Sneaker brands use algae to achieve sustainability

As the fashion industry at large wrestles with a sustainability reckoning, sneaker brands are unveiling innovative initiatives to tackle this very issue. In an interesting development that shows potential moving forward, the following brands are looking to the humble yet highly-versatile algae as a material that can be used in place of the petroleum- and plastic-based materials that are typically used to make sneakers.

The forthcoming Yeezy Foam Runners (which are set for release in 2020) are designed with sustainability in mind: the first prototype for the future-forward shoe is made with a foam that is produced from algae. What’s more, when Kanye West, who collaborates with Adidas on the Yeezy line, unveiled the prototype at the Fast Company Innovation Festival last November he informed the audience that the new Yeezy headquarters in Wyoming will include a hydroponic farm so that the brand can grow and harvest its own algae, further demonstrating the streetwear line’s commitment to eco-consciousness.

Reebok is doubling down on sustainability with the design of a plant-based shoe: the Forever Floatride GROW, which is slated for a fall 2020 release. The shoe (which is an update to the brand’s Forever Floatride Energy style) incorporates natural materials such as algae, castor bean oil, eucalyptus tree, and natural rubber in place of traditional petroleum- and oil-based materials. The Forever Floatride GROW is the brand’s second big sustainability push following the launch of Reebok’s Cotton + Corn collection back in 2018, which included a unisex shoe made from 75% bio-based content.

Canadian footwear brand Native Shoes is truly moving the needle for sustainable footwear innovation with its latest trainer, which is made from one continuous piece of algae-based ethylene-vinyl acetate. The resulting shoe, called the Jefferson Bloom, is durable, water-resistant, and can ultimately be recycled via Native Shoes’ remix project. A percentage of the shoe’s foam is made from repurposed algae that has a two-fold sustainability impact: the process cleans freshwater ecologies of toxic algae buildup and transforms that waste into an environmentally-friendly product.