Because of how OESH Shoes are designed and made, they are not only the healthiest shoes on the planet, they’re the healthiest shoes for the planet. In fact, OESH is the only shoe company recognized by the National Science Foundation for sustainable manufacturing.
Here are 6 reasons the OESH carbon footprint is much smaller than that of any other shoe company:
1. Fewer components
The typical shoe contains “65 discrete parts requiring 360 processing steps for assembly”. But our research has shown that when it comes to healthy shoe design, less is more. These unnecessary parts, which big shoe companies advertise as “features,” are not based on scientific evidence. In fact research shows that many of these extra parts are actually harmful by abnormally increasing impact on your joints. This is why a typical OESH shoe contains less than six basic parts, requiring less than twelve processing steps. This greatly reduces impact not just on your joints but also on the environment.
2. Sustainable singular sole material
A typical non-OESH sole is made up of multiple materials that have to be processed or glued together. That multi-step process is energy intensive, often with toxic additives, primers and/or adhesives, that cannot be recycled or separated at the end of the shoe’s life. The OESH sole is made 100% of a unique elastomer material, eliminating these energy-intensive processes.
3. Zero EVA
The typical shoe contains ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam in its midsole because EVA has cushioning properties, which has long been assumed to reduce impact on our joints. However, our research has shown just the opposite – that EVA and other types of cushioning materials used by other shoe companies actually increases impact on the joints, which is bad for joint health. EVA cushioning is not only hard on the joints. EVA foam production is energy- intensive, requiring a multi-step production process and hundreds of gallons of water. It also has a high percentage of material that cannot be reused and must be discarded (“scrap rate”). In addition, EVA foam adheres poorly to other materials and so requires further energy-intensive processes to bond to other parts of the shoe (see number 5 below).
Finally, EVA foam does not biodegrade or decompose in a landfill, primarily because of the vinyl, and it is not recyclable. Instead of EVA foam, OESH uses a sole material that is good for our bodies and good for our planet. Our OESH high-rebound, non-vinyl sole reduces impact on the joints. Our soles are made from an easily processed elastomer spring material manufactured in a simple one-step process with minimal heat, scrap and water. All our soles either readily decompose in a landfill (our molded shoes) or are 100% recyclable (our 3D printed shoes).
4. Zero-waste knitted shoe upper
Most shoe companies cut their uppers out of fabric, which creates a lot of fabric scraps. OESH was one of the first shoe companies to begin knitting shoe uppers, which dramatically reduces excess fabric. However, most shoes companies that knit uppers still have to trim the edges where the upper attaches to the sole. Thanks to OESH’s newest three-dimensional knitting process, we have been able to develop manufacturing processes that require NO fabric trimming, resulting in ZERO waste of material. Our 3D knitting process also allows us to fashion a sock-like upper that conforms to the natural shape of the foot, making it noticeably more comfortable than other brands.
5. Non-toxic sole attachment
One of the most toxic, energy-consuming parts of shoe manufacturing is bonding the shoe upper material to the sole. The typical shoe manufacturing process starts with abrading the sole with sanding, applying a solvent, and then applying two coats of a chemical primer separated by heating in heat tunnels before a final adhesive coat is applied and heated again. Not only is this multi-step process energy-intensive, it exposes workers to dust particles and toxic VOC’s. In contrast, OESH uppers are attached to the sole either with hand stitching (crochet actually!), rivets, or with a one-step water-based, non-toxic, VOC-free adhesive – without any sanding, solvents, or primers.
6. Sustainable research and development
At OESH, we committed to make shoes that were good for our planet long before it was fashionable. Since 2011, when we made our very first pair of shoes, we recognized that the best way to reduce both carbon emissions and waste is to simplify the manufacturing process and keep components and materials to a minimum. That’s because 97% of the carbon footprint of a typical pair of shoes comes from the multi-stage manufacturing process (68%) and processing the materials that are used (29%).
Some shoe companies advertise their use of certain natural or recycled materials that in reality, when manufactured into shoes, can actually have a net negative effect on the environment. Before OESH decides to use any material, whether it’s natural, synthetic, or recycled, we first evaluate the carbon emissions required for processing or recycling. We also consider how the processed material could potentially further contaminate the environment either during use and/or at its end-of-life. If a material is not good for the planet, it’s not good enough for OESH. In addition, we are constantly innovating and creating new technologies and processing abilities through our award-winning research, which has been generously supported by National Science Foundation grants. Here are a few of our current projects:
We’re working with researchers at the University of Virginia and with the Virginia Coalition of Hemp Growers to develop a U.S. grown hemp yarn for our locally made 3D printed shoes to replace the U.S. grown cotton that we’re currently using.
In partnership with Huntsman, one of the world’s largest raw materials suppliers, we just completed a study showing that our 3D printed soles can be shredded at the end of the shoe’s life cycle and reused to make new soles with NO drop in performance properties. In fact, OESH’s soles when recycled, have nearly identical mechanical properties as the virgin raw material. Unlike most products, our soles are potentially recyclable numerous times and still retain all of OESH’s health benefits.
c. Plant-Based Spandex
In partnership with Dupont, another large raw materials supplier and the inventor of spandex branded as Lycra, we’re researching a sustainable plant-based replacement for spandex that has all the same desirable properties but requires substantially less carbon emissions to produce. If all tests well, we’ll be knitting this new material into our 3D shoe uppers in our next overseas production. We commit to continuing our efforts to create new and better shoe manufacturing methods to make the world’s most healthy shoes. Healthy by Design means healthy for both people and the planet.