An Honest Review of Sole X UBB’s Jasper Chukka, an Eco-Friendly Shoe Made of Cork and Bison Hair

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At first glance, the new Eco Chukka created as a special collab between Sole and United By Blue looks like hobbit-made Yeezys from The Shire.

The goal for the “Jasper Chukka” was to have every piece of the shoe, from stitch to sole, be completely sustainable. But do they look cool on? The Manual took a pair out to check their street cred (because there’s no debating their sustainability claims).

In place of Adidas’ Boost technology, the Sole X UBB Jasper Chukka uses a recycled midsole made of old wine corks. This ReCORK material (debuted by SOLE in 2008 as “North America’s largest cork recycling program”) uses corks as a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based foams and plastics. Last year, ReCORK got a revamp, yielding an insole — used for the Jasper Chukka— that is lighter, more flexible, durable, and cushioned than EVA foam.

Light-speed EVA lesson: EVA is praised for being a safe alternative to PVC, basically because it’s BPA-free (a chemical compound used to make plastics that is linked to fertility problems, male impotence, heart disease, and all sorts of other unpleasant side effects). However, golden child EVA was found to contain the chemical compound formamide, which is also considered a carcinogenic toxin. Thus the recent push by shoemakers to replace petroleum-based EVA with biodegradable and/or algae products.

In fact, the footbed inside the Sole X UBB Jasper Chukka is made from Bloom Algae Foam. With 40 percent less of an environmental impact, Bloom Algae Foam is touted to be just as durable as petroleum-based alternatives.

But what about the Chukka’s outsole? It’s made from the sap of carbon-trapping rubber trees and rice husks.

Stepping into the slipper-esque Jasper Chukka, we did feel our inner hippie smile. Luckily, wearing these au natural shoes won’t make you look or smell like a flower child. The natural cork topsheet wicks moisture and is antimicrobial, so to hell with socks, and after a day of pounding concrete, our shoes were stink-free thanks to a full Merino wool upper.

That’s where United By Blue (UBB) comes into play. If you don’t remember their latest award-winning Bison Jacket, these shoes use the same insulation technology called BisonShield. It’s 50% natural bison hair and 50% recycled polyester, meaning it’s light, flexible, temperature regulating, hypo-allergenic, and breathable. Plus the insulation retains warmth even when wet.

UBB surrounded this fully traceable merino wool in a durable knit, that really does feel like you’re wearing grandpa slippers. The shoes are so comfortable, we doubted their durability. However, magic Merino lived up to its splash-resistant and breathable hype.

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The neutral cushioning is perfect if you like low-profile shoes, while still being padded. The bottom outsole is reinforced and durable, despite the slipper-feel. The shoes look wide and therefore feel roomy, and yes, we did get a few unbiased compliments from strangers, to which we gleefully replied, “They’re made of cork, algae, rice, and bison hair!” Oddly, that upped their desirability. Being green is cool, kids.

Sole and UBB took to Kickstarter to launch the Jasper Chukkas and their sustainable story. The crowdfunding site provided the best platform to directly speak to consumers about “the state of the footwear industry, while presenting them with a better option,” the companies said. Kickstarter supports will pay $95 and the shoes will retail for $149.

In our experience wearing them, these Chukkas the perfect everyday city shoe or weekender, but keep in mind their low-profile and overall thin and flexible feel.

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