A world first, the midsole of this shoe is made from EVA foam derived from carbon emissions captured in the atmosphere, rather than "classic" EVA foam derived from petroleum. Called CleanCloud™, the foam came about as a result of the Swiss manufacturer's desire to move away from its reliance on fossil fuels and use alternative materials to create high-performance sports products, based on its belief that innovation is crucial to effectively reducing our carbon footprint.
A process that absorbs waste carbon rather than emitting it
It took 5 years of research and development to achieve this result. A complex process was set up by On Running in collaboration with three partners, Lanzatech, Technip Energy and Borealis, all of which are innovative companies operating in the field of biochemistry, processes and materials.
They respectively captured carbon monoxide emitted by industrial sources such as steel mills and landfills, which was then fermented and converted into ethanol and subsequently dehydrated to create ethylene. The final step was polymerisation to create the final material, EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam, which makes up 100% of the midsole of the trainer, created by On Running.
A shoe that just wants to be green
Although, for now, only the sole of the Cloud Prime is made from these carbon emissions, Caspar Coppetti, co-founder and executive co-chairman of On Running, sees further ahead: 'We believe that On can be an agent of positive change by enabling and accelerating the scaling of sustainable technologies such as CleanCloud™'.
To this end, On Running is also collaborating with Californian circular start-up Novoloop to create a CleanCloud™ outsole, using the world's first chemically-recycled TPU from post-consumer plastic waste. According to a series of tests, the material performs just as well as its fossil counterpart, with a much smaller carbon footprint.
Innovation and technology: key drivers for reducing our impact on the planet
Finally, for the manufacture of the upper of its shoe, the Swiss equipment manufacturer approached Fairbrics, a young French start-up, which has succeeded in capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into synthetic fibres. This technology, which is the subject of five pending patents, could enable the company to produce a polyester thread with a very low carbon footprint.
The Cloudprime shoe presented by On Running does not currently have a market release date. The first pairs are currently being tested by elite athletes, including Swiss marathon record holder Tadesse Abraham and German 1500m specialist Fabiane Meyer. Initial feedback is very positive.
One thing is certain, On Running will be working to apply its CleanCloud™ technology to all of its footwear and apparel over the next three to five years. More than ever, its ambition is to bring its technology to as many consumers as possible in the near future.