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Brooks Designs a Sustainable Running Shoe From the Bottom Up

When Brooks Sports set out to design the ultimate eco-friendly shoe, it operated on the philosophy that green doesn’t have to be expensive if it’s done right. Instead of taking an already existing shoe design and tweaking it to add sustainable components, the running shoe company created a new product from the ground on up.

Brooks Sports

When Brooks Sports set out to design the ultimate eco-friendly shoe, it operated on the philosophy that green doesn’t have to be expensive if it’s done right. Instead of taking an already existing shoe design and tweaking it to add sustainable components, the running shoe company created a new product from the ground on up. “We had designers and developers thinking about sustainability from the beginning of the process,” said Derek Campbell, Brooks’ Future Concepts Manager.

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Out of that process emerged the Green Silence, a $100 running shoe made from recycled water bottles, CDs, and rubber. The Silence, scheduled to be released in February 2010, also contains biodegradable midsoles, collar foams, and sock liners. The shoe has a simpler manufacturing process than most running shoes, making it less energy-intensive to produce. “Our shoe has an asymmetrical lace because we wanted it fit snugly and we wanted to be able to design it with only two pieces. So there’s a simpler construction and less energy needed to make it,” Campbell said. Overall, the Silence’s recyclable components cut energy use by 41% and oil use by .5 liters in the production of the shoe.

The Green Silence may be the first Brooks product to bring so many sustainable pieces together, but the company has used a number of individual components present in the Silence in past shoes. All shoes in the company’s Fall 2009 line, for example, use mesh from recycled water bottles, and many Brooks shoes already use the biodegradable insole. So it makes sense that the Silence costs the same as other standard Brooks running shoes.

Brooks isn’t the only shoe company promoting its green image. Timberland earlier this week released the Earthkeepers 2.0 boot, constructed from refurbished leather, tire rubber-based soles, and recyclable polyester lining. But thus far, only niche shoe companies have made serious efforts to revamp their design and production processes. New Balance, Nike, Adidas, where are you?

[Brooks]

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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