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Sustainable sneakers are shaking up the footwear market

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

12 Aug 2021

Fashion

Image: Koio

A new era of sustainable footwear is shaking up the sneaker market with innovative fabrics, circular production and high quality craftsmanship.

WAYZ, a Portuguese footwear brand based Porto, makes sneakers using solely local producers and ethical factories that source eco materials. The brand, which stands for Wave At Your Zest for Life, is fully transparent about how its products are made by whom, where and with what.

Reef, a company best known for its beach-friendly sandals, is launching a bio shoe made using a footbed of renewable sugar cane and leather ethically sourced by tanneries that have been awarded a gold or silver rating by the Leather Working Group. The sandal is set to launch end of August on its e-commerce websites.

Clarks, purveyors of the original desert boot, has debuted a vegan version of its classic shoes, including the iconic Wallabee style which features vegan-friendly uppers, linings, and natural rubber crepe soles. The material is meant to mimic suede, but with a considerably less environmental impact.

Consumers have shifted priorities since the pandemic.

Outdoor styles, sustainably crafted products and demand for ethical sneakers have all surged since the start of 2021, especially in the men’s footwear market.

Kodiak, a 110-year-old Canadian boot brand, is the first footwear company to adopt PrimaLoft PURE insulation, where PURE stands for ‘Produced Using Reduced Emissions. The shoes are made using 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET plastic, that reduces carbon emissions by at least 48 percent.

Koio, a company that manufactures in Italy, aims to be the world’s first regenerative luxury footwear brand, sourcing its leathers from regeneratively managed farms, which are proven to help slow and even reverse the effects of climate change.

Footwear’s sustainability challenges

Many tanneries use toxic tanning agents that leak into wastewater. Soles and linings are often produced using plastic-based components of virgin, fossil-fuel-based materials. Trimmings are often discarded that result from the mold-injection process.

Like fast fashion, cheaply-produced footwear means shoes are made at a low-quality level, resulting in a shorter product life of the shoes.