Sneaker and Shoe Startups to Watch in 2022

With London Fashion Week just around the corner, TechRound are running a series of features celebrating top innovations and startups throughout this creative industry.

Here, we’ve collected the top sneaker and shoe startups to watch in 2022, each offering something new to the footwear market…

 

Our Top Sneaker and Shoe Startups for 2022:

  • Entrupy
  • Nothing New 
  • Bahé
  • Winnoh
  • Aspect Climate Projects
  • Etta Grove
  • Shaffay UK
  • Michaela V
  • YORK Athletics Mfg.
  • aisle 3

 

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Entrupy

 

Entrupy-Sneaker-Startup

 

Entrupy have developed AI-driven product authentication and identification technology – including a solution specifically for sneakers.

Footwear is one of the fastest growing categories in the circular economy. What you may not know is it’s also among the fastest-growing categories of counterfeits. In 2020 alone, the U.S. Customers and Border Protection seized $63 million in fake footwear – an increase of 66 percent over 2019 (source: CBP, September 2021). These two trends combined create a dangerous situation for buyers and sellers alike.

Entrupy has been keeping fake handbags out of circulation since 2017, and last fall, the business announced its new solution for sellers in the huge and growing sneaker market: the Entrupy Sneaker Authentication app. The app is currently in beta, and resellers are invited to join as testers in this early phase.

The app builds on Entrupy’s Legit Check Tech, a hardware-enabled solution used by larger resellers and marketplaces that was launched in February 2020. The app version uses the same AI-powered technology in a smaller, less resource-intensive form factor. This makes it far more accessible to SMBs, who need reliable and scalable authentication methods that don’t require armies of staff.

 

Nothing New

 

Nothing-New

 

Written by Nick English, Founder of Stridewise

Created by Nolan Walsh, the same brains that launched the footwear juggernaut Thursday Boot Company, his newest venture takes the idea of sustainable sneakers and makes it, well, actually sustainable.

There are a lot of shoes that claim to be environmentally friendly for relatively minor achievements: using recycled rubber or organic cotton, for example. Nothing New takes all your notions of sustainability and ratchets them up to 100: the stitching — and it’s stitched, not glued, for extra durability — is made with recycled cotton sourced with the Better Cotton Initiative, the shoe itself is recyclable, and the “canvas” it’s made from is actually post-consumer recycled plastic.

The list of environmentally friendly angles goes on and on: they’ll take your shoes back when they wear out and give you $20 off your next pair, the eyelets are made from certified conflict-free copper and zinc, the heel counter is recycled fish nets, the petroleum you’d normally find in the insole has been swapped for castor bean oil, and you’re effectively making a charitable donation with every pair: each purchase contributes to wind farms, biofuel companies, and reforestation organisations to make Nothing New a carbon-neutral company.

But are they actually good sneakers? Yup: the “canvas” is thicker and tougher than a Converse Chuck Taylor and the stitched construction means they’ll last longer. This is one sneaker start-up we should all want to succeed.

 

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Bahé

 

Bahé-shoes

 

Introducing Bahé, a start-up brand developing sustainably made performance footwear that aims to reconnect people with nature via grounding/earthing, for the good of the mind and the body.

Inspired by the grounding movement – reconnecting with the earth to address an imbalance of electrical energy – Bahé’s ‘Recharge’ shoes use conductive materials to enhance the running experience and create a seamless flow between earth, body and mind.

The idea behind the shoes was devised by Bahé’s UK-based founders, Alex Ward and Kishan Bharwad. With people exercising outside and many taking up running for the first time, they wanted to create a shoe that would maximise the potential of grounded green exercise.

The theory behind grounding (also referred to as earthing) is that humans carry a more positive electrical charge than ever before, as we spend more time indoors and use increasing amounts of technology. This greater positive charge that we hold is said to have a detrimental impact on our health in a variety of ways.

The earth is naturally negatively charged and by having a physical connection with it, we are said to be ‘grounded’ and our positive charge is dissipated.

Modern rubber-soled shoes insulate you from the earth. Bahé have developed technology that uses conductive materials throughout the shoe, from the outsole through to the in-sock that allow you to be electrically connected to the earth when walking/running on a natural surface.

The health benefits of green exercise (exercising outdoors in nature) has been well-researched and documented, from improving blood pressure and reducing cortisol levels to self-esteem. Grounding is a relatively new field of research, but studies have shown that it can have a positive effect on a range of issues from reducing inflammation, improving blood flow and increasing physical performance and recovery. Being barefoot outdoors is not possible for everyone and having a shoe that offers a connection with the earth is a more practical way of making grounding part of a daily fitness routine.

