Breakthroughs: Vulcanized Rubber Soles

Foot for your sole

At the start of the last century, mountain climbers wore what essentially amounted to wooden clogs on their feet. Soon, the first “tricounis” climbing shoe was developed, which featured a leather sole outfitted with steel cleats that improved traction on ice, but did little for rock climbers.

To learn about how Vibram changed the footwear industry forever, keep reading on the next page.


Italian rubber maker Vibram, named by combining the first and last name of its founder Vitale Bramani, forever changed the shoe industry by inventing the first vulcanized rubber sole. Vitale was an academic of the Italian Alpine Club, and his inspiration for Vibram, unfortunately, was the result of a tragic accident in 1935 which left Bramani’s mountaineering friends dead in the Italian Alps, largely due to poor footwear.

Bramani developed a new climbing sole in response, known as the Carrarmato (pictured in our lead image), which featured a tread design that Italian rubber company Pirelli applied on automobile tires. Soon after, with financial baking of Leopoldo Pirelli, the soles became a success and revolutionized the field of mountaineering. In 1955, the first successful ascent to the summit of K2 was made by an Italian expedition wearing Vibram rubber on their soles.

No one knows outsole compounds like Vibram

Today, Vibram has grown — even adding a stunning new Technological Center for research and innovation in China. Its purpose: to not just plow time and efforts into R&D but also a mission to continue integrating Vibram into other companies. It’s no secret Vibram’s soles have become ubiquitous with must-have features on popular footwear brands around the world, ranging from the technical outdoor space, such as on K2’s T1 big-mountain snowboard boot, to boutique fashion companies such as Oak Street Boot Makers — and that’s not by accident.

“Our goal was to make the most durable, lightweight, best traction boot possible,” says Hunter Waldron, Global Marketing Manager for K2 Snowboarding. “With those three design elements in mind, Vibram was the no-brainer partner to achieve this goal. No one knows outsole compounds like Vibram.”

To learn more, check out the history of Vibram on their website.

Additional contribution by Ben Bowers and Eric Yang


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