Jun 17, 2023
by Sofia de la Cruz
The Roshe Run Return Dilemma: Should Nike Prioritize Sustainability Over Legacy?
by Sofia de la Cruz
Jun 17, 2023

Fun fact: I’ve never actually owned a pair of Nike Roshe Run, but chances are, you probably did.

By 2014, over 40 million pairs of the Roshe Run had been sold, right before this model mysteriously vanished from shelves worldwide.

The silhouette was hailed as “The most defining shoes of the early 2010s,” but personally, I found it a bit lacking in personality. Even Four Pins agreed, dubbing the shoe “The most swagless homie.”

Ouch. But hey, who are we to judge?

Yet still the question remains: What, exactly, made this shoe so seemingly irresistible to so many people?

Sustainability certainly wasn’t its strong suit—let’s just say eco-friendliness wasn’t a priority for either the shoe itself or for anyone buying it. But let’s not act surprised about that or posture too much; we’re talking about the reign of Topshop, after all, when our primary concern as consumers was pairing ripped skinny jeans with a band t-shirt.

Apparently, back then, a “Simple, stylish, breathable, and comfortable” shoe was all it took to send sales skyrocketing.

And in terms of design, it really doesn’t get much simpler than this. The shoe boasts – although boasts hardly seems the right word here – a full mesh upper and a soft, lightweight foam midsole, making for an airy, cushioned, and no-frills experience.

This simplicity, of course, wasn’t an accident; not the result of a lack of thought. Rather, it was a part of the shoe’s hard-coded, back-to-basics philosophy. The Roshe, created by Dylan Raasch, Nike’s Senior Design Director, drew inspiration from the revered Japanese Buddhist masters known as Roshi – an esteemed position within Zen Buddhist monk communities.

Having been first conceived in 2010, the sneaker underwent a meticulous two-year development process prior to its eventual release. Its straightforward design and affordable price tag of $75 USD made it a popular and versatile choice for many.

Despite its success, however, the Roshe Run was eventually overtaken by the Yeezy 350 after it’s much-hyped release in the summer of 2015. And while Nike managed to keep a few other models on their website, like the Roshe G Next Nature from Nike’s Golf collection, they didn’t seem to compare to the original Roshe Run silhouette.

Now, 11 years since its release, Nike is gearing up for a big comeback tour this autumn (yet to be confirmed), featuring nine new colorways of the Roshe. Yet, despite having been rebranded as the Roshe One, the shoe hasn’t seen any significant updates for 2023, sticking instead to its core philosophy and construction: mesh upper, foam sole, and rope laces, all for just $5 USD more than the original price.

But, with that in mind, there are burning questions left by Nike’s commitment to the Roshe’s aesthetic and material legacy. First, in 2023, is that really enough anymore? And second, more specifically, where is the eco-friendly update?

As of now, the outsole of the Roshe G Next Nature is crafted using a commendable 8% Nike Grind material, derived from scraps of the footwear manufacturing process. However, that’s pretty much the extent of their sustainability efforts.

Sure, the shoe has a tongue that keeps debris away and handy pull tabs for easy on-and-off action. But considering Nike’s “Move to Zero” sustainability strategy and impressive initiatives like the ISPA MINDBODY silhouette and plant-based collaborations, you’d expect more from the new Roshe.

Rumor has it that the upcoming Roshe Run will remain a simple silhouette, plain and simple. The Roshe way. But, years later and with the benefit of so much research and development, should Nike do better?

Naturally, we’re hopeful that the release of Nike’s new Roshe One will prove us wrong. In the meantime, keep an eye on this space as we gather more details about the sneaker’s launch.

If the entire subject of sustainable sneakers has piqued your interest, you should take a look at FUTUREVVORLD’s guide to the ten best vegan and sustainable running shoes to buy right now.