In the Autoblog Garage Closet: Michelin MXV4 driving shoes

After making tires for more than 110 years, we guess the folks over at Michelin got bored one day and started looking at what else was made of rubber. We can imagine what products might have been considered, but as fun as Michelin-branded, tire-tread imitating prophylactics might have been, more sensible heads prevailed, and Bibendum will be touting his own line of shoes soon.

This summer we were invited to Michelin's introduction of its new MXV4 tires at Barber Motorsports, where they also had a display of MXV4-inspired footwear. We've finally been able to get a pair of the Belair model into the Autoblog Closet and put a few miles on them.

First, we have to say these shoes are by far the slowest mode of transportation ever tested by the Autoblog crew. Despite features like a sole that resembles Michelin's touring tire, sleek lines, lightweight construction, and wind-cheating aerodynamics, we never were able to get above about 5 mph.

Continued after the jump.

Despite that, we're sure these shoes would do very well on the track. With a thick, padded heel, the shoe prevents your foot from sliding around while working the pedals. On the other end, the shoe's leather upper is also part of the sole. The rubber treaded sole protrudes through the leather, which wraps around to become the shoe's sides. It's classic driving-shoe construction that provides good pedal-feel for your toes. The sole's tire-like tread might look like what's on your car, but Michelin says the tread compound and design are not the same as its road-going products. However, the company's tire engineers did help out on the development.

This is Michelin's first attempt at casual footwear (they already have a line of work boots), but in our opinion, they got the look right. These are good looking shoes that we've gotten complimented on several times. The dark, full-grain leather is nicely contrasted with hand-sewn, light-brown stitching. A bright blue Michelin logo facing outward is about the only drawback to the look, but isn't too distracting. The shoe's interior is also leather with a nicely padded tongue and heel.

Like we said, these shoes perform as well as you'd expect a driving shoe to in the car. But we do not recommend taking them off road. No, we learned they are definitely not made for mud. We forgot that and, after a trek across my muddy yard, were digging dirt from the deep treads for the next 30 minutes. And they're still not clean. The fix? Take 'em off if you want to play in the dirt.

Michelin says its new line of casual shoes will cost between $79 and $150. As far as we can tell, they are not yet on sale, and specific pricing has not been set for our Belair model. Being the first shoes we've tested, and without any actual track time, we can't say "Go buy these shoes!", but we can say they seem rather comfortable and we're not embarrassed to be seen in them. Even at only 5 mph.

See other shoes in Michelin's lineup in our high-res gallery.

Michelin's press release:

GREENVILLE, S.C. (June 4, 2007) – On the heels of successful North American launches of its line of industrial work boots, Babolat pro tennis shoes with Michelin technology and frameless all-weather wiper blades, Michelin announced today the introductions of an all-new casual footwear line and the introduction of the new Michelin® Primacy™ MXV4® touring tire that inspired it at Alabama's premier racing facility, Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham.

In extending its brand beyond tires, Michelin aims to bring the quality, performance and innovation synonymous with its tires to a diverse range of lifestyle products, including lines of industrial, casual and performance footwear.

Like all Michelin footwear, the MXV4® line is designed 'from the inside out' with rigorous testing to provide uncompromising comfort and performance in terms of grip and durability. The MXV4 footwear line features two outsoles, inspired by the tire tread sculpture of the same name, and full-grain premium leather uppers in variety of different styles with colors to suit the most fashion-forward lifestyles.

"The Michelin name stands for innovation, performance and mobility worldwide," said Tom Costin, president and CEO of Michelin Footwear. "Footwear industry insiders and consumers will continue to see many of Michelin's popular tire-tread sculptures creatively captured in footwear outsoles," added Costin. "When wearing them, it's easy to recognize the benefits of each sculpture's design are directly in line with the type of footwear and its performance needs."

Additional features of the MXV4 footwear include:

* Patented Advanced Rear Suspension cushioning system for a comfortable heel strike. The multi-chambered, shock-absorbing heel pad is positioned between the insole and midsole.
* Traditional hand-sewn components to retain the shape and integrity over the life of the shoe.
* Agion™ antimicrobial forefoot liner to provide effective odor control and resistance to fungal-related foot disorders over the life of the shoe.

The new MXV4 footwear line will carry a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (M.S.R.P.) range of $79-$120 (U.S.) and be available in specialty retail stores and upscale department stores throughout the United States and Canada beginning in the fall.

Developed by Michelin Footwear, a division of Gear Six Technologies LLC, Michelin's official worldwide licensee for footwear, the MXV4® line is being distributed by IGE 3 Corporation, a division of Geoffrey Allen Corporation located in Secaucus, N.J.

Dedicated to the improvement of sustainable mobility, Michelin designs, manufactures and sells tires for every type of vehicle, including airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, earthmovers, farm equipment, heavy-duty trucks, motorcycles and the space shuttle. The company also publishes travel guides, hotel and restaurant guides, maps and road atlases. Headquartered in Greenville, S.C., Michelin North America ( employs more than 22,000 and operates 19 major manufacturing plants in 17 locations.

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