Sustainability probably isn’t at the forefront of collectors minds when they are looking to pick up a new pair of sneakers. Despite this, it has not stopped companies from making conscious efforts to produce sustainable and eco-friendly shoes more than ever. In the year 2021, it is our responsibility more than ever to shop more sustainably. Fortunately, with days like Earth Day highlighting the importance of this and companies like Nike and Adidas embracing the change, responsible shopping has never been easier.
Earth Day 2021 was all about supporting environmental protection. This is an excellent opportunity to highlight some of our favourite sustainable sneakers. We break down the must-have silhouettes you need to add to your rotation whilst keeping one eye on the health of the planet too.
Adidas x Yeezy Foam Runner
Every once in a while, a designer will create something that astonishes you. That was the exact effect the Yeezy Foamrunner had on many of us. Legendary designer Steven Smith is responsible for some of the most iconic sneakers we have come across. However, the Yeezy Foam Runner is perhaps the most innovative of the lot. The Foam Runners are crafted from a unique substance called EVA foam. The foam is injected into moulds leaving minimal waste. EVA foam even has algae in it. That’s right, algae that you see form at the bottom of the sea—an unusual yet inspirational move. Kanye has even stated that Yeezy would look into growing its own algae to put into the Foam Runners in the not too distant future. Imagine that, producing the material you use to craft your sneakers, it does not get much more sustainable.
Despite the immense scrutiny the Foam Runner initially came under, the shoe’s popularity has since boomed. The Foam Runner is now one of the hottest sneakers on the resale marketplace, fetching fees around the £300 mark. It really is crazy to think that a sustainable shoe can garner such a massive interest in the sneaker community. This just goes to show how the industry is slowly moving towards an eco-friendly future.
The Sean Wotherspoon Collection
Nobody has flown the flag for sustainable sneakers quite like designer and Round Two co-founder Sean Wotherspoon. Sean is an avid vegan and has made no secret of his passion for sustainability and all things eco-friendly. Fortunately, whatever brand Sean has worked with has allowed him to really flex his muscles when creating signature silhouettes with sustainability in mind.
Sean Wotherspoon’s first-ever sneaker was with Nike as part of a more extensive campaign Nike ran for Air Max Day. Sean won the battle of the designers to be granted the opportunity to create his grail-worthy Air Max 97/1. The sneaker was one of Nike’s first tastes of sustainable footwear, with the uppers crafted entirely from synthetic materials and vegan leather. Unfortunately, the collaboration between the two ended there, but Wotherspoon continued his pursuit of sustainable sneakers with Adidas.
Wotherspoon created both the Adidas Superstar and Adidas ZX8000 Superearth silhouettes with protecting the environment in mind. Both sneakers lean into Wotherspoon’s maximalist design approach and use vegan leather exclusively. Vegan leather is created from either artificial or plant products rather than animal products, making the material more readily available.
Say what you will about Sean Wotherspoon, but there is no denying he is slowly changing everybody’s perception of sustainable sneakers and their ability to be discussed amongst Sneaker of the Year candidates.
Nike Dunk ‘Lemon Wash’
Never one to shy away from what its competitors are doing, Nike has stepped up its pursuit of sustainability with the Move to Zero campaign. Nike took its new responsible approach to the legendary Nike Dunk silhouette, creating a one-of-a-kind ‘Lemon Wash’ colourway.
The intriguing uppers are crafted from a mix of eco-friendly denim materials and scrap fabrics, giving the shoe a seriously unique look. That isn’t where sustainability stops, though. The midsole is created from Crater foam, whilst the outsole is composed of Nike Grind rubber. This rubber is made from the offcuts and recycled scraps that are produced during the manufacturing process. A genuinely sustainable sneaker, the Nike Dunk ‘Lemon Wash’ offers all of us the chance to rock Nike’s hottest silhouette whilst also caring about the environment. The perfect combination.
Adidas Deep Ocean Blue UltraBoost x Parley
Adidas has long been one step ahead of many competitors when it comes to producing sustainable silhouettes that consumers actually want to purchase. They started the quest to try to 4D print sneakers that blew everybody’s minds, but it was actually the collaboration with Parley that caught our eye.
The sneaker released as part of the ‘Run for the Oceans’ campaign and is created from a blend of ocean plastics. The sneaker was released to empower communities that are fighting marine plastic pollution each day. Adidas and Parley confirmed that each sneaker sold is the equivalent to preventing eleven plastic bottles from entering the ocean. If you ever needed a responsible reason to pick up a new pair of sneakers, let saving the sea be the one.
Air Jordan 1 Retro High Zoom Space Hippie
Jordan Brand was not going to be left behind when Nike began its Move to Zero campaign, releasing an Air Jordan 1 that all environmental enthusiasts can be proud to cop. The Space Hippie AJ1 has eco-friendly features throughout, with the black and grey upper comprised primarily of recycled materials. Underfoot, a combination of Crater Foam and Nike Grind rubber make up the sneakers sole unit. The Crater Foam is a cushioning system made from a variety of Nike Grind recycled rubber and foam. A much more sustainable way to make Jordan 1’s as comfortable as ever.
The Space Hippie line has since become one of Nike and Jordan Brand’s most successful sustainable line. The nickname is instantly recognisable as the go-to sustainable sneakers on the market. We have since seen a Space Hippie basketball silhouette releas. Showing that there really are no bounds to what Nike and Jordan Brand can do.