Inside Gaerne Shoes

Feb 15, 2016
by Matt Wragg  



There aren't many companies like Gaerne anymore. For centuries shoemaking has thrived around the market in Montebelluna, just north of Venice in Northeastern Italy. Local artisans would crowd into the market to sell their wares and purchase the supplies to make more. In the surrounding area a strong, vibrant shoe industry emerged about this hub and from it sprang globally-recognised brands, like Fila, Alpinestars and Scarpe. Yet in recent years the globalisation of industry has changed things, most of these companies have shifted their production overseas, away from the harsh Italian taxes and legislation. As these companies departed the industry that was once so alive began to decline and the artisans that drove the area's success became more and more scarce. The economics of it are simple, to produce a shoe in Italy today costs ten times more than it does in the Far-east or Eastern Europe, and the expertise in production there is world-class these days.

Gaerne is one of the few companies left who believe that there are people out there who still want to buy Italian craftsmanship, who are looking to buy from brands who put a little bit of their soul into each and every product they make. Bucking the trend for outsourcing, every single pair of shoes or boots they make is made in the same, small building on the edge of Asolo, much as they have been for the last 50 years. While the materials and technologies change with the times, the attention that goes into making them doesn't. They may not be a name that we are as familiar with on the gravity side of mountain biking, but their boots were certainly up to spec for James Stewart in Supercross, or Fabien Cancellara on the road. As they prepare to launch their first enduro and downhill-worthy shoes, we took a look inside this legendary shoemaker.



Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Founder, and owner Ernesto, Gazzola, is still very active in the company, despite his 83 years. When he talks about the people who work for him he uses the word "family" a lot. While too often this is marketing spin, in a company where many of the workers have been there for 30, 40 years it carries more meaning. But in true Italian style he doesn't just want to talk about his company, he is almost equally proud of his prize-winning olive oil that he is cultivating and pressing. If you have never been in Italy during olive harvesting season, you will never have seen real, fresh olive oil - which is thick, almost neon green and carrying a huge pepper kick when you taste it. It's a world away from the yellowy-water you find in supermarkets. At this time of year, he holds his meetings over oil, tasting it with his guests and clients, before getting down to business.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The shoes of their sponsored athletes, past and present take pride of place in their showroom.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
While their approach may be more old-fashioned, there is certainly nothing behind the times about Gaerne's production facility.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Every shoe in the range starts from the same basis, something that is unique to Gaerne and they feel sets them apart from their competition: their foot form. This has been developed and refined over the years to end up with a shape that is completely individual and they guard closely. For their top athletes, they go one step further and will create a personal form for them, so their shoes are tailored exactly to them.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Design then begins by covering the footform with art tape that can be drawn on and they can start to layout the shoe as it will sit on the foot. Once they have a shape they are happy with the tape is then ultra-carefully peeled from the form.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The outline of the shoe is then cleaned up, flattened out and painstakingly traced digitally to transfer the form into design software.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
On the computer it can then be converted into a CAD model ready to be made.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Many of the modern technical fabrics that are used in riding shoes and motocross boots arrive like this - stamped and printed from the manufacturer.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The more traditional materials arrive on rolls and need to be cut using dies, set by hand then machine-pressed out of the fabric.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The elements of the upper are then all stitched together by hand.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Production then re-focuses on the foot forms - these are the moulds around which each shoe is crafted. The thin white layer on the form will become the bottom of the shoe and while it does not play a huge role in the final shoe, it is completely critical in the shoe taking its form during production.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The first step of production is to prep the upper with adhesive ready for the line.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The upper is heated and pressed around the foot form to give the basic shape for the shoe.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The bottom of the upper is then heated and pressed onto the sole of the shoe in the first stage of preparing to take a sole.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The sole of the shoe is then sanded twice - once by machine, then a second time by hand to make sure it is perfect.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The sole is prepped with adhesive.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The upper is also prepped with adhesive, then heated so that when it is pressed onto the sole it bonds quickly and strongly.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The upper and the sole are then pressed together by machine press.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The foot form slides in the middle to allow it to be removed from the shoe, this takes some force, but once it opens it slides right out.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
With the shoe's outer assembled it just needs to be cleaned and finished to look good for the customer.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Every single shoe is then given one last inspection to make sure everything is perfect, then it is loaded into its box ready to be shipped to its future owner.

