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How Rothy’s are Made (And How We Put Water Bottles on Your Feet)

We’ve gotten a lot of questions about how we turn plastic water bottles into fashion-forward ballet flats. We get it—water bottle shoes sound a little strange. Take a peek below at how we make them, why we make them, and what keeps us going.

tools used in the design process


Rothy’s began when our cofounders, Roth Martin and Stephen Hawthornthwaite, realized their wives were searching for the exact same thing: a sleek alternative to a sneaker or a flip-flop. They wanted something they could put on in the morning and wear throughout their busy days, while always looking polished and professional. Roth and Stephen, or Hawthy as we call him, realized that kind of shoe didn’t exist yet, so they set out to create it. (And if you haven’t guessed it yet, Roth + Hawthy = Rothy’s!)

While researching how to produce an eco-conscious shoe, Roth and Stephen discovered some disturbing facts about wastefulness within the industry—like how 85% of shoes end up in landfills. They knew they could do better by making their shoes from plastic bottles, specifically post-consumer recycled water bottles sourced right here in the US. After countless trial-and-error attempts, they perfected the bottle-to-shoe journey.

vials showing the different stages of plastic to get to the spool: plastic chips, pellets, thread & dye, spool

Here’s how it works. The bottles are sterilized, washed, and chipped into flakes that are spun into a soft fiber. That fiber then goes into a 3-D knitting machine specially programmed to minimize waste. The upper is knit to shape inside the machine and comes out fully formed. So when we say seamless, we really mean it. No hardware, no buckles, no discomfort, and better yet, no blisters. The upper is then attached to the sole made from eco-friendly rubber, because if you can’t already tell, we take recycling very seriously around here. 

different stages of plastic

Our Rothy’s are machine-washable (cold water, mild detergent, wash them alone), but we recommend air-drying them to protect their shape. And if you’re ever willing to part with an old pair, please send them back (on us), so we can recycle and repurpose them yet again. We’re already transforming thousands of water bottles into our ballet flats every month, and with your help, we can do even more good in the world, while making sure you look good along the way.

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