Eco-friendly footwear products made with ReCORK recycled wine corks.

Using recycled wine corks as a natural, sustainable alternative to petroleum-based foams and plastics in footwear products.

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For over a decade, we at SOLE have been working on a system for creating sustainable footwear that’s quite unlike any other. It started with a simple realization: if the footwear industry is to have any hope of decreasing its environmental impact in a truly meaningful way, we need an alternative to fossil-fuel based foams and plastics. The material needed to be versatile, natural and totally sustainable. The light bulb moment happened when our CEO Mike was at a friend’s old lake house, admiring the cork floor. The answer to the future of footwear is cork! 

Natural cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree.

Cork doesn’t just feel nice underfoot; it’s incredibly sustainable, growing as the bark of the cork oak tree that can be repeatedly harvested over generations without ever cutting a tree down (find out more about what makes cork so awesome here). Cork is also fantastically versatile: it’s antimicrobial, cushioning, moisture-wicking, insulating and beautiful. The highest quality cork is used to make wine corks. It’s a material that’s far too good to waste after just one use. In 2008 SOLE launched ReCORK to collect wine corks from people and companies across the continent, grind them down, and use them to create materials that could replace foams and plastics in our footwear products and other consumer products. 

It’s been a long and complicated process with setbacks, unexpected challenges and a lot of learning along the way. We persevered because we’ve always held firm in our belief that we were doing something both exceptional and completely necessary for the sake of the planet. The result is that we’ve collected more than 128 million corks (and counting), which we are working to turn into our recycled cork footbeds and footwear.

A guide how many wine corks are used in the creation of SOLE's recycled cork products.

ReCORK recycled cork footbeds:

Our recycled cork footbeds feature a recycled cork base that offers all the signature support you expect from SOLE insoles. They boast the SOLE signature shape and are completely customizable via heat or wear molding. If anything, they offer even better heat/wear molding customizations than our other insoles. What’s more, thanks to cork’s natural insulating properties, these are a firm favorite for skiers and mountaineers who need support during long, high-performance days in extreme cold. 

ReCORK recycled cork footwear:

Our recycled cork flips offer SOLE support in sandals that support your feet through long hot days. The recycled cork is used to create the built-in supportive footbeds which feature the SOLE signature shape. They also feature a metatarsal pad that supports the foot’s transverse arch, keeping the metatarsal bones in their natural resting position to maximize circulation and comfort in the forefoot. Our District shoes offer a unique combination of stylish, supportive and sustainable in a carbon-negative shoe. Their firm orthopedic footbed and midsole are both made from ReCORK recycled cork.  

The new ReCORK recycled cork midsole:

We’ve recently completed a groundbreaking advancement with our recycled cork, successfully doing with it what nobody has been able to do before: turn it into a material that’s cushioning, flexible and durable enough to rival petroleum-based foams. This allows us to create something totally unique: the ReCORK recycled cork midsole. It is the first ever example of a recycled, natural, sustainable material that can effectively replace synthetic foams in sneakers. We’re incredibly excited about the impact this material could make in the footwear industry and we’re hard at work to ensure that it has the biggest positive impact possible. Watch this space!