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In 2022, sustainability is proving to be more than just a passing fad. Whether it's refillable dish soap or leggings made from recycled fibres, eco-friendly habits have found their way — and rightfully so — into many aspects of daily life. The latest example comes in the form of a new pair of running shoes courtesy of adidas and Allbirds. The goal of the collaboration was anything but simple: create a performance sneaker with no carbon footprint.
"Our partnership with Allbirds is a beacon of what can happen when competing brands from the same industry see the possibilities in coming together to design," explained Brian Grevy, Executive Board Member Global Brands at adidas, via press release. The innovative collab is a dream team in every sense: "[With] Allbirds’ knowledge of carbon calculation and experience with natural materials, and adidas capabilities in manufacturing and performance footwear – this is a call-to-action for other brands, and a milestone in the sports industry achieving carbon neutrality."
The result is nothing short of impressive: A running shoe with a comparatively tiny 2.94CO2e carbon footprint. (The EPA defines CO2e as "the number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential as one metric ton of another greenhouse gas.") In comparison, adidas' adizero RC3 has a carbon footprint of 7.86kg CO2e.
But sustainability doesn't mean anything if the performance isn't there. After all, a truly eco-friendly shoe should replace your regular trainers, not just be a novelty that gets forgotten in a few weeks. Ahead of the exciting new launch, I took them out for a spin to see how they shape up compared to my go-to trainers.
As soon as I unboxed my pair (which adidas provided to me for the purposes of this unbiased review), I was blown away at how airy and lightweight they felt. The upper material was made with a blend of 70% recycled polyester and 30% natural Tencel, with a midsole comprised of Allbirds’ sugarcane-based, low-carbon SweetFoam. Once I laced 'em up, I was delighted at how breathable they felt. (No swamp feet here.) Another major plus: They were insanely comfortable from the first wear — aka, no painful break-in period where the heel tab slowly chips away at the back of your ankle. Like my multiple pairs of Allbirds runners, these also had a removable insole, making them very easy to toss in a washing machine to keep clean.
When it comes to running shoes, a few things have always been non-negotiables: comfort and support, as well as a decent heel drop for a bouncy, cushioned stride. The Adizero x Allbirds trainers passed all those marks with flying colours as I walked my dog around the neighbourhood, ran errands, and worked out at the gym. The fabric upper was less structured than I'm used to with a performance shoe, but was still able to take me through a breezy three-mile jog on the treadmill (any longer, and I personally would crave more support from my footwear).
adidas' Florence Rohart, Sr. Footwear Designer explained the shoe's design in a statement, "To keep minimalist not only in materials but also in construction, we went to extremes and left only what we really needed on the shoe to keep the performance properties.” This makes these sustainable kicks perfect for anyone who loves a minimalist shoe for running and cross-training or even just a comfy shoe for wearing around town.
While I know this is not the most important thing in the world, I also have to say these trainers pass the fit check every time. Added features like the carbon footprint printed on the sole (and a detailed breakdown of the numbers on the shoe's tongue) make it clear, lest anyone doubted otherwise, that this is pretty much the most sustainable sneaker on the block. (Writer's note: According to a spokesperson, the 2.94 CO2e figure takes in all stages of the product life cycle — including raw materials extraction, process, component production, assembly, packaging, shipping, and end of life — and generally stays the same regardless of the shoe size.)
The Adizero x Allbirds collab comes in women's sizes 5-11 and men's 8-14, including half sizes. I'm between a 5 and 5.5, and typically wear a 5.5 in running shoes for comfort purposes. I found these to be true to size, but I prefer going up a half size in runners as a rule of thumb. You'll have four different colours to choose from — a monochrome, white, a multicoloured colourway exclusive to Allbirds, and lastly, a fourth colourway exclusive to adidas (pictured above). They retail for $200 and will be available on adidas.com.au.