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Different Ways to Address Quality Control Defects in Shoes

Footwear is a necessary part of our daily life. Nearly every person in the world wears footwear, except for some indigenous people living remotely away from modern civilization. If you are a shoe manufacturer, retailer, or consumer, you may have faced quality issues and sold or bought defective shoes. This has several disadvantages for every stakeholder involved. For an end consumer, it is receiving a bad product and not getting the value for their money, and for a manufacturer and retailer, it can be the loss of reputation and goodwill. This may harm the prospects of the business. All these can be avoided by taking care of these issues during manufacturing and before buying the product. In the below article we will look into some of the common quality control defects that arise, how to identify them, and their possible solutions. 

Classification of Defective Shoes

Defective shoes can be broadly categorized into three different types based on visual classification, severity, and quality grades. Let us look into these classifications below.  

1. Visual Classification

This system classifies the defects in how they appear to the eye. It is divided into two zones. 

  1. Zone 1

This includes the defects on those parts of shoes which are visible like on the front and sides of the shoe. These are considered critical defects. 

  1. Zone 2

This zone includes the less visible parts of the shoe or those defects which are easy to miss during a cursory inspection. These are considered minor defects.

2. Severity of Defects

This classification includes the degree of severity of defects. These are classified into three parts.

  1. Critical Defects 

This is the highest degree of defect found. Product regulations will fail regulation norms and the damaged shoes may become a liability and danger to the end consumer. These products should be immediately discarded. 

  1. Major Defects

Major defects mean the quality issues affecting the footwear’s durability and appearance. There is a high probability of the end-user rejecting or returning the product. 

  1. Minor Defects 

Minor defects mean shoes pass the fitness regulations but have slight unnoticeable imperfections. The consumer may not be able to identify the defects or will ignore them. These products are not considered defective shoes and do not generally receive complaints and are not returned. 

3. Quality Grades

Footwear is also qualified according to the quality grades. These are as below. 

  1. Grade A

These are the highest quality footwear with no visual or functional defects. Grade A products meet the specifications, pass the highest quality standards, are made of premium materials, and boast high workmanship. These command the highest prices among the lot.  

  1. Grade B

 Grade B footwear does not have any notable functional defects but may have appearance issues and small manufacturing defects. These are not considered damaged shoes.

  1. Grade C

Grade C footwear has notable functional and appearance defects which cannot be rectified. These shoes should not be sold and should be destroyed. Marketing and selling them may harm the customer and destroy the reputation of manufacturers and brands alike.

Common Quality Control Defects and Their Possible Solutions 

Given below are the common quality issues that can happen during production. The manufacturer should take care that these defects are eliminated during the production stage and the finished product meets the safety and quality standards. 

  1. Excess Glue, Oil, and Wax

This is an appearance defect where the residue of excess wax, oil, and glue is left on the corners of the soles and stains the shoes. This is due to the low level of workmanship and rushing through the process. This causes the footwear to be labeled as defective shoes .

Solution Proposed

Train the workmen properly on using the right amount of wax and glue and wipe off the excess as soon as it oozes out. 

  1. Adhesive Compromise and Weak Cementing

This happens when a low amount of adhesive glue is applied to the sole of the shoe to connect with the upper. It can also happen if the quality of the glue is compromised. This leads to the soles coming apart. 

Solution Proposed

Use the right and high-quality adhesive for this purpose. Also, properly train the workers in using the optimum amount of adhesive required.

  1. Abrasive Marks and Dents

Marks and dents occur due to poor handling and packaging of footwear during the production process. These marks and abrasions are more noticeable on glossy and shiny leather products. These abrasions may not have any adverse functional impact on the shoe but the aesthetic appeal of the product is ruined leading to these shoes being considered as damaged shoes with a higher probability of them being returned.   

Solution Proposed

Careful footwear inspection should be implemented. Ensure all the personnel in the process wear gloves and curtail the unnecessary passing of shoes between workers. Also, check that the shoes are not being handled roughly while completing a bulk order. Ensure that packaging is smooth and not rough so the shoes are not scratched due to friction. 

  1. Sharp Edges and Protruding Nails

Sharp edges and protruding nails are a grave quality issue that leads to unwearable and defective shoes. This may even harm the customer when they are trying the shoes. This quality defect mostly arises in leather shoes that use nails to bind the sole with the upper. 

Solution Proposed

Quality checkers should be trained to look for this issue. A metal detector may also be used during production to check if nails or sharp metallic objects have been used and left incorrectly in the shoe.  

  1. Mechanical Damage

Mechanical damage means any type of scratches, tearing, and punctures due to faulty and incorrectly set up machinery. This leads to damaged shoes and adversely affects the footwear’s functionality and mars its aesthetic appeal. These are classified as critical defects and the shoes will have to be destroyed.  

Solution Proposed

Machinery should be periodically maintained and serviced. It should be regularly inspected and any faults should be rectified immediately. Following all these steps negates the chance of mechanical damage. 

  1. Asymmetry

Asymmetry in footwear products is a major cosmetic defect. Asymmetry can be in different parts of a shoe. The sole of a pair of shoes may be smaller than the other and another pair of shoes may have different lengths. This may happen due to incorrect placement of production machinery, causing the symmetry and size to differ. Print differences may occur as a result of poor cutting or fitting during the production process. 

Solution Proposed

Correct setup and placement of machinery should be strictly implemented. Machines should be checked at regular intervals to eliminate this issue before arising. Even after the production is over check for asymmetry by putting the individual shoe pairs together and looking for differences. Get a team of committed checkers to inspect each pair of shoes for any variations in height, width, color, cutting, print design, and other differences. Additionally, look for color spilling over the blocks or on the rubber soles too which may spoil the shoe look. 

  1. Incorrect Labelling and Packaging

This quality issue does not have to do anything with damaged shoes. Incorrect labeling, sorting, and packaging may lead to wrong shoe sizes being sold to oblivious customers. This leads to customer dissatisfaction and confusion regarding the sizes. It may cause a huge embarrassment and adverse impact on the future sales of the brand. A smaller size shoe may have been labeled as a bigger size which may cause huge embarrassment to retailers and manufacturers.

 Solution Proposed

The production process should be well organized. Ensure that the workers are properly handling, packaging, and storing the products and not rushing through unnecessarily.

Third-Party Checks

Other than these solutions Brands/Buyers can also employ a reputed and qualified third-party quality checking agency or lab to look for and monitor the quality of footwear produced. The agency will implement quality tests and eliminate the issue of defective shoes from arising. The quality checks may include:

  1. Sampling Size Test               
  2. Carton Drop Test  
  3. Rubber curing check    
  4. Color shading check               
  5. Sole Binding Check              
  6. Bend or Flex Check
  7. Metal or needle detection check 
  8. Symmetry check 
  9. Waterproof test      
  10. Zipper test for footwear with laces
  11. Odor check
  12. Adhesive test among others


Even small defects in shoes can cause discomfort to the wearer, therefore shoe quality control and inspection are critical in the shoe manufacturing process. Strict quality checks should be implemented to guarantee that the highest quality standards are fulfilled. A team should be formed for quality inspections and eliminating the issue of defective shoes. Before shipment, the finished products should be checked by a third-party shoe quality control agency. All these will lead to minimizing and eliminating quality control defects in the shoe manufacturing process.