We use cookies to give you the best personal experience on our website. If you continue to use our site without changing your cookie settings, you agree we may place these cookies on your device. You can change your cookie settings at any time but if you do , you may lose some functionality on our website . More information can be found in our privacy policy.
Please provide more information.
Stylus no longer supports Internet Explorer 7, 8 or 9. Please upgrade to IE 11, Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Edge. This will ensure you have the best possible experience on the site.
Brief Published: 6 Oct 2016

Best Foot Forward: Sustainable Footwear Focus


As explored in Sustainable Wardrobes, part of our New Fashion Landscape Industry Trend, strategies for simplifying and creating more sustainable production processes are increasing within the footwear industry. We highlight some key US launches.

Shoe waste in the US is reaching epidemic proportions. At least 300 million pairs are thrown away per year, with most ending up in landfills – taking up to 40 years to decompose (US Department of the Interior). Addressing concerns over the well-documented environmental impact of leather used in footwear uppers, several brands are launching sustainable alternatives.

San Francisco-based Rothy’s shoes are recyclable ballet-style pumps made from recycled plastic bottles. Aiming to eliminate waste in the production process, the footwear is 3D-knitted in six minutes using waste-minimising software.

Similarly, American brand Timberland is partnering with US-based sustainable fabric manufacturer Thread for its Ground to Good fabric, made from plastic bottles collected by the company’s 3,600+ employees in Haiti and Honduras. The fabric will be used in a US-made collection of footwear to be released later this year. For more on recycled plastic footwear, see Mainstream Brands Do Sustainability.

San Francisco-based start-up Allbirds has just secured $7.25m of funding as backers bet on New Zealand merino wool as the future of sustainable footwear. Focused on comfort rather than sport, the brand’s signature lightweight, breathable and flexible Wool Runners have no unnecessary seams or embellishment. The use of merino also means they have a 60% lower carbon footprint compared to polyester equivalents. See also Fashion’s New Comfort Zone.

Adidas is set to open its first stateside footwear ‘Speed Factory’ in Atlanta next year. While still using leather uppers, the facility will allow for sourcing and production to be done locally, limiting long shipping distances from factories in Asia for products then sold in North America, and cutting down on CO2 emissions.

For more on sustainable manufacturing, see Packaging Futures: Sustainability and Jigsaw’s Anti-Waste Campaign