The first fully biodegradable modern footwear brand

'Innovation in footwear: from polluting plastics to plant-based solutions'

According to the World Footwear Yearbook, 23.9 billion new pairs of shoes were manufactured in 2022. The sobering truth underneath that statistic: almost all of them contained petroleum products.

Without many of us knowing it, we’re contributing to air, land, and water pollution every time we buy a new pair of shoes – not to mention the millions of flip flops and shoes that end up in landfills or washed up on beaches. Just as concerning, new research has shown that the microplastics generated in the daily wear and tear of plastic-based shoes is dangerous for our health.

‘The problem is enormous. As a surfer it’s shocking when you see dead baby seals and plastic pollution on the beach. All of us at Soleic were personally moved to address this issue with our materials technology,’ explained Tom Cooke, Soleic’s Brand President.

Given the outsized negative environmental impact of apparel and footwear, the Soleic team decided to focus their efforts on this challenge: how do we create a stylish, durable, and comfortable shoe entirely made out of plant-based materials?

The revolutionary science behind the shoe

Soleic co-founders Dr. Stephen Mayfield, Dr. Robert Pomeroy, and Dr. Michael Burkart had already spent several years developing a revolutionary polymer technology from plant oil, starting in the labs at University of California San Diego, and then as part of the materials science company Algenesis.

They were initially inspired by the fact that petroleum (the source material for traditional plastics) is obtained from ancient algae deposits. By starting with algae and other plant oils, they could turn these oils directly into polymers that mimic petroleum plastics in performance, but don’t leave a negative impact on the world thanks to being non-toxic and fully biodegradable. Dr. Mayfield describes their inspiration from nature: “We thought, let's just follow the example of what the earth does and make things that are biodegradable at the end of their life.”

Proving that a shoe can be both durable and biodegradable

The next step was to take this revolutionary new material and prove to the world that you could create a real product with it that could stand up to daily use, and still biodegrade at the end of its lifetime.

The team decided to create BLUEVIEW Shoes to showcase the perfect application of Soleic foam technology for footwear, proving that you can “make things from nature, and make them as functional as the products we’re currently using,” says Dr. Mayfield.

They assembled a team of experts, including footwear industry veteran Tom Cooke and a group of designers and scientists to perfect the chemical formulations for the shoe. The key was to design for style, comfort, and durability.

Part of the testing process also involved showing the biodegradation of the actual shoes, showing that under controlled composting conditions the shoes would biodegrade in less than one year, and would also break down with zero persistent microplastics should they inadvertently end up in the ocean. They also proved that the shoes met or outperformed non-bio-based competitors in key material performance standards — overturning the misconception that biodegradable means lower quality.

Official launch of BLUEVIEW in 2022 and partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium

After two years of design and development, the direct-to-consumer shoes officially launched in April 2022. They also developed a partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium so that 5% of the denim colorway shoe proceeds would be donated to support the marine education work of the Aquarium, and to highlight the link between ocean health and responsible consumer choices.

The Soleic team wear their own BLUEVIEW shoes to the lab, to the beach, and around town, showing off the brand’s versatility and proving that they truly believe in what they have created. They also started a program to take back the shoes at the end of their lifetimes, and will compost them in their lab. Your old shoe might even end up as compost for growing corn in the Soleic labs, which Soleic scientists test to prove the materials’ complete non-toxicity.

You can check out the Blueview website to read more about the shoes, and buy a pair yourself to experience what it feels like to step into the future of responsible footwear!

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