At the back of our minds, we all want to make some difference to the deteriorating environment, and we do a thing or two consciously to prove a point. But one thing that we’ve all been doing otherwise – knowingly or unknowingly, there aren’t many options you’d argue – is using a pair of sneakers made from plastic or rubber. According to researchers, a pair of joggers you wear for the morning run takes upward of 30 years to decompose completely. While there is no clear definition of what makes a shoe sustainable, there are companies such as Adidas, Allbirds, and a few others, trying to build sneakers with recycled materials to address the issue – but it’s just not enough!
Almost every pair of shoes currently being billed as sustainable uses some recycled or biodegradable materials. However, a strong adhesive is used to join these materials, which makes separating them difficult – leading to issues in end of life management. Designer Rik Olthuis from the Massey University of New Zealand has thought of a very innovative shoe design to overcome this lapse in eco-friendliness of footwear dubbed sustainable. The Voronoi Runners are made from 100-percent biodegradable materials, each of which can be separated easily at end of life to be composted. The result is a pair of sneakers you can wear and when done; you can separate each part of the shoe and send it down your backyard/kitchen compost to one day be used as manure for your garden – nothing remains behind, the Earth can breathe lighter and you can jog with your head held high.
The main structure of Voronoi Runners is 3D printed using a robust, flexible biodegradable filament used to create the outsole and the midsole. The polyurethane foam is replaced by biodegradable alternative foam made using gelatine and glycerine, which offers comfy cushioning to the foot. Using 3D printing to create the midsole allows the Voronoi Runners to adapt to the individual wearer’s foot. The toe and heel caps printed from plant fibers add substance and shape to the Merino wool upper of the trainers that are also comfortable for everyday use. To eliminate the use of adhesive, the shoes are sewn using organic cotton thread and finished off with linen laces. This makes the Voronoi Runners easy to be dismantled fully and composted responsibly. Check out an on-foot video of the Voronoi below to get a hang of it.
Designer: Rik Olthuis