Few things are more frustrating than discovering that an essential component of your favorite pair of shoes has worn down or broken off. To make things worse, repairing these parts is often either impossible or more expensive than the shoes themselves. Haven’t you ever wished you could just swap out that busted sole, lining, or upper and hold on to your beloved footwear? Unfortunately, most shoe manufacturers use toxic glues that are harmful to the environment to bind their products, preventing that dream from coming true any time soon. Then there’s the troubling fact that most shoes are made in sweatshops, in many cases by children. Isn’t there a better way?
A new project on Kickstarter answers this question with a resounding “yes,” offering their clever modular design up as proof. Ki Ecobe is a socially and environmentally conscious shoe that’s completely assembled by you, the user. Its individual components can be taken off, replaced, and interchanged in matter of minutes, whenever you want! When you’ve worn your pair down to uselessness, simply take them apart and recycle them.
To some, the Ki Ecobe may seem needlessly complicated at first. Why would anyone want to assemble their own shoes? Believe it or not, this process is surprisingly easy. The shoes consist of five parts: “Ki” strap, inner boot, outsole, insole, and shoelaces. Each part slides into or wraps around another, allowing the entire shoe to be put together in less than five minutes. Ordinary footwear manufacturing requires at least 30 minutes of assembly time per pair, three times as many people, and a heck of a lot more pollution.
The shoe’s creators explain, “Ki Ecobe started from the question, ‘How can we make shoes that benefit both nature and people while eliminating the use of harmful adhesives?’ With good intentions to benefit nature and people together, we sought the answer to this question in various angles. There were many difficulties, but we found the recyclable green elastic material that has similar properties as rubber when injection molded. We also eliminated the difficulties in developing the mold for injection molding through outstanding engineers.”
The outsole comes in in three different colors, but you’ll have a much harder time choosing from the 15 available color options for each the strap, boot, and laces. That all adds up to just over 10,000 possible color combinations, meaning every pair of Ki Ecobe shoes will be completely unique from the rest. Use the inner boot by itself, and you’ve got an instant slipper that can be thrown into the washer at any time for quick and easy cleaning. The plastic outsole is 100 percent recyclable.
While the Ki Ecobe’s “super early bird” backer deal of $69 for a pair is no longer available, there’s still time to claim the standard early bird pricing of $79. When they hit the market, the shoes will retail for $99, and their individual parts will range from $2 (for the laces) to $30 (for the inner boots). The company’s crowdfunding campaign ends on July 30th, and the shoes are expected to start shipping this November — just in time for holiday gifting!
If you’re worried that Ki Ecobe’s release will be delayed for any reason, you shouldn’t be. The company already seems to have worked around the major obstacles: “Shoes are one of the products that are difficult to develop due to the great variety of style, color and size. Fortunately, however, we have already overcome these difficulties and have completed product development, secured production facilities and shipping channels, and expect few to no problems shipping them all over the world as soon as the funding is completed.”