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Sanuk Takes On ‘Chemical-Heavy’ Footwear Foam With Recycled, Vegan ‘SustainaSole’ Slip-Ons

Surf-friendly footwear brand Sanuk launched a sustainable new line of vegan shoes for men and women on July 7, pulling from an ingredient cocktail of upcycled fibers and foam.

Along with the recycled materials used to craft the SustainaSole upper, sockliners and more, including cotton, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyester and other fibers, the new line includes a specially crafted recycled outsole made in partnership with the footwear foam experts at Blumaka.

“A big challenge of using bio-based and recycled content in foams is that it can degrade the physical properties that sustain the life of the product,” Sanuk senior product developer Katie Pruitt told Sourcing Journal. “This is not the case with the Blumaka outsole used in SustainaSole, but it has been a challenge with other materials.”

Visual imperfections are part of the trade-off when creating footwear materials with a high percentage of recycled content, Pruitt said, but Sanuk keeps the focus on minimizing waste through intelligent design.

The chemical-heavy foam commonly used in outsole and midsole padding has long been one of the primary causes of waste in footwear production. Sanuk solves for this by building the SustainaSole with Blumaka, which consists of 35 percent recycled foam content by weight and 75 percent recycled foam by volume.

The bottom layer of the SustainaSole silhouette also includes three millimeters of Ortholite foam made from 98 percent recycled polyurethane (PU) foam, with just 2 percent of the total coming from newly produced materials.

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Sanuk's Sustainasole vegan slip-ons is the brand's most eco-friendly release to date and features recycled foam outsoles created by Blumaka.
Sustainasole outsoles are composed of a unique material created by the footwear foam experts at Blumaka. Sanuk

“Environmentally conscious decision making has been a central part of Sanuk’s product ethos and brand culture from the beginning,” Sanuk director of marketing Seth Pulford said. “Today, as an organization, not only do we believe that building more sustainable product is the right thing to do, but we also believe it’s what our consumers want and expect from us.”

SustainaSole uppers are almost entirely constructed from 100 percent recycled fibers approved by the Global Recycled Standard, including 65 percent recycled cotton and 35 percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Both the upper lining, the woven label and sockliner lining are composed of the same 100 percent recycled polyester.

The top layer of the sockliner also comes with a two-millimeter-thick layer of Ortholite foam with 5 percent recycled rubber powder and 15 percent recycled PU foam. In total, 80 percent of this layer is virgin PU.

Only the stitching, gore, reinforcements, PU binding agents and additional thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) have no recycled components.

“Our intent with SustainaSole is to grow this into a meaningful part of our business and leverage this technology to reduce our own environmental impact along the way,” Pulford said. “The possibilities that come with Blumaka’s technology are endless, and will allow us to release exciting new product stories centered around sustainability, enhanced comfort and creative expression.”

SustainaSole slip-ons come in a “Chiba” style for men and a “Donna” style for women, retailing for $65.