Elche, the land of footwear

There’s nowhere in Spain with closer links to the footwear industry than the province of Alicante, especially the town of Elche and the area surrounding it. Elche has been designing and making the best shoes in the world for more than 200 years.

It all started back in the 19th century when Elche-based shoemakers began making and selling espadrilles with canvas uppers and rope soles.

Later, in the 1880s, jute appeared on the scene. This fibre was easy to work with and its affordable price led to a growth in the number of workshops making espadrilles and the appearance of the first footwear factories.

The early 20th century saw a major improvement in manufacturing techniques and more advanced machinery, plus new materials like leather and cork were introduced, providing the definitive push towards making the city of Elche a world leader in the footwear sector.

Elche has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Palmeral (the palm grove) and the Misteri (the mystery play), but for many local people, the footwear industry is just as important as it has been the city’s main economic driver for a very long time.