With nature at the heart of what Bahé is all about, the shoes have been designed with sustainability in mind, using natural and recycled materials. The shoes are vegan and the 30% recycled polyester upper with organic cotton laces, sit on top of a 72% corn-based footbed, 5% sugar-cane EVA midsole and an all-natural rubber outsole. A 360 degree grip means that the shoes are suitable for running across a range of grounded terrains such as earth or gravel trails, grass or stone paths. Conductivity works even better when wet – the ideal motivation to get out in the rain, and the shoes have a water-resistant construction and splash proof panels.

Ward and Bharwad created Bahé through a shared obsession with making running better, for people and the planet. Ward has worked in footwear design for over 15 years and, having grown up with conservationist parents, has a deep appreciation of the outdoors. Bharwad works in the technology industry and his love of running as escapism influenced his quest for a better kind of shoe.

Ward comments: “Bahé is all about how we can have a healthier connection with the earth, both physically and psychologically. Something that is vital for ourselves and the planet’s wellbeing.”

Bharwad comments: “Today’s running technology and performance-wear brands treat running as an adversary you need to overcome, and focus on running faster or longer distances and beating personal bests. Whilst for many of us, running is just about getting outdoors and reconnecting with nature and that’s what we want to promote. Our “ground-flow” technology reconnects you with nature instead of detaching you from it.”

 

Winnoh

 

Winnoh-shoe-startup

 

Winnoh was created after years of searching for shoes that ticked two boxes—wide fit and stylish—and coming up empty. The brand mission is fairly simple: craft chic shoes without making wide fit an afterthought. Two years of prototyping and designing later, the line was born, offering a selection of heeled mules and rewriting the shopping narrative for women with wide feet.

Though Winnoh is a fresh face entering the shoe market, the idea for the company was sparked about a decade ago. Born with wide feet, founder Melissa Epifano always had a difficult time finding shoes that fit but were also stylish. For years she—like many other women—sacrificed comfort for style, assuming down the road a company would finally take charge and construct pretty silhouettes in a wide fit. Several years later after, that company never materialised and Melissa decided to create it herself.

After reading several studies and gathering market research, she found that the majority of women have wide feet. Everything from genetics to pregnancy can contribute to foot width, and these factors unfairly prevent shoppers with a so-called “wider than average” foot from getting shoes they love and feel good in. In reality, standard sizing is outdated and much of it relies on measurements and decisions made hundreds of years ago. To make matters worse, shoe sizes are different from country to country and wide feet—despite being the norm in most cases—are still deprioritised. That Cinderella moment has never really existed for women with wide feet but Winnoh aims to change that.

Winnoh’s shoes are designed in the UK and handcrafted in Portugal. The first mules are in production and are officially set to launch spring 2022 with sneakers and other styles to follow shortly after.

 

 

Aspect Climate Projects

 

Aspect-Climate-Projects

 

With an ever-increasing need for transparency and accountability, and a focus on strategies to reduce our impact on the planet, January sees the launchof “aspect climate projects”, the unisex vegan footwear brand which has been described as “the gold standard in sustainable shoe design”.

Each of the 54 parts that make up their first style ‘Suber’ have been considered for their impact on the climate and biodiversity, making them the most responsibly designed shoes on the market. The materials used are plant-based and have been chosen for their incredible natural properties as well as their ability to be easily replenished.  The brand has focused on sourcing sustainable materials that enhance the footwear aesthetics, creating shoes that are better for the Earth, and better for your feet.

The uppers are Pinatex, an innovative hard-wearing alternative to leather that is made using discarded pineapple leaves, a by-product from the food industry. Waste coconut husk fibres combined with cork are used for internal components such as reinforcements and the footbed. These materials have durability, breathability and elasticity that provide long-lasting support and comfort, and through their upcycling, the brand helps to prevent the release of carbon through the normal disposal or burning.  Using these by-products also means there is no need for any extra land, water or fertiliser during the growth phase and their purchase gives added income to farming communities, helping to sustain plant-based, decarbonising economies.

There is also a focus on materials harvested from trees, such as cork, coconut, and the natural rubber used on the soles, as they stay in the ground and continue to sequester high amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.  As well as designing using carbon-sequestering plants, the brand will be offsetting one-tonne of carbon for each pair of the ‘Suber’ style sold, this goes beyond net-zero and has a net positive impact on the climate.

UK-based founder Alex Ward, a self-confessed shoe geek, has worked for over 15 years in the footwear industry. He grew up with an interest in environmental issues thanks to his parents who managed a nature reserve in Essex.

Ward saw an opportunity to combine his love of nature and shoes by putting the planet at the heart of the design process. While other brands have attempted to replace elements of their shoes with more sustainable alternatives, Ward looked at the problem holistically, developing a design principle that considered every aspect of the shoe for its performance and impact on planetary well-being. This meant looking both inside and outside the shoe, considering all hidden components.  He embraced the new exciting technical innovations that were challenging the current environmentally damaging practices and dug deep into complex supply-chains and trialled pioneering new materials.  He looked for nature-based solutions, sourcing plant-based alternatives which delivered on sustainability while also being flexible and hard-wearing enough to be used in shoes.

