Every industry has its own terminology; certain shoe manufacturers and those who repair or modify shoes use the term iron(s) as a way to measure sole thickness. An iron is 1/48th of an inch so a 12 iron sole will measure 1/4 of an inch. Resoling shoes seems to be fading into obscurity which is really too bad since good uppers can usually be resoled saving the wearer money while sparing the landfills. It is estimated that roughly sixty million pairs of shoes are discarded each year and I think it would be interesting to know how many of these could have been resoled. There are some stores that offer recycling programs although these are typically for athletic shoes which are ground up and reincarnated as playground surfacing.
Well made shoes can be resoled multiple times and sometimes even cheaper shoes can be rejuvenated. Your shoes will last longer if you care for them properly, many people who would not wear the same shirt two days in a row will slip their feet into the shoes they wore the day before. The average person puts about two fluid ounces of moisture into their shoes during a typical day which is why your shoes need time to dry after wear. Ideally you should take whatever shoes you wear for extended periods off to give your feet a break. This might mean carrying a pair of shoes to and from work however if it saves your feet and extends the life of your shoes this small burden may pay dividends in your future.
Periodically examining the soles of your shoes for wear and tear will allow you to see which areas are worn. A trained professional can draw some conclusions about the way you walk based on the wear pattern of your shoes. These professionals may be able to resole your shoes using different tread patterns or materials to: increase traction, extend the life of a sole, reduce slippage on wet or oily surfaces, or to reinforce an area that receives excessive abuse, they may even be able to compensate for a structural defect or deformity. Few mortals are perfectly symmetrical however the majority of us do not have noticeable leg length discrepancies. Those who do may be able to get by with an internal heel lift however gross discrepancies will need to be corrected by increasing the sole height of the shoe that corresponds with the shorter limb.
Vanity is an odd disease. Some people would rather walk with a limp or drag their foot behind them than take their shoes in to be modified. Financially challenged patients may not be able to afford modifications and there's always the unforeseen that can't be dealt with. Once shoes are modified you own them unless there was a mistake at the lab. While errors are inevitable regardless of what you do to avoid them I am accustomed to seeing shoe modifications are so flawlessly integrated into the shoe that they can not be detected by casual observation.
As far as I can tell the term iron is used mainly by British and North American companies that work with shoes. That intrigued me since the UK uses the metric system and their shoe sizing system is different from the one used in the United States of America. Europeans have yet another sizing system while Australia tends to follow UK convention. Japan sizes shoes in millimeters which may be a more accurate system if both the length and the girth of each foot are measured. Conversion tables exist however there is no substitute for physically having your foot inside of a particular shoe.
To summarize: one iron is equivalent to 1/48 of an inch. Iron as a unit of measure is a shoe specification used during the manufacturing process and may also be used during repair or modification of a shoe or pair of shoes. Materials for soling and resoling shoes perform differently so knowing the limitations of each medium can help you increase comfort, extend the life of your shoes, and achieve optimum wear from each of your external soles. For additional information on resoling shoes you own please consult your local cobbler or shoe repair shop.
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