In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of big brands in the footwear industry make attempts at mitigating the environmental impact of their trainers. This comes as no surprise. Footwear has one of the heaviest carbon footprints of anything we wear, and most of the materials they use can take hundreds of years to decompose after the items are discarded.
Taking aim at solving these problems, German designer Emilie Burfeind has developed a sock sneaker with a mushroom mycelium sole and a knitted upper made from canine hair collected from pet owners.
Dubbed the Sneature trainer, the sustainable futuristic pair of shoes features three bio-based, renewable materials, allowing it to be either taken apart or industrially composted once it has fulfilled its purpose.
By contrast, conventional trainers are typically made from a combination of different synthetic materials, many of which are petroleum-based and would take up to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.
“Because of their complicated structure and the different materials they are made of, it’s almost impossible to disassemble and recycle conventional sneakers,” Burfeind told Dezeen. “So I wanted to design a sneaker that is made of as few components as possible and remains biodegradable after use.”
The trainer has no laces and is essentially one seamless sock made out of 3D-knitted dog hair that was shed while grooming and would otherwise have been tossed. The resulting sock is then dipped into liquid natural rubber derived from the sap of the hevea brasiliensis tree to create a water-repellant mudguard along the sole. The sole itself is made of a combination of mycelium and a cellulose substrate consisting of hemp and other agricultural waste products.
Though more tests are needed to assess the pair’s lifecycle, Burfeind estimates that the trainers could be used for around two years before they get too worn out. Once that happens, the mycelium composite can be shredded, pulverized, and reused while the fabric can be separated into threads before being spun into yarn once again. Alternatively, the shoes can also be industrially composted.