(Updated May 26, 2019.) Reebok has removed the leather patch from its sustainable corn and cotton shoes launched last August, making the sneaker completely vegan.
The original launch follows an announcement made last spring, where the company said that it was developing a shoe made entirely from “biological materials” in an effort to be more sustainable.
Reebok’s new “Cotton + Corn” sneakers are comprised of a 100 percent cotton upper and a bio-based sole made from a corn-based plastic substitute. The insole is made from castor bean oil, the fabrics are left undyed, and the packaging is made from recycled materials. International animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) confirmed that Reebok has nixed the leather patches earlier this month.
“It didn’t start out with corn and cotton, it started out with recycling, compostability, where do we want to land. Our issue with recycling is you recycle plastic, it’s still plastic…You’re not getting rid of the problem,” said Bill McInnis, head of ReebokFuture.
Roughly 20 billion pairs of shoes are made each year and around 300 million end up being sent to landfills. Traditionally, shoes are made from petroleum, which is known to pollute air, water, and soil.
“The idea is how do you get rubber and plastic out of the process and replace it with natural things that grow like corn,” McInnis said.
To make its plant-based soles, Reebok milled the grains and then fermented it into a bio-based product that is eventually turned into a shoe sole. It took Reebok a total of five years to create the new shoe in order to manufacture a product that was functional and appealing to consumers.
“When you want to make your shoes out of something completely different, there’s no vendor that you can go to that has something ready for you to work with, you have to invent it,” McInnis said.
Reebok is not the only iconic brand that’s turning to more sustainable materials. Last July, Adidas, parent company to Reebok, announced its commitment to using only recycled plastics in the production of its shoes and sportswear lines by 2024.
Reebok’s sustainable sneakers are available in unisex sizing and one color, “Natural/Chalk.” While the shoes are not biodegradable as the brand originally intended, the brand says that it is working on a second version that will be compostable.
The shoes are now available in the U.S. and Canada.