I mean, who isn’t familiar with the yellow octagon on the sole? That bright and friendly colour that pops up every time you take a step – that’s the iconic logo known round the world, the symbol for the global leader in the manufacture of rubber soles.
The success Vibram has had over the years is quite impressive: their soles are now a testament to the quality of shoes of all kinds.
Vibram was the first manufacturer, to produce a rubber lug sole for mountaineers. It was dubbed “Carrarmato” and has striking similarities with the sole used for contemporary mountaineering boots, despite it being 80 years old! This is the first sole, which was manufactured by the company’s founder Vitale Bramani as early as 1937 in Albizzate, Italy. This marked the foundation of a success story as the global leader in all things related to high-quality soles.
It was also Bramani who used the first two letters of his given name and the first three letters of his surname for the name of the company. Since then, Vibram has been manufacturing a variety of different rubber soling materials, each of which is tailored to the specific demands of a certain sport. The spectrum of soles is mind-blowing. Vibram produces 150 new models each season and has a sole for every kind of sport, be it water sports, climbing, trekking, trail running, cycling, motor sports, ski touring boots or just your casual shoe – Vibram’s got it all. So, basically, you could say that there’s a Vibram sole for almost every athletic discipline. However, there are three things that all Vibram soles have in common: a high level of comfort, security and excellent traction.
What makes a sole good?
Due to their unbelievable success, we can only assume that Vibram is doing everything correctly when it comes to manufacturing rubber soles. But, what really makes a sole good?
1. It’s combination that counts
The right rubber compound is extremely important for both the traction as well as the durability of the sole. In what temperatures does the rubber work? Is the compound soft or hard? Vibram has developed special rubber compounds to meet the unique demands in different conditions. For shoes used for high-altitude mountaineering, the very tough Mont compound is used, which offers reliability on very technical terrain in sub-zero temperatures. Climbing shoe rubber compounds, such as the XS Grip2 sole, can be a bit softer for more precision and sensitivity. Other compounds, such as the XS Edge climbing shoe sole, the Idrogrip sole for water sports or the MegaGrip for rocky terrain, provide the perfect balance between flexibility and enough stability to shine on virtually any shoe. Special soles, such as the heat-resistant Fire&Ice can be found on shoes made for firemen.
2. Lugs – the heart of the Vibram sole
A sole’s tread is the most important thing to a mountaineer, and it is not only the shape of the lugs that is important, but also how deep the grooves are. Deep grooves between the lugs ensure that the lugs will grab hold of soft surfaces, thereby guaranteeing plenty of traction. The Vibram soles found on mountaineering boots have lugs that are self-cleaning, thereby keeping them free of debris and mud. Omnidirectional lugs provide the security you need on rocky terrain, regardless of how your foot falls. There are also soles with lugs that face different directions at the front and back of the shoe. These serve to drive you forward and provide traction on uphills, whilst enhancing your braking abilities on downhills.
The longevity of a sole has a lot to do with the rubber compound. In general, we can say: the harder the rubber compound, the more abrasion-resistant the sole is. Vibram manufactures extremely long-lasting soles that are made to withstand the wear and tear they’re constantly subjected to. And, of course, the durability of the soles is subject to several rigorous tests over the course of their development.
Vibram – popular amongst climbers
The abovementioned rubber compounds specifically made for climbers have made Vibram a popular and reliable partner to manufacturers of climbing shoes such as Scarpa and La Sportiva. When you see that yellow octagon on the sole of your shoe, don’t you just automatically have more trust in it? The extremely durable and high-quality rubber compounds are called XS Edge and XS Grip2. The XS Edge is a stiffer sole that retains its shape and is intended for edging. Plus, it is resistant to drastic changes in temperature and thus very durable. The XS Grip2 compound delivers excellent traction, stability for edging and sensitivity.
Well, Vibram continues to come up with cutting-edge ideas. One in particular is the ”intelligent” sole called the self-adaptive lug This sole boasts diamond-shaped lugs with deep grooves in between. As a result of the lugs’ unique shape, the shoes are supposed to provide enhanced traction without sacrificing the foot’s flexibility. Vibram also developed the Vibram Smart Sole, which can communicate with smartphones and smartwatches via an interface. The integrated LED lights in the Smart Sole are there to help you see where you’re going in the dark.
So, the fact that you see the yellow octagon on the soles of so many mountaineers, climbers, hill walkers, hikers, trail runners and other athletes is definitely justified, as Vibram soles are not only high quality but also extremely durable and have tons of traction. Considering the sheer number of different soles out there, you’re bound to find one to meet your demands.