The special shape of the Wildling shoe sole, which even at first glance is clearly different from the sole of any other shoe, might be a bit puzzling at first. Why is there a gap in the sole? Will it protect you enough from the ground? Will it have to be treated with various products such as glue or waterproofing spray?
In actual fact the Wildling shoe sole is the result of many months or even years of intensive research, testing and development. After reading this very special story, in which Ran describes the exciting journey leading to the creation of the Wildling Shoes sole, you'll know that it's extremely good the way it is. While of course you can never rule out the possibility of further development.
Image: Wildling Shoes | A person holding a Wildling shoe and another one holding a color palette
Once upon a time...
"Functionality. Try not to impair any of the naturally occurring mechanisms in our foot and lower leg. Lightness. Have a classic design but also an innovative one. Work with sustainable materials. Produce in a fair way." – Those were the guiding principles when we first came to the drawing board to design the Wildling shoe outsole.
After a few months of back and forth, we were finally able to see all of the above taking shape in a new, beautiful outsole. That gap in the middle of the sole looked especially nice – it in fact plays an important role in our process of movement. Now it was "only" a matter of finding a factory in close proximity to our homestead that would produce it, which led us to Portugal. A piece of cake! Who wouldn't want to produce such a special outsole? Or so we thought.
What looked so nice on paper turned out to be every outsole producer's nightmare! The sole was too thin, with too many details, too many curves and that side logo - how do you want to do that?! And above all – the gap in the middle of the sole – absolutely IMPOSSIBLE! The solution presented to us was done with injection molding which uses PU, making it heavier than rubber and thicker than the 0.1 inches thickness of the original design.
A real fox never gives up
We searched on until we met J.C. and clicked immediately. He said that he thought we had a good concept and called the factory owner to discuss the matter further – "We'll give it a try, but I'm not promising anything".
After a few long, nerve-wrecking weeks (our planned kickstarter campaign was getting closer), we finally received a phone call:
"We tried. I'm really sorry, but it's impossible. That gap in the sole, if you could only close that gap, then we could have the sole ready tomorrow!" Silence... more silence... "Are you sure you need that gap?" Silence. We flew back to Portugal.
In Portugal we talked about the importance of the functionality of the sole, how it should flex and bend and in no way restrict a growing foot. We made sure everyone was aware that this was the heart of the shoe and we were sure that we could find a way. A few long minutes of head grabbing and chin scratching went by. The door opened. The designer of the sole mold stepped into the room: "I think, I've got it! It won't be easy, certainly not cheap, and will require some work by hand after the sole comes out of the mold, but there's a way!" We all looked at each other – "Let's go!!"
Image: Wildling Shoes | The Wildling Shoes initial sole design render
There it was: the first Wildling shoe sole
The final result was fantastic by any standard and is considered to be a real feat that was achieved by a unique and extremely talented effort, The sole would be made from rubber and Portuguese cork and because the shoe is so soft, each size would have its own mold, while it is common in the shoe industry to have two or three sizes made from one mold to save costs. Since then, we've made the soles softer and stronger, added new sizes and jointly developed a new sole for the smallest sizes too.
We've been working together ever since the beginning, so when we met again at the Wildling Shoes logistics center they told us: "When you guys first came to us over 4 years ago, you didn't know anything about how to make shoes. You still don't and that's your biggest advantage!" And while the Wildling Shoes team keeps expanding and the knowledge keeps growing, we're set to keeping that initial spirit.
Header Image: Wildling Shoes/Nora Tabel | The one of a kind Wildling Shoes outsole