We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Sustainable Shoe Design in South Africa

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

The Sustainable Shoe Development literature review is based on a self-motivated research brief given to the third year students doing Graphic Design at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The Sustainable Shoe Development assignment started at first through online research done on the self-chosen topic. The reason background research was done is to merely discover what measures and programs have been taken to create sustainable shoes for people to wear. The environment is of great concern to scientists across the worlds that have studied through research in their field of the harmful effects various substances can cause to the environment. Shoes contain harmful chemicals, which affect the environment vastly. Through my research done by conducting surveys, journals, books and other internet sources, I have discovered that there are policies put into place by leaders of Sustainable Shoe Development such as Puma, Nike and New Balance and shoes created by these companies which are environmentally friendly.

Many are making the change across the globe to sustainable footwear, and South Africa and other countries are following in this direction as well. This literature review is conducted through research done through investigations by world leaders, which I explain in detail in the findings section. Most research and studies are done through the Internet these days, as well as journals. I have also proposed my own shoe design based on vast research I have found through online journals, surveys, videos and book sources. The productions of sustainable shoes are vital which are also explained in the findings and analysis section. This review contains a balanced view of both internationally and locally made sustainable shoes. There is a gap concerning the way United States of America has taken measures to protect the environment by proposing alternative shoe sources. Advanced measures are yet to be undertaken in South Africa for development of sustainable shoes.

1. Introduction
The subject of this proposal is the research of Sustainable Shoe Development internationally as well as in South Africa. Sustainable Shoe Development is rapidly becoming a movement across the world. Sustainable Shoe Development is a revolutionary eco-friendly movement and way of thinking for the future because the state of the environment is of great concern to scientists, thinkers and shoe firms across the world. Graphic Designers also have a huge role to play in the future of sustainability as global warming is occurring through various factors caused by mankind through pollution of the environment, which is affecting us now, and will ultimately affect global citizens of the future.

My proposed shoe design is an intervention for South African athletes to wear sustainable running footwear when training, or in competitive sports. Also it is encouraged for people to wear sustainable shoes daily as a practice. Nike, Puma, and New Balance are leaders of Sustainable Shoe Development. It is merely wearing, designing and creating sustainable footwear, which would comply with eco-environmental laws and ultimately shift the thinking of people across the world, including South Africa. I have gathered research from across the world, which I found in journals, books, field research and the Internet all based on what is currently taking place regarding the Sustainable Shoe Development movement. My research looks at what is currently taking place in South Africa regarding this trend, as well as the overseas shoe market.

The environment is definitely of great concern to many across the world as leading shoe brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma are creating eco-friendly policies, thus agreeing with the notion that pollution through toxic chemicals and inks in shoes can cause harm to the environment. The other cause is the mass consumption of shoes. There are solutions being implemented to curb consumption of shoes, as it also pollutes the environment through its chemical waste. Recycling, reusing and renewing shoes are a popular environmental trend taking place globally as well as in South Africa. The United States are leaders of the eco-friendly movement of Sustainable Shoe Development. South Africa is yet to follow and develop advanced methods to combat mass pollution of shoes and use eco-friendly substances when making shoes.

Assignment objective
This proposal looks at ways in which shoes are developed in a sustainable way. A proposed shoe design, which could work for South Africans, would also need to be created to be more eco-friendly in both South Africa and across the world. The objective is merely to design and create shoes, which are environmentally friendly, as well as recycle and reuse shoes to cut down on consumption of shoes, as they can be re-used and redesigned for a greater purpose, which could be implemented for many generations to come. The formulas of using materials, which are not harmful to the environment, play an effective role in the development of the shoe. To initiate the sustainable developed product for the market is an entirely different scenario, yet the sustainable development part is vital for designers to implement the notion of sustainable thinking.