The shoes have been independently reviewed for their impact on the climate by conservation consultancy Biodiversify. Founder Dr Mike Burgass commended aspect climate projects as a “gold standard example of how shoe design can truly consider environmental impact.” The full report is available to read at www.aspectclimateprojects.com

Ward wants to use his understanding of footwear design to challenge the way shoes are manufactured and to raise awareness of the industry’s impact on the environment. He comments: “aspect climate projects wasn’t created to sell more shoes, it was created to sell better shoes – ones that balance environmental impact with performance.”

The vegan unisex shoes will be available for pre-order at www.aspectclimateprojects.com from the end of January, and will be available worldwide.

 

Etta Grove

 

Etta-Grove-Shoe-Startup

 

Etta Grove Footwear is a start-up footwear brand offering fashionable, feel-good footwear in women’s sizes 8 to 14.

Owner Alexis Howard comments: “As a woman whose shoe size has ranged anywhere from 10 to 14 the past 40 years, I know there is a gap in the women’s footwear market for extended sizes. Etta Grove arose to address this gap, and is named to honor my grandmother, Etta, who was an entrepreneur, nurse, mother of seven . . . and wore a size 11. She never complained about the lack of footwear choices, but it continues to exist for those of us who wear “traditionally feminine” footwear in extended sizes.”

For Fall 2022, Etta Grove is launching its inaugural collection with nine footwear designs in various colorways inspired by natural Autumn hues and textures. Each design will be offered in whole and half sizes ranging from 8 medium to 14 medium. In addition, we will offer several luxurious, well-designed handbag styles, also inspired by Fall. Our aesthetic is playful-but-chic and our goal is to exceed our customers’ footwear and customer service expectations.

The startup plan to start with footwear preorders in early March 2022. Check Etta Grove out at ettagrove.com or on social media at https://www.instagram.com/ettagrovefootwear/.

Etta Grove is looking to establish relationships with boutiques and retailers in the U.S. and abroad.

 

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Shaffay UK

 

Shaffay-shoe-startup

 

Shaffay UK is a new brand of luxury slippers. It creates high quality house shoes for women who are looking for something that is more refined and elegant than other slippers on the market – and, at the same time, extremely comfortable and wearable.

Shaffay UK launched at the end of 2021 with a boutique “Signature” collection comprising a single pared-down style in four bold colourways. The Signature’s simple silhouette and clean lines allow the supple softness of the nappa (lamb) leather uppers to take centre stage.

The brand was launched at the end of 2021 by Anna Elshafei. Unusually among footwear founders, Anna, a lawyer, has no background in the footwear or fashion industries. The inspiration behind Shaffay UK therefore comes not from years of industry experience but from Anna’s own desire for elegant slippers and frustration at not finding them anywhere.

Anna also believes that slippers have not kept pace with developments in loungewear and athleisurewear. Women’s at-home sartorial style is becoming as important as what they wear outside. They need slippers that not only complement their sleepwear and leisure outfits but also allow them to feel “properly dressed” when working from home – something that will likely continue to be the norm for many professionals long after COVID-19 eventually recedes into the background.

Shaffay UK’s plan for 2022 is to grow its reach and profile and expand its offering. Next-up are collections in super-soft suede and velvet which keep the clean silhouette of the Signature collection but incorporate new colourways and printed designs. Shaffay UK mission will continue to be to create comfortable, wearable indoor footwear that looks truly beautiful.

 

Michaela V

 

Michaela-V

 

The Michaela V Collection has been making an incredible impact – and those who know founder, New York City based Supermodel Michaela Vybohova – are not surprised.

She is certainly no stranger to the world of fashion. Other industry icons and the fashion forward recognise her for her incredible international modelling career – the front cover of some of the best known fashion magazines of the world and the glossy pages of several more. Recently, this power woman has demanded attention for another reason – as she revealed her design chops and her brilliant business acumen.

Michaela, who first started modelling when she was discovered as a young teenager, says she spent years watching and learning, researching and strategising – all accomplished while modelling in glamorous locations around the world – that finally came to fruition in the exciting, eye catching Michaela V footwear collection.

Michaela clearly has the magic touch – she’s successfully beat every obstacle, but it hasn’t always been easy. In a profile earlier this year, Digital Journal said : “Most of the problems she faced when starting the firm were enough for her to call it quits.”

“My dream was to create something unique, something that blends the 2 worlds of style and quality, all while being affordable,” she says in a personal note on the website. “ The Michaela V vision is to be a brand that girls and women who are inspired by the fashion industry, just like I was when I was young, can afford and be a part of.”

