Skip to main content

What’s New in Version 2 of Salomon’s Recyclable Shoe

On Wednesday, French footwear brand and red-hot Super Bowl star Salomon announced the next generation of its groundbreaking recyclable shoe: Index .02. 

For decades, the footwear industry, which accounts for 1.4 percent of global emissions, has been anything but sustainable. Synonymous with a short life cycle, shoes are replaced every eight months on average and due to wear, many don’t make it to the secondhand market. Of the 300 million pairs of shoes discarded in the U.S. each year, 95 percent are destined for landfill. 

The biggest hurdle when it comes to recycling shoes pertains to the amount of materials that go into them; a traditional sneaker is made from around 30 different materials which are almost impossible to take apart and reclaim. For the past five years, creatives, scientists and material specialists at Salomon’s Annecy Design Center in the French Alps have worked to develop a recyclable shoe assembled from only two materials. 

Index .01 was Salomon’s first running shoe made for comfort, performance and recyclability using a circular process. Since then, the sneaker has undergone a number of technical upgrades to make it 25 grams lighter, more comfortable and easier to disassemble at the end of its life cycle; all while maintaining 44 percent less CO2 emissions than a traditional shoe.

Related Stories

Index .02 has a recycled polyester mesh upper that’s strategically engineered to be breathable and offer better support and flexibility, while the midsole and outsole are made from Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) to provide recyclability in two separate parts. Designed with “reverse camber geometry” that’s inspired by skis, the midsole’s nitrogen-infused “infiniride” foam is durable, yet cushier and less dense than its forerunner, Laurent Coudurier, Salomon Footwear’s R&D manager told Sourcing Journal. “We also removed some bits in the upper, bringing the shoe closer to the foot,” he said of the shoe made with help from BASF. “Our goal is to provide the same level of performance as the rest of our road running shoes and we’re getting there.” 

At the end of its lifecycle, Salomon offers customers a shipping label to send the Index .02 to a recycling partner in their region to cut down on the environmental impact of transportation. In Europe, Salomon collects the shoes in batches, then cleans and separates the TPU and polyester manually. The polyester mesh, 95 percent of which comes from recycled plastic bottles, is sent to the brand’s global polyester partner to become a new textile, while the midsole and upper are shipped to a recycling partner to be ground into small TPU chips that are used to make new products—like the shell for Salomon Alpine Ski Boots. 

In tandem with the shoe release, Salomon published its first sustainability impact report outlining the company’s long-term sustainability goals, milestones and innovations.

Salomon identifies several targets, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals, to support fair practices and drive responsible innovation, all while referencing science-based targets to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Currently, 44 percent of Salomon’s FW22 collection is made with recycled materials, and 80 percent of fabrics are Oeko-tex standard or Bluesign certified. Salomon is a participating company in the Fair Labor Association and does annual audits of its suppliers—80 percent of its Tier 1 partners have achieved gold level. In 2021, Salomon opened the Advanced Shoe Factory 4.0, with textile production partner Chamatex, in Ardoix to innovate local production through robotics. The company is also active in sports accessibility initiatives such as a recent project with Hopper to develop an innovative sole for prosthetic running blades.

While Adidas and Salomon have pioneered recyclable running sneakers used to make new products, the industry is still figuring out how many times the elements of these shoes can be recycled.