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Salomon’s Recyclable Performance Running Shoe

Due to be available in Spring 2021, Salomon has launched Index.01, a performance running shoe designed to be disassembled and 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 economy principles.

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.’ The unique materials and the construction of the Index.01 are what made the aim a reality.

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 character 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 is claimed to help propel runners forward with a quick transition so they spend less time on the ground. At just 285 grams, it‘s designed for daily training and features a 9mm drop and a moulded sock liner that is made from 100% recycled material (recycled EVA foam and a recycled polyester cover).

In late 2019, Salomon unveiled a concept shoe made completely from 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 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 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 minimise material contamination. 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.

Olivier Mouzin, Manager of Salomon’s Footwear Sustainability Program, said, “First, we had to construct a shoe using only two materials that could later be separated and recycled. 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.”

To launch the recycling process, Index.01 owners will visit 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 minimise 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.

Mouzin added, “It’s important to be sustainably consistent in collecting the shoes at the end of their life. 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.”

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.

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