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Merino Wool Sneaker Kickstarter Follows in Allbirds’ Footsteps

In early 2014, New Zealand soccer player Tim Brown launched a Kickstarter for a wool-based running shoe, raising nearly $120,000 in just five days.

Seven years later, Brown has grown that idea into a sustainable footwear powerhouse—Allbirds’ recent funding round brought its valuation to a reported $1.7 billion—and the wool-based footwear movement shows no sign of slowing down.

Brown’s home country produced yet another wool-based shoe brand last week. Talent Jogger debuted its eponymous Merino wool shoes on Kickstarter Tuesday, reaching its $5,000 goal within just 12 hours of launching.

“Merino wool is regarded as the finest and softest wool in the world and has natural benefits unique to it that are not found in any other fiber—natural or artificial,” Talent Jogger CEO Eric Ni said in a statement. “It’s warm, comfortable and breathable and, because of this, it’s the material of choice for winter garments and outerwear. We created Talent Jogger with the idea to take the benefits and comfort of Merino wool and add high-tech features to create the ultimate footwear—something versatile enough for everyday use and stylish enough for any occasion.”

Unlike traditional wool shoes, Talent Jogger’s kicks eliminate bulk by using finer Merino wool and avoid heaviness with a number of “high-tech innovations,” it said. A dual-layer Ortholite insole, for example, combines a wool footbed with a bottom layer of air pockets for lightweight comfort. In the outsole, hexagon cavities offer a lighter and more supportive sole while rubberized EVA “provides excellent abrasion performance and running-shoe elasticity.” On average, the Talent Joggers—weighing in at 8 ounces—are 15 percent lighter than a typical pair of wool sneakers, the company said.

Talent Jogger's Merino wool sneakers, available through Kickstarter, come in low- and high-top designs

Talent Jogger’s footwear uses 100 percent Merino wool in the lining, exterior vamp and the uppers, it said. The wool fiber sheared from one Merino sheep, it added, produces enough finished product for four pairs of Talent Joggers. Combined with bio-based water-repellent technology, the shoes “easily repel water splashes” while maintaining breathability and providing warmth.

The sneakers, available in low- and high-top styles, come in five colorways. The low-top style will retail for $129, but is currently available for $45 through Kickstarter. The high-top, with a retail price of $139, is available to backers for $55.

Talent Jogger is not the only lightweight footwear brand to turn to Kickstarter. Skinners Technologies launched its second shoe-sock hybrid on the crowdfunding site in October. Designed for travel and sports enthusiasts, the Skinners 2.0 feature a durable, 3-millimeter polymer sole, a three-layered, quick-drying upper and a moisture-wicking, polyurethane foam insole. Skinners flew past its $40,000 funding goal, raising more than $1 million and receiving the support of close to 14,000 backers.

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