These Vivobarefoot Shoes Are Made from Algae (and They’re Awesome)

vivobarefoot shoes
Image: JakobEdholm.com

VIVOBAREFOOT shoes are for people who would rather be barefoot, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that, with the brand’s new cooperation with San Diego-based BLOOM, VIVOBAREFOOT has created an even more natural shoe: the world’s first made with EVA foams.

Replacing Plastic with Algae

Algal blooms develop in waterways due to the presence of chemical wastes – notably those containing phosphorous and nitrates. This waste triggers an uncontrollable growth of algae that not only releases harmful toxins into the water but depletes oxygen and blocks sunlight, wreaking havoc on the health of the marine ecosystem.

BLOOM uses this algae to make ethylene-vinyl acetate, or EVA foams, which perform the double duty of removing the harmful blooms from the water and replacing ecologically harmful petroleum-based materials in modern product lines.

“Our goal is to deliver the most performance-driven materials in the most environmentally-responsible manner,” Mike Van Drunen, CEO of BLOOM, said in a press release.

Lightweight and flexible, BLOOM foam has been used to reinforce joint braces, make toys and fitness mats, and even pad furniture – and now it’s being used to make shoes.

The World’s First Algae Shoe

Founded in 2012, VIVOBAREFOOT’s mission has always been simple: create shoes that are as much like being barefoot as possible. The company’s foot-shaped shoes have no heel, no support, and no cushioning to help your feet move as nature intended – the patented, ultra-thin, puncture-resistant sole is all you need.

VIVOBAREFOOT founders Galahad and Asher Clark come from a long line of cobblers. They have always had an eye towards sustainability, with a definition that comes from John Ehrenfeld, author of “Sustain-Ability by Design.”

“His definition of sustainability was that humans and other life should be able to flourish on the earth,” explains Galahad. “And the only excuse to fill up the world with more stuff is one of three reasons: a product should help us connect more with nature, a product should help us feel more human and/or a product that helps important or ethical environmental questions.”

With this goal in mind, the cousins decided to take their natural shoe even further in attempting to replace petrochemicals with some sort of EVA alternative – and when Asher, a surfing fan, discovered that BLOOM was making tail pads for surfboards, he realized that he had found the key.

“It was an incredibly kind of smooth, quick transition from surf tail pads to the first shoe made out of bloom,” says Galahad.

While the cousins’ previous attempts at replacing petroleum-based foams never delivered the same performance as these toxic yet effective materials, BLOOM does.

“The performance of the material is if anything superior to normal EVA,” says Galahad. “A lot of these eco solutions are either a lot more expensive or compromising performance, but BLOOM sort of ticks all the boxes.”

The New Ultra III

The first VIVOBAREFOOT shoes to feature BLOOM foam will be the latest in the brand’s Ultra performance line. The new Ultra III will be made with 25 percent algae biomass harvested from freshwater sources around the world to make the ultimate amphibious adventure shoe, set to become available next month for the retail price of $75.

A single pair of men’s size 11.5 Ultra III shoes returns 57 gallons of clean water to habitat and prevents the equivalent of 40 balloons full of CO2 being released into the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.