Editor’s Note: This feature is brought to you by Ponto Footwear.
Bringing a product to market in today’s world is a challenge. Dealing with ongoing travel restrictions, shipping snafus, and price increases across the board is just difficult. But no one ever said taking your own idea and running with it would be easy.
Now layer on the added complication of trying to make that product better for the planet, and suddenly the level of difficulty is ratcheted up a notch as design options become more limited, and often, more expensive. It’s almost expected that one makes compromises in other areas, such as comfort or style.
Ponto was born out of a lightbulb moment between founders Joey and Aaron. Neither would describe themselves as necessarily “shoe people,” but they both saw the lack of sustainable, fashionable, and comfortable options in the footwear industry. “It’s like, ‘why do things that are sustainable always have to look sustainable?'” said Joey. “People don’t want to have to make those compromises. They want what they buy to look good, feel good, and then they consider sustainability.”
In other words, people won’t choose a product just because it’s sustainable, it has to beat the competition in other ways as well. “It’s like what Tesla did for the EV market,” said Joey. “They made a super sexy car that people loved to drive, oh and by the way it’s also good for the planet. First and foremost, you need to have a good product.”
At the time, Aaron was working for Google, and Joey, a mechanical engineer by degree, was building his background in prototyping. They both dropped what they were doing, and set out to make a shoe that ticked all three boxes of comfort, style, and sustainability. To do that, they brought on Lanna Lottman, a technical footwear developer with 13-plus years of experience in the industry. Before Ponto, she was getting pretty frustrated with the antiquated shoe industry. “I’ve always tried to push the envelope on things, and gotten a lot of pushback, especially as a woman in a male-dominated field,” said Lanna. “People in the industry just didn’t care about making a ‘better’ shoe, they wanted shoes that followed current fashion trends, and they wanted them faster and faster.”
Worst of all, it felt to Lanna like the shoe industry as a whole was designing shoes for narrower and narrower markets, and encouraging overconsumption. “Perhaps the most sustainable thing about Pontos is that they can replace multiple pairs of shoes in your closet,” said Lanna. In short, they wanted a multi-functional shoe that could do many things, and do them well.
Building such a shoe from scratch meant they had to get all the details right, and everything had to serve more than one purpose. For example, the recycled leather upper is made from repurposed scrap leather that was most likely on its way to the landfill. It’s also water repellant, and comes in five stylish colors (with more on the way). The tencel lining is better for the planet, made from eucalyptus, oak, and birch fibers, but it also breathes well and is naturally antimicrobial, resulting in less-smelly feet.
A “dress sneaker,” Pontos can be worn with or without socks, all day, every day, from the office to the beach and everywhere in between. They’ve even made it to a wedding or two in the short time they’ve been on the market. As Lanna mentioned, above, the idea is that a pair of Pontos can replace multiple pairs of shoes in one’s closet. “That flies directly in the face of fast fashion,” she says, “where the goal is to consume more, not less.” And so far, it’s working.
Mindfulness and adaptability are at the core of Ponto’s drive and mission. But they acknowledge that there’s no such thing as a completely sustainable product. “It’s about where the tech is at and also where the market is at,” says Joey. “With one shoe, there can be 60 components, which means you need to align 60 different suppliers and all those suppliers need to be on the same page as us and want to do the same thing design-wise, so the idea of ‘sustainability’ really is a work in progress and a moving target.”
Most of all, the team at Ponto are dedicated to making a better product. They don’t want you to buy their shoes because they’re bio and recycled-based, but because they’re comfortable, stylish, and functional. The sustainability aspect is just the icing on the cake. It just feels good to know that the stylish and comfortable shoes you’re wearing have a minimal impact on the world around you. That’s what makes Pontos the awesome shoes that they are.
To learn more, or snag a pair of the Ponto Pacifics yourself, visit pontofootwear.com.