adidas' New Shoes Could Be a Game-Changer for Sustainable Footwear

FUTURECRAFT.LOOP can be ground up and melted back into materials for a new shoe with zero waste.

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(Courtesy of Adidas)

adidas has introduced a new performance running shoe model that is the first of its kind. It's called FUTURECRAFT.LOOP and is 100 percent recyclable, meaning it can be ground up, melted back into raw materials, and remade into new shoes over and over again.

The athletic footwear company is already dedicated to reducing plastic waste. In 2015, adidas joined with Parley for the Oceans to create performance footwear made from yarns and filaments upcycled from plastic waste. According to a press release, this year, adidas will manufacture 11 million pairs of shoes that contain recycled ocean plastics. But that is just a drop in the bucket.

“Taking plastic waste out of the system is the first step, but we can’t stop there,” said Eric Liedtke, an executive board member at adidas and responsible for Global Brands. “What happens to your shoes after you’ve worn them out? You throw them away – except there is no away. There are only landfills and incinerators and ultimately an atmosphere choked with excess carbon, or oceans filled with plastic waste."

"The next step is to end the concept of 'waste' entirely. Our dream is that you can keep wearing the same shoes over and over again.”

The new running shoes are proof of the company's commitment to take responsibility for the entire life of its products by creating products that never have to be thrown away.

The company's FUTURECRAFT.LOOP is produced in a closed loop or circular manufacturing model, where raw materials can be repurposed. Many companies repurpose plastic into drinking bottles, tote bags, and even clothing, but this is the first time that materials recycled from high-performance running shoes are turned back into high-performance running shoes.

That's because sports footwear contains very complex material mixes and glues that can only be downcycled, according to adidas. But after nearly a decade of research coordinated with leading manufacturing and recycling companies, adidas found a way to change the manufacturing process of athletic shoes.

“We set out to create a new type of product that we can take back, grind up and reapply into new adidas product. We knew this was a far-reaching vision in every way; technically and even behaviorally! There were times when it didn’t seem like we could get over some of the technical hurdles - now we’ve made the first leap, the playing field has changed," said Tanyaradzwa Sahanga, manager of technology innovation, at adidas.

FUTURECRAFT.LOOP performance shoes have been designed to be remade by using only one material type – 100 percent reusable TPU that is spun to yarn, knitted and then clean-fused to a midsole – and there is no glue used. The entire shoe, including the laces, is made of plastic. When the running shoes wear out, they will be returned to the company to be cleaned, melted down, and remade into new shoes.

The first generation of FUTURECRAFT.LOOP running shoes are rolling out now as part of a global beta program in major cities across the globe. Runners are encouraged to use them, return them and share feedback about the experience. The results of these early users will be used by the company to help shape the product before a wider release in the spring of 2021.

Paul Gaudio, adidas senior vice president of creative direction & future said, “FUTURECRAFT seeks to break new ground, bringing new materials and processes to bear against the many challenges and opportunities we face in helping athletes make a difference in their game, in their life and of course, in the world they live in - the world we all live in.”

adidas is taking a bold new step in the right direction as the world battles to reduce and reuse the plastics that are polluting our oceans and filling our landfills.

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