The Chemistry of Fresh Kicks


This project is on the chemistry of fresh kicks. I chose to do this topic because I am one of the rare few people who see sneakers as more than just a shoe you go buy, I see it as a piece of art and have always wondered what goes into each individual piece of artwork. My life isn’t necessarily affected by sneakers, they just have always caught my attention, through the colors, or the style, or the craftsmanship performed to create them, people work hard to turn a plain old shoe into something spectacular, and that’s what has influenced me to use them as my topic. I used my personal pair of Air Jordan Ferrari 14’s for this project, which is why the list of materials includes alcantara and carbon fiber. Composition of ...

    • The upper is comprised of a material similar to suede, which is called alcantara. It’s made up of 68% Polyester and 32% Polyurethane. The outsole and heel counter are both made up of rubber, with a plastic shank plate. Included is a carbon fiber midsole, nylon laces, and a nubuck tongue.
    • Polyester: Benzene-1,4-dicarboxylic acid (terephthalic acid), and an alcohol
    • Polyurethane:
    • Rubber: Natural Rubber has the composition CaH5CH=CH2.
    • Carbon Fiber: Carbon Fiber is made up of chains of carbon atoms.
    • Nubuck: Leather tanned with Chromium III Sulfate or Cr2(SO4)3.
    • Nylon: Below is the chemical equation to create nylon.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The two main components of the Ferrari 14’s are Rubber and the Suede materials that are part of the upper, toe box, and tongue.

Rubber is made of a material called styrene which has the composition of CaH5CH=CH2, this compound makes up the outsole, and heel counter.

Suede is made from leather that is tanned with Chromium III Sulfate which has the composition of Cr2(SO4)3.

Chemistry's Role

Chemistry plays a huge role in the creation of these sneakers, because all of the materials included have to be created by combining the right elements and chemicals to create a reaction that produces the wanted material. The factory receives all of the needed materials, which have been already formed by the producers of the materials. Then all of the pieces are stitched together and glued to hold strong.

Background Research

First, the rubber is melded to the rest of the pieces of the shoe in a process called vulcanization. Next, the shoes are put through a process called lasting to prepare the upper for connection to the rubber outsole. Then the bottom portion of the shoe is attached to the shoe form through heeling. Finally, the shoes go through a process called treeing, which is just the addition of the final touches before the shoe is ready to ship out.

Resources Polyester

Alcantara composition and production.

Composition of Carbon Fiber.

Chromium Sulfate used to tan leather to create suede.

Chemistry of Nylon fibers.

Chemistry of Plastic.

How Sneakers are made.

About the Author

Parker Bernhart is currently a senior at Billings Senior High School in Billings, MT. He is a member of the graduating class of 2015 and is going on to college in Las Vegas to study athletic training.