An accident in 1935, in which several mountaineers lost their lives due to unsuitable footwear, prompted mountaineer Vitale Bramani to look for a new sole technology. He believed that rubber soles were much more slip-resistant than the leather soles commonly used up to then, and in 1937, he developed the first Vibram rubber sole together with the tire manufacturer Pirelli.
This sole made of vulcanized rubber not only impressed with its new material, the tread also made history. "The Carrarmato sole - the first Vibram sole ever - is now one of the most widely used soles in the outdoor market," said Davide Canciani, Global Marketing Director at Vibram.
Since then, the brand with the yellow octagon has continually developed new sole technologies and innovative shoe concepts - from wrap shoes to barefoot shoes and the now legendary Fivefingers with divided toes. A novelty for summer 2020 will be a new sole for climbing shoes that leaves no dark stripes on the climbing walls.
Vibram is at home in the outdoor market and stands for quality as an "ingredient brand". In the fashion market, however, performance is also becoming more and more interesting. Canciani: "Of course there are other functions in demand, such as lightness, durability and more grip on a smooth, wet surface." In fact, the brand has long since discovered the fashion market for itself and is causing a stir there with international designer cooperation, such as with the New York designer brand Alyx, the women's fashion brand Casadei or the luxury shoe brand Bally.
Cooperation with Visvim from Japan, Zegna, Woolrich, Dundop, Kappa or with the Austrian designer Arthur Arbesser have also proven the design potential of the brand. Vibram generates about ten to twelve percent of its business with fashion customers, and the trend is rising. "We can see that interest in the sole is growing," explained Davide Canciani. "Innovations are in demand, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality."
The sneaker market and the combination of rubber soles and EVA mid soles are also a growth area. In general, lighter soles are always in demand, which is why Vibram invests in the development of ever new material combinations.
As an ingredient brand, Vibram naturally has difficulties reaching the end consumer directly: Vibram customers are only the brand manufacturers. That's why Vibram began opening its own flagship stores and mobile test centers a few years ago, which are used solely to raise awareness of the company's brand and its collaborations and to gather direct feedback from consumers.
Canciani: "We want to give customers the opportunity to customize shoes so that they can better understand the meaning of the sole."
Inner soles inside the shoe can help improve performance. The French company Sidas was born about 40 years ago from the idea of increasing the comfort of ski boots by better adapting the inner soles to the individual foot shape. A thermoplastic material could be used to create a footprint on the sole that would remain after hardening.
This also increased the athlete's performance. The inner soles are now available for many sports: skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking, running, golf, cycling, multisport and of course for everyday use. They increase fit, comfort and performance in sports by supporting the arch of the foot and preventing rapid foot fatigue.
All you need to do is remove the standard inner sole from any shoe manufacturer and replace it with a Sidas inner sole. "This is an interesting additional business for any specialist retailer," explained Jan Otto, Marketing Manager of Sidas Germany and Austria. Orthopaedic corrections, on the other hand, are the exclusive responsibility of a doctor.
Sidas soles are available either preformed in three different foot types for different sports, or they are individually adapted to the foot in specialist shops. The feet are measured in a 3D scanner and individually manufactured. Several hundred of these analytical instruments are already installed in specialist shops in Germany alone, and according to Otto, "new ones are added every week."
For Sidas, individual consulting is an important future market. Otto: "Especially with regard to competence and the creation of experiences, a digital analysis will be indispensable for the specialist trade in the future. This is the only way for retailers to successfully differentiate themselves from online retailers and their competitors in the long run."
For summer 2020, Sidas presents the first analysis tool outside the sole: the Dynamic Strike Sensor (DSS) is clipped to the laces and is a new foot analysis tool that measures the change of the foot during movement. In contrast to video analysis on the treadmill, the gait pattern can be analyzed on any surface and over short and long periods of time. At the end, the data is simply read out on the screen.
This gives the dealer the opportunity to advise the customer even better and more individually. "The customer learns more about his performance condition, recognizes the causes of possible problems and can solve these together with the dealer", said Otto.