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We Made a Plant-Based Shoe…Really

Want to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? It’s actually going to be possible thanks to the new Cotton + Corn initiative our Future team has dreamed up.

“Reebok is trying to clean up the entire life cycle of shoe making: from what shoes are made of to where they end up,” says Bill McInnis, vice president of Reebok’s Future Team, the brainiacs that developed the Cotton + Corn initiative.

In an important first step to creating true environmentally friendly products, we’re launching the first ever plant-based athletic shoe this fall.

The Cotton + Corn initiative starts with a bio-based (or things that grow) shoe with a top made from organic cotton and a sole originating from corn. Ultimately the goal is to create a whole range of plant-based shoes that can be composted after you’re done with them. 

But the life of your favorite pair of shoes doesn’t even end there. Reebok plans to use that compost as part of the soil to grow new materials (like cotton and corn) used for the next development of shoes.

Reebok is trying to clean up the entire life cycle of shoe making: from what shoes are made of to where they end up

“Typical shoes are made from oil-based plastics that can sit around in landfills for hundreds of years when you’re done with them. We’re focusing on creating shoes made from things that grow, made from things that bio-compost, made from things that can be replenished,” McInnis says.

The Cotton + Corn initiative doesn’t just focus on the materials that go into shoes, though. It considers the lifecycle far after consumers are done with them. In fact, according to McInnis, there are three phases shoe makers should be considering: development, use and post-use.

For the first phase, we’re designing the shoes using materials that grow naturally and can be replenished. That’s where the cotton and corn comes in.

For the second phase, we’re bringing our decades of expertise to the design and wear-ability of the shoe.

“Consumers really don’t want to sacrifice style and comfort for sustainability—and they don’t have to,” McInnis says. “The beauty of the Susterra material from DuPont Tate and Lyle is it allows us to create great looking shoes that feel great too.”

This is just the beginning for Reebok. We now have the formula to replicate this across a range of sneakers.

The final phase begins once you’re done with a pair of shoes. “Post-use” focuses on the compostability of the cotton and corn used in the shoe itself. 

“Traditionally the end of a shoe’s life is when you throw them in the back of the closet and eventually throw them away for good,” McInnis says. “What most people don’t think about is that most shoes end up in landfills when people are done with them.”

As the first step in Reebok’s move to be a more sustainable designer, Cotton + Corn is groundbreaking for sneaker lovers.

“This is just the beginning for Reebok,” McInnis says. “We now have the formula to replicate this across a range of sneakers. This is the blueprint for a lot of shoes to come.”

Cotton + Corn is an initiative of the Reebok Future Team, Reebok’s innovation department dedicated to creating new technologies, ideas, techniques and prototypes. 

Have an innovation you’d like the Reebok Future team to research? Let us know by tweeting @Reebok!

 

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