Starting today, Counter Kicks introduces our newest exclusive series titled “Sneaker Ingredients” featuring the elements and attributes that make up our favorite manufactured product: footwear. We begin by examining the sneaker ingredient: Thermoplastic Polyurethane, or better known as TPU. We explore the material’s background and many uses in today’s world, along with illustrating prominent shoes that carry the component. Continue reading for the scoop on sneaker ingredient TPU…
Long used to comprise components of various types of footwear, Thermoplastic Polyurethane – or TPU – is an elastomer that resembles rubber in consistency and feel. By nature, TPU has outstanding abrasion resistance, great low temperature flexibility, resistance to oil, and a high threshold of supporting weight. It is also very bondable, durable, paintable, impact resistant, and demonstrates good wear resistance. TPU is used in products as various as adhesives, audio tapes, printing ink, sporting goods, and wiring. One of the many advantages of using TPU for footwear is that it allows shoe companies to manufacture lighter, more comfortable products.
In the late 1960s, Huntsman International LLC was the first company to introduce TPU to the footwear industry. At that time, shoe producers had little experience with manufacturing TPU, even though it was easy to process, required little cost, and enabled an easy transition between short and long production runs. It was only when businesses took a leap and invested in TPU manufacture that the advantages of its use for mass production began to be seen.
The unique versatility of TPU as a soling material stems from near limitless formulation combinations that give designers and manufacturers unprecedented freedom to implement their designs for production. TPU can be made light, tough, comfortable, flexible, insulating, waterproof, slip-resistant and shock absorbent, simply by varying the formulation. Additionally, it can be formed into virtually any shape and color, and can accommodate air bags, cushioning inserts, or gels for comfort and support. TPU bonds well to many types of shoe uppers and its uses in footwear include safety boot outsoles, plates for soccer and golf shoes, shells for in-line skates, and heels for fashion.
Notable shoes to include TPU are: Air Jordan II (heel counter, midfoot eyelets), Nike Air Flightposite III (midfoot straps), Nike Zoom Kobe IV (heel counter), adidas TS Bounce Commander (midsole), Converse Weapon Evo (heel counter), and Air Jordan 2010 (midfoot clear window).
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