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Asics creates a circular shoe, returns program

The sporting goods company designed a shoe ready to undergo recycling at the end of its use.

Asics creates a circular shoe, returns program

The Asics Nimbus Marai shoe, retailing at $180. Asics announced that the shoe is returnable through a new sustainable program. Courtesy of Asics

Dive Brief:

  • Japan-based sportswear brand Asics released its Nimbus Marai running shoe on April 12 designed to be remade at the end of the shoe’s life cycle, the company announced. Along with the release, the brand also launched a new returns program to encourage runners to give back their shoes at the end of their use.
  • Available in men’s and women’s, the Nimbus Mirai shoe retails at $180 in-store and online. The shoe can be returned at Asics stores or by shipping at participating markets including the U.S., UK, Netherlands, France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
  • The shoes are part of the brand’s circular strategy to ensure a fully recyclable shoe, including its sole. The brand aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, per the release.

Dive Insight:

The Nimbus Mirai is the second sustainable shoe Asics released in less than a year. In September, the company launched low-carbon sneaker Gel-Lyte III CM 1.95, which at the time the company claimed to be “the lightest emissions sneaker on the market.”

Asics is calling the Nimbus Mirai one of its most advanced shoes.

“It has remained our focus not to compromise the product’s performance at all, so that runners can wear the shoe as they would any other from Asics – protected and supported as they replenish their body and mind,” Nimbus Mirai project leader of product development Fumitaka Kamifukumoto said in a statement. “We ask runners to take an extra step with this shoe, however, and bring it back to us once they have finished with it. That way, we can continue our mission towards creating a Sound Earth for future generations.”

Shoes have always been designed for a single use, according to the company. Asics referenced data by Statista on worldwide footwear production, claiming that roughly 23.9 billion shoes globally end up in landfills or incinerated, adding that its “simply not sustainable if we’re to create a Sound Earth.” 

The uniform polyester shoe has no overlays making it easy to be sorted through and recycled, per the company. The brand created its own bond for the shoe with an in-house glue that also allows the shoe to be pulled apart for its next usage. The upper detaches from the sole so that the entirety of it goes through recycling. The company said 87.3% of the recycled upper can be made into a new polyester material ready to be remade again, per Asics’ own testing.

The shoe’s midsole is made from approximately 24% renewable source, including sugar cane processing leftovers. Next, Asics is focused on giving the sole a second life and also making it recyclable. 

Circular footwear is a sustainable transition in the industry other retailers have also made. In November 2023, EarthDNA, a nonprofit climate advocacy platform, partnered with a set of brands to create the FootWear Collective, an initiative promoting a circular footwear economy. The sustainable partners included On, Reformation, Target, New Balance, Brooks Running and Crocs. 

Allbirds launched a zero-carbon footwear design and toolkit in June last year. The “M0.0NSHOT” shoe has a 0.0 kilogram carbon footprint and the company’s “Recipe B0.0K” describes the making of the shoe including materials, manufacturing and carbon footprint calculation in detail.

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