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When tires wear out, use them for walking

Makers of ‘upcycled’ shoes spend some time in Durango

The idea for Tired Feet Upcycled Sandals came to Laiken Jordahl and Alex Gaynor, both 21, when they came across a woman in Joshua Tree National Park wearing an intriguing pair of homemade “barefoot” sandals.

After conversing with her about her personal design, they were persuaded to expand on her concept and produce a style of shoe that is not only comfortable but good for Mother Earth as well.

The sandals, made up of a sole from a bicycle tire and a couple feet of nylon cord, were designed to be produced in the most environmentally friendly way the two see possible.

“The concept of ‘upcycling’ is the core of the process,” Jordahl said.

Upcycling is the process of taking waste materials and converting them into new products. In this case, it means taking a bicycle tire that can no longer be used for riding and making a shoe. Jordahl and Gaynor head into locally owned bike shops, wherever they may be, and ask for tires that may be thrown away.

Both live in Flagstaff, Ariz., but have been traveling around the United States this summer and plan to continue for the remainder of their vacation. They are spending about a week in Durango visiting Jordahl’s mother.

Right now, the business is comprised of a cardboard box, a few spare tires, a leather hole punch and some nylon cord, but Jordahl and Gaynor have bigger plans.

By creating business cards out of reusable materials and setting up a Facebook page, Tired Feet is hoping to get the message out to those interested in purchasing a pair. They’re also willing to barter.

Right now, each shoe is customized to an individual’s foot, and as to the future, a pair will cost somewhere between $25 and $30.

This isn’t so much a business venture, but a way to make a little bit of money to supplement their travel costs.

“The way we do life is just for fun, so if the shoes will support us to keep moving, we will keep making them,” Gaynor said.

The two have no problem showing people how to make their own, and are encouraging others to try it out themselves. “We don’t want tires that can be used for biking still, just the ones that are going to be thrown out,” Gaynor said.

But are these really a viable option for footwear?

Julian De Rubira, 25, a post-collegiate elite runner, has been training in the shoes on and off since their creation. A friend of Jordahl and Gaynor, he has been pleased with the shoes thus far, but acknowledges that there are minor design changes for the future.

“If I wanted to, I could run 10 or 20 miles in them right now,” he said. “It’s a new thing that we are still trying, and we are still working out the kinks.”

De Rubira, who grew up running on the beaches of California, appreciates being able to run semi-barefoot in the shoes on the rocky trails in Flagstaff.

Gathering footprints of all sizes is next on the list, and a website is in the works, Jordahl and Gaynor said. But as for now, building relationships with people, communities and bike shops is the main goal.

egriffin@durangoherald.com. Emily Griffin, a summer intern at The Durango Herald, is a Fort Lewis College student.

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