Jul 07, 2023
by Karl Smith
The Best New Planet-Friendlier Footwear You Might Have Missed
by Karl Smith
Jul 07, 2023

To borrow from a classic of modern popular music, the drops start comin’ and the don’t stop comin’. It’s a phrase which may, somehow, be slightly less philosophical than the Smash Mouth original, but which rings true here nonetheless. With every week that goes by, big hitters and new brands deliver on a frighteningly large array of planet-friendlier footwear, upping their game and the ante for the entire industry with every new release.

Naturally, one could point out – and we often do here – that the output volume is unsustainable, regardless of how “sustainable” those products claim to be. But, that being said, it’s better that they’re pushing progress if they’ve got to be pushing something. (And you had better believe they’ve got to be pushing something.)

To that end, we’ve put together a list of recent drops you might have missed and which we haven’t yet covered on FUTUREVVORLD: a veritable who’s who of big-hitters and underdogs – from Nike and adidas to Allbirds and CAMPERLAB – designed to get you up to the speed on releases that slipped under your radar. Because progress keeps moving, life just gets in the way sometimes, you know?

The Shoe: Nike ISPA Universal in “Butter Yellow”
The RRP: $80 USD
Where to get it: (coming soon)

Nike isn’t always the frontrunner on Earth-friendlier footwear, but Nike ISPA has made aesthetically intriguing, genuinely workable solutions to the industry’s environmental problems into another acronym – USP.

As a fairly niche subdivision, at least in the grand scheme of things, ISPA obviously isn’t putting out new shoes at the rate of Nike mainline products. New silhouettes are irregular occurrences – releasing at the kind of speed which, actually, seems more appropriate for the footwear industry as a whole – with new colorways filtering in between drops.

This latest offering, then, provides a brand new hue to the Universal – a modular, zero-glue slip-on, first introduced in early 2023. A little less low-key than its “Natural,” “Mink Brown” or “Smoke Grey” predecessors, the newest member of the ISPA family comes in a swirling “Butter Yellow,” reminiscent of the eponymous churned foodstuff, and with a “Natural” counter-splash to complete the look.

The Shoe: Allbirds M0.0NSHOT
Where to get it: (upcoming)

Intercontinental footwear operation Allbirds isn’t known for producing the best-looking shoes in the footwear business – or, for that matter, in the planet-friendlier footwear business, either. But, what the US and New Zealand-based brand does know how to do is making a shoe that’s low impact, aesthetically inoffensive (if a little too nondescript) and reasonably priced.

The recently announced M0.0NSHOT doesn’t buck that trend, but it does continue to push it forward. This latest effort isn’t just “low impact” as far as carbon emissions go, but has the pretty unique distinction of being “no impact.”

Billed as the world’s first “net zero carbon” shoe, apparently achieved without carbon offsetting, the M0.0NSHOT is “net 0.0 kg CO₂e carbon footprint—versus a standard sneaker, which is about 14 kg CO2e based on our calculations” and is made with a mix of the brand’s carbon-negative SweetFoam® and a unique, regenerative merino wool. The latter, of course, means this shoe isn’t free from animal-derived elements. But sometimes needs must.

(You’re still not going to go any compliments on how they look, though.)

The Shoe: adidas NMD_S1 “Cream White”
The RRP: $200 USD
Where to get it:

Not only does the upper on the latest NMD_S1 has the distinction of being made from a “high-performance yarn which contains at least 50% Parley Ocean Plastic,” but it’s also very much worth mentioning that the other 50% of the yarn, rather than being made from virgin plastics that didn’t cut the Parley mustard, is also crafted from recycled polyester.

Aesthetically, the “Cream White” colorway may sound low-key – and, in its way, it is – but it also has that unique sensibility which only comes from pairing neutral tones and pops of vibrant color: the Il Tricolore-inspired green, white, and red stripes have a certain effervescence to them and the bright blue makes for a neat nod to the recycled Parley plastics.

