In the heart of the Italian Alps, there is a factory of 240 people who craft quality footwear by hand. This has been the La Sportiva family tradition since 1928.
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It may be hard to imagine that, in a world full of hi-tech innovation and digital everything, some products are still crafted by hand, using age-old techniques. At the La Sportiva factory in Northern Italy, however, handmade products are the norm. Here, more than 200 skilled craftsmen and women build La Sportiva shoes and boots with attention to the smallest detail.
For the Delladio family, making the world’s best mountain footwear has been a way of life for generations. In 1928, Narciso Delladio founded La Sportiva by innovating rugged mountain boots that excelled in the steep-forested slopes of the Val di Fiemme and the neighboring Dolomites. Since then, the Delladio family has continued to improve the technology and performance of outdoor footwear. By virtue of their dedication, La Sportiva is now a global company and easily-recognized brand in the world of climbing. Today, Narciso’s grandson and great-granddaughter continue active management at La Sportiva’s global headquarters in Italy.
Recently, we had the chance to see the shoe-making process for ourselves. The photos below show Italian craftsmen and craftswomen at work making climbing shoes and mountaineering boots.
A classic 1970's vintage Norwegian welted mountain boot on display at the La Sportiva factory.
One of the original La Sportiva patents and a miniature model on display at La Sportiva headquarters in Ziano, Italy.
Bins of lasts ready for production. These are the forms that footwear are built around and determine the fit of the final product. Lasts are proprietary shapes developed over time by master cobblers.
Raw materials in queue for the cutting presses at the La Sportiva factory. Sheets of leather like these will be cut to exact specifications to work with the lasts to provide the fit desired by the design team.
Rubber rand materials are checked for uniform thickness before being sent to the production floor.
Rubber rands are cut from sheet stock using an industrial press.
New uppers, freshly cut from sheets of select leather, are readied in stacks for the next step in production.
Leather and rubber scraps are collected for recycling and reclamation.
Luca Mich, marketing manager at La Sportiva, points out midsoles made from recycled leather and stored on racks before the next stage of manufacture.
Freshly stamped, cut and embossed leather uppers are ready for assembly into Mountain boots.
Rubber soles, sorted by size, are prepped for final assembly.
La Sportiva Solution uppers are sorted by size when they are ready to be lasted and completed with soles.
After final stitching is done by hand on the La Sportiva Miura VS, the uppers are hand-lasted before the rands and soles are glued. In this process, a skilled craftsman must fill the shoe with a last and expertly apply the rands to maintain the fit and shape of the climbing shoe.
La Sportiva Miura VS construction is nearly done: the craftsman uses hand tools and coupled with a sense of feel earned by years of practice to finish the final adjustments on the shoe.
A factory worker makes the final touches to a La Sportiva Miura VS before it heads to quality control - grinding and blending the sole to the rand.
Finished La Sportiva Miura VS awaiting final inspection and quality control. Final quality control work is done by the most experienced craftsmen and craftswomen who know instinctively how to assess the finished product.
For a closer look at the process and to experience the sounds of the factory, check out our Sounds of a Brand video.