For the folks at Common Ground, empathy is more than just a component to living well, it's the basis behind the product they're creating. "At its core, Common Ground was invented to inspire empathy and conversation," says founder John Tawney, a 25-year veteran of the footwear industry (including Nike). "Through footwear, we wanted to emphasize walking in someone else's shoes and how two people need to work together. Just like two feet. And small steps have impact."

Officially launched in November 2015, the footwear boasts patterns that are designed to be optimistic and graphic, with a clean, zen silhouette and comfortable construction. They are designed in Portland, but are looking to hop into the Seattle market. "The culture in the Pacific Northwest has a strong emphasis on progress," says Tawney. "We have that spirit of freedom, and we're united by this phenomenal landscape every day. A lot of our brand is dictated by that same sense of unity and enrichment."

The shoes are also inspired by what Tawney calls "Generation P" for "Generation Progress," the young people making activism and conversation a priority; and the brand hits some major social issues: gender equality, marriage equality, gun violence, immigration, and simply, "progress." Common Ground also donates 2.5 percent of their sales to Start Empathy, a charitable foundation that focuses on the importance of empathy in children and creating programs and initiatives in which children master these skills.  

Tawney continues: "We wanted to create something that reminded the wearer every time they looked down to practice empathy. We also felt passionate about starting a conversation; if we're going to make lasting social change, we need to talk about these issues and treat each other with respect." Sounds like the perfect shoe for an election year. 

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