Salomon, the outdoor brand known best for trail running and skiing, has today unveiled Index.01, a performance running shoe made to be recycled.
The result of three years of research and development at Salomon’s Annecy Design Centre in the French Alps, the shoe has been constructed to reduce material waste by using circular life cycle principles. It will be released in Spring 2021.
When Salomon’s footwear product team members set out to create an all-around running shoe that cares about the planet, their goal was to make it recyclable without sacrificing performance.
By using recycled polyester for the upper and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) for the bottom unit, the Salomon team ensured that both parts of the Index.01 would be recyclable. At the end of the shoe’s life, the recycled insole is removed so the upper and bottom units can be separated to begin the recycling process. Once separated, the bottom unit will be ground down into tiny pellets and then combined with virgin TPU to make Salomon alpine ski boots and other products. The Polyester upper can also be reused in the creation of fabric.
The running performance of the Index.01 is driven by the plush, TPU-based foam of the bottom unit and the shoe’s R.Camber (rocker) geometry, which helps propel the runner forward with a quick transition so he/she spends less time on the ground. Blending performance, style and values, the Index.01 features a clean yet innovative appearance designed to perform on a road run and look smart in a more casual atmosphere. At just 285 grams, it‘s designed for daily training and features a 9mm drop and a molded sock liner that is made from 100% recycled material (recycled EVA foam and a recycled polyester cover).
“The unique expertise of Salomon across multiple sports coupled with a passion for the environment has led to the development of this exciting new shoe,” said Salomon’s President, Michael White. “When the Index.01 was presented internally, the audience burst into spontaneous applause as the dream of a performance Salomon running shoe that is fully recyclable became reality.”
How the Index.01 is made
In late 2019, Salomon unveiled a concept shoe made completely from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). The idea was that the entire shoe could be ground into tiny pieces at the end of its life, then used in the creation of a Salomon alpine ski boot. That concept has inspired the new Index.01.
A key challenge in creating the Index.01 was finding a material for the bottom unit that was both recyclable and could deliver the perfect amount of shock absorption and rebound needed for road running. The answer was a nitrogen-infused, TPU-based foam called INFINIRIDE, which can be ground into tiny pieces and recycled when the shoe reaches the end of its life. A water-based glue is used to connect the bottom unit and the upper in order to minimize material contamination.
The shoe is constructed so that it can be easily disassembled at the end of its life. Once separated, the materials of the upper and bottom unit are recycled separately. The thread used to stitch together the upper and bottom unit is also polyester, allowing it to be part of the recycled upper materials.
“First, we had to construct a shoe using only two materials that could later be separated and recycled,” says Olivier Mouzin, Manager of Salomon’s Footwear Sustainability Program. “We also had to be sure those materials would allow us to construct a shoe that passes our standards for every day road running in terms of fit, performance and durability.”
Recycling the Index.01
To launch the recycling process, Index.01 owners can simply visit the Salomon website and print a shipping label to send the shoes to the closest collection centre free of charge. From there, the shoes will begin their journey towards a second life.
To minimize transportation impact, the shoes will be received at collection centres in Europe, North America and the Asia/Pacific regions. There, the product will be washed and disassembled before each material is sent for recycling locally. The materials of the bottom unit that are recycled in Europe will be used to create new Salomon ski boots starting with the 2022 winter season. The polyester upper will also be ground down, then turned into yarn and used to weave a fabric. The recycling partners and specific second-life use of the materials in each region are currently being defined.
“It’s important to be sustainably consistent in collecting the shoes at the end of their life,” Mouzin says. “We don’t want them to travel all over the planet. That’s why, as a first step, we set up collection centres in each region. From there, we also had to find recycling partners to recycle the used shoe materials locally. Salomon can recycle TPU in Europe and in partnership with our factories in Asia, but we had to find solutions for polyester and for the TPU in North America.”
Additionally, there will be no stuffing paper used inside the Index.01 shoes and no extra hangtags in an effort to lessen the material waste. For the Spring 2021 season, all Salomon footwear will use FSC certified packaging. The environmental impact of all Salomon footwear packaging was drastically reduced in 2017, when glue and water-based ink were eliminated and the amount of cardboard was reduced.