Inside Gaerne. Asolo Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Each box comes inscribed with this message from Ernesto, which translates roughly to: "Whoever wears my shoes should be able to be joyous every day because the name Gaerne is a synonym for quality without compromise."




Must Read This Week

93 Comments

  • + 101
 Regardless if I will ever buy these shoes, I really enjoy these kind of articles!
  • + 61
 I loving all the factory tours we've been getting lately.
  • - 29
flag dtax (Feb 15, 2016 at 6:10) (Below Threshold)
 I don't wear ugly shoes, but if I did, I would wear these.
  • + 2
 If your giving tours I'd like some samples. Please.
  • + 1
 alpinestars: "challenge accepted"?
  • + 1
 @Oxnard: I didn't know they'd launched them... I've had a pair for 6 months now, done over 1,200km in them. Brilliant is the only word.
  • + 82
 I'd love to have a good looking cycling shoes that do not look like cycling shoes... properties of 5.10 in an elegant leather package, made with such precision as those shoes here. I want to be able to leave my bike outside the cafe or restaurant, get in and not look like I am trying to prove to everyone how hard I just KOMmed. Because nobody gives a tiniest crap - they just think a cycling dude came in and hope he won't sit next to them, since polyester and sweat make a really bad smelling combo. We may look so road, enduro or DH to each other, but to everyone else we look like dorks.
  • + 20
 Nail meets head.
  • + 56
 You know what works for me? I don't worry about what anyone else thinks, especially what they think about my shoes.
  • + 18
 johnski - I've been there. As a teenager I wanted t o fit in, then I preteded I don't give a damn, then I wanted to fit in by looking strong and free minded, then by 33, I really got free minded - no longer a slave to collective consciousness, and noooow... I noticed that whatever I think about what's right or wrong and what I should not give a damn in order to remain free - I am still a part of the world I live in... all I know for certain is that my world view will change again... there is not a single belief system that does not require cultivating. So you to perform one kind of actions and abstain from doing other actions. In simple words: not giving a damn is as occupying as giving a damn - it doesn't matter if you are conscious of it or not. Here! A life lesson! Big Grin
  • + 18
 I understand what you're saying. However, if not giving a damn is as occupying as giving a damn, then you're doing it wrong.
  • + 0
 You are simply giving a damn in other area, that you find worthwhile. I understood it in a pub once. We were sitting with my friends by one table and laughing at golfers and sailors. I got up to hit the loo and waited outside until someone was finished. Next to the door to the loo, there was a table with 4 fuggy looking dudes in V-neck pull overs and 3 pounds of gel on their hair, talking about Motocross rednecks. They actually had some funny remarks. So we didn't give a tiniest damn about looking fresh and getting a Porsche, they couldn't give a tiniest damn about speed and excelling in adrenaline filled sports. But we do meet each other in common reality - neglecting that fact is ignorant aaaand irrelevant Big Grin ... got to do our thing!
  • + 18
 It appears you're too occupied by giving a damn about what I think.
  • - 3
 It's not about you Big Grin It's about everybody
  • + 9
 WAKI makes a good point and simply wanting a high quality stylish riding shoe that doesn't look like its made for peacocks or WWE stars has nothing to do w conformity or anti of that.....
  • + 4
 That's why I love the dirt shoes of 5.10. I obviously got the least stealty ones(spitfire) because i'm only 16 Wink but if you want you can get some really nice looking bikeshoes with imo. the best flat pedal sole. Idk if there are similar products for clipless pedals, but if you ride flats they're your shoe of choice.
  • + 13
 S o Waki. You're saying when you go to the cafe you want to sneak up on people and surprise them with your polyester stink? It's a little known fact that the reason cycling clothing is so garish is to provide fair warning
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns- huh?
  • + 3
 You have no idea how much I would love a pair of 5.10 Oxfords or double monkstrap
  • + 4
