The Generation 2 running shoes will go back to the 200 Creator beta testers who returned their Generation 1 shoes this month. A commercial release of Futurecraft.Loop recyclable shoe will happen in 2021.

By Adidas close to selling a recyclable sports shoe

Posted on November 19, 2019

Adidas, based in Herzogenaurach, Germany, is working hard and getting close to selling a recyclable sports shoe.

Adidas employees Amanda Verbeck and Tanyaradzwa Sahanga are part of the multinational company’s Futurecraft.loop development team that is trying to reinvent the world of footwear and sustain a product for life.

“Following close to a decade’s development work, the first fruits of our labours came in April this year with the launch of Futrecraft.Loop, our first 100% recyclable performance running shoe. Now, as we move on to the next chapter of the story, we wanted to share some of the highlights – and lowlights – of the project so far. As many have said before, the road to success is often paved with failure,” wrote Verbeck and Sahanga.

“Let’s start at the beginning. It’s a fact that just 9% of plastic waste has ever been recycled. What happens to your shoes after you’ve worn them out? You throw them away – except there is no away. The wonderland we referenced earlier doesn’t exist. As a result, we’re facing a grave environmental threat in the form of plastic, which is increasingly clogging landfills and oceans.

“But imagine a product that lived forever. Where the raw material of one product is never thrown away; it just becomes another product. And then another one. And another one. A product made to be remade. That is the journey we’re on. Following launch in April, we’ve now moved into Phase 2 – we’ve taken the first Futurecraft.Loop shoes back and recycled them to create components for an entirely new shoe. It feels like a major landmark on our journey to a circular product.”

The first test and the results

adidas recyclable

In April, adidas’ Futurecraft.Loop development team distributed 200 pairs of shoes to adidas creators – athletes, musicians, artists and select media partners across London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Tokyo alongside selected adidas employees through an internal wear program.

“We said to them: here are the shoes, go away, do what you want to do with them and then give them back to us. Yes, give them back. As you might expect, the last part was our biggest challenge! The reality was that some people didn’t give them back or were slow to – which was a huge learning for us and initially slowed us down. Every piece of material counts and there’s a certain amount of material that gets fed through the machine when it is first powered up,” wrote Verbeck and Sahanga.

“When we did start getting the shoes back, everything started to feel very real. It was our first ‘wow’ moment – hearing the responses and the excitement from our employees, who were the first people to return the shoes.”

It was a change of mindset and the team wondered if people are really willing to let go of a cultural norm when it comes to product purchase and behaviour. Will they actually give the shoes back?

Remaking the used shoes

“As soon as we’d received the Generation 1 shoes, we were able to start Phase 2. We collected the shoes, recycled them, kept them in our supply chain and ultimately remade the recycled material into new running shoe components. The material is melted and developed into new pellets, which are heated to form new components including the eyelets and outsole. Virgin TPU material is used to create the remaining components of the midsole and upper. The remade and new materials are fused together to create Generation 2: a running shoe in a blue colourway, that remains one material and is still 100% recyclable for the next generation.

“So, this is where we are today: launching the next generation of Futurecraft.Loop and one step closer to a consumer reality – all in the space of just eight months. A first for adidas,” wrote Verbeck and Sahanga.

The Generation 2 running shoes will go back to the 200 Creator beta testers who returned their Generation 1 shoes this month.

“As adidas we are a legitimate voice to ask the question, but we can’t find the answer on our own – it’s the whole value chain and it starts with the consumer. adidas Infinite Play is a step in this direction – launched in the UK, it’s a new service that lets you trade old adidas gear in, so it doesn’t end being thrown away.

“One of the important details we learnt from our beta program was to make it easy for our consumers to give back and to give people a sense of the potential and inherent value of used product and its material. We will continue taking learnings from this – particularly with an eye on the commercial release of Futurecraft.Loop in Spring/Summer (Northern Hemisphere) of 2021. We need consumers to be with us on the journey,” wrote Verbeck and Sahanga.

“If you think about waste, it’s a landscape full of challenges. We believe a fully recyclable product is the right path to go down to tackle this. This is the first time we’re going to release a product which is remade using the material of another product. We’ve taken a shoe, ground it up and put it into a new shoe. There’s still a long road ahead but we can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner.”