OWN FR-01 Shoe - Dirt

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OWN FR-01 Shoe

OWN (Only What's Necessary) is a British-owned footwear company coming at you with an innovative new flat pedal shoe, the FR-01, right about now... I recently caught up with them at their studio in Annecy to find out more.

But first, I’ll let Dirt Editor Mike Rose tell the story of how OWN came onto our radar:

IT WAS A FEW YEARS BACK, maybe 2013, and I was at the Eurobike tradeshow in Germany at a party being held by Charge Bikes. It was late and I got chatting to this bloke at the bar who’d gatecrashed the party. He was slightly wild looking, but in a super mellow way with a definite Mancunian (or thereabouts) accent, and we just hit it off. Now the detail is a little blurred from back then, I presumed that he was just a DH guy who was passing through, but it turned out that there was much more to this chance meeting than first appeared.

He was a designer and he and his business partner ran a design studio in Annecy, France. They had worked for some pretty big brand names and were totally legit. From a slightly drunken late night conversation what first appeared as just a mountain biker at a bar talking about stuff had turned into potentially something much bigger. Why? Well these two had a top-secret project they were working on, totally hush, hush. The plot thickened.

I can’t actually remember if they told me what that project was back in 2013, but Eurobike 2014 came around and this time a proper meeting was arranged and there was a prototype. We met on the top of a double decker bus that Dirt were using as our HQ. I remember it being a boiling hot day and that the guys were acting a bit sheepish. Once they’d checked that no one was looking they got their bag and (as if we were doing some dodgy contraband deal) slipped out their prototype shoe. “No one has done this before,” they said, “we just weren’t happy with what is currently on the market, we know we can do better.” This was not the finished item but I was impressed.

I was left wondering if this dream would ever become a reality. Making shoes is not cheap, but these guys were on it.

Almost twelve months later and Eurobike is upon us again. This time the guys have a stand/booth and their company, OWN (Only What’s Necessary), will be displaying their first finished shoes.’ – Mike Rose, Editor-in-Chief, Dirt

True innovation is hard to come by, but Warren Bosomworth and Dan Hutchinson at OWN have the right ideas. A shoe is never going to be a completely original concept, but they have scrutinised, remodelled, prototyped and repeated the process over the last four years until coming up with their finalised model. What gives them the right to attempt to make waves in the mountain bike footwear world? A deep history in shoe design for a wide range of major manufacturers, including Berghaus, Helly Hansen, Salomon and more, a love of the sport and sheer passion for their project, that’s what.

Their minds came together through the obvious connection in the shoe design world while they were both working at New Balance, and they shared similar desires to work on their own projects away from the constraints of corporate interests. After Warren later moved to Annecy in the heart of the Alps to work for Salomon on some projects, Dan was coming over to visit and go snowboarding and ride bikes.

Neither is particularly coy in admitting their idea for the FR-01 shoe and its subsequent development came through ‘beer and pizza’ meetings, which multiplied when Dan also moved to Annecy. The OWN project became reality in 2012 when they opened their studio together, and they’ve been working on their MTB shoe at every spare moment – between freelance projects for major shoe manufacturers – ever since. They bought their own machinery for their studio and are able to prototype in-house.

We needed to know more, so two weeks before Eurobike 2015 I headed over to OWN’s Annecy studio en-route to Italy for our Downhill Bike Test. With testing on our minds I was keen to evaluate the product, and so it was with bated breath that I entered their typically designer-y base (lots of light, lots of space, lots of cool stuff, some bottles of booze in the corner, good music playing over a quality sound system and a pool table as the focal point of the room).

What have we here then?

The FR-01 flat pedal shoe leapt straight at me. How could it not do when it looks so different to what is already on the market? Anyway, this is about performance; function over fashion. As Dan described from the early days of setting up, ‘It was kind of obvious that flat pedal shoes weren’t up to scratch, everything seemed style orientated. In terms of fit and durability, the tech was lacking beyond the rubber used.’

Let’s cut to the chase. The FR-01 is a flat pedal shoe designed from the ground up utilising new technology (for mountain biking) and intelligent materials already found elsewhere in the equipment we use.

There are several defining components to the shoe that make it stand out from the rest: Kevlar upper, tailored shape, solid PU heel section and namely its removable inner-shoe.

Let’s have a look through its features (all quotes from Dan and Warren):

Firstly, the last

The first and foremost factor in making their own product – something they felt they absolutely had to do if they wanted to head in the right direction toward ‘the ultimate MTB shoe’ – would be to make their own last, the model that a shoe’s shape is formed from and the ‘foundation of every piece of footwear.’ While other manufacturers use lasts with square edges, which makes for cheaper shoe manufacture, theirs had to be truly shaped to the foot for ultimate fit. So this is where you’ll find the first difference from the majority of flat pedal shoes: it’s shapely with a raised arch and cupped heel. No more foot slippage inside the shoe.

