Biodegradable shoes. The idea seems silly at first — Will they disintegrate while I’m walking around? — but it’s one worth exploring.
Look at it this way: The average shoe contains an astonishing amount of synthetic fiber, hard thermoplastic, EVA foam, and all sorts of other materials that cause untold damage to the waterways, air, soil and wildlife in the corners of the world where they’re produced. Larger shoe companies are waking up to this reality — Nike is making clothing and footwear from post-consumer recycled materials as part of its Nike Better World initiative, Puma is moving into post-consumer materials next year, and the shoes in New Balance’s NewSky line are crafted from recycled plastic bottles. But even as more manufacturers are shifting toward eco-friendly materials and methods, there’s still plenty of stuff inside the shoes and sandals you’re wearing today that’ll wind up floating in the Pacific years after you toss them.
Spanish company One Moment is already one step (ahem) ahead. It’s producing shoes made from soft and durable bioplastics that are not only eco-friendly in construction, they’re 100 percent biodegradable. Wear them around, throw them in the laundry when they get dirty. When you’re done with them, shred them and toss them in the compost bin. Within six months or so, they’ll break down and leave no waste.
One Moment’s 01Ms are closer to rugged slippers than anything else. They certainly aren’t running shoes — the upper is only about 1 millimeter thick and the anti-slip sole is 2 millimeters thick. The whole shoe is one solid piece of soft vegetable-based plastic made using an injection-mold process. Available in a variety of neon colors, they resemble some sort of psychedelic elven bootie. They’re minimal, and so’s the cost — they run about 10 euro ($13) per pair.
There are other companies specializing in biodegradable minimalist footwear, like Feelgoodz flip-flops ($45), and bfflz, which are only $10 a pair and closer in spirit to One Moment’s slipper-things.
Since there’s very little material between you and the ground, the feel of the 01Ms is closer to going barefoot, so they work best in situations where you’d be comfortable shoeless. I wore my test pair in the backyard, and they were quite welcome on chilly, foggy mornings. They kept my feet dry when walking on wet concrete and damp sand, and while watering the plants. Wearing them on strolls to the corner store was a different matter, as they don’t offer much protection against the more painful bits of sidewalk. Also, they don’t breathe well. Mine were snug, and my feet got clammy after a couple of hours.
I washed them out using (biodegradable) dish soap and water, then hung them upside-down to dry them out. They were as good as new the next day. They roll up like socks, so unlike most flip-flops or sandals, you can stuff them in your jacket pocket.
While the 01Ms are quite limited, there are enough situations where some protective foot-sheathing is called for (on the beach, in the dewy campground, at the gym, in sketchy hotel rooms) to make these funky hippie shoes an attractive purchase. Best of all, they’re guilt-free — after wearing my testers for a month, I sliced them up into thin ribbons using scissors and threw them into my compost barrel out back. Next spring, I’m going to feed them to the bougainvillea.