December 21, 2008

El Naturalista “Iggdrasil” Winter Boots: Eco, Innovative, Comfortable, Stylin’.

I love it when a product at first seems to just meet your expectations and then wildly exceeds them. I had high hopes when my El Naturalista boots arrived in the mail. After living in New York City and walking everywhere, I’m done with shoes that don’t last or require time to be broken-in. But the New Yorker in me, well, still wants them to look cool. And the mindful side of me has more requirements, these days, when purchasing something new. I’d heard that El Naturalista had some of environmentally-friendly footwear out there—and now after wearing my boots around town for a few days, I’m sold.

The “El Naturalista” spirit? According to their web site, someone who is sincere. An observer. An apprentice of life. Conscious of helping others. This type of marketing is common, perhaps…but, given they’re walking the talk (more on that, below) I admitted that this description describes me to a ‘t’ (or, at least, how I aspire to be!). 

I also love stories. Each line has a different source of inspiration. The boot I chose, Iggdrasil, is named after the mythological Nordic tree of life. The company’s page of general inspiration sources includes my favorite movie, “Whale Rider.” If I’m their target market, they certainly know me quite well.—this kind of personal marketing is smart in a time when we consumers are increasingly conscientious about what kind of companies we’re support with our hard-earned dollars.

A Spanish company that keeps a global perspective, El Naturalista’s origins are in La Rioja, an area with a long and respected shoe-making lineage. Balancing that are modern attributes including the styles and environmental and global sensibilities. Yes, the boots travel all of the way “across the pond” from Spain, but I think the distance is worth it if we’re supporting a truly mission-driven company in the footwear space.

The “El Naturalista Eco Frog Policy” on the site states that the company, “maximizes the use of biodegradable and recyclable/recycled materials, pays a fair compensation to providers and employees, and operates with corporate transparency.” Connecting environmental and social responsibility, El Nat has established the Atauchi Project, which helps educate children in Peru in coordination with a nonprofit called Pro-Peru.

My Iggdrasil Tall boots were comfortable from the first wear. No breaking-in time needed here. Constructed mainly of leather, a material that is vegetable tanned instead of the using traditional chrome-based tanning. I am aware of the ongoing debate between environmentalists about whether to use leather (cows add to global warming) versus synthetic material (many of which are petroleum-based). There are, of course, other alternatives. I rarely buy new leather; instead opting for second-hand boots and such, but in this case figured that the vegetable tanning process of the leather used in El Naturalista’s products, combined with other eco features, represent a step forward for sustainability and conscious consumerism. They also have recycled rubber outsoles and anatomically-designed insoles made from recycled cork. The Microfibra interior lining absorbs moisture, lets your skin breathe and is somehow antimicrobial (less odor).

My mother always told me to invest in quality shoes and winter coats. At $279.95, this shoe is an investment—but its something that’ll last, and look sharp, for years (especially since I chose a flat simple style in classic black. The color is actually more of a dark charcoal grey, dark enough to match with black clothing, but in a hue that I find more rich that opaque black). The look of the boot includes a lace up design and knit-trimmed shaft. Conveniently however, you don’t actually have to lace up the boots. The laces can stay in place and you zip them up with a zipper at the inside of the leg. The boot opening measures about 12″ around, a perfect fit for this skinny-legged girl, but might be a bit tight for some. Here in Boulder, Colorado, we have loads of melting snow (and therefore salt) and though they’ve gotten a bit wet, there aren’t any markings on the leather.

Doing last-minute Christmas shopping? I found this boot and other El Naturalista styles on a website that has free overnight shipping. My mindful nature and cozy feet couldn’t be happier: I can personally, highly recommend these as a gift.

View all of the styles, examine corporate social responsibility policies and read more stories of inspiration and global travels at El Naturalista’s site.

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Lindsey Wolf  |  Contribution: 7,660