2. Findings and Analysis

2.1) Sustainable Shoe Development
2.1.1) The Purpose of Sustainable Shoe Development

The footwear industry uses a variety of materials to produce products that has to meet consumer needs based on function and style. Over the last 20 years the footwear industry has placed emphasis on improving its materials, which are more sustainable to ensure, less waste is being pursued (Rahimifard, S, & Staikos, T, & Coates, G. 2007: 2).

Current suppliers waste (Table fig 5) goes to leather recycling and gasification. Manufacturers waste goes into leather recycling as well as repairing for the reuse of shoes which is a current solution suggested across the world. Post-consumer waste is donated for reuse of shoes as well. Sport shoes, which are a direct result of post-consumer waste, are grinded and remade again to be used. Old sport shoes can also be put into an incinerator at local municipalities for energy use resulting in heat power (Rahimifard, S, & Staikos, T, & Coates, G. 2007: 5).

At Edgemead High School, in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town, after each year, matriculants give their school shoes away to less privileged schools as a donation for learners to wear. Donating is another way of being sustainable, as school shoes do not get thrown away, but rather given to others to wear. Once the shoes are worn out, they can then be recycled at a given stage. Edgemead has no knowledge whether other schools recycle the shoes at a later stage by a factory or plant (Theron & Crossley, 2012).

Green thinking has turned into a political and economic issue. We need to design products, which are more environmentally responsive. Even designers, as leaders need to show the way forward by encouraging design, which complies with the environment (Esslinger, 2011:401). The Environment Risk Assessment (Table fig 3) is a process for the magnitude, and uncertainty of effects on health as a result of the exposure to substances currently in the environment. Hazard identification, exposure assessment and risk characterization comprise of the risk assessment that is assessed by footwear insiders (Herva, M, & Álvarez, A & Roca, E., 2011: 1877).

Certain materials chosen by a designer are crucial for the production of a product. Toxic fumes can harm workers during the manufacturing process of a product (Papanek, 1995:28). Ecological packaging is crucial before transporting the product, as well as marketing and distribution. There are so many products available on the market; therefore, having a sustainable shoe on the market is a Unique Selling Point (Papanek, 1995:30).

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation reported the high levels of toxins present in plastic shoes, such as flip flops, sandals and clogs which cause health concerns to both humans and the environment. In various African countries, research was conducted where 17 of 27 plastic shoes tested positive for phthalates, which are affiliated with developmental and reproductive disorders, testicular growth problems, and the short span of fertility in men. DEHP, a phthalate, can cause harm to an unborn child. Certain plastic shoes contain petro chemicals, which pollute the earth as well as carbon dioxide emissions (Heathcote, 2010).

Transporting products affects the environment vastly, due to plenty of fuel needed to deliver the goods. The most eco-friendly way of transporting goods is vital for cutting down on air pollution, therefore it is vital to ensure products don’t go to waste, but rather created in a way so it can be reused again. Making a shoe, which is biodegradable, is a design ethic for the future. The Product Life Cycle Assessment (Table fig 4) evaluates in general the ecological phases of danger relating to the environment (Papanek, 1995:32).

The Product Lifecycle Diagram (Table fig 1) is an indication that sustainable practice is incorporated into the design process, known as Design for sustainability. An example would be where part of the process would mean the elimination of a substance that would be hazardous for the environment. Design for sustainability must be maintained throughout the process of manufacturing, sourcing, production and delivery. Life cycle thinking must incorporated in both manufacturing and production of a product. The product lifecycle diagram shows the lifecycle of the product from cradle to grave. This includes the raw materials, which were used, refining, manufacturing, assembly transportation, and its usage and end-of-life waste (Ceridon, 2010).

The Product Design Diagram (Table fig 1) indicates that Product Design cannot begin until the design team identifies the product performance goals. A design team must consider the identity, quantity as well as prototype performance measures. The expected performance of a product is based on prototypes, testing and comparisons in nature. Performance metrics of products is measured through verification, management and adjustment. Product Lifecycle Management is the management of the process of production. Various companies create certain policies that suit the needs best possible (Ceridon, 2010).

