In 1987, at the age of 12, I was abroad for the first time. It was a great event for me, because it was not the border with one of my brotherly states, but this almost impassable – iron curtain – between east and west. It was during this stay in France that I bought my flip-flops with textile toestraps for the first time. There were no such in Poland. They were only rubber, if any… However, I was surprised that you can’t buy a version with ankle straps, because “since I’m in the West, they should be available”. It would be much more comfortable to walk like that. Didn’t anyone invent this? How long can your toes hold your shoes keeping them from falling?
Years went by, and I still couldn’t find such shoes anywhere.
I did not manage it until around 2012, but it was not a completely successful purchase. The shoes were solid, but their soles were too hard. They did not provide adequate comfort or cushioning.
In 2014, there were opportunities that helped me make the decision: I decided that if I can’t buy something, I have to produce it myself. And I have to do it, as if I wanted it to be done myself. These were the assumptions and beginnings of the project.
I had to come up with a name. I wanted it to refer to a type of footwear. Without a proper name, further action would be pointless. After a few weeks of thinking, I rearranged the letters in the word flip-flops and flippos came out. The logo created by a friendly graphic artist also refers to them.
I would like to point out here that in English the word Flippos occurs only in plural, like trousers, scissors, jeans etc.
My goal was to create a neat shoe from scratch, which will ensure the highest possible comfort and durability. Low price was not my priority because I am aware that “good and cheap” inexists.
Comfort of use is a broad concept. For me, it involves the following features:
– versatility – thanks to the possibility of using shoes in all terrain and weather conditions,
– the comfort of wearing, ensured by the thoughtful design of the shoe and the appropriate selection of materials of a certain hardness, flexibility and quality,
– well-chosen length of straps, which should be made of a material that has some possibilities of accommodation to the shape of the foot,
– cushioning, thanks to which the shoes will also be suitable for walking on uneven, stony surfaces.
The desire to meet these assumptions had to involve the use of a three-layer, profiled sole. Of course, it would be simpler and cheaper to use a simple single-layer sole, but it is not known from today that if something is for everything, it is for nothing. One layer of one type of material that provides both cushioning, grip and comfort? Too much. It has to be separated. No compromises. It is not supposed to be “good” or “not bad”, but very well.
I divided the project into several stages. Due to the fact that the shoes were carefully designed, drawn and dimensioned – the first stage was to contact the manufacturers.
Unfortunately, it almost immediately turned out that the assumptions about Polish production would be impossible to achieve. None of the Polish factories was able to produce such shoes. There is a lack of technology.
I started searching all over the world. After contacts with about 140 factories, it turned out that the production of shoes of this type is not easy, because such a model is practically unavailable on the market so where to gain the experience from? Installation of special reinforcements invented by me turned out to be particularly troublesome for straps coming out of the sole at the heel and placed between the upper and middle layers. It turned out to be an activity that must be done manually.
Another problem, difficult to overcome was the technology of joining three layers with different hardness, elasticity and roughness.
After a few months of searching, it turned out that only four factories in the world have the technology to produce shoes that exist until then only on paper and in my head. Fortunately, they were large factories with many years of tradition, which gave hope that the samples ordered would meet the quality requirements. I also hoped that the factory owners would kindly share their knowledge and experience and offer me interesting solutions.
In a three-layer sole, each layer of the sole performs a specific function. No one has to take over functions that are not intended for it. This solution is one of the most expensive. Only shoes with air cushions are more expensive, but not necessarily more comfortable, and if so, only at the height of the heel, where the cushions are placed. From the beginning I assumed that in Flippos comfortable and shock-absorbing layers would be present along the entire length to ensure perfect comfort and cushioning along the entire length. No compromises.
Here I went to the next stage consisting in choosing a specific hardness for each of the three layers of the sole. It turned out to be a challenge.
The goal was to create such a shoe whose soft, pleasant to the touch top layer will provide comfort and as it is used it will adjust (but without causing excessive deformation) to the foot, and the middle layer will provide proper cushioning and – along with the bottom layer – isolation from unevenness area. It can be visualized as a cooperation of springs and shock absorbers. The role of the bottom layer is to ensure adhesion on uneven surfaces and to protect against mechanical damage.
Of course, you could take shortcuts and use a hard bottom layer that would isolate from all kinds of bumps, but then the whole shoe would become stiffer and more resistant to pressing from below, which would reduce comfort and increase the tendency of the shoe to tip over e.g. when stepping on stones. No, it’s definitely better for the sole to absorb unevenness instead of leaning on it. An important assumption was also to choose the type of material for the upper layer of the sole, so that it provides traction regardless of whether the shoe is wet or dry.
Dozens of different combinations of hardness of the two top layers have been tested.
Each in several copies – men’s and women’s, in different sizes, so that people of different sex, weight and shoe sizes can be subjected to similar tests independently.
Samples were ordered from all four factories to compare quality differences.
A year of comprehensive, meticulous tests that took place in Poland allowed us to hope that the final product will reach the refined customer. To check the quality, durability and comfort, the tests took place in all possible conditions: in the city, in the mountains, by the sea, on the lake, on a pontoon, on a bike, on a scooter, in a car, on a train, in an airplane, in the sun, in the rain and even – somewhat accidentally – in the snow. Only such tests give the opportunity to confirm the quality and suitability on a daily basis.
The assumption of covering several dozen kilometers in each pair before issuing the final assessment turned out to be time consuming, extremely difficult to implement and postponed the end of this stage to the next year. But at the end of this stage I was richer in secret, what exactly should be the softness of each layer and I finally got the “mother sample”. I also realized which factory is able to provide the highest quality. Knowledge arising from experience is an invaluable value.
The factory’s ability to maintain sample parameters during mass production was important. Finally the project has accelerated.
In 2019, the time has come to collect the first trial batch of goods, which has been subjected to identical tests as the previous one (except for the least important tests in the snow due to its lack).
Tests have confirmed the quality of Flippos 100%. Yes, now we can call them Flippos. They are ready and refined. They deserved to have their own name.
It should be emphasized here that many people not named here were involved in the creation of the project. This project would never have been created and lasted had it not been for their help and selfless commitment. It is thanks to him that you receive a refined and unique product. Of course, in Flippos you will find solutions that have already been used somewhere before, but each of the measurable parameters is appropriate for Flippos and no other shoes in the world. Each parameter is the result of testing, not the result of a computer program calculation.
As a curiosity, we can say that thanks to the phone application we were able to assess the distance we traveled in one pair of Flippos. Our record is over 1000 km in a favorite pair.