Natural rubber plantations

OUR MATERIAL PARTNERSHIP WITH NATURE

OUR COMPOSTABLE NATURAL RUBBER

The sole is the heart of any sneaker and it’s around this unique foundation that we’ve crafted a plastic-free and uniquely comfortable sole, and insole, from hand-poured natural rubber collected from old forests and certified FSC village producers. 

Once it has been shredded this sole unit will break down into organic materials in ordinary composting, but only after it has served a long and useful life.   

Our unique production process uses 100% natural rubber which during curing creates an alveolar microstructure of tiny networked air bubbles for ultimate bio-mechanical flexibility.

WAES WHITE COMPOSTABLE ORGANIC TANNED METAL FREE LEATHER WITH RED NATURAL GUM SOLE

CARBON POSITIVE SOLES

It takes a single tree 20 days to produce enough sap for one of our sole units, and another 8 days for the insole. The result is a naturally carbon positive shoe sole, produced in a manner which doesn't harm the tree. The rubber tapping even encourages additional carbon sequestration.  

This ancient technique dates back to the Maya civilisation, and when allied to a modern production process creates a sole which promotes natural foot movement.

Once these are on your feet you will feel the difference and know you are wearing something unique. '"These are the most comfortable shoes ever," is our most common review . 

Natural latex collection for WAES 100% soles

SLOW COOKED SOLES

Our soles start off as liquid rubber, which is poured into a mould sitting in a 60°C water bath. This process turns the soles from a liquid into a solid form.   

After being cooled the soles are placed on trays in an oven, and cooked for a week to expel the excess water. And this is the slow cooking magic which creates  the trademark Lactae Hevea alveolar microstructure of networked air bubbles. 

Creating the most comfortable shoes in the world takes time. It's a process which can't be hurried and you feet will thank you for over the years to come. 

Rubber tree latex soles for WAES sneakers plastic free sustainable footwear

STRENGTH IN TREE SAP

Natural rubber is considered to be “self-reinforcing" and combines more abrasion resistance, comfort and flexibility than the synthetic rubber found on 99.9% of footwear.  

It has a higher tensile strength and tear resistance than synthetic rubber which is why it is used for demanding high performance roles such as aircraft tyres. Natural rubber is used because the synthetic alternative can’t survive the extreme change in temperature on landing.

100% natural rubber feels more luxe and is much lighter on our planet than artificially manufactured rubber. But it's just too expensive and time consuming to appeal to fast fashion.

Natural rubber is stronger than plastic rubber

BUT RUBBER SOLES ARE COMMON? 

The term 'rubber' has come to mean many things, and not much of it is natural. A typical marketing trick is to mix natural rubber with synthetic oil-based materials and only mention the natural element. This greenwashing is all too common in footwear. 

The unfortunate truth is that in a typical pair of these 'eco shoes' less than 30% will be rubber and 70% of the sole will be a form of artificial plastic. This allows these plastic-based soles which are to be produced for around $2 a pair to claim eco credentials.   

At worst, and most commonly, it's just called 'natural rubber' despite being made entirely from petrochemicals. Remember folks, if it isn't plastic-free, then it cannot be 100% natural.

Natural Rubber tree latex collection

ORGANIC COTTON

Our GOTs Organic Cotton looks after the soil, the air and the people crucial to its production. And whilst not perfect, it's a reasonable starting point for us in a journey to directly producing our own raw materials

Fast and cheap cotton passes the cost onto the farmers health, our environment, soil fertility, biodiversity and the water table. 

Plus it’s easy to forget that the skin is the largest organ of your body. So treat yourself well and be aware of the chemicals present in the material. 

Cotton production has an impact on our world at large, as well as within the communities in which it is grown.

Organic cotton for WAES

ORGANIC-TANNED LEATHER

In world drowning in plastic we have chosen to use a natural waste product (leather) from the meat industry instead of coating organic materials in plastic.

Right now there isn't a leather substitute which is fully biodegradable into organic matter, and most are a complicated mixture of plastic polymers and organics which are impossible to reuse or recycle.

We are working with materials experts to create a plant-based leather replacement, as right now we are not convinced the current available materials pass our compostable criteria in terms of plastic coatings and environmental biodegradability.

the 1970 the first plastic-free sneaker

All of the current leather replacements that are marketed as “biodegradable” break down into microplastics, or contain a high organic content encased in a plasticised matrix to allow it to be workable in production. 

Fundamentally we are committed to using materials which will not be still hanging around in 500 years.    

The leather of the future could well not ever have seen a living animal, instead it could be from Modern Meadow that grows leather like beer, using yeast which instead of producing alcohol, eats sugar and produces the building blocks of leather. 

Our leather is tanned in the most sustainable metal free method and contains no added toxic coatings or fixatives. This isn’t just a choice for the environment but also for the people who produce it. Cheap leather costs lives.    

WAES Plastic free compostable sneaker

THREADS AND GLUE

Standard shoe thread is reinforced with PU (plastic). Meaning we had to make our own to ensure it complied with our biodegradable plastic-free philosophy. 

Creating a thread which would run through machines designed for plastic-based thread is one of our proudest moments. Proving yet again that nature has it all worked out.  

Similarly with our glue, which is inspired by the Ancient Egyptians who were first recorded as using tree resin as glue. We’re using an incredibly strong and flexible conifer glue which is free from plastic and animal products. So you too can walk like an Egyptian.

 

WAES materials hemp stitching and vegan glue