New Balance Chairman Jim Davis and Vice Chairman Ann Davis lead the way for corporate sustainability of zero waste and life cycle assessment of products. New Balance developed the New Balance Minimus in 2010, a barefoot inspired line of shoes where runners experience a minimalist feel of running shoes (New Balance Athletic Shoe, 2012:10)

2.1.2) Examples of Sustainable Developed Shoes

Nike released a shoe called Trash talk (fig 4) in 2008, which is made from manufacturing waste. The upper part of the shoe is made from leather and pieced together from synthetic leather waste via zigzag stitching. Scrap ground foam is used in the mid-sole through factory production. The outsole is made of rubber, which is environmentally friendly, and also uses Nike grind material from footwear outsole manufacturing waste. Shoelaces and sock liners are made through environmentally friendly materials, and its shoes are packaged in cardboard material, which has already been recycled (Cathy, 2009). Nike also developed a program in the year 1993 called Reuse-A-Shoe, which collects shoes from across the world and remakes it into Nike Grind shoes where rubber is made of the outsole, foam from the midsole, and fabric from the upper sole (Nike, 2008).

Nike has developed a sustainable report in which they allow customers to design a sustainable shoe in a bid to cut down on eco-unfriendly materials, which harm the environment (Shankleman, 2012).

In the late 1990s, because Nike had used cheap labour, as they had come under great public relations problems, which were exposed by former workers who lost their jobs at Nike. (Henderson, Rebecca, C. Reavis, R. Locke, and C. Liddy. 2008:3). Nike later started environmental programs, and launched job-training programs modelled on sustainability. They replaced toxic solvents, and developed water-based solvents as Nike’s core principal was to design shoes with non-toxic chemicals. (Henderson, Rebecca, C. Reavis, R. Locke, and C. Liddy. 2008:4). Recycled material uses 50% less energy when being made, instead of shoes, which are made with oil. (Henderson, Rebecca, C. Reavis, R. Locke, and C. Liddy. 2008:5).

Nike’s product creation process (In table fig 2) were handled by teams which comprised of triad developers, liaison factory staff, and factory engineers which entails three steps: cutting and stitching upper material of sole, moulding and shaping soles, and then bonding the components together. The upper components are die-cut onto large sheets of materials of pattern created by factory engineers. Nike uses water-based adhesives to bond shoes together, with safety measure. (Henderson, Rebecca, C. Reavis, R. Locke, and C. Liddy. 2008:6).

When shoes are made, factories emit tons of airborne chemical effluents during production. The use of gas and oil while making shoes is also harmful to the environment. There are companies who are designing sustainable, eco-friendly shoes (Brookbands, 2012). Examples of materials which are used for some shoes are recycled carpet padding, recycled car tires, natural rubber found in trees in countries such as Brazil, bamboo, cork and even sustainable wood are used to create eco-friendly shoes (Brookbands, 2012).

Vega organic cotton shoes
Veja’s organic cotton sneakers (fig 1) are funky and white, and look like Adidas, Puma and Nike. Veja means, “look” in Portuguese, and the soles of the Veja shoes are made of natural rubber from the amazon rainforest (Enn, 2012). In northeast Brazil, farmers grow cotton under agro-ecological principals, at the Veja farm, because this type of farming respects environmental protection. The cotton is spun and weaved to develop Veja Sneakers for the market. Plenty of jobs are created at these farms, where there is a decreased reliance on the government for creation of jobs (Veja, 2012).

