New trend: how sneakers are made from sustainable materials

Previously, the production of athletic shoes was incredibly harmful to the environment. This is due to the fact that sneakers and sneakers are no longer just everyday shoes, and many celebrities went to the red carpet in them. But few of us thought that there are about a billion pairs of athletic shoes sold every year. Each pair is backed by production, packaging and delivery to stores. All this consumes a lot of natural resources, but after wearing we do not give anything to the environment in return, but only harm it more.

The trend towards conscious consumption and recycling has become popular with high-profile sports brands such as Nike and adidas, which has influenced the choice of shoe materials for aspiring brands. We will tell you what eco-friendly production technologies have started to be used by sports brands.

Recycled waste

The time has come when materials like used cotton are shredded and transformed into new material for sneakers. European manufacturers collect the plastic that floats on the surface of water bodies, then dyes the material with environmentally friendly dyes and handles it in a family workshop in Portugal. The sole is made from rubber waste that should have ended up in a landfill. A small part of this material is made of new rubber to make the outsole stronger and more durable.

Increasingly, manufacturers are trying to create sneakers that would set the bar for sustainability and have a positive impact on the planet. And they do it: Effekt Footwear’s Alchemy-X sneaker has become incredibly popular in the brand’s homeland, Vienna, and the production technology has begun to be used in other local startups. The name for the model was not chosen by chance. One of the founders of the brand, Benjamin Smits, said: “Just as medieval alchemists tried to turn base metals into gold, so we, as alchemists of the 21st century, turn garbage into clothes.” Textile waste for future footwear is collected in Portugal before being sent to landfill.

Grapeseed Sneakers



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Solid residues from the wine industry can become an alternative to natural leather. For this, grape cake is mixed with vegetable oils and a water-based polyurethane dispersion. It sounds unfriendly, but such a dispersion is much less toxic than the classic petrochemical solvent, which is most often used in the shoe industry. After that, the resulting biomaterial is applied to organic cotton. Although the addition of polyurethane improves the physical properties of the final product and currently cannot be dispensed with, it prevents the complete decomposition of the material. Therefore, things with a long service life are made from grape leather, for example, sneakers. This technology was invented by the Pangaia brand.


They do not differ from models made of genuine leather, either visually or in quality. However, the wide outsole made from recycled rubber makes them a little heavier.

Carpets and fishing nets in production


It takes about 12-14 plastic bottles to get fabric for one pair of shoes. Flyleather looks, smells & feels like real leather. It is created by weaving recycled leather fibers with synthetic fibers. The process of creating this skin harnesses the energy of the water and reduces the negative impact on the planet. Nylon is made from a variety of recycled materials such as carpets and waste fishing nets. The resulting primary material is cleaned, sorted and crushed into crumbs, after which it undergoes a process of chemical or mechanical processing. It is then used to make sports shoes, a technology Nike uses. The company is the expert brand for sustainable production and conscious recycling.

Single polymer shoes


A couple of years ago, a new, cost-effective technology emerged that changed the way people thought about footwear. The entire sneaker is made entirely from one polymer – thermoplastic polyurethane. It can be turned into materials of different textures: foam for the outsole, rubber-like layer for the tread, fiber for creating yarns for the upper and laces. To process such sneakers, the pair will not need to be divided into components, but it will be possible to remelt the whole. Adidas uses this technology to create the Futurecraft running shoe. What’s more, Kanye West, who has been with the brand for a long time, came up with his own option for an eco-friendly pair of sneakers – algae shoes. They will be turned into a foamy polymer in production, and then sneakers will be created. The material will be biodegradable, its production will affect the carbon balance in the direction of reducing emissions: when grown, algae will absorb CO2.

Mushroom and plant sneakers



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There are industries that create fully biodegradable sneakers. They are made from plants. Peeling pineapples, corn and eucalyptus are used. The creators say that when the steam is completely worn out, then it can be buried in the ground and it will become fertilizer. The Canadian brand Native Shoes has become known for this innovative manufacturing technology.

Israeli designer Shahar Livn once came up with an alternative to natural and faux leather in sneakers.



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For his DeZeen brand, he began making materials based on mushrooms and yeast, and then even made sneakers from the waste of the meat industry.

For the fabric upper, he uses dog hair shed during grooming or obtained during the shearing process. The designer sews the upper part using bamboo threads.

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