What is Vibram? An Intro to the Iconic Soles


If you’ve ever worn a pair of boots and looked at the soles, odds are you recognize the iconic canary yellow octagon of Vibram. The Italian company, based in Albazzette, Italy, is a manufacturer of rubber soles for footwear. Initially, the company began with a focus on outdoor and mountaineering centered footwear, but has since expanded to realms such as fashion, licensing their soles to over 1,000 different footwear brands. Vibram has built its reputation through the quality of its material, similar to GORE-TEX. If a boot doesn’t have a Vibram sole, I don’t want it.

The History of Vibram

Vibram gets its name from its founder Vitale Bramani, who founded the company after a tragic mountaineering accident in 1935, in which 6 of his friends died. He largely attributed their deaths to the boots they wore, and in 1937 established a patent and invented the first rubber lug sole with the help of Leopoldo Pirelli of Pirelli tires. The new design featured a lugged tread pattern which Bramani dubbed “Carrarmato”, meaning “tank tread” in Italian, and was built from the latest vulcanized rubber technology at the time. An additional advantage of the new soles was a dramatic increase in insulation efficiency, as rubber insulates much better than the felt that was used prior. The design was legitimized when K2 was first summited by mountaineers wearing Dolomite Boots with Vibram soles. Despite being over 80 years old at this point, the Carrarmato sole remains one of the most popular boot soles in the world. 

The Current Day and Vibram Fivefingers

As Vibram’s market grew, the company realized that massive lug treads are overkill on the vast majority of footwear, and began creating a whole host of outsoles for every application. This led to the eventual 2012 release of Vibram’s Fivefingers, the infamous five-toed running shoes that pioneered the barefoot running movement. While the hype for the shoes was relatively short-lived considering the legal troubles surrounding their efficacy, Vibram has managed to turn the wacky design into a genius move for the brand as it enters the luxury space.

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Bergdorf Goodman

Balenciaga recently co-opted the Fivefinger design and fashioned it into a futuristic boot of sorts, and Vibram has also enjoyed recent success due to the latest outdoor-focused trends. Brands ranging from Jil Sander to Kiko Kostadinov are using Vibram soles, on top of the usual suspects like Danner. If anything, this is only a testament to Vibram’s quality, as seemingly every luxury brand would rather turn to them than come up with their own soles. Everyone is making hiking boots, and everyone is turning to Vibram. 

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