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Sole, United by Blue’s Shoe Uses Wine Corks, Bison Insulation to Tread Light

Canada’s Sole is poised to debut a shoe it claims will “redefine sustainability” in the footwear industry.

A collaboration with United by Blue, a Philadelphia-based manufacturer of sustainable outdoor apparel and accessories, the chukka-style sneaker features Sole’s proprietary recycled Recork midsole, which it produces from ground-down and recombined wine corks to provide a flexibility, cushioning and durability “superior” to the industry-standard EVA foam midsole, the company said.

For temperature regulation, the shoe employs United by Blue’s BisonShield, a hypoallergenic insulation derived from bison hair as a byproduct of the meat industry. Their naturally hollow cores make the fibers lightweight, flexible and heat retentive even when wet, keeping its wearer “cozy when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm.”

The sneaker also incorporates moisture-wicking Australian merino wool in a plaited knit for the upper, an outsole derived from a blend of natural rubber and rice husks and an algae-foam footbed by Bloom that is said to require 35 percent less energy to produce than conventional EVA.

Clad in a natural cork top sheet, the footbed is treated with Polygiene anti-odor technology so the chukka “never has to be thrown away because of stink,” ensuring a longevity that dovetails with the long-lasting nature of its materials.

“This is a shoe that people can feel really good about buying, and will love wearing,” Mike Baker, founder and CEO of Sole, said in a statement. “We’re immensely proud of what we’ve produced but we believe we can always improve, and [we] will keep working toward the goal of a more sustainable future for the footwear industry.”

The sneaker is just the beginning for Sole, Baker added.

The partnership had its genesis at the 2018 Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards in Denver, Colo., where an early version of Sole’s chukka and United by Blue’s bison puffer jacket were both recognized as finalists. (The puffer ultimately clinched the top prize.)

“Working with Sole to incorporate BisonShield insulation into a footwear collection for the first time is reflective of our belief that sustainability is not a status quo,” said Brian Linton, founder and CEO of United by Blue. “It also shows how working together with industry-leading peers, we are able to push the boundaries of sustainability further, more quickly.”

Sole and United by Blue will fete their shoe exclusively on Kickstarter on March 4, with a campaign that “speaks to consumers about the state of the footwear industry while presenting them with a better option.”