Debuting this coming season, ION have expanded their collection and launched two mega exciting riding shoes: the flat pedal VANE_AMP and the clipless RASCAL. But what sparked the latest footwear releases from this surf and bike brand? And what sets these shoes apart from the competition? We paid an exclusive visit to their Munich home to find out.

Superhappy mit dem Ergebnis – Rob J präsentiert stolz die beiden neuen ION-Schuhe RASCAL und VANE_AMP.
Satisfied with the result – Rob J proudly displays the ION Rascal and VANE_AMP.

How did the new ION shoes come into being

Rob J’s lounge had somehow turned into a mountain of shoes. This was the 17th March 2015, and it marked a turning point for the ION-sponsored athlete known for his pretty cutting-edge style. The purpose of the shoe mountain? As a rider, he was dissatisfied; pissed off with all the current models on the market, and amazed at how the bulk of shoes had failed to marry good performance on the pedals with comfort and style off the bike. In desperation he called the guys from ION and together they were pitting their minds towards one task: expand ION’s collection by incorporating a fifth product category.

Der Startschuss für das Schuh-Projekt fiel vor über einem Jahr in Robs Wohnung.
The starting gun for the shoe project went off a year ago in Rob J’s apartment.

More than 18 months later we’re stood in the ION HQ in the South of Munich. A lot has happened behind the scenes, and it’s no longer just a pipedream: In collaboration with the Swiss shoe experts SUPLEST, ION have braved the move forward and spun up two brand new designs: the flat pedal VANE_AMP and the clipless RASCAL.

Unzählige Stunden haben Robert und Rob gemeinsam an den neuen Schuhen gearbeitet.
Robert and Rob put in countless hours of R&D for these shoes.

Is the ideal solution often a compromise?

The word ‘compromise’ is often unfairly thrown around and given a bad rep – but, as the guys from ION will argue, it usually brings out the best all-round solution. While their designs were pretty radical at the outset, they developed into two ultra versatile models that meet ION’s two main criteria: great performance paired with style. In the hunt for perfection, the prototypes came out en masse, different soles were trodden in and the design underwent more than just a handful of alterations.

Am Anfang standen eine Skizze und jede Menge Ideen.
Narrowing the ideas down onto paper.
Entscheidend bei einem Flatpedal-Schuh ist nicht nur die Mischung, sondern auch das Profil der Sohle. Hier hat ION zu Beginn verschiedenste Formen auf bereits bestehende Modelle geklebt und ausprobiert.
Flat pedal shoes don’t just need a decent rubber compound for the sole but also a well thought-out tread pattern. ION went back through their archives and tried out various soles on current shoes.
Das Ergebnis am Ende hat nur noch wenig mit den Prototypen gemein und soll sowohl perfekten Grip auf dem Pedal als auch ausreichend Traktion beim Schieben und Tragen des Bikes bieten.
The final outcome has very little in common with the fleeting prototypes that came before it. ION claim it offers the ultimate grip while pedaling as well as sufficient traction when you’re carrying or pushing the bike.
Die neue Sohle musste sich auf unzähligen Pedalen beweisen – natürlich der Flatschuh auf Flatpedalen und das Klickmodell auf Klickpedalen.
The new soles were put through the wringer on a number of different pedal types and expected to perform.
Doch nicht nur in die Sohle wurde massig Arbeit gesteckt. Sämtliche Details, wie z. B. die Zehenkappe, wurden mehrfach überarbeitet.
But the sole wasn’t the only aspect that required time; the toecap is another design feature that merited thought.
Häufig wurden Muster direkt in 3D gedruckt und an den jeweiligen Prototyp angepasst.
Patterns are usually 3D printed and fixed straight onto the prototypes.
Auch das Design der aufgebrachten Applikationen und die Wahl der Materialien wurden stetig optimiert.
No mean feat settling on material choice and elements for the design in order to achieve the optimal aesthetic and performance.
Am Ende hatte das gesamte Team gut lachen und ist nun mehr als happy mit dem Ergebnis.
Fortunately the entire team is stoked about the outcome.

About the author

Christoph Bayer

Christoph loves to be kept on his toes – both on the bike and in his role for ENDURO. He’s known as the guy in charge of the bi-monthly magazine and masquerades as both its editor and photographer. You’ll usually find him tearing up the mountains on his bike, soaking up the flow or tackling technical, narrow trails.