The gap in the outsole not only makes Wildling shoes stand out visually, but also makes them extremely flexible. If you're familiar with the post about producing our sole, you’ll know how hard it was to find production partners who wanted to take on this challenge. But all the effort paid off. Combined with the material, the gap in the sole ensures that our shoes adjust perfectly to your feet and also to any kind of terrain underfoot, which is just what you need from companions on wild adventures.
Nevertheless, it still drew criticism here and there, because a gap in the sole leaves the material underneath unprotected and at risk from abrasion and sharp stones. Depending on the gait of those wearing them, first-generation Wildling shoes were sometimes extremely worn through. But we wouldn’t be Wildling Shoes if we weren’t constantly on the lookout for solutions. And we’ve also found one for this stumbling block. But let’s start from the very beginning...
Reinforcements for Wildling shoes
When the Wildling Shoes team is looking for new approaches, we often find that a fresh view from outside opens up new perspectives. And that was the case here: A new team member joined, bringing know-how and a solution. Starting from the autumn/winter 2018 collection, all Wildling shoes came equipped with a patch that reinforced the material in the sole gap. The material we found for the patch promised to reduce abrasion considerably in the ball area of the gap. We were over the moon about this find, because it was flexible enough to adjust to the foot while walking, yet still protected the gap in the sole.
The first step was taken on our mission to “increase durability, maintain flexibility”, but we came to realize that we hadn't yet reached the end of that particular journey.
Image: Wildling Shoes | A Wildling minimal shoe's unrestricted flexibility
Fewer shoes, more sustainability
Every time a shoe is produced, resources are being used. And using those resources sparingly is an established part of the Wildling Shoes philosophy. Which is why the following applies: The longer Wildling shoes are worn without needing to be replaced by a newly produced successor, the more sustainable they are.
“Just close up the sole altogether!” is a well-meaning piece of advice that we are often given in this context. But as logical as that might seem, it's not an option for us. A closed sole would restrict freedom of movement considerably, and that piece of freedom is something we definitely want to hang on to. So we kept on looking!
Just like when we were developing the sole, our persistence paid off. After lots of research, precise comparisons, tests in the lab and countless telephone calls, we found a way of making the sole gap even stronger without restricting its flexibility.
The new material is ironed directly on to the sole, and the heat makes it stick to the fabric. It's also extremely robust and durable.
Some Wildling shoes from the autumn/winter 2019 collection already benefited from the new patch, surprising their wearers with a sole gap that withstands various types of terrain and gait while stopping moisture from getting in.
That's why, since the spring/summer 2020 collection, it has been reinforcing all new Wildling shoes.
Image: Wildling Shoes | The reinforced Wildling Shoes sole with a patch covering the gap - minimal shoe Tanuki Niji
And the very best thing?
Whether with an old patch, a new one or none at all, all Wildling shoes are equipped for a whole range of adventures around the world. And although the new sole reinforcement is definitely a step forward, we’re not going to rest on our laurels.
We like shoes better! So as usual there's a lot going on to help us make Wildling shoes even more durable and sustainable – while of course maintaining the same level of freedom for our feet.
Anna, Ran & the Wildling Shoes Team
Header Image: ©Sandra Chiolo | The Wildling Shoes sole and reinforcing patch