Men’s Green Silence Racing Flat Running shoes

The Brooks Green Silence Racing Flat (Fig 2) running shoes are asymmetrical in design that contains soy-based inks, and made from recycled materials, are designed with minimal sole, 8mm low heels, to allow athletes to move around the racing track better. Once this shoe starts breaking, it is biodegradable making it suitable to be put back into the natural environment to biodegrade (Brooks Sports, 2012). Seventy-five percent of Brooks Racing Flat shoe is made from post-consumer biodegradable material, which includes the inner soles and collars. All the dyes used for colour of the shoe are non-toxic, and adhesives are water-based, and packaging for the shoe is 100 recyclable, as it also made from biodegradable material. Brooks Racing Flat shoe also offers the same performance and quality as other racing shoes, as traditional racing shoes are not as eco-friendly, yet the racing flat shoe design is very much the same like normal running shoes in terms of its shape form. (Brooks Sports, 2012)


New Balance released a sustainable shoe in 2011 called newSky, made of 95% recycled material called Eco-fi, which means it is high quality polyester fabric. The shoe is made from recycled plastic bottles, making it lighter than cotton as well being water resistant. New Balance chops the plastic bottles into flakes, and then it is heated and moulded into the desired shape wanted (Curto, 2011). The shoes are also treated with Fosshield technology to further prevent the shoes from getting bacteria, and fungus. Twelve plastic bottles make one pound of eco-fibre fabric, and eight plastic bottles are required to make one pair of shoes. New Balance, alongside Nike, Puma, and Adidas are leaders of the Sustainable Shoe Development movement, which entails the reuse, renew and recycle of shoes (Curto, 2011).

New Balance aims to create products which are recoverable, and does not require the use of toxic substances, and have no major impact on the environment. New Balance encourages reusing of shoes which means donating old shoes back so it can be recreated to be used again. Education on product design relating to environmental issues, as well as the manufacturing process is important (New Balance Athletic Shoe, 2012:15). Hazardous materials must be identified and controlled to prevent the use of materials which are harmful to the environment. Light midsole cushioning is used for all of New Balance’ shoes from their Minimus range. Their core philosophy is to use as fewer resources as possible. Their packaging of shoes entails the use of recycled paper and cardboard before they are shipped across the world. Design is also a core component of their philosophy as they aim to produce shoes which use fewer resources as possible (New Balance Athletic Shoe, 2012:28).

2.2) Sustainable footwear design for South Africans
2.2.1) A Design Intervention for a shoe design

I have proposed a sustainable shoe design (fig 8), which could encourage more South African shoemakers to switch to sustainable footwear design in South Africa. The shoe design is based on research gathered from New Balance eco-environment movement towards sustainability as well as other research on shoes being implemented internationally (New Balance Athletic Shoe, 2012:30). The use of water-based adhesives and non-toxic inks is surely a way forward in terms of producing sustainable shoes. The reliance on recycled fibre and PET plastic bottles can be used for grinding and moulding to produce midsoles and upper soles of shoes. Recycled based rubber soles are eco-friendly because they are reused rubber and some can be made with fewer solvents. Shoe laces can be made from grinded plastic bottles as well (New Balance Athletic Shoe, 2012:32).

There is a huge demand for environmental protection across the world. The amount of waste assimilated across the world can be calculated by the amount of waste generated (Herva, M, & Álvarez, A & Roca, E. 2011: 1877).

2.2.2) Sustainable Footwear Programmes and shoes in South Africa

Puma launched the “bring me back” programme (fig 7) in March 2012 in South Africa, alongside ICO, a recycling company, to encourage recycling of old shoes. Recycling bins are set up in every Puma store across South Africa for customers to throw their old shoes in the bin stationed at each particular store. It is a good sign of sustainability for South Africans who are being educated in the process about recycling (African House 1, 2012). The “Clever Little Bag” programme was also launched by Puma in 2010, a programme that encourages the replacement of traditional shoeboxes with eco-friendly packaging or shoeboxes for shoes to be put in. Puma aims to cut carbon emissions by 25% in the year 2015 (africanhouse1, 2012). Puma contacted “universal” designer Yves Behar for the Clever Little Bag programme for his vision for a new packaging that could be designed and created in a way that would cut use of packaging the shoe content by 65% for each shoebox made for their ranges of shoes. Each shoebox would be made using recycle cardboard to package the shoes. The inks printed on the package would be water-based instead of the toxic chemicals used on most packages (Puma, 2010).

