IBEX is the only footwear designed for professional roofers to optimize roofing activities. It sheds light on overlooked issues and difficulties that roofers commonly experience with their footwear on a daily basis including stiffness, traction and muscle inflammation. Addressing to these problems, IBEX offers spot-on flexibility, traction support on the roof with anti-cable slip function, and reduces muscle tension that leads to long-term accumulated muscle injury prevention.
Compared to regular construction work, roofers perform specific labor on sloped surfaces. However, no products exist that are specifically designed for them. As a result, they cannot achieve peak performance.
Developed through user research, IBEX is the only product that addresses their issues in detail and offers a comprehensive footwear solution. It enables roofers to work on sloped surface in a more stable and safe way. This shoe offers features that give confidence so that roofers can be safe in a high-risk environment.
Kei Yumino, Art Center College of Design
This project required that we design performance footwear for specific users based on findings gathered through observational research, user interviews, mock-up testing and supplementary secondary research. It focuses on capturing undiscovered design opportunities and creating product solutions combining material and functional innovations. This requirement led me to focus on professional roofers since my research showed that their current footwear was not necessarily designed for roofing activities.
Questions like “Who is the roofer? How do they work? What do they need?” were my starting point as a designer completely new to the profession. Along with foundational secondary research, I conducted field observation and in-depth user interviews with people ranging from local daily workers to the owner of a roofing company with more than ten years of professional experience. To gain first-hand experience and insights, I also climbed on the roof with boots recommended at an online roofer forum. A small roof mock-up was build to test the concepts throughout the process as well.
Based on the research, I discovered the leading misfit between what they need and what they use. Even though roofing activities requires specific labor on slopes including walking, climbing, standing and crouching, existing construction footwear is not specifically designed for these kinds of activities. As a result, problems and pains are overlooked that roofers deal with on a daily basis. Footwear doesn’t help them to achieve their peak performance.
Informed by this finding, I identified five main problems and developed the solutions to address them including;
Problem – The stiffness and shape of current roofers’ boots hinders crouching and bending which roofers constantly do throughout the day.
Solution – IBEX uses soft mesh around the instep and ankle to support bending movements and achieve lightness and breathability. At the same time, the half X-shape structure on the side frames the soft mesh part to add firmness to the footwear where needed. In addition, the angled-cut ankle support makes it easier for roofers to bend and climb on slopes.
2. Muscle Inflammation
Problem - Roofers tend to experience accumulated foot pains from over-stretching the Achilles tendon when working on sloped surfaces for long periods.
Solution – A raised midsole absorbs impact and releases muscle tension around the Achilles tendon and prevents foot pain.
Problem - Roofers walk on different surfaces and objects: shingles, tiles, wood and ladders. They sometimes accidentally step on nail gun air hoses and fall off the roof.
Solution – The soft textured neoprene rubber outsole offers firm grip for any roofing surface. It has patterns to adapt to different types of surfaces and cup over air hoses to keep a stable footing.
4. Untied Shoelaces
Problem - Untied shoelaces on the roof can cause fatal falling accidents when roofers step on them
Solution – The buckle system will eliminate the possibility of stepping on untied shoelaces and offer smoother on/off movements.
Problem – Because of the roofers’ posture, the front toe frequently comes in contact with the roof surface and wears out faster than other parts of the shoe. It requires roofers to replace their shoes even though they’re still usable.
Solution – A durable rubber shell on the toe for protection to extend the product’s life span.
In addition, Materials exploration was conducted to achieve desired functionality.
Mesh – to maximize breathability and achieve flexibility and lightweight
Suede and Synthetic leather – to offer durability and structural support to the area where needed
Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam
Polyester insole – to achieve penetration resistance
Textured Neoprene rubber – to create sufficient traction for various roofing surfaces and offer flexibility for anti-cable slipping function.
IBEX footwear is part of a professional tool kit that roofers can rely on in a high-risk environment. This is the only footwear that addresses roofers' needs in detail and offers considerate solutions in a cohesive manner. It enables roofers to work on sloped surface securely, safely and efficiently.