History and Production Process of TABI SHOES

Shoes are designed to protect the feet. From athletic shoes to fashionable shoes, there are a wide variety of shoes in this world. Do you know about the Japanese Tabi Shoes, one of these outdoor shoes that have been created in various traditions and cultures? Tabi Shoes are a unique Japanese undergarment worn on the feet, characterized by a special structure in which the toes are divided into two halves, the thumb and the rest of the foot. This unique and special design was made so that it could be worn directly outdoors, which is what Tabi Shoes are.

History of TABI SHOES

It is said that Tabi Shoes first came into existence in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). As Japanese civilization developed, Tabi Shoes' ancestor, Tabi Shoes in leather, appeared as outdoor footwear for craftsmen who needed to work in detail. With the advent of Tabi Shoes, it became possible to grip the ground while walking, allowing for more delicate and dexterous movements. It is an invention unique to Japan, a society of craftsmen, where the dexterity of barefoot shoes was maintained while at the same time protecting the feet.

Although Tabi Shoes have been used by many Japanese as outdoor footwear since the Edo period (1603-1868), and have evolved and established their own culture, Tabi Shoes made of leather at that time, which is said to be the origin of Tabi Shoes, were replaced by Tabi Shoes made of cotton after the Meireki Fire of 1657, which burned down most of Edo, triggered a sharp rise in the price of leather materials. Leather tabi had the disadvantage of not being easily washable, so the advent of inexpensive cotton tabi was a major turning point. As time passed from the Edo period to the Meiji period (1868-1912), rubber material took root in Japan. With the development of technology and new materials, Tabi Shoes were developed into the modern Tabi Shoes.

As the materials changed from leather to cotton, Tabi Shoes were further improved with the use of rubber. The disadvantage of the slippery nature of cotton Tabi Shoes was solved by using rubber for the sole of the shoe. In addition, Tabi Shoes are much easier to handle than leather Tabi Shoes, and have a cushioning performance never before seen in Tabi Shoes. By eliminating the inconvenience of maintenance while maintaining the low price of cotton, Tabi Shoes established a position as daily-use footwear that could be easily washed in its entirety, and have remained useful as work shoes to this day.

Production Process of TABI SHOES by KOMARI

Here is an explanation of how Tabi Shoes are made.


The main material used for Tabi Shoes is cotton. Depending on the design and concept, these fabrics are sometimes changed, but most models are made of No. 8 canvas made in Japan. Of course, all processes from spinning to processing are done completely in Japan.

Skilled craftsmen cut these fabrics by hand according to a pattern for each size, looking at the grain of the fabric. The cutting process is an important work that is not an exaggeration to say that it is the lifeline of the sewing process, as the patterns are intricately defined and have a great impact on the subsequent work.


Parts cut into pieces in the cutting process undergo the necessary sewing operations.

1. Sewing the hook and loop strap

A special sewing machine is used to sew the strap that holds the hook and loop when the Tabi Shoes are worn. The tome-tsume cord also serves as a buttonhole. The toggle cord and the kohaze, which is sewn in the next step, come as a single set and function as a button when the two functions are combined. 

2.  Attaching the small hook

Attach the small hooks to the fabric. The small hooks act as buttons. By hooking it onto the previously sewn fastening cord, it serves to hold the tabi socks in place. The size of the tabi socks can be easily distinguished by engraving the small hooks according to the size of the tabi shoes.

3.  Sewing the fabric together

In the previous sewing process, the part to which the hook and loop is sewn is the inner shell. The part with the small hook is called the outer shell. By combining these two parts, the sides of the Tabi Shoes are formed. By sewing the two parts together, we can see the two-piece shape that is typical of Tabi Shoes. Sewing thicker fabrics is difficult and leads to lower productivity, but thinner fabrics are less durable, so we use thicker cotton fabrics that are comfortable to wear.

4.  Sewing and finishing

Once the sides are sewn together, the next step is to reinforce the heel. By reinforcing the heel firmly where necessary, the Tabi Shoes maintain their shape, preventing them from losing their shape and ensuring high durability and comfort. This completes the sewing process.


The sewn fabric is now only the instep part. The fabric is not yet ready for use as actual footwear because it does not have a sole, but it will be processed so that it can be used as actual footwear.

1. Gluing

The sewn cotton fabric currently has no sole. First, the upper (around the instep) is adhered to the shoe mold, and the fabric is fixed to the insole, which serves as the foundation. As a preliminary step, glue is applied all the way around the bottom of the sewn fabric so that it goes all the way around the bottom of the fabric.

2. Drape

The upper glued in the first step is pulled, and the fabric is stretched along the pull-on shoe mold. With the instep fabric stretched taut against the shoe mold, the insole, the foundation of the Tabi Shoes, is attached. Tsurikomi is the most important manufacturing process in Tabi Shoes production, and it is a crucial process that determines the comfort of the wearer and the shape of the Tabi Shoes. The most skilled craftsmen are in charge of this process, and they make full use of various special tools such as shoe molds and rollers.

3. Gluing the bottom side

Rubber tape is glued as a reinforcing tape at the border between the side of the tabi socks and the insole. As a preliminary step, glue is carefully and evenly applied to the two halves of the toes, between the toes, and along the shape of the Tabi Shoes. The glue applied in this process must dry overnight.

4. Reinforcement of the bottom side

After the glued Tabi Shoes are left to dry overnight, reinforcements are attached to the Tabi Shoes. The reinforcement is carefully attached around the Tabi Shoes by hand, making sure there are no gaps or wrinkles.

5. Attaching the sole

Now that the Tabi Shoes have been made to look like Tabi Shoes, the next step is to attach the outsole, which touches the ground. The outsole is made of highly shock-absorbent rubber sole. A special machine is used to attach the outsole to the Tabi Shoes, which is then pressed against the bottom of the Tabi Shoes with great force from the insole side.

 6. Reinforcement of sole joints

The sewn instep fabric, insole, and outsole are now joined. The craftsman checks the boundary of these joints and seals the joints to prevent air from entering. The firmly reinforced Tabi Shoes become a strong Tabi Shoes with a sole that will not come off.

7. Crimping using vulcanizing method

The most interesting process in Tabi Shoes manufacturing is the vulcanizing process. Rubber material is not flexible unless it is vulcanized. Vulcanization, or the chemical reaction mediated by sulfur, creates new intermolecular bonds in the rubber and improves the elasticity limit of the rubber.  The special kiln is heated to approximately 120 degrees Celsius for one hour to vulcanize the rubber. The pressure in the kiln at this time is 4 kg/cm. By heating and pressurizing over time, adhesion and molding are performed at the same time. Vulcanization makes the rubber supple and smooth to wear, as well as extremely durable and beautifully shaped Tabi Shoes.

8. Finishing

As the final step, each Tabi Shoes is checked one by one to make sure that it is ready to be used. Finally, a silicon glaze is applied to complete the process.