Eco Walkmates

Woolworths released a range of baby shoes in 2010, made of recycled materials. The Eco Walkmates’ (Fig 5) upper sole is made from plastic crates, and the laces are made from PET bottles. Eighty percent of the bottom sole is made from natural rubber and the rest is made from recycled rubber. (Design Indaba, 2010) Aluminium from recycled cans, tins and aircraft parts are used to make the eyelets for the laces. These shoes are available for both girls and boys in shoe sizes from four to eleven. (Design Indaba, 2010)

Tjerrie (fig 7) brand showcased and released a range of fashion accessories at the 2011 edition of the Design Indaba showcase. The accessories can be made from woven upholstery fabrics, including vegetable tanned leather for their Tjerrie leather shoes. The leather shoe is a mixture of soft mohair and eco-friendly robust leather (Design Indaba, 2011). Tjerrie like Tsonga shoes creates employment for less privileged citizens of South Africa. They focus on creating sustainable shoes for people to wear, and creating employment for the local community is their main objective. (Tsonga, 2012)

A group of 30 people was asked questions regarding Sustainable shoe Development in South Africa by me. I simply asked people in South Africa via the online survey stream SurveyMonkey whether they have heard of Sustainable Shoe Development in South Africa. 96% of these people said they never heard of any brands, which were sustainable, that is created in South Africa. However, they did say they were aware of Sustainable Shoe Development overseas as well as being familiar with the term Sustainable Shoe Development. I asked people what their favourite shoe brands were: Most of these peoples’ favourite shoe brands are Nike and Adidas because they are so familiar across the world. At least 38% of people like Nike, and 33% in favour of wearing Adidas, the other shoe brands were Puma (17%) and New Balance (12%). 100% of the 30 people interviewed online knew what the term Sustainable Shoe Development meant. 98% of the people surveyed said they would support Sustainable Shoe Development in South Africa. 62% said they would buy a sustainable shoe if the price was reasonable (Theron, 2012).

3. Conclusion & Recommendations
Sustainable Shoe Development is important for South Africans and people across the world as environment protection is of great concern to scientists and thinkers across the world. Sustainable shoe design needs to be implemented in order for shoes to be reused, renewed and recycled. Resources for shoes are vastly being depleted; therefore a solution, as shown in figure 8, can be used for various shoes to encourage more sustainable developed shoes in South Africa. South Africa has not created their own brand of sustainable running shoes yet, but baby shoes have being created in South Africa using less toxic chemicals and materials. South Africa has only started moving into the direction of Sustainable Shoe Development and desperately needs designers and workers to envision and make new sustainable shoes. Only through education and knowledge of Sustainable Shoe Development can this movement grow in South Africa. The leaders of footwear recycling and Sustainable Shoe Development are footwear giants such as Puma, Adidas, Nike and New Balance.

The Eco Walkmates baby shoes launched by Woolworths recently debuted at the Design Indaba is not a running shoe, yet it is a move forward in the sustainable direction of shoe development. Puma launched the Bring me Back programme in South Africa this year where people are able to recycle old shoes by putting them into a shoe recycling bin located at Puma stores. South Africa is aware of recycling and developing sustainable shoes, which are eco-friendly, but it requires advanced machinery to produce these shoes, as well being educated about Sustainable Shoe Development. To make an Eco-friendly shoe would educate and creates jobs for developing countries as first-world countries turn to these people to produce the shoes at a cheaper cost. Sustainable footwear practice will eventually be implemented across the entire globe. If Sustainable Shoe Development were practiced in South Africa, it would create a surplus of jobs for people in poorer communities. The economy would eventually grow because there are plenty of shoes to be recycled, renewed and reused.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59