Thursday April 24th, 2014

The terms high-tech and sandal might seem mutally exclusive. But when discussing the new offering from OluKai, those are the ones that fit—and quite comfortably. Charged with producing a sandal specifically for the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, one that would be “the closest thing to a shoe without that pesky strap across the back of the foot,” Olukai’s designers stepped forward with the Holomua.

OluKai presented the Holomua to Hawaiian lifeguards as part of a partnership with the association. The company also designed the new sandal for the needs of the lifeguards and used their expertise to, well, beach-test the results of a 12-month research and development process.

The top of the Holomua has a three-point adjustable nylon strap with aluminum hook-and-loop closure, able to tighten the sandal down onto the foot without the need for a back strap. OluKai “caretaker” and member of the Hawaiian Waterman Hall of Fame, Archie Kalepa, says the straps “tuck the slipper into the foot from the arch to the toe” and allow lifeguards to run without fear of losing the sandal. Lifeguards must remain free of a back strap so they can quickly jettison the sandal when entering the water.

An injected thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) plate—a first for a sandal—offers rigidity in the arch, but flexibility elsewhere, also an asset when running, all with the intended benefit of protecting lifeguards’ feet from sharp kiawe thorns and other beach hazards.

The sandal’s foam-filled footbed has coating on the top designed to keep the foot in contact with the sandal and on the bottom to keep the sandal from slipping on jagged rocks, even in the wet conditions lifeguards regularly have to contend with.

The Holomua: sandal or shoe? Call it a flip-flop between the two.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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