Freewaters and Therm-A-Rest Partner in Sandal Innovation


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Brought together by a passion for combining innovative product design and social justice, Freewaters, Inc. and Therm-a-Rest have co-created a line of sandals that provide superior comfort while at the same time helping to provide clean water to villages in Kenya.

Freewaters — a footwear design company dedicated to creating environmentally and socially ethical shoes with an emphasis on fit – is introducing their new Men’s Scamp and GPS sandals featuring industry-leading Therm-a-Rest comfort technology.

Therm-a-Rest modified the properties of their foam to specifically meet the needs of Freewaters’ new concept. To create a foam that would preform specifically as a footbed, Therm-a-Rest increased the thickness, density, durability and rebound while maintaining its signature ridge pattern. The result is a sandal providing “grip, flexibility, air circulation and water sipping capabilities,” said Freewaters. “Combine all this with Freewaters’ ergonomic midsoles and attention to fit and the result is a total game changer in sandal comfort and performance.”

Along with a progressive footbed, The Scamp features a reinforced webbing toe strap and arch support, all held together with water-based glue. It’s available at retail now for $36.

With a portion of the profits supporting a new collaborative water project in Africa, a global issue Freewaters and Therm-a-Rest’s parent company, Cascade Designs, Inc., have been working on independently for years, they could not be happier about the partnership.

“We are excited to work with a brand that values quality, innovation and philanthropy,” said Therm-a-Rest VP Doug Jacot. “We believe this partnership will raise the bar for sandal performance and for how companies work together to help solve global issues.”

“This type of partnership is something rare and really special,” said Freewaters co-founder Eli Marmar. “Not only do Freewaters and Therm-a-Rest have perfectly symbiotic product technologies, we also share a passion for transforming lives through clean drinking water projects.”

So how exactly do American companies like Freewaters and Therm-a-Rest find themselves in Africa digging wells and supplying water purifiers to villages in Kenya? In the case of Freewaters, born on the rocky cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, it started from the beginning.

Marmar and Freewaters co-founder Martin Kim met at design school in Pasedena, Calif., in 1997. “We maintained our sanity through the grueling design program by surfing in the purifying waters of Malibu and nourishing ourselves on Korean BBQ. These moments of stoke sparked a life long friendship. After graduating, we went on our separate ways,” said Marmar.

But after ten years of designing snowboard boots and wetsuits independently, fate relocated them both to the San Francisco Bay Area. “We saw an incredible opportunity to collaborate and create something new. As humans, we wanted to make a positive difference in the world. We committed to doing both, and Freewaters was born,” said Marmar.

With water scarcity and sanitation a growing issue across the globe, especially in developing nations which together harbor half of the world’s population, Marmar and Kim saw this as a simple, yet critical issue they could do something about. “Each pair helps support clean drinking water projects as Freewaters believes that access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right,” said Marmar.

“We use a very unique and low-cost digging technique developed by Water for All International. Originally developed in Bolivia, it is now being used throughout the developing world and we are honored to help spread its healing effects,” Marmar said.

This technique – which relies on human power rather than costly and technology-intensive drilling rigs – is extremely low cost and can be built, managed and maintained by the community. Villagers can complete their wells in less than seven days and can easily re-teach the design to other communities. Best of all, each well can provide water to 400 people per day for eight to ten years.

By donating one percent of their gross earnings to these projects, Freewaters has successfully completed six wells in Tulwet, a rural village of approximately 10,000 people near Kitale, Kenya. Because of these six wells, the village elders in Tulwet are reporting an instant and dramatic reduction of mortality from water-borne disease, especially in children and the elderly.

Cascade Designs’ approach to the water-quality issue in came in the form of a water purifier. Villagers can simply add a bit of salt to their water, take the purifier provided by Cascade and their partners, PATH, and shoot a bolt of electricity into the salt water. The shock divides the salt into its most elemental parts, sodium and chloride, and produces a small concentrated chlorine solution that can purify several gallons of drinkable water.


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