Update (September 27, 2021): The shoe is here. The eco-friendlier running sneaker is currently on Nike.com in select regions, including the U.K. and Australia.
Original Story (September 13, 2021): Nike’s journey to zero carbon and zero waste is not a sprint. Each material update and construction innovation the sportswear giant rolls out is a step forward in the Earth-friendly marathon the Swoosh has committed to under its Move to Zero initiative. With game-changing, sustainable performance footwear in lifestyle and basketball categories over the years, notably the Space Hippie, Air Jordan XX3, and Cosmic Unity, now is the time Nike goes back to its foundation and uses its creative energy to develop something better for our planet specifically for runners.
“Nike’s commitment to runners is as strong today as when the first waffle sole hit the track. But innovation is no longer just about what’s on a runner’s foot. Climate change has raised the stakes. It’s impacting runners, and all athletes, around the world. We know we have a responsibility to rise to the challenge,” said Nike Running Senior Footwear Product Director Rachel Bull.
The next marker in this eco-conscious race is the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature – a reimagining of the brand’s most elite performance shoe with circular design principles. The original Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% that helped long-distance running icon Eliud Kipchoge break the two-hour marathon barrier in Vienna in October 2019 has been updated to reach another milestone for the brand. The advancements made to the Alphafly Next Nature allows the shoe to be made using at least 50% total recycled content be weight.
This exceeds previous innovations such as the Nike Cosmic Unity basketball shoe which helped set the bar with 25% total recycled content by weight. “The Alphafly Next Nature is our latest PR in the race against climate change. We’ve reimagined the record-breaking technology of our pinnacle marathon shoe to create Nike’s most sustainability-minded performance shoe to date,” said Bull.
Updating materials and the processes to construct the shoe as well as maintaining the Alphafly NEXT%’s elite properties while using leftover or recycled versions of its features were priorities for the Nike Running designers. Bull emphasizes a “use-everything strategy” that pushed the many Nike teams to consider how parts of the elite running shoe can utilize waste. “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,” said Bull in a news statement.
The Alphafly Next Nature’s super-responsive Nike ZoomX midsole is made with 70% recycled materials by weight and doesn’t compromise comfort and energy return when compared to its original design mate. The Air Zoom Pods are made partially with recycled TPU, and the Flyplate that helps propel you forward is made with at least 50% recycled carbon fiber. The outsole is made with a mix of higher abrasion compounds and Nike Grind Rubber to provide durability without the density of traditional rubbers.
It’s lightweight yet resilient upper is developed using a 3D printed textile made with at least 20% recycled TPU, called Nike Flyprint, reinforced and high-tension points and Nike Flyknit made with at least 45% recycled polyester, which is created through a process the brand claims that reduces waste by 60% compared to traditional upper fabrications. The Alphafly Next Nature uses a plush ZoomX Sockliner made with 100% recycled PEBA, while the shoe is finished with woven labels and laces made with 100% recycled polyester, as well as a no-sew film made with 50% recycled TPU.
Sacrificing performance for sustainability is one of the last things Bull and the design teams wanted for the Alphafly Next Nature. In fact, their belief is that no athlete should have to choose between one or the other. In order to ensure there is no comprise of the recycled materials in all aspects of the shoe, Nike worked with athletes who logged over 400 miles of rigorous product testing. “We spent a lot of time with athletes testing this shoe, we wanted to validate our approach, making sure it lived up to their expectations in performance and durability,” said Bull. “In particular, we really wanted to make sure the shoe had that propulsive feel and smooth transitions that runners love from the Alphafly.”
This is just the beginning for Nike’s Move to Zero in running. The brand has an overall commitment to reducing waste and doing more in service of the planet so the innovative approach to developing the Alphafly Next Nature should inform future models under the running category and beyond. “We believe it’s critical to deliver the high-performance footwear runners need while keeping in mind the environments where they live, train and compete. We’re already working on scaling what we learned from the Alphafly Next Nature across Nike’s running line,” said Bull.
In other running news, Parisian brand Satisfy Running released its “American Desert” apparel collection made with natural dye, recycled nylon, and seaweed-based fibers.