/ PRIMAL SOLES: Sustainable steps for a better world
PRIMAL SOLES: Sustainable steps for a better world
"Cork offers incredible natural benefits that no industrial process has yet been able to achieve. It is a material that is sustainable by nature."
Interview with David Even, Founder of PRIMAL Soles
PRIMAL Soles use cork to make the world's first 100% recyclable shoe insoles. This project is at an early stage - aimed at contributing to the sustainability of the planet - but it has already received an award from the Financial Times in the Responsible Business Education Awards.
We talk with David Even, the project’s founder to understand how he came up with the idea and the crucial role played by cork.
How do you view the development of the footwear industry over recent years?
The footwear sector is a multi-billion industry that continues to grow, year-on-year, because it fulfils an essential need: comfort. However, it has an undeniable impact on our planet. Over 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away every year and this affects our planet’s health, biodiversity, and our health as well.
We are in 2023, at a time in which our species is more mobile than ever. As we increasingly move, travel and experience, we also increasingly harm our planet. It’s a zero-sum game: the more we consume, the worse the state of our planet. This has got to change.
How did you come up with the idea for PRIMAL Soles?
PRIMAL Soles is the planet’s first 100% sustainable, recyclable and circular shoe insole, made from Mediterranean natural cork.
The idea to create a sustainable shoe insole startup resulted from many years of buying insoles myself. My experience of looking for insoles that perform well, are comfortable and yet do not harm the Planet revealed that they didn’t exist. Shoe insoles are primarily made from foams, gels, plastics, and leather – none of which can easily be recycled. Each year I threw away several pairs, for years on end. I decided this has got to change.
In October 2021, I was nervously sitting in the lobby at Amorim. Seeing the nature of cork that day, the beauty of the material, it became even clearer: we must develop a 100% recyclable shoe insole made from cork.
Our purpose is to make the most comfortable, natural and recyclable shoe insoles that are easily accessible for everyone on the Planet. We aim to set an example for consumers and producers to think beyond the product’s life cycle. To do better for the planet.
What part does cork play in this project?
Cork is almost synonymous with our product. All our cork is sourced from Amorim and recycled at Amorim where it makes its way back into the production cycle in the form of our iconic lower section of the sole. Cork offers incredible natural benefits that no industrial process has yet been able to achieve. It is a material that is sustainable by nature.
However, for a product to become successful in the market it must first and foremost offer genuine value to the end user. This is what I had researched in detail before scheduling my meeting in Portugal. Learning about the functional benefits offered by cork - comfortable, light, impact resistant, thermal regulating, moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial - it started to look like a gap in the market. Here is this naturally renewable product that is recyclable, and for which I can create a circular business model, since insoles naturally wear out.
What made you choose Amorim Cork Composites for this project?
Amorim Cork Composites was clearly the top option for me. Not just because of your professionalism and kindness, but I would say mainly because I could align my vision for my brand with ACC’s vision. No other competitor was so forward-thinking, so caring about the future health of our Planet. To me, it was a no-brainer.
Given that PRIMAL Soles is sustainable at its core, we need to align with all sorts of partners along our value chain that share similar values with us. Because ultimately it’s not really the businesses that you work with who create world-changing products - it’s people. It’s people that either think about the here-and-now, or people that think about the future and are more selfless in their business decisions. This is what I was looking for and this is what I found in Amorim Cork Composites.
“Amorim Cork Composites was clearly the top option for me. Not just because of your professionalism and kindness, but I would say mainly because I could align my vision for my brand with ACC’s vision. No other competitor was so forward-thinking, so caring about the future health of our Planet. To me, it was a no-brainer.”
David Even, Founder of PRIMAL Soles
PRIMAL Soles recently won the Financial Times and InTent award for “Responsible Business Education”. What did that mean for your company?
The award came unexpectedly, approximately one year after the start of the company.
We are so proud to have such a big institution recognise and showcase our work at this stage. It gave us great visibility, but most importantly the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and the determination to keep going and rise to the challenge. As a small business, it’s so special to get that reassurance that your idea adds genuine value.
We know that we won’t change the Planet by ourselves. In fact, we know that we will barely change the insole industry as a whole - even after attaining our mission of replacing 1 million non-recyclable shoe insoles with recyclable alternatives. But that is why our vision is to set an example and an inspiration, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.
What can we expect for the company’s future?
Our focus, as we look ahead, is to find investors that have a similar mindset regarding the Planet and its inhabitants. PRIMAL Soles is more than just a product. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s a movement.
The shoe insole market is projected to double its growth rate by 2030, in part because of rising awareness of the social consequences of inactivity. This will be complemented by physical pains and injuries caused by walking, which makes it clear that PRIMAL Soles is ideally positioned for this inevitable wave in demand for shoe insoles that offer maximum comfort and, of course, a minimal environmental footprint. As I said in the beginning, the trick is to strike the right balance between creating a product that benefits the user, that benefits the Planet, but that also leads to a sustainable business, because otherwise we wouldn’t have a lasting impact.
With the help of our partners, most notably Amorim Cork Composites, we have been given a fighting chance to compete in the market with a product that is unlike any other. We invite you to join us, as we create our Planet’s first fully-circular shoe insoles. One step at a time.
About PRIMAL Soles
PRIMAL Soles promotes movement, travel, exploration, progress, the primal urge deep inside all of us to remain curious as a child. It also advocates for a healthier world.
A more aware world where consumers and producers start taking responsibility for the full product life cycle. To even think beyond their own life cycle. This is the reason why the PRIMAL Soles goal is to make the most comfortable, natural and recyclable insoles easily accessible to everyone.