A question we frequently get asked is what is the difference between Solovair and Gripfast Originals?

Although both brands are made by NPS shoes in our Wollaston factory and feature the Goodyear welted construction (a shoemaking technique synonymous with Northampton made footwear) there are several differences.

Gripfast was founded by Northamptonshire based White & Co who wanted to create hardwearing footwear that represents the very best of British and made to the highest standards. White & Co, like NPS Shoes, were a government contractor in the 1940’s and manufactured footwear for the British Army which further extended to a military contract for the Australian Army.

Gripfast was established in 1990 following increased demand for a slightly more rugged, extreme, edgier boot. Gripfast were steel toe cap boots and shoes made from high quality leathers on a UK army last and featured a 22mm Commando Double Sole with reinforced screws. Incorporating the traditional shoemaking techniques including the Goodyear welted method, White & Co experienced rapid growth for Gripfast particularly in the USA and Europe.

Times change and in 2003 White & Co found itself in a position where production had to cease but instead of closing all together they opted to move production to other Northamptonshire Goodyear welted footwear factories which is where the NPS Shoes and Gripfast chapter begins.

It was important to us that Gripfast footwear remained true to its roots therefore many of the original features remain including concealed steel toe caps, authentic storm “U” welt, resilient insulating air cushioning Commando soles and genuine galvanised screws that are hand inserted into each cleat.

Gripfast footwear by NPS shoes is made on the 5400 last, our widest last shape offering one of the broadest toe box shapes and also features in the Solovair Classic, Premium and Steel Toe collections.

Gripfast Derby Boots are currently made with 6, 10 and 14 eyelets from a choice of Hi-Shine, Greasy and Rub-off leathers.

In comparison, the technique used to fuse the welt to the sole is the same for Gripfast and Solovair. This process happens in the 'Levelling' room where temporary joins between the sole and the welt are made using a heated plate before a heat sealing machine permanently fuses the welt to the sole by rotating the footwear along a 700°C heated blade.

The difference at this stage in the shoe making process is that Solovair footwear feature the original Sole-of-Air sole with our signature sole suspension technology. The Solovair PVC sole is resistant to acid, oil, fat, petrol and alkali but doesn't feature galvanised screws like the Gripfast footwear.

The Solovair collection is made on several last shapes from an extensive range of leathers and finishes.

Shop the Gripfast collection here.