Mass production is still at the top of the world when it comes to footwear. It isn’t easy to get most shoppers to look past the cheapest and most convenient options. However, this is starting to change. People are becoming more aware of the need for sustainability.
If a shopper looks for something like a pair of skate shoes, they are now more likely to consider the impact of production. More shoppers want shoes that are sustainable and ethically made. This is a segment of the shopping public that grows with each year. If the trend holds, sustainability will remake the footwear market.
With sustainable footwear growing into a force in the industry, we need to consider what the future holds for this segment of the market. Read on to see where the future of sustainable footwear is going.
Smaller Brands Leading the Way
This isn’t to say that the big brands do nothing toward sustainability, but their operations are still centered around mass production. You might see something like a sustainable shoe release or a program to take shoes for recycling, but this hardly makes a dent in the impact of the bulk of the shoes the big brands make.
In the future of sustainable footwear, it will be smaller brands that lead the way. You can already see a lot of smaller brands that focus their operations on producing sustainable footwear, and many of them are making names for themselves in the process. As these brands grow and have success, we might see some of the industry giants following their lead.
Back to Nature
There was a time when all shoes were made from natural materials. Synthetics like polyurethane had yet to be invented and people still needed shoes. Since natural materials tend to lend themselves better to sustainability, we are going to see a push for the use of more natural materials in shoemaking. We might not go back to using all of the same materials that shoemakers used in the past, but natural materials will be important.
As an example, sustainable shoemakers use natural rubber instead of synthetic substitutes. We should also expect to see more materials like canvas and hemp in shoemaking. Even leather can be sustainable when it is sourced responsibly. Shoemakers will also look to use natural and sustainable dyes and adhesives to make shoes that are sustainable from top to bottom.
Sustainable Production Facilities
Creating shoes from sustainable materials is great, but it won’t make as much of a difference if they are made using processes that are not sustainable. Right now, major shoe companies build factories in places that use fossil fuels to provide power and they might engage in production practices that are either wasteful or harmful to the environment.
A big part of sustainable footwear is making the operations sustainable from start to finish. That means building better factories and storage facilities. Sustainable footwear companies will use solar and wind to power factories and they will also look for ways to reduce carbon emissions in the shipping and selling of the shoes.
Made for a Longer Life
One of the big issues with the sustainability of shoes is the lifecycle. Today’s shoes are not made to last, and most people will not bother to get a pair of shoes fixed. If you want to make footwear that is more sustainable, you need to make shoes that last longer. The more use a person gets from a pair of shoes, the more value you get from the materials and production processes from the standpoint of sustainability.
One point is to use materials that will last longer. The design of the shoes can also go a long way toward making them more durable. Another point is to put an emphasis on the quality of workmanship in shoe production. All of these points will become more important in the future of sustainable footwear.
Making Shoes With a Second Life in Mind
Very few shoes get recycled. Even with recycling programs, most of the materials still end up being discarded. Furthermore, the process of sorting shoes for recycling and separating materials is time-consuming and costly. To make footwear that is more sustainable, we need to design shoes with the idea of a second life for the materials in mind.
When shoes are built with a second life for the materials in mind, it will make them easier to recycle. This will require brands to think more about the materials they use and the ways they make their shoes. Even if the materials cannot be turned back around into shoe production, the fact that they can find a second life will be a positive change toward overall sustainability.
Sustainable footwear might only be a fraction of the market today, but it is one that is appealing to more consumers every year. As more consumers start to demand sustainable shoes, the big brands will take notice. When they do see that more people are serious about sustainability, they will have to do more than make token gestures toward being more sustainable. This shift will have a major impact on the industry and it could help to transform the industry into something that is much more beneficial to the planet.