Zum Inhalt springen

Session with Mats-Håkan Lundhag

Session with Mats-Håkan Lundhag

When discussing the production of sustainable products, from an environmental perspective, it has mostly been about the footprint left by production and material choices. At Lundhags, since 1932, the belief has been that a product that lasts a long time is the best of all. And for that, it must be repairable. This was something Lundhags' founder, shoemaker Jonas Lundhag, embraced in 1932 when he began making durable shoes and boots. Even today, the company is driven by this idea: if something breaks, it should be repairable. It might sound like an obvious idea, but strangely enough, it’s not a common approach when it comes to the manufacturing of outdoor products. Mats Håkan Lundhag works at Lundhags' shoemaking workshop in Järpen, Jämtland, and is a fifth-generation shoemaker. When he and the rest of the design team at Lundhags create something, there is always a clear ambition.

How do you work, Mats Håkan?

– Even when we design and construct, a lot of the focus is on making the boots repairable. We know that no matter how strongly you build, there will always be something that wears out over time or a detail that gets damaged. We often choose the construction solution that is most repairable within the framework of the design we work with. For example, when hiding rivets under the inner lining of the shaft, it might look better, but the construction becomes significantly stronger if the rivets also attach through the lining. And if we need to repair or replace a hook, it’s much easier if we don’t have to remove the inner lining first. So, we make the rivets visible so they are easy to replace. Most of the soles we use are also relatively easy to replace. A shoe must, of course, outlast the sole, and with our shell shoes, the entire bottom part is easy to replace. Boots can wear out or become too small. Or people place their boots too close to a fire or stove, causing the bottom part to get too hot and deform. We’ve even repaired boots that dogs have chewed on. Anything can happen to a boot that’s been around for a long time, which is why it’s extra important to make it as repairable as possible during the design phase.

Besides the benefits for the customer, how does Lundhags benefit from repairing boots in its own workshop?

– Because we have such a policy and repair service, meaning we prefer to repair rather than just sell new, we also learn which parts break and which designs are not easy to repair. This creates an enormous amount of knowledge about how to build durable boots. How a tongue should be placed. How to attach different details. It’s far from always the case that what’s easy to build is easy to repair.

Lundhags, besides its Swedish production, works with a small factory in Portugal that, like Lundhags, has its roots in a family business. What is almost unique to Lundhags is that part of the production still exists in the workshop in Jämtland, where everything started in the early 1930s. The workshop is not only a factory but also handles product development, repairs, and custom manufacturing, such as orthopedic custom-made shoes. This has been enormously important in developing the know-how that might not be surpassed by any shoe factory or workshop in the world. Mats Håkan Lundhag believes that the repairs have allowed Lundhags boots to become some of the most durable in the world, something the Lundhags team is very proud of, especially considering that a durable boot leaves a smaller environmental footprint than something that cannot be repaired or must be transported far. It’s that simple.

Hikers, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts are probably the users most often associated with Lundhags. But large quantities of boots are also sold to other users. Not least professional groups who work outdoors in all weather conditions year-round. Lift operators, mountain rescuers, and military elite units worldwide use boots developed at the workshop and tested in the Jämtland mountains.

What does it take for a boot to last, say, thirty years?

– Of course, the materials and production quality are fundamental for long durability. But then the user must also want to keep the boots for a long time, and maintenance and boot care are very important. Our philosophy is to create things that people want to use for a long time. It doesn’t matter if we use recycled materials and environmentally friendly processes if it still becomes a throwaway product. It’s about choosing colors and designs that don’t feel outdated after two years. And that’s very important in our process, that the customer really wants to use the product for more than just a few seasons. Some colors don’t age gracefully, so we avoid those since the design should be more or less timeless. In short, we want to make boots that aren’t sensitive to trends or fashion whims. Classic boots that we can gradually improve over time.

– We must always, always maintain high quality with clear craftsmanship knowledge. We make products that age gracefully – it goes hand in hand with high quality. Natural materials like leather need a little love, but for those who care and maintain their boots, the reward is great – the boot becomes more beautiful and comfortable with each passing year.

It’s not uncommon for the workshop in Järpen to receive half-century-old boots for repair. And it’s not impossible that there are even older Lundhags boots still in use. It turns out that many hikers take great care of their shoes to make them last a lifetime. One might wonder if there’s any limit to how long a well-built boot that’s easy to repair can last.

How long can a Lundhags boot last?

– We haven’t seen the limit yet, concludes Mats Håkan Lundhag.

The workshop in Järpen

Operations: Shoemaking, factory store, and product development.

Establishments: 1932, Jonas Lundhag starts the business on Frösön. 1946, Lundhags moves to Torvalla (south of Östersund). 1973, they move into the premises in Järpen.


Name: Mats Håkan Lundhag

Born: Brunflo in Jämtland, 1972.

Longs for: Touring skiing, ice skating, and hiking.

Three essentials: Road bike, backpack, boots.

Motto: “Don’t bring problems, bring solutions.”

Favorite spot: Jämtland mountains.

Profession: Product manager and fifth-generation shoemaker.