Many athletic-wear companies have been making a move toward selling more eco-conscious products, and a brand-new pair of Nike running shoes marks a major milestone in that industry trend. This week the footwear giant announced the launch of the Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature, Nike’s “most sustainable performance shoe yet,” according to the brand.
The sneakers are an upgrade to the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, Nike’s top-of-the-line running shoes that are popular among long-distance runners (including record-breaking marathoner Eliud Kipchoge). Made from 50% total recycled content (by weight), this latest addition to the line places as much of an emphasis on more environmentally friendly production as on athletic performance.
Nike incorporated the use of innovative materials, principles of circular design, and input from athletes to design and produce the shoe “in a way that would reduce material waste and impact,” according to a press release. The idea is that the shoe will offer the same advantages as the technologically innovative NEXT% shoe “without sacrificing sustainability,” the brand says. (Nike didn’t want to sacrifice function or performance, either. According to the press release, product testing by athletes involved logging 400 miles or more of rigorous activity to make sure the shoes performed well.)
Materials make up about 70% of Nike’s carbon footprint, according to the brand. So there was a big focus on using lower-carbon materials to make the shoe, including materials that were recycled and those that require less energy to make.
For instance, the shoe features a responsive ZoomX midsole—tech also used in the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run, named the most versatile sneaker in the 2021 SELF Certified Sneaker Awards—that is made using at least 70% recycled foam. Also built into the sole are Nike Air Zoom Pods cushioning made partly with recycled thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU); and a Flyplate made with at least 50% recycled carbon fiber.
Meanwhile, the Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature’s upper is made using a combination of Nike Flyprint (a 3D-printed textile composed of at least 20% recycled TPU) and Nike Flyknit (a textile made with at least 45% recycled polyester). The outsole is sourced from a mix of materials including Nike Grind rubber. The comfy sock-liner is made from 100% recycled PEBA, a flexible plastic, while the laces are made of 100% recycled polyester and a film coating made from 50% recycled TPU.
The Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature won’t be Nike’s only more sustainable shoe for long. The launch is an important step in Nike’s Move to Zero campaign, the brand’s initiative to drastically reduce and ultimately eliminate carbon emissions and waste.
“Each of the adjustments made in the production of the Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature moves us closer to our goal of diverting 100% waste from landfills back into our extended supply chain,” Nike said in the press release. The brand will soon bring the sustainability-minded production processes that went into making their newest sneaker to scale across their full running line. The new sneakers will go on sale later this month, but Nike has yet to announce a price point for the Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature.
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