Nike Goes All-In On Eco Footwear: Its New Sustainable Trainers are a Technological Feat

nike sustainable trainers
Image courtesy Nike

In its most sustainable trainer to date, Nike is bringing advanced performance-driven technology and design technology together to incorporate upcycled and sustainable materials.

German athletic wear giant Adidas has led the shift to sustainable footwear, pledging to make 95 percent of its offerings sustainable by 2025. But Nike is catching up, with one of the most sustainable offerings yet as part of its Move To Zero initiative.

According to the brand, Nike Running designers were driven “by a core belief within the Move to Zero initiative — Nike’s journey toward zero carbon and zero waste — that a product that makes the world better can also make an athlete better.”

Nike says it’s working to embrace circularity and sustainability in its designs—this will help the brand reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2025 and it says divert 100 percent of all waste, using that instead to make new shoes.

Sustainable design, advanced performance technology

The latest offering: Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature. As much as it’s a mouthful to say, it boasts a robust eco take on an existing shoe typically reserved for athletes. The updated eco version includes 70 percent recycled materials by weight in its insole and unused airbag material. Leftover recycled foam from the midsole is used in the sock liner, a move the company says is redemption that symbolizes “so much potential for the body.”

The company says its strategy looked across disciplines in order to turn waste into its most eco shoe.

Image courtesy Nike

“We don’t want to be about making shiny objects—we wanted to set our concept car as the intent for how we think about performance and sustainability,” Rachel Bull, Senior Footwear Product Director for Nike Running, said in a statment. “Putting a sustainable focus on our fastest marathon shoe also means we need all hands on deck for it to work, from our teams in design to material sourcing to manufacturing.”

Like Adidas, the brand is shifting toward more sustainable offerings across its categories and is foundational to its growth.

“The exciting thing about pushing performance and sustainability forward with the Alphafly Next Nature is that we know if we can do it with our most pinnacle performance product, then so much is validated to bring that technology into the rest of the line,” Bull says.

Stepping into a sustainable future

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature builds on the brand’s recent sustainable offerings, including its Space Hippie and its “Designed, Tested And Made On Planet Earth” ACG collection. It launched its first sustainable swimwear collection earlier this year. Last year it launched a sustainable maternity sportswear line designed for all stages of childbearing from pregnancy through to breastfeeding. It also launched Cosmic Unity, its first-ever sustainable basketball shoe.

“Cosmic Unity set the bar with 25 percent total recycled content by weight; the Alphafly Next Nature advanced it by reaching at least 50 percent total recycled content by weight, making it Nike’s boldest move yet in merging sustainability and performance,” the company said. “Doing so with the crown jewel of racing footwear was an important symbolic choice.”

Image courtesy Nike

In April, the brand announced another sustainability initiative: reselling. The secondhand market is booming, and there’s long been a resale market for pre-worn Nike shoes, particularly the coveted and pricey Air Jordans. But the new program, Nike Refurbished, now allows customers to sell the shoes back to the stores directly—a Nike first.

Based on quality and style, Nike will buy gently worn shoes back or give store credit. The program launched with 15 stores with a goal to launch in more across the country across the year.

Nike Refurbished will feature men’s and women’s footwear. The goal, the company said, is to provide “new opportunities to discover a cross-category lineup of performance and lifestyle product.”

Related: He Helped Adidas Go Green. Now, the Former Brand President Is Turning Streetwear Sustainable.

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