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What Veja’s ‘Post-Petroleum’ Running Shoe Really Means

Veja is already well known for its sustainable and trendy sneakers—now the French footwear brand has launched the Condor, which it bills as the “world’s first post-petroleum running shoe.”

The Condor is not exactly petroleum-free, despite the eye-catching tagline. Instead, it will be one of the few mass-produced athletic footwear styles that can claim to be composed primarily of either organic or recycled materials.

“It’s only the first step,” Veja co-founder François-Ghislain Morillion said of the Condor in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “We’re working every day to reduce the use of plastic.”

Fifty-three of the Condor’s materials are bio-based or recycled. Morillion, along with fellow co-founder Sébastien Kopp, said the pair spent the better part of four years finding and sourcing the right materials to make sure the new running shoe matched the sustainability standards set by Veja’s previous footwear releases, finally settling on a blend of renewable and recycled materials to replace the majority of the plastic found in the typical running silhouette.

The Condor’s upper is constructed entirely of a material called Alveomesh, a spongey material manufactured using only recycled plastic recovered from single-use bottles. The midsole consists of 22 percent sugar cane, 15 percent rice waste and 8 percent banana oil—with the final 55 percent derived from traditional petroleum-based ethylene-vinyl acetate foam (EVA).

However, both the Condor’s heel insert and its distinctive “V” logo will be made from a thermoplastic elastomer called Pebax RNew, a material produced from specially engineered castor oil.

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the sole of Veja's Condor running shoe, post-petroleum running shoe
The sole of the Condor is made from 56 percent EVA foam, 12 percent wild rubber, 12 percent recycled plastic, 12 percent jute and 8 percent recycled EVA. Veja

Veja will manufacture its new running shoe in factories dotting the Fortaleza region of Brazil, according to the brand, which incorporated “homegrown” elements such as locally sourced latex for added cushioning and wild rubber sourced from the Amazon rainforest for the outsole.

Morillion and Kopp have a history of sourcing and manufacturing their products in Brazil. In 2004, the pair launched the brand’s first Veja shoe using only fairtrade canvas and rubber provided by organic cotton growers and wild rubber tappers. In order to ethically source the cotton required for its canvas, the founders often pre-financed its partners’ harvests, sometimes providing up to 40 percent of the capital each year before the crop was ready to be gathered.

Today, sustainability continues to be an important part of the Veja business model, though Kopp told the Wall Street Journal that he estimates only 20 percent of the brand’s customers actually know about Veja’s sustainable heritage. However, when asked if the brand plans to push its sustainable messaging further, Kopp said “no.”

“This is maybe one of the biggest problems in our society, everybody is trying to convince everybody,” Kopp said. “We don’t push information on people.”

The Condor will be available in six colorways for $150 at retail starting Sept. 19.