Erem Xerocole Desert Trekking Boots Are a Sustainable Stalwart
Men’s Journal (December 2021) by Berne Broudy
The gear and apparel market is saturated with brands offering premium products. So how do you prioritize companies you want to support? We like to hone in on ones that boast premium goods and a sustainable model. One such company is Erem, a new desert performance boot brand founded by fourth-generation shoemaker Noah Swartz and his dad, Timberland’s former owner and CEO.
Erem’s founding principle is simple: Gear made for the outdoors shouldn’t harm the planet. So they built the Xerocole boot with the lowest-impact materials available. Most footwear is made by thermofusing plastics, according to Erem. So the company opts out of plastics and makes its boots re-solable with bio-circular materials and construction. The boot comprises vegetable-tanned leathers, wood-based Tencel, cotton, cork, and eco-rubber made from 70 percent recycled materials and a biodegradability accelerator. The upper and footbed use latex foam; water-based, degradable adhesives; and linen thread.
Erem starts with certified sustainable raw materials, and voluntarily audits through its partnership with Toxnot to make sure it’s walking the walk. The company further minimizes its footprint by incentivizing customers to return boots for repairs. When boots are too far gone, Erem re-streams reclaimable components into new boots.
The Xerocole boots are made from durable full-grain leather with an integrated toe bumper, and a stitched-on sole. Rugged brass hardware guides the flat laces. Inside, breathable wood-derived lyocell lining wicks moisture to prevent blisters. The boots have a padded collar and a ¾ gusset tongue to keep out debris.
At face value, the boots look a little heavy and hot. During the initial wear test, some of the seams were noticeable. But after a couple days of breaking in, they relaxed, becoming all-day comfortable, even in sweltering heat.
While the upper is leather, they lack a membrane and have a fabric tongue so they don’t trap moisture. Sweat gets chimneyed out through the cuff, evaporating through the tongue.
We love the oversized webbing heel loop for pulling them on. The boot might be taller than what you’d normally wear backpacking, but we appreciated the extra support, as well as the flex in the Achilles and toe, which made walking nice and comfy. We were also impressed with the soles. They were grippy on rock and weren’t as prone to slipping on sand, rock, or other hazardous desert conditions.
Finding Inspiration in Nature
If you’ve spent time in the desert and felt like it was a magical place, the founders of Erem are right there with you. The desert is the landscape that inspired the founders to build a brand committed to continuously raising the bar for “environmentally reverent” outdoor performance products.
“To solve the biggest challenges facing an increasingly warming and resource-scarce planet, Erem is turning to the desert for wisdom and innovation” said co-founder Noah Swartz.
Erem plans to plant 1 million prickly pear cacti with proceeds from boot sales. The prickly pear is a plant valued by desert-based indigenous cultures for the fruit it produces. It’s also a plant that has the potential to capture billions of pounds of carbon dioxide.
Erem is also the official boot of the Arizona Trail and it’s committed 1 percent of profits to the Arizona Trail Association.
The name “Erem” is an acronym adapted from the ancient Greek word for desert. It stands for Exceptional, Responsible, Enduring, and Motivated—the company’s product promise and brand philosophy.
Erem is launching with two models, the canvas and leather Xerocole ($169.99; eremlife.com), and the full leather Xerocole Expedition ($199.99; eremlife.com). The Expedition is taller with a shank board for extra support and protection for when you’re carrying heavy loads. The canvas and leather Xerocole is lighter and more breathable.
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