 Make me a 5.10 rubber shoe that looks like a good elegant sneaker. No - Spitfires or Freeriders don't fricking count. I want to take off my helmet and look like Ryan Gosling, not like Sam Hill... I want a functional riding gear for good times in the woods and I want ladies to look at me afterwards... you keep your "I ride so much park", "I am so into wilderness" and "I race so hard" look to the same party where triathletes hang out in sperm suits.
  • + 1
 On the street I ride a CX bike with Shimano Saint flat pedals, for shoes it's 5/10 Dirt bags in a medium brown suede. They work well on my bike and are also good for walking and they don't look like bike shoes. On the trails it's 5/10 Karvers and I bought an extra set before they stopped making them, strange looking but bomb proof.
  • + 3
 Chris Hoy has let himself go a bit....
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns . I got it. Get yourself into a pair of dapper Bruno Magli's...take them down to the oldtown cobbler and have him mount you up some SPD's.....BAM! Problem solved....who's straight pimpin in that coffee house now?? YOU!
  • + 2
 some of the giro shoes look more decent then the skate look of 5/10. i think i give the new vaude moab low a try
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns That's what you need: quocpham.com
Price tag ain't cheap though...
  • + 1
 @FlavienB thank you, that was a great info.
I think what Waki wanted to say with all this "not giving a damn but also giving a damn"-stuff is that you always have a certain outward appearance. If you don't care about your appearance, you will certainly have less to worry about. Efforts are the cons of taking about it, financal efforts and brain efforts.
But the problem of not taking care is that you won't have the pros of it,too. (Girls Big Grin , respect (reasonable or not), ...)
I think fashion is the easiest way to manipulate the people surrounding you, unfortunately.
  • + 0
 Love those Quoc Phams!
  • + 1
 What the hell is an elegant sneaker? What about the Giro Rumble VR? The heel needs a sharpie to make that orange black, but the shoes doesn't scream bike dork.
  • + 1
 In NorCal, the generic rule of thumb for dress (Everything from vintage Ewok to Buddy Holly's skinny jeans with Frank Sinatra's hat) is such that wearing a Troy Lee kit from three different years, including the florescent lime shorts, will make you look dapper at the Coffee bar.
  • + 2
 You had me at 'elegant Leather Package "
  • + 18
 This post is special to me , I used to go to be in class with the owners granddaughter and we got to visit the building and I can tell you it's all done by hand and that's how i got into riding it was a great experience and I took a photom with the owner I'll upload it to my account
  • + 1
 Cool. Nice vid too, your local trails look fun as hell!
  • + 14
 I have worn everything from alpinestar to fox and Gaerne is by far the most comfortable and well built MX boots I have ever used. The quality is second to none. If my current pair ever wear out I would not hesitate to buy another pair again.
  • + 5
 Yeah, they're boots are insanely good.
  • + 3
 Sidi definitely has dexterity that rivals Gaerne, but doesnt have the protection the boots have.
  • + 3
 I to have worn Alpinestar and Fox MX boots and my new Gaerne's are the best fit, finish, quality and protection.
  • + 3
 I've got their entry-level moto boots. My last entry-level boot literally disintegrated after a year, these still look basically new two years later. Guys I ride with are still wearing Gaernes that are 8+ years old.
  • + 1
 Rye toast totally agree. Made in Italy for less than 250 US. Amazing
  • + 3
 SG10's are quite simply the best!
  • + 2
 my SG 12's have lasted so well. I have no idea how to try and buy their cycling stuff in America though.
  • + 11
 I've owned 2 pairs of their Kobra MTB shoes and they have lasted for several years through hard downhill abuse and countless miles of trail riding. I love companies like Gaerne who refuse to sell their soul for greater profits. The shoes themselves are lightweight, transmit power so effectively, and really feel and fit like a custom made pair. Cost is definitely on the high side, but considering the quality, longevity, and comfort they provide, I believe they are well worth the price of admission.
  • + 8
 This kind of articles are great to read and super important IMHO. Most of us are now being raised as consumers, ignorant of what it takes to make a product and where it comes from (even when it comes to food).

