2024-05-30
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Let’s try to build a sustainable sport shoe

To make a table you need wood, we used to sing when we were kids. And to make a green shoe? An upper, a sole, and, if you want performance, even a membrane. Let's see who can come to our aid.

Let's try to build a sustainable sport shoe
Performance Days

The Performance Days trade show, thanks to the opening of the new footwear space, can be of great help in identifying the perfect ingredients for the recipe of a performance sports shoe that also fulfills some of the requirements to be considered sustainable.

The sustainable sourcing event for functional fabrics and accessories, which for the last edition was attended by 2,625 visitors and 436 exhibitors from 34 countries, provided valuable insights into innovations and ‘hot’ topics in the industry.

The introduction of the new Footwear Area was very well received by both exhibitors and visitors. It integrates perfectly with existing offerings in the apparel industry and is a solution that simplifies the search for materials, components and suppliers for footwear designers and product managers.

Nina Conrad, sustainability consultant for the textile/leather industry and the new Footwear Area.

This sounds like just the right place to find all those components that can go to make up an increasingly sustainable footwear model.

In search of the perfect sole

So, let’s start from where every designer starts in building a shoe, from the bottom, from the sole, from what is called the structure of a shoe.

sustainable-sport-shoe

We start, then, with For Ever, a Portuguese company with more than 50 years of experience in the production of soles for some of the world’s leading footwear brands, which offers its Infinity Foam™, designed to ensure stability and comfort for segments where comfort and durability are decisive factors.

They are, in fact, characterized by superior mechanical properties, such as excellent elasticity, lightness and strength, and are able to maintain their shape and performance characteristics even under intense and prolonged use, making them ideal for high-performance shoes.

Innovation in sole production

The revolutionary Infinity Foam™ technology uses nitrogen to produce footwear components. A technology that reshapes the very essence of performance, lightweight and sustainability, setting new benchmarks.

Infinity Foam™ is an injection technology that offers an alternative to conventional TPU production. It uses inert gas (nitrogen) and TPU to create a foam with a highly uniform microcellular structure in which gas bubbles are evenly dispersed throughout the material. This fine cellular structure offers outstanding properties in terms of performance and sustainability.

sustainable-sport-shoe
For Ever shoes

In what does its being sustainable consist?

The use of inert gas as a blowing agent replaces traditional toxic chemical agents. Nitrogen exposed to high pressure and temperature conditions reaches its critical point whereby the gas turns into a fluid that is combined with TPU to create a foaming structure. The innovative bubble structure achieved within the TPU reduces the amount of raw material needed.

Finally, making a sole with the Infinity Foam™ system means relying on a zero-waste production process as it is much easier to minimize waste, resulting in lower costs and a milder environmental impact.

Sustainable upper materials

sustainable-sport-shoe

Once the sole is defined, the next step is to look for the right material for the upper. And that’s where we come across Terracare® leather, produced in the most environmentally sustainable way possible, thanks to minimal resource consumption (at least 40% less water consumption), transparent sourcing of raw and auxiliary materials, and an optimal recycling rate of about 97%.

Terracare leather guarantees at least 30% less CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, but it is also an optimal solution for the most demanding applications thanks to its high technical properties in terms of breathability, water, flame or tear resistance, so that the highest level of comfort and durability is always guaranteed.

The numerous certifications that accompany Terracare® brand leathers demonstrate the reliability of the German tannery Heinen Leder, which has been making durable, environmentally and human-friendly products for more than 130 years.

Vegetable membranes for high performance

But a shoe that wants to offer relevant performance and be chosen for professional-level sporting adventures cannot do without hiding some secret weapon, such as a membrane.

So, it’s time for Polartec, which recently unveiled its first products made with Biolon™, a plant-derived nylon fiber and membrane for high-performance fabrics.

sustainable-sport-shoe

The first application is on Power Shield™, where Biolon makes up 48% of the membrane, with high performance in terms of water resistance and breathability.

The second is Power Stretch™ Pro, a dual-surface fabric composed of highly durable nylon on the outside and soft, comfortable polyester on the inside. The latest version of the Polartec fabric has managed to replace half of the nylon content with Biolon™, while maintaining breathability, durability and the characteristic 4-way stretch.

sustainable-sport-shoe

Now that the ingredients are all on the table, all that remains is to imagine one’s perfect shoe and set off on the next adventure, remembering how important it is to know the components of which each product we buy is composed in order to make responsible choices in line with the values we wish to promote (such as sustainability, for example).

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