The key to the shape of their shoe is to create ‘volume where you need it,’ and to eliminate excess material that can lead to the clubfoot look. There’s a wide forefoot for plenty of spread over the pedal’s surface and shapely foot-hugging profile to the shoe’s upper.

Next, the inner shoe

Next is the removable inner shoe, the ‘comfort core’ or ‘inner bootie’ as Dan and Warren call it. You may think scuba diving when you see this, but you’ll stop your laughing once I explain its practicality. Firstly, there are two different inner shoes – and I don’t mean left and right. You have a thicker, waterproof winter shoe, and predictably another thinner, highly breathable summer shoe. This in itself is music to anyone’s ears that has suffered either a ten-pound winter sponge shoe or an inside-out summer sweat foot.

This is one area where Warren and Dan were able to insert some clever material usage. In the sole of the inner shoe is D30 impact resistant foam – density tested and specially selected – to absorb shocks coming through the pedal. Why? Well they assure me that grip to the pedal is highly dependent on shock through the foot, not just rubber compound.

Impact foam in the sole of the inner shoe.

Probably the biggest perk to the separate inner and outer (in my opinion) is the ease of washing. With the outer waffer thin, it can be removed, jet washed and it’ll dry out ‘in ten minutes.’ The inner is also designed to work as a slipper without the outer, so you could finish a ride, throw the outer in the back of the car and drive home in comfort. I’m beginning to really like this shoe at this point.

A tough exterior

The exterior is a lot more considered than one could ever imagine. Dan and Warren truly scrutinise every tiny detail of their shoe, and the materials and cut of the outer – the actual shoe bit – are no exception.

They use Kevlar in the upper as it ‘is one of the toughest materials in the world,’ used in bulletproof vests and the like, and its abrasion resistance works perfectly to protect against foot-to-crank/bike and trail impacts. The impact resistant PU foam around the heel confirms the shoe’s protective nature and shuns any thought of such a fitted shoe not offering protection to the foot. There is absolute minimal stitching to ‘minimise areas of weakness’ and ‘no foam in the shoe that can absorb any water.’

The sleek fit also means no water entering through the ankle area. A stretch gaiter in the heel ensuring tight fit, comfort and that pebbles, dirt and water floating around inside shoes will be a problem of the past.

 The sole of the FR-01

Of course, all this is pretty much redundant if your foot doesn’t stick to the pedal. I have to admit, I’ve used some Vibram-soled riding shoes that have left a little to be desired in terms of grip in the past (and some that have gripped well of course), but I’m assured that this will not be the case with the FR-01.

Having designed their own tread pattern entirely, a perk of being able to work closely with Vibram in Europe, they have come up with a wide ‘pedal traction zone’ divided into a criss-cross grid. The aim is that the pedal’s pins will slot into those gaps, and along with the impact resistance from the inner D30 I was able to be convinced these will grip well after all.

Sole.

They also prototyped different rubber compounds before settling on a good balance of grip and durability – Vibram’s Mega Grip – as ‘people are going to want to use the shoe for up to two years.’

Interestingly, they have also cut in an ‘aggressive’ heel and toe pattern for off-the-bike moments. Hiking mountains, digging tracks, not falling over in the car park due to slick sole. It makes sense.

Where they are made

Just as they have scrutinised every single part of their shoe, the manufacturing process has been similarly examined. With such an in-depth knowledge of factories around the world they were going to settle for nothing but the best for their creation, which has meant a combination of European and Asian factories during its infancy, with final production most likely being in Asia. That’s where the factories are more accustomed to working with the new tech in their shoe and anyway, ‘for most types of footwear China is number one.’

The hard facts

On reading that people are going to want to use this shoe for two years you may have thought something along the lines of, ‘a-ha, that means it’s expensive, I’ll make a witty comment about that.’ And you wouldn’t be wrong, as something with this much passion and from a small setup like OWN is never going to be cheap. They have set their target at maximum €200, with realistic sale price being €190. That’s a lot for a pair of shoes, but there are already equally costly SPD shoes on the market that I can guarantee don’t have half the passion put into them of this one. Plus if they are half as good as they appear to be then they will be worth every penny. I’m sold, I just need to find roughly €190.

OWN are currently going through the industrialisation process and on-sale time is looking like spring 2016.

For more information, visit www.onlywhatsnecessary.com

Or find them on Instagram

Details

Sole: Vibram Mega Grip, OWN square sipe pattern
Upper/outer: Kevlar main foot and PU impact resistant heel, stretch gaiter
Inner shoe: D30 foot bed, summer/winter options
Available: Spring 2016
Cost: Circa €190

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