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Meghan Markle-Approved Sneaker Brand Drops First Performance Shoe

Footwear brands aren’t letting the logistical challenges of balancing sustainability and performance stop them from targeting the eco-conscious runner.

Asics delivered a pair of red running shoes made from recycled clothing in March. Earlier this month, Reebok debuted the Floatride Energy Grow, a high-performance running shoe made with at least 50 percent plant-based materials. Just last week, French sporting goods brand Salomon introduced the “ready-to-recycle” Index.01—the only part of the shoe that cannot yet be recycled, the sockliner, accounts for only 8 percent of the shoe’s weight.

Veja joined their ranks Thursday with the debut of the Marlin.

The French footwear brand—a favorite of celebrities including Meghan Markle, Emma Watson and Eddie Redmayne—dropped its first “post-petroleum” running shoe, the Condor, in 2019. Though not exactly petroleum-free, the sneaker was composed primarily of organic and recycled materials.

The Marlin, arriving a year and a half after the Condor—and less than three months after the Condor 2—represents the brand’s first shoe built for performance, Veja said. The shoe features a 6-millimeter lower drop for a natural stride. An L-Foam rubber insert absorbs shocks and offers an 80 percent energy return, according to Veja. A soft, breathable, single-layer knit upper made with recycled plastic bottles keeps the weight down.

The outsole of Veja's Marlin running shoe is made with 32 percent natural rubber and 33 percent rice waste

Veja created the Marlin’s outsole with 30 percent to 32 percent Amazonian rubber, continuing its long tradition of sourcing this material from the region. From 2004 to 2019, it claims to have bought about 450 tons of Amazonian rubber. Using rubber from the rainforest, it said, increases the economic value of the forest, helping fight against deforestation. Another third of the rubber outsole derives from rice waste.

The Marlin also features light and strong Pebax upper inserts. The plant-based material provides “great support where it is most needed without extra weight,” Veja said.

Despite the Marlin’s focus on performance, the shoe outpaces the Condor and Condor 2 in terms of sustainability, with bio-based and recycled materials making up 62 percent of the shoe.

Veja embarked on a new phase of its sustainability journey last summer with the opening of the Veja x Darwin project. The 820-square-foot space, it said, is designed to serve as a “test hub” for cleaning, repairing and recycling shoes “in order to develop the store of the future.”