfaces, EVA outsoles are much quieter. A leather sole will often make noises on a marble or wooden floor, but EVA should allow you to walk around quietly.