A couple of months ago, the running design team took you though the process behind the Element Soul shoe, which was developed saving resources by using low waste design methods, while providing runners with a high performance shoe that allows for a more natural run.
The Element Soul shoe is a critical product as it inspired the “Low Waste” approach in footwear design, which this season lead to the Element Voyager running shoe, now in store.
What is low waste footwear?
“Low waste” is a design approach used in both apparel and footwear to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing; making products with fewer resources and streamlining manufacturing processes.
There are several ways designers can use low waste in footwear. The easiest is simplified design. Choosing a less energy-intensive process such as printing, instead of creating “cut-outs”, helps reduce a shoe’s carbon footprint. Another way to simplify design is by reducing the number of colors, especially in the outsole, which leads to energy savings. The Element Voyager has two main colors in the upper, and one in the outsole. It is truly an example of how product creation teams can keep the performance benefits and design aesthetic of a shoe all while reducing its environmental impact.
Pattern efficiency requires a little more planning, but makes a significant reduction in the greenhouse gasses released during a shoe’s manufacturing process. Seaming was used in the design of the Element Voyager to increase pattern efficiency and also had the side effect of bringing an interesting design element to the shoe. As a result, the running team was able to achieve 95% pattern efficiency in the upper! 95% is very high in terms of a shoe’s pattern efficiency, since most shoes reach only 60-70%. One of the many strategies used to increase pattern efficiency was “nesting” shoe pieces. This process differs slightly from more traditional shoe pattern creation methods in that the pattern makers consciously add cuts to upper pieces so they will “nest” together more efficiently on the cutting table.
Dematerialization is using fewer pieces to make a shoe by eliminating or combining parts. It is another simple way to reduce a shoe’s environmental footprint. The Element Voyager has only 12 parts, compared to a traditional running shoe, which can have as many as 50. The designers of the Element Voyager discovered that they could eliminate a sockliner without sacrificing the performance or comfort of the shoe—this, among other actions helped to reduce the number of parts of this shoe. The fewer parts used in a shoe= lesser the environmental impact.
What Makes the Element Voyager a “Low Waste” shoe?
- Simplified design: 1 color outsole, no fabric overlay or embossing, limited color palette
- Pattern Efficiency: 95% pattern efficiency
- Dematerialization: No sockliner, size label and logo combined together
The Element Voyager is also made with Environmentally-preferred materials such as recycled polyester in the upper, recycled EVA in the midsole and recycled rubber in the outsole, which, coupled with the simplification of the shoe’s design, leads to a more sustainable running shoe.
Why is low waste important?
Low waste footwear design has many benefits. Firstly, it helps to decrease the amount of waste created during manufacturing; leftover trimmings from fabric and rubber can be avoided with more efficient pattern design or recycled. Secondly, less energy-intensive manufacturing processes or combining processes saves resources like water and energy. Lastly, by eliminating parts, the environmental impact of manufacturing those parts can be cut out of a shoe’s carbon footprint. Low waste shoe design helps designers simplify designs, which leads to a reduction of our impact on the environment all while allowing runners to enjoy a more natural run.
Stay tuned to find out about how we applied the “Low Waste” approach to Running Apparel – coming soon….