The Explorer V2 from 8000Kicks is the world’s first waterproof hemp shoe, made from natural cannabis fibres. We tested the sustainable sneakers on and off road, at home and in the office, measuring their durability and comfort. Can these dope kicks live up to the hype?

When on the hunt for a general purpose, all-round sneaker, there always seems to be a compromise. Be it comfort, cost, materials or looks, it can be very difficult to find a shoe that satisfies every criteria.

But what if we told you there was a new company on the block, one that manufactured a series of sneakers that hit all the right notes? Shoes that were light weight, high quality, durable, attractive, affordable and great for the planet. That you could get everything you’d expect from a premium, everyday sneaker, without conceding any of the important stuff… from a company that seemingly materialised out of thin air.

You’d probably say we were tripping.

Behind The Brand

8000Kicks came about when co-founder Bernardo Carreira returned home to Portugal with the itch to begin a new venture. Already familiar with hemp as a sustainable and durable textile material, Bernardo wondered if cannabis fibres (best known as a something you smoke) could also be used for making shoes. Realising he needed some expert advice in order to test his theory, he turned to a veteran textile producer with over 50 years’ experience. Fortunately, this wisdom was easily accessible and came from none other than his own grandma, Otilia! For over a year the pair researched, trialled and iterated upon version after version of this project, before finally arriving at the world’s first waterproof hemp shoe.

The once smokey dream of sustainable, casual footwear had come true.

The Power Of Hemp

Hemp is a durable yet flexible material, it’s also breathable, moisture absorbent and antibacterial.

There is a lot to love about hemp. It’s stronger than steel, uses less water and has a shorter growth cycle than cotton. Being naturally pest resistant, hemp requires virtually no chemical pesticides to maintain and has a much higher yield than cotton, to the tune of 220% more harvestable fibre on average (thus requiring far less space). It also features greater water resistance and fire-insulating properties as compared to cotton. Hemp is a durable yet flexible material, it’s also breathable, moisture absorbent and antibacterial, making for the perfect year-round textile and suitable for all conditions. Yet best of all, as a multi-purpose, renewable fibre, it can be harvested for multiple purposes, including textile and paper products, helping to reduce overall energy consumption and consolidated production.

After exploring the myriad benefits provided by hemp, I was curious to see how the material faired in real world use. Would these shoes live up to high expectations, or just go up in smoke?

Exploring Performance

I was first introduced to 8000Kicks when looking for a new pair of vegan-friendly sneakers earlier this year. They came highly recommended online and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, especially as they were both sustainable and stylish (a difficult combo to achieve). After ordering a pair of the Explorer V2’s in Dark Green, I was surprised to receive an email noting that I had sent the company’s fulfilment team into overdrive and that my order was the cause for maximum celebration – needless to say their marketing department has quite a sense of humour. After a short wait, my new pair of kicks arrived in a sustainable package, but more on that a little later.

The outer layer of the shoes are similar in texture to canvas, yet softer and less scratchy. Flexing and bending the shoe reveals a high quality build and this carries through to the inner and other components. The laces are nice and thick, not too ridged or difficult to tie and fit nicely through the sneaker’s loops. Stitching is also top notch and the layered panels help to add visual flair by introducing subtle detail via section breaks.

One of the greatest features of the Explorer V2 sneaker is the comfort factor.

Turning now to what’s on the inside, you’ll find a replaceable insole housed among a mesh-like lined interior. This lining is spongey, particularly around the heel rim, with a reinforced back panel for extra support. In terms of sizing, these are a snug fit, yet the shoes seem to quickly mold to the contours of my foot and the added heel tags makes slipping into the Explorer’s even easier. No need to size up or down, as the shoe runs true to size. The toe box is roomy without being oversized and both my toes and the sides of my feet never felt cramped whilst wearing them.

In fact, one of the greatest features of the Explorer V2 sneaker is the comfort factor. Whether indoors or out in the world, these are easily one of the nicest feeling shoes to get around in. These kicks can be your go-to pair in either situation, making sure you show up in style and supporting your feet for work or play. As a pair of everyday shoes for shuffling about the office (or home), these absolutely shine. On carpet, tile and wood surfaces, these shoes have an almost slipper-like feel, and at times I honestly forgot I was wearing them at all.

They also feature the ability to transition into a pair of capable outdoor shoes. Protecting against the elements, the hemp material can deflect dirt and repel a decent amount of water, though we wouldn’t recommend you go swimming in them. Despite the ‘waterproof’ branding, your feet will eventually get wet if you submerge them deep enough (a point the company also recognises), but they hold up against splashes, puddles and light rain.

We took these out on a variety of surfaces (dirt, road, tall grass, sand and gravel) and never felt the need to be too precious with them, yet after a few weeks of use they still look good as new. Being made from hemp, the shoes were very breathable and had a degree of temperature regulation to them, resulting in feet that are never too hot or cold, regardless of the weather. Rain or shine, dust or mud, hot or cold, the Explorer’s appear to be able to handle just about anything.

Another interesting feature is the shoe’s sole, which has its own unique story to tell. The bottom is made from Bloom Foam, an industrialised type of algae, whose production helps to purify water as a second order effect of the manufacturing process. This material is also much more sustainable and eco-friendly when compared to traditional counterparts, such as rubber. It also contributes to the light weight feel of the shoe, though it will be interesting to gauge the sole’s durability over time. We would also like to see deeper grooves for the V3, as the tread is rather shallow and may cause some instability on slippery surfaces (though fortunately I’m yet to fall over whilst wearing them). For these reasons, we’d recommend opting for a dedicated hiking boot if you are planning treks that are more arduous.

Splashes, puddles and light rain are no match for these kicks.

Sustainably Supplied

It makes sense that an environmentally responsible shoe should come packaged in equally sustainable materials. 8000Kicks delivered here as well. Our sneakers arrived in a mailer that was made from corn and is 100% biodegradable. The box inside was likewise made from recycled materials and the company also threw in a pair of spare laces to get even more longevity out of the shoes. It’s good to see a company that is committed to sustanable practices and following through at every level.

In fact, the company has a range of sustainability initiatives, aimed to reduce their environmental impact. From the use of renewable energy in the production process, mindful harvesting techniques and carbon offsets, 8000Kicks is continuing to implement eco-friendly processes at every stage.

Final Verdict

The Explorer V2’s tick nearly every box when it comes to what you’d want out of an all-rounder pair of sneakers. A shoe that is equal parts sustainable and stylish, offering performance and comfort at an affordable price point, these are premium sneakers that would make an excellent addition to any collection. If the third version extends the tread depth, it would allow you to take on a greater degree of off-road adventures, truly living up to the Explorer name. Excited to see where this brand goes and looking forward to future releases. An easy recommend. ■

Good Stuff

  • Super comfortable
  • Sustainable & vegan-friendly
  • Perfect for home, office & outdoors
  • Lightweight & durable
  • Water repellent
  • Looks great

Bad Stuff

  • Shallow tread
  • Not a hiking boot replacement

Buy from 8000 Kicks

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