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These new sneaker models rely on circular economy, local production and customisation

By Regina Henkel


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Roku shoe from Camper. Credits: Camper

The sneaker world is just one area of fashion that needs to become more sustainable and those in the sector have been working on new ideas and better solutions for years. As such, new materials, new recycling concepts and shorter supply chains are helping to reduce the carbon footprint.

The global market for sustainable sneakers was estimated at 7.7 billion dollars in 2021 and is expected to grow to 13.5 billion dollars by 2031, with an average annual growth rate of 5.7 percent from 2022 to 2031, according to market research company Organic Market Research. Consumers in Europe and the US in particular are increasingly focusing on more sustainable products, but when it comes to shoes, sustainable solutions are often still in their infancy. For example, the development and production of more sustainable sneakers is primarily about minimising waste, using recycled, bio-based or natural materials and designing recycling methods. These four brands are entering the spring/summer 2024 season with new solutions.

Camper Roku: Modular design for sustainability and customisation

Spanish footwear brand Camper has launched the Roku, a sneaker with a revolutionary modular concept. The ergonomic shoe is influenced by the organic shapes and functionality of traditional Japanese objects and features six interchangeable components. These include a cushioned footbed, a soft knitted upper, a 3D sole, laces and a lightweight outsole made from 51 percent recycled waste and by-products from the manufacturing process.

All components can be easily separated from each other - no glue has been used at all. This not only has advantages in terms of recyclability at the end of life, but also in terms of reparability and personalisation. This is because all elements are sold both as an assembled shoe and disassembled in four different packages, giving wearers the opportunity to put together their own model and replace worn parts.

The sole and upper are connected via the laces. Credits: Camper

Salomon Index.03: Recyclable and even lighter

The third generation of the recyclable Salomon Index.03 sneaker has been further developed in terms of comfort and lightness. This proves once again that performance and greater sustainability are by no means mutually exclusive.

A number of improvements have been made from the Index.02 to the new Index.03, including the use of a lighter midsole material, 100 percent recycled polyester for the tongue and a more efficient cutting process for the uppers, which means an improvement in material consumption from 40 percent waste to just 26 percent. However, the core concept remains the same - a fully recyclable shoe made from two key components: Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) for the lower part below the distinctive red line and polyester for the upper part. This thoughtful design allows for easy disassembly at the end of the shoe's life and promotes sustainability through a circular approach. The boot is disassembled, with the TPU being reused for ski boots and the polyester for fabrics.

A QR code in the shoe ensures the correct recycling process: if consumers want to return the shoe, they scan the QR code on the tongue of the shoe to register their pair, print out a shipping label and return the parcel to the post office free of charge. To keep transport costs as low as possible, the shoes are taken to collection centres in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region. There they are washed and dismantled before the individual materials are sent for local recycling.

The red seam on the Salomon Index.03 marks the dividing line between the sole and upper. Credits: Salomon

Saucony Peregrine RFG: Even more bio-based plastics

The US running shoe brand Saucony announced years ago that it wanted to introduce a 100 percent circular economy by 2030. This means that Saucony wants to use only recycled, organic or renewable materials. Along this path, the company has repeatedly presented more sustainable solutions for the production of sneakers.

In the new Peregrine RFG hiking shoe model - where RFG stands for 'Run For Good' - 30 percent of the cushioning is made from sugar cane foam containing ethanol, which reduces dependence on petroleum-based plastics and offers even more comfort. Saucony has also opted for more sustainable alternatives in the construction of the sole. Used tyres, which make up half of the material, were used in the production of the Austin Rubber outsole.

The new hiking shoe from Saucony. Credits: Saucony

Veja The Aegean Project: More sustainable sneakers 'made in Europe'

The French sneaker brand Veja is opening a new chapter in the company's history with 'The Aegean Project'. Specifically, this means that Veja is having trainers manufactured in Portugal for Europe for the first time. Veja shoes have been produced in Brazil since 2005 and are now sold worldwide. In all these years, Veja has built up a sustainable supply chain, for example with organic cotton from Brazil and Peru or with natural rubber from the Amazon rainforest. With production in Portugal, the company has now developed a second, equally responsible supply chain.

Veja secretly began producing three different colour styles of the V-90 in Portugal in 2023 and has already produced over 80,000 pairs to date. The V-90 is made from leather tanned in Portugal with fewer dyes than before. The suede inserts come from the EU. They were tanned in Italy with reduced water consumption and are free from hazardous or banned chemicals. The company only went public with the news in March.

The three different colour styles of the V-90 from Veja are made in Portugal. Credits: Veja

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.DE. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.

Read more:
Circular Economy
Circular Fashion
Sustainable Fashion