While the famous yellow Vibram polygon you’ve been seeing for so many years may be the most recognizable shoe ingredient in the world, Michelin says it wants to be more than just an ingredient brand, best known for 128 years as a manufacturer of high performance tires.
“We want to be a design, R&D and testing partner. We’re a technological partner,” says Filippo Sartor, partnership development manager for Michelin. The company doesn’t stock any open outsoles: every outsole is developed specifically for the brand, and while they launched in trail shoes, they are expanding into more wintersport outsoles for the 2017/18 season.
The first Michelin outsole introduced in the U.S. was seen in the Under Armour Fat Tire trail shoe. But this fall/winter, you’ll be able to test for yourself the famous rubber maker’s outsole on brands including Nordica, Columbia, AKU, Garmont, Hi-Tec and Salewa.
International automobile and bicycle tire companies have entered the outdoor footwear market to provide outsoles with specific performance characteristics. Tires and shoes share the same vocabulary: footprint, sole, tread, rolling, stability and rubber. In outdoor brands, they’re designed based upon specific high-performance mountain bike tires. The AKU Pulsar is inspired by the Wild Grip’R Descent MTB tire. The Garmont Mystic is designed according to the Country Rock and Country Trail MTB tire. The Salewa Multi Track shoe outsole is inspired by the Michelin Starcross HP4. And the new Under Armour FKT trail running shoe is based on the Michelin Wild Dig’R MTB tire.
“The sole of a shoe has so much in common with a tire that the development process of each often follows the same model. Both need detailed studies, functional analysis, simulations, design, compound preparation, laboratory testing, prototype development, machine and then field testing,” said Sonnergren.
Columbia and Icebug are the two latest footwear manufacturers to adopt Ice Control Technology developed by the R&D department of Michelin Technical Soles, based in Verona, Italy. The new outsoles provide up to 40 percent greater traction on ice, according to designers.
“There isn’t a more problematic surface than a layer of ice or heavily snow-covered ground. Under these conditions footwear reliability should not be compromised,” said Andrea de Pascale, Head of Marketing & Partnership Development for Michelin outsole licensee JV International.
How It Works
Ice Control features a specific balance between the visco-elastic properties of rubber and the mechanical behavior of the ground generated by the “profile” of the sole. In this manner it’s similar to the tread of a tire. The specially-designed 100% rubber compound develops a high grip on ice and compacted snow, simultaneously maintaining good flexibility even at low average temperatures, thus allowing the shoe to accommodate the natural flexing of the foot while walking.
Supporting the action of the Ice Control rubber is the sole design, where Michelin know-how in the field of snow tires inspires precise design such as the angles of incidence, multidirectional laminar structure, and lugs that offer a large contact area.
With Ice Control technology, traction on ice is 40% greater, compared to a traditional outdoor sole, with performance maintained even after several weeks of use and with unmatched wear resistance.
In three months, Columbia’s Directors of Toughness, Faith Briggs and Mark Chase, traveled to some of the most hostile regions known to man to validate the performance of the Ice Control technology used in their Columbia Canuk boots.
The duo faced a journey in stages in the most inhospitable places on Earth including Iceland, a predominantly mountainous territory and covered with glaciers and rugged volcanic surfaces punctuated by the presence of spectacular geysers. They also crossed the Vatnajokull glacier, an enchanted place with crystal blue caves.
The passage in the Canadian Yukon was an even tougher trial for the two testers with temperatures well below freezing. Under these conditions, fishing on the frozen lake became the only way get food and their dog sled was the only reliable means of transportation. Ice Control technology provided the highest degree of traction on ice and high traction on snowpacked trails, even after long use on challenging terrain.
Michelin Ice Control Technology in the outsole delivered superior ground control in snow and ice with no trade-off. It offered perfect adherence and optimal flexibility, anti-slip 100% rubber combined with a specific tread design, flexibility at both medium and lower temperatures, and good abrasion resistance on and off the ice, while alternating seamlessly on mixed routes, whether paved, gravel, snow-covered or icy.
Icebug, the Swedish brand specializing in footwear to tackle slippery surfaces, also entrusted Michelin Ice Control technology for their Solus M walking boots. The perils and pitfalls of ice are not only found in the most distant places, but danger can often lurk on a comfortable excursion.
Thus the Solus was designed for light use – from dog walking in the neighborhood to walks on snow-covered roads. It features everything needed from a three-season shoe: water repellency, fleece lining and superb all-around winter traction thanks to the Michelin Ice Control rubber outsole. It’s for those who face snow-covered streets and driveways, or who have to travel for work on mixed, often snowy terrain.
With more than a century of deep know-how in the development of tires, Michelin has entered the world of technical soles, succeeding in developing creative solutions to real problems.
JV International is the global strategic partner chosen by MICHELIN for the design, development and manufacturing of high-performance MICHELIN-branded technical soles. The company is based in Italy with its partnership development offices in Como and a design and product development centre in Verona; headquarters are in Hong Kong China, as well as a production site and an R&D centre.
The Italian office handles the entire process, from strategic planning, screening of new technologies, R&D, design development, partner relationship management to marketing and communication activities for the MICHELIN-branded products. Thanks to their long experience in sole design and co-design of technical footwear, JV international has created an innovative product development centre in Verona.
For more information: soles.michelin.com