The Shoe: Nike Cosmic Unity 3 A’ja Wilson Signature Colorway
The RRP: $TBC (Regular Cosmic Unity 3 RRP, $160 USD)
Where to get it: (upcoming)

As Nike’s premier, planet-friendlier basketball shoe, the Cosmic Unity 3 has had its ups and downs. On the one hand, it hasn’t quite performed as well as the Swoosh might have hoped – perhaps because there’s still no specificity in terms of the recycled materials used or the percentage of the shoe they make up; not enough verifiable sustainable credentials to pry consumers away from tried and tested silhouettes.

On the other hand, though, having a basketball shoe that’s made from any percentage of recycled materials as part of your mainline offering is worth acknowledging. If history is anything to go by, though, having a five-time NBA All-Star like A’ja Wilson onboard to deliver this latest colorway – a bright red upper, complete with the number 22 and the on-brand messaging, “If You Can See Her, You Can Be Her” in an electric green – won’t hurt, though.

The Shoe: CAMPERLAB Tormenta
The RRP: $450 USD
Where to get it: SSENSE

Okay, let’s talk about the CAMPERLAB Tormenta. Where to begin? This is either the ugly shoe of your dreams or the ugly shoe of your nightmares, depending on your personal proclivity for ugly shoes. That being said, its credentials as a more sustainable, planet-friendlier shoe that’s free from animal-derived materials.

Boasting an animal-free construction, however, doesn’t mean the Tormenta is stacked with polyurethane: this is a carefully considered balance of next-gen materials, designed with genuine thought to environmental impact, not just the optics of creating a greener shoe for the market. The Tormenta employs plant-based fiber Sorona, the mycelium compound HyphaLite, and Natural Fiber Welding‘s premier plastic-free leather alternative MIRUM – and that’s only what’s in the upper.

That extra-thick sole – the one you either love or your hate – is constructed from natural rubber, the lining is made from fast-growing super-plant bamboo, and the laces from TENCEL – a wood-pulp-based fiber.

All in all, you don’t get much better than that. Even if you can’t stand to look at it. (Maybe try the black colorway? No? Okay.)

The Shoe: adidas adiFOM ClimaCool in “Wonder Beige”
The RRP: $120 USD
Where to get it:

Something about the new “Wonder Beige” colorway of the adiFOM ClimaCool takes the edge off its obvious absurdity.

The neutral tone, at odds with its not-exactly-neutral shape, brings a kind of calming presence to the shoe. Basically, the beige lends a kind of elegance that monochrome versions of this sneaker just don’t have in the same way.

And, with the upper guaranteeing a minimum of 50% recycled materials, that’s another solution.

The Shoe: ON Running Cloudboom Echo 3
The RRP: $269.99 USD
Where to get it:

Bringing together ON’s impact-reducing CloudTec® cushioning system and Helion™ HF hyperfoam and a high-end carbon Speedboard®, the Swiss brand’s latest offering is probably its greatest contribution to the road-running community thus far.

The shoe is light – never more than 215g, which is pretty impressive for a piece of footwear this big – and comes complete with a breathable microfiber upper for maximum comfort and the added bonus of using only 100% recycled polyester.

The Shoe: Nike Dunk Low Hemp in “Coconut Milk”
The RRP: $120 USD
Where to get it: (upcoming)

Despite the obvious flaw – yes, that does appear to be suede on the upper for some reason – this shoe still feels worthy of inclusion, judged on its merits rather than its failings, always in search of progress over perfection. (Although, of course, perfection would be nice.)

The fact is, suede aside – and it is hard to put aside – this is a good-looking sneaker: a classic Nike silhouette in fresh, low-key, summer-ready tones, constructed – for the most part, at least – with a low-impact, fast-growing super-plant. Plus, there’s the added bonus of seeing Nike use hemp on a marquee silhouette, as part of its mainline offering, without the shield of a collaborator.

If you’re vegan, these aren’t for you. If you’re in search of something better, even if it isn’t quite where you’d like it to be yet, maybe these are.