Reebok to Debut Cotton and Corn Shoes

The sneaker brand’s new shoes will feature entirely plant-based materials in an effort to move footwear in a more sustainable direction without the use of animal products.

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Reebok will debut the first ever plant-based athletic shoe this fall. The Reebok Future Team developed the Cotton + Corn initiative, a program that reimagines sustainable footwear by relying on bio-based products—or plant materials that decompose after shoes are discarded. “Reebok is trying to clean up the entire life cycle of shoemaking: from what shoes are made of to where they end up,” Reebok Future Team’s vice president Bill McInnis says. Typically, shoes are made from materials that contain oil-based plastics and animal products that are eventually dumped into landfills where they remain for hundreds of years. The company’s new shoe will be made with a cotton upper and a corn-based sole, and Reebok plans to use the compost created from the plant-based shoes as part of the soil to grow materials for new shoes. “This is just the beginning for Reebok,” McInnis says. “We now have the formula to replicate this across a range of sneakers. This is the blueprint for a lot of shoes to come.” Within the last year, plant-based materials—including pineapple-based leather Piñatex—have made their way into the fashion industry as replacements for less sustainable (and ethical) products such as wool, leather, and plastic.