When you say ” mountain boots,” you say “Vibram soles”. But what does this exotic abbreviation mean, which abroad insists on pronouncing Vaibrem, not knowing that the origin of the name is all Italian? And what are the secrets of its ten-year success?
Today we pass from jackets to shoes, delving into the maze of a patent that – started from the Alps – has conquered the world.
The Vibram sole, what is it?
Vibram soles are abrasion-resistant rubber outsoles. They were invented by two Italians (Vitale Bramani ) who noticed in 1935 after the death of six miners who had fallen because their shoes were unsuitable for the steep terrain of the Alps. The two Italians then embarked on research on soles more suited to Alpine terrain.
These soles were originally only used for mountain shoes, they gradually developed into hiking shoes, winter shoes, and many other disciplines. Shoes equipped with this sole are easily recognizable thanks to the yellow logo of the brand.
How are they made:
These soles are made of a special rubber compound that provides very good grip and abrasion resistance for longer life.
Today, the majority of hiking shoes are made with Vibram soles such as the brands:
One type of shoe even consists of a Vibram sole, these are the five fingers shoes.
To properly maintain it:
Do not leave mud on your shoes, use a little hot water, remove encrusted stones, and your shoes will last over time.
Very little maintenance for these soles, it is still necessary if you are a great walker to regularly check the condition of the sole and re-sole if necessary, do not wait for the sole to be totally worn out.
Vibram soles: everything you need to know
How did this Italian jewel manage to resist the assaults of so many international competitors over the years?
Well, Vibram soles were the first shoe soles made with vulcanized rubber.
Rubber vulcanization is a process invented by the Englishman Charles Goodyear (yes, it is still tiring) in 1855.
It consists of adding sulfur and other additives into the rubber – a mixture called elastomer. This process takes place in the heating phase of the rubber and is the basis not only of the wheels of our car but also of commonly used tools.
Vulcanization allows to obtain an elastic material, resistant to abrasion and above all to traction. Here is created a wear-resistant rubber, which reacts well to both heat and cold. Essential thing on the road … or on the trail.
Today vulcanized rubber soles are quite common… but thanks to Vibram, which is the brand that led the change almost a century ago. And it is questionable whether without Bramani we would still be wearing shoes with felt soles.
But the Vibram secret is not just the mix. The famous tank structure represents the other half of that technological revolution. Today those rectangular plugs separated by “drain” channels are used everywhere.
It is worth noting that Vibram has expanded into several markets since its launch. For example, it entered the casual wear market with lightweight EVA soles.
Vibram soles are still mainly rubber, but their Ecostep and Ecostep EVO collections use 30% recycled rubber. While the Vibram N-Oil sole is made with 90% natural materials.
Characteristics of Vibram soles
There are many benefits to having Vibram soles on your shoes. The number one advantage is durability: Vibram soles are certainly the strongest shoe soles on the planet.
They can last for years and even decades if you don’t wear shoes that often. They don’t actually degrade over time: the only way to wear outsoles is to wear them on rough terrain.
Furthermore, Vibram soles usually have very deep lugs, about 5 mm. And that makes the shoe last longer, without sacrificing too much performance.
Sure, after a couple of years you may not have the same level of grip and traction you did in the beginning, but you can always recycle them for less strenuous walks or as work shoes.
Plus, it’s really easy to replace Vibram soles . The brand works with shoemakers all over the world and you can find a professional who soles your boots when the original Vibram sole wears too much.
Another huge advantage of having boots with Vibram soles is an extraordinary performance. They never disappoint – there’s a reason soles are expensive: consistent, out-of-the-ordinary performance.
As already mentioned, Vibram soles are incredibly resistant and this has been one of their main strengths, since the 1930s.
At one point, this company also produced soles for the labor market, therefore real devices for individual safety. Which speaks volumes about their reliability.
However, it is not possible to indicate the exact duration of a shoe with a Vibram sole. It mainly depends on how much and how you wear it. If these are your favorite hiking boots you wear every weekend, you can think about a change after two / three years.
If, on the other hand, we’re talking about shoes that spend most of their life in your closet and you only wear them a few times a year, then you’re good to go for the next decade, at the very least.
You don’t want to change shoes, because you feel very comfortable there? When you notice that your soles have worn out so much that you no longer feel stable, it’s time to get them resolved.
Vibram Arctic Grip
Vibram Arctic Grip is a very popular sole in the world of hiking and winter mountaineering boots. This is the most advanced traction system ever at Vibram.
The outsoles are made entirely of rubber with no metal inserts, a completely new approach to designing outsoles that have great traction on ice.
Arctic Grip outsoles are designed specifically for great performance on the ice, yet still feature basic Vibram quality and durability.
The main quality of the design of these soles is the wide lugs: with a wider contact surface, you have more stability and grip on slippery ground.
