Taiwan-made sandals gain unexpected attention from New York race

10/26/2021 04:24 PM
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Lo Wei-ming is seen wearing sandals during the race in New York. CNA file photo
Lo Wei-ming is seen wearing sandals during the race in New York. CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 26 (CNA) A Taiwanese ultra-marathoner turned heads when he decided in the middle of a 3,100-mile race in New York to dump his sneakers for a pair of sandals, bringing the Taiwanese manufacturers of the unassuming flip-flops unexpected attention.

Taiwan's Lo Wei-ming (羅維銘) crossed the finish line of the 25th Annual Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race holding his country's national flag and wearing sandals on Saturday in second place in the seven-runner race.

Lo became the first Asian to complete the race in a time of 48 days, 11 hours, 52 minutes and 1 second, but it was his footwear that may have left the most lasting impression among people in the distance-running fraternity.

It turns out that the sandals are made by B&M Caiman in Taiwan with materials sourced from Formosa Plastics Corp., which has been surprised by the attention garnered by the sandals it co-developed with the shoemaker.

A Formosa Plastics executive, who asked not to be named, told CNA Monday that B&M Caiman's line of "Oyster-Tech Antimicrobial Y Sandals" were made using ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA).

EVA tends to be softer than rubber, has good elasticity, and absorbs shocks well, and also results in lighter, more comfortable shoes that hug the user's feet better than shoes with rubber soles, the executive said.

Those qualities led Lo to make the switch mid-race. The long-distance runner said sneakers provide good protection, but using them for long periods of time can lead to swollen or blistered feet, and the sandals gave him the comfort and support he needed.

Another attribute of the sandals is their antibacterial property, obtained by adding an antibacterial powder made from recycled oyster shells to the EVA material.

But the Formosa Plastics executive said the powder can be tricky to use because it consists primarily of calcium carbonate, meaning that if the amount added is slightly off, it could leave the EVA material too hard and neutralize its strengths.

B&M Caiman general manager Lu Shu-chen (呂淑珍) echoed the potential difficulties of working with the EVA material, saying the weather, temperature and humidity can all affect the quality of the end product.

The company invested millions of Taiwan dollars to develop the sandal line and identify the optimal production process, and it could expand the use of the antibacterial EVA across a broader range of products, Lu said.

The 58-year-old Lo finished behind defending champion Andrea Marcato of Italy -- who completed the race in 42 days, 17 hours, 38 minutes and 38 seconds -- but his time ranked 25th among all participants in the race's history.

Participants had to run at least 95.9 kilometers a day on a track at a high school in Queens. The race began at 6 a.m. every day, and runners could run throughout the day until midnight, taking breaks as needed.

(By Tsai Peng-min, Lee Hsin-yin and Ko Lin)

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