BY Farah Khalfe 6 MINUTE READ

As sustainability in fashion becomes the new black, and streetwear influence continues to dominate both the mass consumer market and high-end designer brands, it was only a matter of time before we saw these two forces collide.

While the likes of adidas and Nike have long been striving to add a more ethically-conscious approach to their products – and use the most cutting-edge innovation to do so – more brands are starting to follow suit. In the game of sustainable sneakers, 2020 has a lot to offer. These are some of the most environmentally-savvy and innovative sneakers to look forward to in the new decade: 

1. Reebok Forever Floatride GROW

Following the release of Reebok’s Cotton + Corn shoe launched earlier this year – a tennis-style sneaker constructed of 100% organic cotton, industrial corn and castor bean oil, amongst other natural materials – the brand is continuing their pursuit of “creating products from things that grow.”  

The brand announced their upcoming Forever Floatride GROW, a vegan performance running shoe made from plant-based materials including eucalyptus tree, castor bean and algae. The shoe is an adaptation of their Forever Floatride Energy sneaker, replacing traditional materials and oil-based plastics with natural alternatives.

Three years’ in the making, the biggest challenge in developing the shoe was maintaining the high-performance running shoe standards without the use of synthetic materials. But the shoe manages to do just that, with a castor bean midsole, eucalyptus tree-based upper and natural rubber outsole. It also sports lightweight cushioning and a flexible sole that mimics the natural curve of the foot.

Much like its Cotton + Corn counterpart, Forever Floatride GROW is rendered in a neutral colour palette, with beige laces and stripes down the side, mustard brown detail and off-white upper.

2. Yeezy Foam Runner

While not much is certain about the Kanye West’s impending Yeezy Foam Runner – even the design and colour might change – the shoe is made almost entirely from algae foam, and is set to release early next year.

After its unveiling at the US’s Fast Company Innovation Festival in November, the shoes were the subject of mixed reviews on social media from critics who were unamused by the croc-like design and bland khaki colour way. However, Kanye revealed the company is looking into employing more eco-friendly dyes as an alternative to the traditional chemically-infused pigments that are harmful to the environment.

In fact, the Foam Runners are Yeezy’s s first step towards becoming an entirely sustainable and ethical fashion brand, going “from seed to sew” in the production of their apparel. Kanye announced the brand will move its headquarters to a nearly 2000-hectare rural estate where they are developing their own hydroponics farm to grow cotton and other manufacturing materials.

The FOAM Runners are a blend of petroleum-based ethylene-vinyl acetate and foam made from harvested algae. In this way, the company is able to help clean waterways, protect wildlife and drinking water, and avoid the use of fossil fuels generally used in making foam.

3. adidas ClimaCool  

adidas’ state-of-the-art ClimaCool technology is making a return in the new year with a brand new multi-coloured silhouette. The shoe is a mix of blue, green, pink and orange hues and is constructed in a mesh upper with white shell overlays. Another defining feature is the sneaker’s Boost midsole (thousands of expanded particles meshed together to deliver a backlash of energy from the force of every stride), making it suitable for running. Together with ClimaCool, this is definitely one of 2020’s most innovative upcoming sneakers so far.

Another adidas first, ClimaCool provides all-round ventilation and moisture control. The specialised material is designed to wick away moisture, adjust to the wearer’s body temperature and promotes breathability. Using thermal imaging of an active tennis player, Adidas engineers were able to identify the precise locations where athletes sweat the most. In every ClimaCool product, mesh sweat pouches are placed in these locations to help facilitate the movement of sweat away from the body and into the garment. The shoe will be available early next year.

In 2015, adidas embarked on a long-term partnership with environmental group Parley for the Oceans in an effort to eliminate plastic from its supply chain and help tackle ocean pollution.

The way it works is simple: The initiative removes plastic, debris and trash from the oceans and coastal communities, which then gets recycled to produce part of the shoe. This also eliminates the use of new plastic that will eventually end up as garbage elsewhere in the environment. The duo released numerous renditions of their ULTRA Boost Parley running shoe and have since began expanding it to other collections too. Their latest Parley adaptation is the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker. This lightweight shoe features a Primeknit upper spun from Parley’s recycled ocean plastic and a midsole made from Ultra Boost technology, providing high energy returns, freedom of movement and long-distance comfort – adding a greener element to one of the brand’s best performing hiking shoes. The shoe will be available in February 2020.

4. adidas Terrex Free Hiker Parley


In 2015, adidas embarked on a long-term partnership with environmental group Parley for the Oceans in an effort to eliminate plastic from its supply chain and help tackle ocean pollution.

The way it works is simple: The initiative removes plastic, debris and trash from the oceans and coastal communities, which then gets recycled to produce part of the shoe. This also eliminates the use of new plastic that will eventually end up as garbage elsewhere in the environment. The duo released numerous renditions of their ULTRA Boost Parley running shoe and have since began expanding it to other collections too. Their latest Parley adaptation is the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker. This lightweight shoe features a Primeknit upper spun from Parley’s recycled ocean plastic and a midsole made from Ultra Boost technology, providing high energy returns, freedom of movement and long-distance comfort – adding a greener element to one of the brand’s best performing hiking shoes. The shoe will be available in February 2020.

5. Puma Fit Intelligence [Fi]

Innovation is not only driving sustainability in sneakers but has made way for brands to explore new frontiers of fashion and tech. Enter Puma’s self-lacing Fit Intelligence [Fi] sneaker. Dubbed the “the next level of smart footwear” – although not first self-lacing sneaker to be produced – the shoes were designed for workouts and light-running and, according to reviews, are more practical than Nike’s Adapt BB’s, for example. The Fi features a micro-motor on the tongue that tightens the laces and adapts to the shape of the wearers foot, as well as blue LED lights that light up when the motor is operating or when it is charging. To adjust the laces, simply swipe on the motor or pair with a smart watch to control the motor without stopping in your tracks. The shoes also come with their own ‘docking station’ so you can charge them up with ease.

When it comes aesthetic, the all-black design is adorned with electric blue durable fishing strings, a removal battery stored in a water-resistant compartment in the midsole and minimalist mesh design. Although the shoes won’t be available until September next year, Puma has launched an open beta programme, where consumers can test the sneakers in exchange for ideas and feedback to streamline and upgrade their design in future.