Even a short look can make one appreciate the hard work that is needed to design, fabricate and make a product availiable to the market. Let alone companies who avoid outsourcing, thus supporting the local economy and controlling the product's quality.

Thanks Pinkbike, keep it up!
  • + 7
 One of the last companies of its kind in Europe. It's quite sad actually. I used to swore by Carnac only. Now the list of cycling shoes made in Western Europe is down to Sidi -and not all Sidi's line is made in Italy- and Gaerne mainly.

I hope Gaerne won't disappear like Carnac did! Carnac disappeared because its founder retired and no one bought the company. And the company was profitable ... Some people bought the name and from then on their shoes were not produced in France anymore...

So Dear Mr Gaerne, I want to buy something else than 5.10 when it comes to flat pedals riding. Make it happen please Smile .
  • + 5
 Fascinating insight. Looking forward to their expanded offerings. This area of Italy is home of many bike industry pioneers - a modern outcrop from the strong economy with historical connection to nearby and long-time powerhouse Venice. It's also a beautiful area. Nearby Lago di Garda has the most intense trails I know.
  • + 4
 They can't take production to the far east. Who's going to tell these skilled craftspeople "sorry you're fired"? Thanks PB for helping us develop some appreciation for what they're doing over there. Their products are not for me as I don't ride MX and their MTB shoes look a bit to stiff and appear to lack grip on spiked flat pedals. But I definitely have respect for what they're doing there.
  • + 0
 I used to run their MX shoes and I find their boots to be the best for MX. Compared to my previous Fox boots they fit a lot better and they feel a lot more comfortable to wear in long rides. I look forward If they could make an MTB shoe for DH or enduro.
  • + 3
 Just a tip on buying good olive oil. Buy local if you can. You can buy expensive Italian olive oil but if it has been sitting in storage and transportation for a year, it ain't no good anymore. You may have been buying rancid olive oil without even knowing it.
  • + 7
 Great job Matt..these is one of the few things i'm proud to be Italian..
  • + 6
 Can't imagine many people on Pinkbike wearing a pair of these disco slippers.
  • + 7
 if the shoe fits..................
  • + 4
 You wear their mx boots, and you'd understand these guys have nothing but the best products. Your feet will be so happy.
  • + 2
 Yeah they make great road and XC shoes. Wake me up when they make a trail shoe.
I am sick of the all the Asian crap that never fits right and lasts only 6 months.
Had to buy some Fizik m5b's great shoe, chill looking but I not the trail shoe I need.
Gaerne does make the G.Nemy Gore-Tex® - Freeride Shoe, Does not seem to be available in the states though.
Great article, glad the Italians are still making shoes.
  • + 2
 I have Gearne SG12 MX boots and I have to say - Italians are among the best if not The Best in making shoes and boots and not only - helmets, clothes, motos... auto-design Wink Most Italians brands are into cycling and not so much in biking, but what a portfolio Smile
  • + 7
 WHAT A LOAD OF COBBLERS
  • + 1
 Damn, beat me to the dad joke.
  • + 4
 Yo mama so fat every time she walks in high heels, she strikes oil.
  • + 2
 These are by far the best clipless shoes I've ever owned. They are durable beyond belief and their customer service is outstanding. They get a lot of heat for being so pricy, but my last pair lasted three seasons. A buddy of mine went through 4 pairs of shimano shoes in the same amount of time. He was really kicking himself for not forking over the extra money. They are the best performance clipless shoes on the market
  • + 2
 I have had a pair of Gearne XC shoes for 2 seasons. They have a bit of wear and tear but are still going strong. When they need replacing I will be sticking with them brand. Proper quality!
  • + 4
 Clown pajamas wins phrase of the day
  • + 2
 Great piece. Love the factory story, love Gaerne products. But where's the pics of the new enduro/DH shoes?
  • + 1
 Its great to see companies like Gaerne putting people before profits, something that becomes rarer everyday.
  • + 0
 Great shoes, though I don't like the BOA that is taking over these days. Great when new but prone to failure, difficult to replace.
  • + 3
 like the fun colours!
  • + 2
 I wonder if my sidis are done in similar fashion?
  • + 1
 Isn't a 'foot form' what we'd usually call a 'last' or are they doing something different here?
  • + 2
 @dakuan

foot form is another word for what we call a "last"
  • + 1
 I love their MX boots. Best boots I've ever used back when I was still doing Motocross
  • + 2
 Nice shoes, bit out of my budget though
  • + 2
 COOL ;-)
  • + 1
 how does one say "Gaerne"?
  • + 1
 Gar-nay?
  • + 1
 Ga-air-nay
  • + 1
 I would love to buy a pair of their GGravity shoes.
  • + 0
 Is he drinking the dye from the green shoe he's holding in the first picture??
  • + 1
 serious question, why does Roadies like wear bright coloured shoes...
  • + 3
 I like wearing bright coloured shoes too! Not just on my bike either, you should see my shoe cabinet! It's like a bag of skittles.
  • + 10
 It helps to stop blind morons in cars mowing them down!
  • + 4
 Definitely agree..bright colors on the road mean higher visibility
  • + 1
 Makes it easier for the cars to aim at you.
  • + 0
 Well if the Power Rangers ever run out of shoes they know where to go.
  • + 1
 Inside the shoes...
  • - 1
 WOW nice soccer shoes
  • + 1
 WOW spandex people cant even take a joke anymore pathetic .
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