Salomon has recently released its first-ever fully recyclable running shoe, dubbed the INDEX.01. The French performance and equipment brand announced the shoe as a concept in 2019, and has now brought it to life, allowing consumers to extend the use of all materials in the model through a dedicated recycling program.
Runners know, a good thing is hard to let go. When you find your perfect running shoe, it’s that one pair you always want underneath your feet mile after mile. However, there’s a lifespan to all sneakers, especially those that are performance-based. A traditional road running shoe should last you 6 months to 2 years, or 300 to 500 miles, depending on the intensity of your runs, your weight, and your strike. You can always try and add a little more life to the shoe, but when they’re done, they’re done, and oftentimes, off to the trash they go.
It’s an unfortunate and damaging case.
Salomon aims to reverse that. The INDEX.01 uses recycled polyester for the upper, TPU for the bottom unit, and 100% recycled materials for the sockliner. Very few materials and pieces make up the shoe. This is a very important design foundation as it’s difficult to recycle most running shoes because of the many different materials assembled together.
“Shoes are a very complex product to recycle because they generally mix so many materials: leather, EVA, rubber, TPU, polyester, polyamide,” says Olivier Mouzin, Manager of Salomon’s Footwear Sustainability Program. “And because there isn’t really a way to separate all those materials at the end of the shoe’s life, the shoes often end up in a landfill or burned.”
Once you purchase the INDEX.01, register the model online, and rack up the miles until it’s time to let go, Salomon will provide a free shipping label to return the pair back to the brand in order to start the recycling process. Being mindful of the environmental impact in transportation, pairs are collected at the nearest return center, and the shoes are then separated at the upper and bottom unit. The brand’s recycling partners use the TPU and polyester to create new materials.
In Europe, where about 80% of the INDEX.01 models are being sold, Salomon will use the recycled TPU to make future runs of its alpine ski boots. The alpine ski boot factories are located throughout Europe, so instead of shipping the recycled materials to Asia where the sneakers are manufactured, the brand wanted to reuse the materials locally in order to limit its carbon emissions.
This circular model is only the beginning for Salomon. Much like Nike’s Refurbished program, a shift in normalizing the practice of recycling footwear is necessary. Creating a recyclable shoe with a clear and easy path to recycling is only the start to an end goal where all of Salomon’s products are part of a circular system.
In very related news, adidas released its own fully recyclable UltraBOOST “Made To Be Remade” this week.