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Normally, when creating a shoe, product creation teams take inspiration and general guidance from previous collections, while meeting specific current season needs. This time, we did it differently.

With the running design team, we started from the ground up and asked ourselves what exactly must be included in a shoe to make it functional and meet the athlete’s performance needs. Our approach was clear: think minimal. Include only those elements that are essential.

This is how this season’s Element Soul running shoe came to life.

Less material between the runner and the run … and heaps of waste savings

It was a very exciting project that made us think completely outside the box. We started our brainstorming with a performance goal, the objective of moving towards a more natural run with less material between the runner and the run. We ended up with a shoe that meets the needs of a natural runner while being extremely sustainable.

Why is that? As we moved along the process, we realized that “essential” means fewer parts, fewer materials and fewer adhesives. By only using parts that were absolutely necessary, we conceived a shoe that weighs less than 200 grams, includes only water-based adhesives and even takes out the sockliner. Since the inputs to the shoe are so reduced, there is an estimated 50% waste savings when compared to a traditional running shoe. Also, less energy and less water are needed at production.

For the needed parts, we decided to increase the use of sustainable materials. For example, the textiles used in the shoe upper are environmentally preferred, there is recycled content in the mid-sole and the outsole is single-color recycled rubber. All of these elements lead to a more sustainable shoe that is not over-built.

Lesson learned!

I am particularly proud of this project, especially because the lessons learned in the creation of this shoe have been incorporated into future seasons of adidas running shoes, proving that when taking a different approach to product creation, a team can combine both performance and sustainability benefits.

We are currently developing new product lines that have integrated these learnings, and I cannot wait to see these products on the shelves in our stores.

Did you know that in 2012 the adidas brand had a total of 110 million pairs of shoes with sustainable content? To know more, check out our recently published 2012 Sustainability Report.