FIRST STEP OF A MONUMENTAL RACE

On April 1st, the all-new adidas Ultraboost 21 dropped at BSTN. The latest edition of the highly sought-after silhouette by the brand with the three stripes is loaded with all kinds of fancy new tech. It’s a runner that’s clearly geared up for a race.

However, the shoe’s key technology upgrade is not the addition of 6% more Boost capsules. And neither is the new Torsion System, which provides a 15% increase in forefoot bending stiffness. These innovations might help on your run, but what’s going to determine the race is Primeblue technology.

The Ultraboost 21 is a flag-bearer for the innovative high-performance recycled material made in part with Parley Ocean Plastic. And while fifty percent of the Ultraboost’s upper is made of textile, 75% of that fabric is Primeblue yarn. It uses no virgin polyester.

In the all-important race towards a more eco-conscious and sustainable production circle, technologies like Primeblue or Grind Rubber represent an uber-necessary headstart.

But what are brands actually able to do to combat a crisis that seems almost inevitable? What are the options for consumers to actively participate in the efforts by making informed purchase decisions? How does one get in the race?

Despite a promising start, the athletic industry is miles away from a closed-loop economy. However, waste management and re-introducing scraps into the production process are critical elements in working towards a more holistic solution. While key performance elements like cushioning systems represent the next level of innovation challenges, vital parts of contemporary sneakers, including outsoles and textile uppers, can already incorporate significant amounts of re-used materials.

In this regard, one of the pioneering projects has been Nike’s Space Hippie product line (and the related Cosmic Unity hoops shoe), producing shoes that are made from up to 50% trash by weight.

Just like the innovators in the research labs across the globe are constantly trying to come up with innovations for equipment that pushes the boundaries of peak athletic performance, the same researchers need to push the envelope equally as hard (or even harder) to make these products as little of an ecological burden as possible. And most importantly, implement these sustainable principles on a large scale and not just on individual media-effective product lines.

And as brands like PE Nation demonstrate, the process does not stop with fabric-based improvements but also includes responsible choices from packaging and shipping solutions to eco-conscious decision making in branding.

The pressure to make this happen falls on all of us, the sneaker community as a whole. From brands to retailers and consumers, as we’re all sharing the same race track (metaphorically speaking), it’s on us to constantly and consistently keep up the pressure to force evolution for the products we all love.

To paraphrase one of the oldest sayings in the book: The race towards a more sustainable cycle of high performance and athleisure products is not a sprint … But we might not have time for a marathon either.

It’s time to gear up for the race. Gear up correctly, that is.

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