“My goal is to make you feel confident, comfortable and as beautiful as you are at your core when you put your Michaela V shoes on.” 

 

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YORK Athletics Mfg.

 

YORK-Athletics Mfg

 

YORK Athletics Mfg. (yorkathleticsmfg.com) is a third-generation independently-owned footwear brand, headquartered in Boston, MA. Their roots date back to 1946 in Manchester, New Hampshire, when Henry Spaulding and his wife Viola (“Via”) began Indian Head Shoe Manufacturing Company and started making performance footwear (worn by athletes like Johnny Unitas and Olympic Gold Medalist, Peggy Fleming).

During the 1980s, their daughter Gail and her husband Don York shifted their factory store into an all-around sporting goods retailer for the community until retiring in 2018. In 2016, two of Gail’s sons, Travis and Kyle York, revived the family legacy by teaming up with footwear industry veteran Mark McGarry to launch YORK Athletics Mfg.

YORK Athletics pay homage to their family legacy through their shoes. Each model is named after a family member.

  • The Henry – Henry Spaulding (grandfather)
  • The Frank – Frank York (grandfather)
  • The Gail – Gail York (mother)
  • The Via – Viola “Via” Spaulding (grandmother)

Each pair of YORK sneakers is designed to be unisex with an intentionally minimalistic aesthetic without sacrificing performance. The YORK team places an emphasis on their fit and comfort, allowing their shoes to handle any workout while also being stylish enough for everyday wear. Voted Best of Boston E-Commerce Retailer 2019, YORK’s signature sneaker was named “2019 Best Gym Shoe for Every Type of Workout” by Gear Patrol, “2018 Best Cross Training Shoe” by Men’s Health Magazine, and praised by ESPN, Esquire, POPSUGAR Fitness, Footwear News and more for the versatility of their design.

YORK Athletics is also dedicated to giving back to the community. In 2020, YORK Athletics launched their Fight From Home initiative where they donated 50 pairs of the Gail slip-on to staff and volunteers at a local Boston charity while also donating a pair to a frontline care worker for every pair sold. YORK Athletics also teamed up with Olympic medalist Aly Raisman to create a signature colorway and donated a pair for each pair sold to Heading Home, a Boston homeless services organisation.

Most recently, they partnered with Boston International Newcomers Academy on their Blank Canvas program, to inspire interest in creative careers. In this program, students were given a pair of the Henry Mid trainer in white canvas and asked to design the shoes however they wanted. The winning design from Jean Dario, a student from Haiti, who painted a landscape of his homeland, saw his design come to life in the form of a limited-edition sneaker with the proceeds from sales going to his college scholarship fund.

Traditionally a direct-to-consumer brand, YORK Athletics has recently expanded their distribution by partnering with Zappos, Holabird, Paragon Sports, and more as they continue to grow.

 

aisle 3

 

Thomas-J.-Vosper

 

One new online footwear destination, above others, is set to stir up the £625m sector shortly.

The brainchild of Thomas J. Vosper and James Valbuena, aisle 3 is going to make searching for and buying sneakers easier with the imminent launch of the UK’s largest aggregated selection of sneakers. The London-based Tech Start-ups ‘Universal View of Shopping’ aims to show all buying options in one place alongside an integrated cloud basket.

Despite the prevalence of aggregators for flights, hotels or services; many shopping comparison sites and discovery platforms have tried and failed to create a destination that shows Shoppers the best deals. Typically, the common source of failure is the relatively inconsistent standard of product data – which results in poor quality aggregation and is the reason Shoppers keep opening that extra tab to check one more site.

After two years in development, the global team of e-commerce veterans tackled the woes of product search through proprietary technology that involves machine learning and AI algorithms to aggregate retailers offers.

Founder Vosper commented, “Shoppers seem to have become numb to the fact that what you see is what Search Engines want to show you and Marketplaces are now populated with promoted listings and own-brand products. Online shopping is broken with frustrated shoppers having to open an explosion of tabs just to find a pair of sneakers in a size that fits. I’m not prepared to accept or adapt to that experience. At aisle 3 we are passionate about removing the need to open another tab or app to shop. Enabling our registered aisle 3 shoppers a single basket across any retailer is possibly the most exciting opportunity in e-commerce right now.”

Alongside the launch, aisle 3 have announced that they have partnered with one of the UK’s hottest FinTech Banking start-ups to launch a revolutionary cloud basket that Shoppers can use to effortlessly checkout and receive immediate cash-back regardless of the retailer.

The aisle 3 senior leadership team, have 30+ years of collective eCommerce experience at some of the biggest marketplace names including Amazon, Farfetch, Secret Escapes, Tesco and Lastminute.com.

 

For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.

 

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