Danielle has traveled to many places around the world but it was on the African continent at the Maasai Simba Camp near the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya that something she had never quite seen before caught her attention.
“Its amazing what can be created with simple tools and a great deal of imagination.”
While Danielle was on a Safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania, she stopped at a local Maasasi Village where she discovered men making stylish and durable sandals out of used TKC80 motorcycle tires, a footwear staple in Ethiopia.
The process is fairly simple. First, used tires are collected and sorted. Then each and every Australian licorice shaped tire are hand cut (with incredibly sharp knives) into soles or– in Danielle’s case, her own foot–ensuring a perfectly fitted, long lasting, and very comfortable sole. Straps from pieces of tires are measured and nailed onto the sides of the sole to secure the foot in place.
Not only were Danielle’s sandals comfortable and affordable, she also had an “incredible time” getting the unique footwear custom built on her feet.
“My shoes fit perfectly and because of the material may last a few lifetimes.”
Shoemakers can make up to seven or eight pairs from a single used tire purchased for an equivalent of 40 cents at a market in major towns like Nairobi then sold for about $2.40 cents a pair.
Low-cost, time-tested, phenomenally durable and comfortable, these tire sandals are known across East Africa as “Ten Thousand Milers.” Villagers, especially pastoralists, walk have to do over stony and thorny terrain to markets, neighboring villages, and while handling livestock make these unisex recycled tire shoes a staple in East Africa.
According to Bethlehem Alemu, an Ethiopian entrepreneur who uses recycled tires for his Fair Trade certified shoe export company, soleRebels, the original tire sandals were first worn by Ethiopians back in 1935 while fighting the Italian occupation. Now, they’re a shoe making tradition and a footwear staple of the land.
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