I’ve been a fan of Simple Shoes since I bought a pair of Toe Foo flipflops back in 2006. Those Toe Foos — made of eco-friendly jute, crepe rubber, and cork — were part of Simple’s brand new eco-friendly footwear line. I wore them so often they quickly biodegraded — a bit too quickly, to be honest, considering they cost $50 a pair!
I’m guessing that’s why the Toe Foos have since been discontinued — but instead of giving up on walking the green walk as some companies tend to do, Simple’s kept on its eco-friendly shoe path. I bought my second pair of Simple shoes in 2008, when the company came out with a “Stop Global Warming” edition of its comfy Retire style — made of hemp, organic cotton, recycled PET, recycled car tire, and 100% post consumer paper pulp. The shoes cost $60 — $5 of which went directly to StopGlobalWarming.org.
Now, pretty much every pair of Simple shoes is made with green materials. The latest of these eco-materials is BIO.D, a durable but biodegradable material used for the soles of Simple shoes. According to the company, BIO.D will biodegrade in 20 years in a landfill or compost heap.
Simple sent me a pair of D-Kay shoes (above and below) to try out this biodegradable sole — and I found that the sole really didn’t feel any different than those of other canvas sneakers. That’s not really surprising since Simple Shoes in general don’t really look or feel any different than the regular sneakers, slip-ons, and flipflops on the market. Toe Foos aside, the use of greener materials doesn’t make the shoes look any crunchier.
In fact, the green features are mostly noticeable in Simple’s deliberate messaging. For example, the D-Kays’ soles are marked “Bio-D” — and the inside of the shoe bears this message: “The bottom of these shoes will self-destruct in 20 years. Better get movin’.
Of course, as many an environmentalist will point out, our waste system doesn’t really have a way to properly compost and recycle eco-friendlier shoes like Simple’s D-Kays. After all, most D-Kays will be sent to the landfill after the owner’s worn them out — and once in an inorganic landfill, it matters rather little whether or not the soles biodegrade. The biodegradable waste stream has yet to catch up to the biodegradable production stream — and Simple doesn’t have its own system to take back and biodegrade its old shoes.
Until that time comes, I’m more a fan of Simple Shoes that make use of recycled and upcycled materials — thereby actually reducing landfill waste now. My favorite pair of Simples at the moment is the Carnival. These also make use of BIO.D material in its pedbed — but the soles are made of recycled car tire! Plus, the uppers are made with certified organic cotton and eco-certified leather and suede.
And the fit is right. The Carnival is a thinner, lighter shoe than the D-Kay, and sits a little lower on the foot. If you, like me, have gotten abrasions around your ankle bone or the back of the heel from other canvas shoes and sneakers, opt for the Carnival. The D-Kay has more cushion overall and a chunkier look, but the uppers come up too high for my feet.