The best collaborations are when two groups come together to create something new and unprecedented, something that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to execute without the other. New colorways and material swaps are great. However, it’s when the relationship goes deeper and the two collaborators tap into their own distinct innovations that you know something special will be produced. And when the two collaborators are actually competitors who decide to come together to help push sustainable design forward, you have to take notice.
Two rival sportswear brands, adidas and Allbirds, have embarked on a partnership to share their technologies, material innovations, and supply chain in order to reimagine a lower-emission design process. The result is their first collaborative shoe – the FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT.
The ultimate goal of their alliance is to make a running sneaker with a net zero carbon emission. This new shoe is a great step towards that goal as each pair has a carbon footprint of just 2.94kg C02e, which is about 63% less than a comparable running shoe, like the adizero RC3 and its footprint of 7.86kg C02e.
“By truly co-creating and providing each other with open access to knowledge and resources – such as Allbirds’ knowledge of carbon calculation and experience with natural materials, and adidas’ capabilities in manufacturing and performance footwear – this is a call-to-action for other brands, and a milestone in the sports industry achieving carbon neutrality,” said adidas Executive Board Member of Global Brands Brian Grevy in a press release.
It took only one year for teams from both brands to fully realize and produce a shoe that had the lowest possible footprint without compromising performance. Materials, manufacturing techniques, and packaging were all reconsidered.
The FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT is a testament to each brands’ ongoing work towards a more sustainable future. Starting with the sole unit, it’s based on adidas’ Lightstrike midsole but reimagined with Allbirds’ sugarcane-based SweetFoam, offering a low-carbon natural component.
The smooth and lightweight upper is 70% recycled polyester and 30% natural Tencel, a material made from wood pulp. The reinforcement embroidery throughout the upper, toe box, midfoot, and heel is 100% recycled polyester. Lastly, the running shoe dons a natural colorway because no color dye was used in order to reduce the amount of energy and water waste in the manufacturing process.
“Both the upper and the outside construction are inspired by the Tangram Principle, with all individual parts in their entirety achieving as little scrap as possible in production in order to reduce waste,” said Allbirds Head of Design Jamie McLellan.
Each brand is not new to addressing climate change through innovative design. adidas employs a number of initiatives and innovations, including Primegreen, a proprietary performance fabric that is constructed from recycled materials, and does not contain any virgin plastic – something we’ve recently seen used for the Stan Smith. The brand also has Primeblue, a fabric made from oceanic plastic waste in partnership with Parley. Additionally, the Three Stripes continues to make vegan-certified products to help consumers easily make the distinction across product options.
Allbirds on the other hand has put sustainability at the center of its company culture since its inception. In 2019, it became 100% carbon neutral through a self-imposed Carbon Tax, and in 2020, it began labeling all products with their respective carbon footprint figure.
Additionally, Allbirds announced earlier this year that it will be partnering with material innovators Natural Fiber Welding to apply its 100% natural, plant-based leather alternative to shoes. Allbirds’ wool is also said to be ethically-sourced, and it just recently committed to buying from regenerative sources by the end of 2025.
“We believe that the challenge of solving climate change is the problem of our generation and solving it will not be done alone. We need to find new business models, new innovations and new ways of working together. Our partnership with adidas is an example of that,” said Allbirds co-founder and co-CEO Tim Brown.
The FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT will be released in waves over the next year. 100 pairs will be raffled off to adidas Creators Club members in May, followed by a limited release of 10,000 pairs later this fall/winter. The shoe will then receive a wider release sometime during the Spring/Summer 2022 season. Price and specific dates are TBD.
In other footwear news, Veja unveiled a high-performance, bio-based running sneaker, the Marlin.