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Trending: Nike, Native Shoes Projects Helping Shoe Industry Tread Lighter

Image credit: Nike Circular Innovation Challenge

Earlier this month, Nike announced the winners of its Circular Innovation Challenge, which called for new products using Nike Grind — Nike's ground-up post-factory and post-consumer materials — and new technologies to advance footwear recycling. Five winning teams were selected for the “Design with Grind” part of the challenge: First prize went to San Francisco-based sustainable yoga gear startup YOGO, for its yoga bolster, cushion, mats and block made using Nike Grind. YOGO will receive a cash prize and the opportunity to partner with Nike to produce the product line.

For the Innovation Challenge, Nike teamed up with OpenIDEO, an SF-based design consultancy, to lead challenge entrants through a user-based design process whereby they interviewed and product-tested with users, and then rapidly refined concepts based on feedback. Business model concepts were specifically focused around a circular economy model.

"I was so happy to hear about this challenge, as YOGO is expanding our product line to include a variety of plant-based and recycled products, and it was perfect timing to receive help with the innovation process and experiment with the high-quality inputs from Nike," said YOGO founder Jessica Thompson. "It can be difficult to make big changes to product production methods in yoga and fitness products. We've been working hard at greening the supply chain, and were really happy for IDEO and Nike to align with us in this mission."

The four runner-up ideas were:

  • InShape Mattress (Milan) — a comfortable, conformable, vacuum mattress filled with Nike Grind materials, designed specifically for children suffering from the neurodevelopmental disorder Rett Syndrome.
  • Circular Cities (NYC) — street safety/traffic-calming products made from epoxy/recyclamine resin and Nike Grind.
  • pdd_kicks (Tokyo) — Diverse climbing holds for rock climbing walls made with Nike Grind Rubber Granulate.
  • Stuffed (London) — A suite of modern, modular furniture made with Nike Grind Fiber Fluff & Nike Grind Rubber Granulate.

Image credit: Native Shoes

Meanwhile, this week Vancouver, BC-based vegan shoe brand Native Shoes announced a partnership with Zappos for Good — the community outreach arm of — to collect “well-loved” Native Shoes to be recycled and made into playground matting. The initiative, called The Remix Project, is Native Shoes’ first step toward its goal to have every step of its product process 100 percent life-cycle managed by 2023. The project’s goal is to receive 10,000 recycled shoes by December 31, and build its first playground in 2019. 

“Our customers are always showing us how to keep it lite and have fun when they wear Native Shoes. It seemed like a perfect fit to turn them into something useful, on a playground where communities gather to have fun and play,” said Kyle Housman, President of Native Shoes. “We’re excited to be working with Zappos for Good on this project — what a great opportunity to team up and bring fun to communities.”

According to its website, the unique composition of Native Shoes allows them to be reground into a versatile material that can be used for everything from seating and playground flooring to insulation and more. The company can break down the materials found in every style of Native Shoes including sandals, slip-ons, knit sneakers and boots through a proprietary regrind process.

To kick off the project, the company will be accepting Native Shoes for recycling at its flagship location in Vancouver, and at its new Santana Row store in San Jose, California. In addition to expanding our collection program across Native Shoes retail stores, the company says it is partnering with key retailers to provide more collection opportunities.

To contribute a pair of well-loved Native Shoes, visit

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