Shoe Shop

How to Source Sustainable Materials for Your Footwear Brand

I have been in the footwear business since 1992.

First as a designer within a material company: Vibram.

When in that decade we launched Eco-Step using the flesh leftovers of rubber and EVA into a new compound there was the first big “intention” within the footwear industry towards the environment health.

Lowa made a hiking boot completely in noble materials with special tanning processes in the leather as many of the components, it was too expensive.

Buttero an Italian brand made a beautiful travelling shoe with recycled carpets.

The trend faded out and the industry got distracted.

When working as designer, developer, or product manager it is not easy to source materials that do not have a negative impact on the environment.

The complexity of the constructions, the number of components and the contingency of price points to match affordable products.

Here are some tips on how to start:

  • Subcategorize your footwear collection by construction and factory allocation.
  • Take a BOM (Bill of Material) for each type and start tackling the main components.
  • Upper materials like leather, textile or synthetics, reinforcements threads, glues, lacing and eyelets.
  • When waterproof choose the suitable membrane
  • Soles, insoles: leather, rubber (recycled or natural), midsoles: biobased foams, recycled foams
  • Choose your approach: use of recycled materials, use of biobased materials, monomaterial and or cicularity


Rucky Zambrano

About the Author

Rucky Zambrano


Rucky Zambrano is an Industrial Designer cultivated in the 80 ́s Milan’s Design enviroment. He shifted his career due to his passion for footwear when meeting Vibram in 1992. For 13 years, Rucky and Vibram have been propelling and changing the market from performance to fashion: Merrell Chameleon, Prada Luna Rossa boat shoe sole, and the latest  vibramfivefingers. Over the last 20 years he worked with different performance and fashion brands, launching new concepts for friend’s brands. Rucky is currently in charge of footwear for the Finnish children’s Outdoor brand Reima and is still connecting dots.

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