Jan 05, 2022
by Sidney Pacampara
FUTUREVVORLD’s Top 10 Sneakers of 2021
by Sidney Pacampara
Jan 05, 2022

It’s officially the New Year, but we at FUTUREVVORLD aren’t quite done looking back at the sneakers 2021 brought us (we may still try to cop some, to be honest). We saw an array of natural, recycled, and vegan alternative materials used to reimagine classics and innovate performance footwear. Companies and creators came together to help push the boundaries of Earth-friendly design. Even, new circular processes were introduced to ensure the shoe you log miles in don’t truly go to waste.

Last year, there were a lot of great examples that showcased the progress the footwear industry has made in becoming more environmentally responsible. Of course, consuming and producing more product takes the industry away from being truly sustainable, but the efforts are there and we’re happy to see them. And excited for what’s to come!

So without further adieu, here’s our top 10 favorite sneakers of 2021.

10. Nike Cosmic Unity
The Swoosh has been serious with its “Move to Zero” initiative. The global sportswear brand has implemented recycled materials into silhouettes, transforming trash into stylish classics and running shoes. The Cosmic Unity was the brand’s first performance-driven sustainable basketball sneaker and can very well be the stepping stone for future eco-friendly alternatives in the hoops category. Elements of the Space Hippie can be seen in the DNA of the Cosmic Unity, proving once again that every layer of progress is important to the continued advancement of earth friendlier products.
9. adidas Stan Smith Made To Be Remade
This reimagined, re-engineered version of the Three Stripes icon was the first classic adidas shoe to receive the “Made to Be Remade” treatment. No glue or color dye was used to create a fully recyclable Stan Smith sneaker.
8. McDowell’s Air Pro Sport 1
Some can argue that 2021 was the peak for creative bootleg sneakers. If that’s the case, McDowell’s probably takes the cake for quality, nostalgia, detail, and most important to us, materials. This recreation of the Air Jordan 1 ’85 serves not only as a great sneaker, but also further proof that a small brand can prioritize a shift away from the use of animal hides on classic silhouettes.
7. Nike BE-DO-WIN
It’s the best of both worlds: archival Nike designs centered around an Earth-friendly future. This revival of the ‘80s silhouette Nike Bedouin received an eco-conscious makeover utilizing a synthetic suede upper and cork sockliner and insole. The BE-DO-WIN name stands for “Be conscious of climate change, Do take action against climate change, and Win the battle to prevent climate change.”
6. Salomon INDEX.01
The French performance and equipment brand launched its first-ever fully recyclable running shoe after the concept was first announced in 2019. The INDEX.01 uses recycled polyester for the upper, TPU for the bottom unit, and 100% recycled materials for the sockliner, allowing the sneaker’s materials to be broken down and reused for other product through the shoe’s dedicated recycling program.
5. adidas x Allbirds FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT
The joining of two competing sportswear brands turned into an open-source approach to sustainable running shoes. The FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT, which has the lowest carbon emissions (2.94 kg CO2e) for any performance running shoe by adidas, received its first commercial release late last year only after the moonshot concept was revealed in May 2021.
4. STORY mfg. x Reebok Club C
STORY mfg. brought its craft- and plant-based approach to Reebok in order to create a vegan interpretation of the classic Club C sneaker. The clothing brand’s first footwear model was inspired by walking, nature, and the outdoors, taking an undyed approach to a woven linen blend upper.
3. Nike Pineapple Collection
The Swoosh made another hit with a summery, playful collection of sneakers perfect for almost anyone’s liking. Pineapple is used in the form of the Piñatex® material as a shimmering foil or textured leather alternative across the Air Max 90, Air Max 95, Air Force 1, Free Run Trail, and Air Zoom-Type.
2. Sean Wotherspoon x adidas ZX 8000 SUPEREARTH
The partnership between the Three Stripes and Sean Wotherspoon continues to rise with drop after drop of playful, vegan sneakers, but the ZX 8000 SUPEREARTH was the perfect blend of eye-catching patchwork that kept us wanting more. The mix of material was sourced from previous adidas product, staying true to Wotherspoon’s sustainable mission.
1. Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature
The eco-conscious race of 2021 sneakers may have been won by the Swoosh’s reimagination of the brand’s most elite performance shoe through the Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature. Updating the shoe that that helped long-distance running icon Eliud Kipchoge break the two-hour marathon barrier (the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%) with recycled content showed that there is no excuse for compromising the best performance for eco-design.