Who Came Up With the Tire Soled Shoe?

Tire Soles

It’s easy to forget the finest moments of human ingenuity, of discovery, are often silent victories that go unnoticed.

When I first came across Brave Soles and learned that their whole business was built on pulling discarded tires from landfills and turning them into upcycled shoe soles, I thought, “Wow! That is SO smart!”

And then I was hit with the, “Yeah, well it’s not a new thing. This idea has been around for ages.” IT HAS?

So I did some digging.

Unlike sneakers, with which people have tracked an extensive record of it’s colourful history and development, (there’s even an entire book on it!) the origin of tire soled shoes is a little more undocumented.

I was looking for one distinct origin story of this type of sole that perhaps disseminated to different parts of the world later on. But the interesting thing is that the idea of creating soles out of tires pops up in all sorts of places around the world.

In Mexico, tire-cut soles surface in the 1930 with Mexico’s native footwear: Huaraches. It became a cheaper alternative to the previously donned leather outsoles and was found to hold a better grip.

In Vietnam, we find them as the simple but effective Ho Chi Min Sandals, known to be used by the Vietcong during the Vietnam War in 1955.

And still, beyond that, there are others. The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto has done a pretty impressive job of curating their collections and you’ll find they include various styles of rubber tire sandals from places such as Italy, Pakistan, and Kenya. (There’s even a video of a man carving these shoes out with a machete at an unnervingly fast pace...)

I suppose I was a little surprised to learn that there was no single moment of discovery where someone yelled “Eureka!” as the tire sole was born. It’s easy to forget the finest moments of human ingenuity, of discovery, are often silent victories that go unnoticed. But these humble origins are sort of nice, I think.

Just everyday people doing the best they could with what they had.



By guest blogger: Yona Lo

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