Adidas x Allbirds review: Can the brands’ low-carbon-footprint running shoes still take us places?

The new trainer offers a ‘barefoot’ feel for joggers

Alice Barraclough
Wednesday 12 May 2021 16:34
<p>With less than 3kg CO2e per pair, could this be the future of sustainable sneaks?</p>

With less than 3kg CO2e per pair, could this be the future of sustainable sneaks?

Thanks to the rise of athleisure and our growing obsession with the latest trainer releases – plus the fact that millions of people across the country have turned to running or jogging during the Covid-19 crisis – it’s unsurprising that trainer sales have boomed. We have become a nation of runners.

But have you ever wondered about the environmental impact of your trainer addiction?

With Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at The NPD Group, tweeting in 2016 that Nike sells around 25 pairs of shoes per second, coupled with the fact that a single pair of trainers produces, on average, 30 pounds of carbon dioxide – our fixation with wearing the coolest, fastest, “best” trainers is creating a lot of damage to the environment. Perhaps it’s time to start taking our footprint more seriously and choosing shoes that tread a little lighter on our planet. 

To combat climate change, two rival sportswear companies – Adidas and Allbirds – have partnered up and forged an unusual, and rather unique, collaboration to create the first shoe with a carbon footprint of less than 3kg.

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Both sports companies have been leaders in trying to reduce their environmental impact for some time, with Adidas creating running shoes made from upcycled ocean plastic waste through their partnership with Parley for the Oceans, and Allbirds using renewable materials like wool and sugarcane in their trainers and labelling all products with their carbon output. Fun fact: one recycled plastic bottle equals one pair of Allbirds laces.

Given their shared sustainability ambitions, it makes sense for the two companies to combine capabilities, technologies and materials. After all, climate change is a global problem that affects everyone. The outcome? Futurecraft.Footprint – a shoe with just 2.94kg CO2e. 

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a prototype – which launched today and is currently available to Adidas Creators Club members via a raffle. You can sign up for the club now and enter yourself for the chance to receive a pair. The shoes will receive a general release in the autumn via Allbirds, which will be limited to just 10,000 pairs.

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Adidas x Allbirds Futurecraft.Footprint: Available via raffle at Adidas Creators Club

My first impression was: “Wow, these are light.” The prototype trainers are incredibly minimalist and unfussy – they look almost like a pair of white plimsolls you might have worn for PE at primary school. But there’s something about their simplicity that pulls you in.

Pairing Adidas’s popular “lightstrike” midsole with Allbirds’ sugarcane-based “sweetfoam”, the shoe is a real hybrid of the two brands. 

But what makes this shoe different to other sustainable options already on the market?

“The key differentiator and our biggest accomplishment, is the shoe’s extremely low carbon footprint at 2.94kg CO2e,” explains Jad Finck, vice president of innovation and sustainability at Allbirds. “You can compare that to Adidas’ RC3 running shoe, which already has abelow industry average at 7.86kg CO2e. We believe that carbon is the ultimate scorecard to measure environmental impact and if we’re going to mitigate climate change we all need to curb our emissions and aim to be climate positive.”

Read more: 9 best men’s trainers, from designer to vegan designs

To look at, the trainers are rather nondescript – the only visible branding is on the midsole, where a small Adidas and lowercase Allbirds logo are stamped next to one another. The upper material is made with 70 per cent recycled polyester and 30 per cent natural Tencel – a material made from wood pulp. It feels very thin – so I’m not sure how much protection or stability it will offer on a long Sunday run, but if you’re a jogger who wants a “barefoot-but-not” feel, then these would be a good choice.

Plus, the super-thin upper with added holes for ventilation means they’ll help your feet stay cool. The trainers are slim too – a lot slimmer than Allbirds’s usually wide style. The laces are also noticeably skinny, so remember to tie them in a double knot to keep them in place.

The shoes feel very stripped back – there’s only the bare minimum here, both in terms of materials and construction. It looks and feels like they’re in their most naked, raw state.

“We called our approach to designing Futurecraft.Footprint ‘the art of reduction’,” says Sam Handy, VP Design at Adidas Running. “Which was about trying to get the number as low as possible, while maintaining performance capability.

“We reimagined the shoe’s lining with 100 per cent recycled polyester embroideries that reinforce toe box, midfoot and heel. A carved-out midsole design replaces the torsion bar, but still provides support exactly where needed for runners.”

Read more: Adidas ultraboost 21 running shoe review

So what does the prototype trainer feel like to run in? They’re comfortable, and fit like socks. I can see myself wearing these for shorter distances (and faster speeds) due to how light they feel on my feet – and I can also see myself wearing them with a floaty summer dress to the pub. After all, they’re essentially a classic white trainer – a timeless choice.

Beware though, there’s not a lot of cushioning. If you overpronate or need a little more support (either around the ankle or with padding underfoot), these might not be for you.

What stands out most about this partnership isn’t just the passionate commitment to creating something truly sustainable, but the fact that two rivals who usually compete to sell shoes to the same customers have come together to produce a performance running shoe with the lowest carbon footprint possible.

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For more sustainable footwear, read our review of the best vegan trainers that tread lightly on the planet

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