Michelin Soles: ad hoc solutions for the shoe“From Tyres to soles” is the challenge that Michelin Technical Soles sets itself every day, with the intent of taking the special characteristics typical of its tyre world and transmitting them to the world of footwear.
Innovation, technology, and research are at the heart of 250 years of Michelin history: since 2014, the brand’s expertise when it comes to ground contact and traction in its high-end tyre production has also been an important part of the Michelin Technical Soles project, with the aim of creating high performance soles for sectors that range from outdoor to occupational safety, and from lifestyle to sport. An expertise appreciated by footwear sector leaders, for which Michelin has developed more than 300 customised soles in less than 4 years.
We ask to Ambrogio Merlo, head of the Michelin Technical Soles division, what is the concept inspiring the project?
“From Tyres to soles is the slogan that truly describes our philosophy: just as a certain kind of tyre is suitable for specific kinds of terrain, or specific uses, the same is true of footwear, which requires soles created ad hoc for the specific activities and needs of the end user. The strength of our project lies in the collaboration between the team dedicated to the technical development of the soles and the Research&Development team of Michelin Tyres, which can count on a network of 6000 engineers located in different company branches around the globe: a collaboration that ties together the Michelin expertise of what happens in ‘ground contact’ in a mutual exchange of tests and contributions”.
What was the reaction to your project in the world of footwear?
“From our very first steps in this sector, Michelin proposed itself as a capable partner to companies, not only in developing personalised soles, but also engineering innovative and technical solutions suited to the needs of the end user. The more challenging the request is, the more we feel encouraged to develop creative solutions: this attitude has been rewarded by the market and our customers. It is not by chance that more than 60 top brands in the sector have chosen to fit their collections with Michelin soles, introducing ad hoc solutions in the 10 different market segments we operate in: Motorsport, Outdoor, Active Sport, Winter Sport, Indoor Sport, Running, Trend Sport, Nature Sport, Water Sport and Work&Safety”.
What are the steps in developing a Michelin sole project?
“Each project starts from the evaluation of one or more treads and from the solutions of the compound applied, in order to design a sole that will reply to a specific need: it is for this reason that each project has its own spirit and special properties, with no two soles alike. A rewarding approach, which has allowed us to create more than 300 exclusive samples”.
Can you give us an example of one?
“We have developed an innovative solution for lightweight and thin soles: through a high temperature compression moulding process of textile fibres on to the rubber, a tread that is both flexible and stable is created, with a reduced weight that does not affect performance, but rather improves its interaction and adaptability to different types of terrain. Ride, historic partner to Michelin, decided to adopt this know-how for Karmyn and Deadbolt snowboard boots: the ‘fiber lite’ sole is the perfect solution in terms of lightness and flexibility, allowing it to accompany the movements of the foot on the board in the best way possible. Inspired by two mountain bike tyres, it is characterised by solid lugs and reinforcements that increase traction and adherence to the terrain, while the design of the tread allows for optimum stability and resistance to abrasion”.
How do your soles handle on ice?
“Our solution is fruit of a specific balance between the visco-elastic properties of rubber and the mechanical behaviour of the ground generated by the ‘profile’ of the sole, which is comparable to the tread of a tyre: the 100% rubber compound ensures good flexibility, also at low temperatures, and flexibility. This sole has been implemented in the technical footwear of Colombia, which has reconfirmed its use also for the coming winter season: ‘Ice Control’ technology, which guarantees a high performance level at temperatures as low as -30°C, allows the footwear of our partner to move with complete control, while facing the most difficult winter conditions of both ice and snow in complete safety”.
What are the future goals of Michelin Technical Soles?
“Continue to expand in new market segments and increase the number of partnerships with leading companies, while increasingly communicating our unique quality to the end customer”.
And in terms of sales?
“A 40% increase in sales and we expect to continue to invest 15% of our turnover in the R&D department and in product development”.