The Arctic Grip All-Terrain is also on the market: what is it? It is practically an updated version of the original Arctic Grip sole. The All-Terrain version is combined with Vibram’s latest model and compound, the XS Trek Evo. This allows the soles to perform better on dry terrain while maintaining exceptional performance on wet and icy surfaces.
Instead of wearing your Vibram boots only in the middle of winter, you can now also wear them in late autumn and early spring. With consistent shoe performance regardless of weather and terrain.
Vibram soles and environmental sustainability
The Italian company is at the forefront of sustainable practices.
Vibram Eco soles are an excellent example of this: by recycling their by-products and post-consumer materials, they are able to minimize the overall waste derived from production.
Additionally, Vibram has a code of ethics and a zero-tolerance policy for all suppliers who violate the code in any way.
They also require their business partners to adopt policies that minimize workplace injuries, promote safe and clean work environments, and ensure that all workers are adequately compensated.
Furthermore, the company is committed to minimizing its environmental impact. They are slowly converting their factories to renewable energy: the main Italian factory is already using 100% renewable energy.
The company is also implementing various practices that will ultimately lead to zero waste, including reducing consumer office waste and eliminating hazardous waste.
Vibram: a mountaineering brand lent to fashion
In recent years, the world of men’s clothing has been dominated by two overlapping trends: voluminous and oversized footwear and a mix of casual and work clothes.
This new wave, therefore, seeks to combine style and utility, cool and practical. Inevitably, Vibram was brought up.
In fact, no brand seems to benefit more from this new trend in technical equipment. Vibram has now become one of the favorite brands of fashionistas and stylists, with collaborations with rapper/designer Kanye West, Nike, Supreme …
Low trekking boots in satin, low-cut work shoes with straps and boots carefully worn by the elements … all stuff that until now was only seen in the factory and on the trails, and which now finds its space also on the catwalk or on the street in New York.
Vibram focused on mountain sports in its early years and only started experimenting with outsoles for extra-mountain shoes in the 1950s.
Today the company produces an average of 35 million soles per year, collaborating with more than 1,000 different brands and shipping its product to more than 120 countries. Mountains, of course, but not only.
Their real breakthrough in fashion, however, came in the early 2000s, thanks to the help of another not exactly unknown Italian brand: Prada.
Vibram has in fact collaborated with Prada to launch its innovative Prada Sport collection, which featured a range of fashion shoes, but with Vibram soles also suitable for the Dolomite peaks.
From that collection, the company has further entered the world of fashion. Brands like Maison Margiela, Mark McNairy, Giorgio Armani, and Thom Browne have all turned to Vibram, for high-tech design and unmatched quality.
An independent label known to fashion lovers is Our Legacy, a Swedish brand famous for its strange reinterpretations of Scandinavian minimalism.
Since 2014 Our Legacy has been selling versions of its Mono Runners with Vibram soles: a type of design shoe (questionable!) That you see on the feet of artists, creative directors, and lovers of nightlife.
Virgil Abloh, the famous designer and recently deceased entrepreneur, with his Off-White label has launched the fashion of bulky sneakers in premium leather, suede, and thick Vibram sole.
Vibram’s growing success is not just about the aesthetics of a sole or its durability: it is a sign of the growing interest of the sneaker industry for authenticity, practicality, and reliability.
Even an iconic luxury house like Maison Margiela, which has access to any material or method in the world, has used Vibram soles for its new fall-winter sneakers lines.
Ultimately, Vibram may not be the brightest star in these high-end products. It is simply the ultra-rugged platform upon which designers build increasingly high-performance sneakers.
But the small, modest yellow octagonal logo of the Italian house lets a person know that what they are buying is the result of almost a century’s experience of roads, mountains, and workshops.
What Work Shoes Have Vibram Soles | Video Explanation
Why should I buy boots with Vibram soles?
Vibram soles have a reputation for being durable and extremely grippy. You can also replace the Vibram soles, which means you’ll get more use out of your work boots.
How long can Vibram soles last?
This will depend on the purpose of your shoes and how often you use them. They may not last as long if you live in harsh environments.
They can last up to five years if worn in an office or on the street. They will last about three years on average.
Are Vibram soles non-slip?
Vibram soles have been specially designed to increase and improve traction.
What does Vibram mean?
Vibram is a brand name that combines the beginnings of the first and last name of the unique inventor Vi tale bra mani. It is pronounced vee-Brum in Italian.
Vibram soles for work boots offer comfort and performance. The unique brand is internationally recognized and sold. He helped establish a high standard of work boot manufacturing through the use of premium rubber compounds.
Vibram soles are synonymous with durability, quality, traction and, above all, waterproofness. Vibram soles for work boots can withstand any task, in any environment.
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