Nike Space Hippie sneakers made from scraps found on factory floors


In the third of five green gear features – where we showcase an eco-made consumer product – we take a look at Nike’s Space Hippie sneakers, made from recycled waste including plastic water bottles, t-shirts and textile scraps.

Nike used waste collected from factories and what it calls recycled “space waste yarn” to create the Space Hippie sneakers as part of a project to reduce the carbon impact of its products. There are four different designs in the collection, called Space Hippie 01, 02, 03 and 04, but we are focusing on the original, the 01.

The concept began in 2017 when new research within Nike allowed the Oregon-based company to identify CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent – a standard unit of carbon footprint measurement) the emissions from individual materials and manufacturing processes when assembling a shoe.

Nike claims that 90% of the Space Hippie’s upper, which resembles their Flyknit design, is made from recycled materials and woven from “space waste yarn.” The central, cushioning part of the sneaker is made from excess ZoomX foam from the production of the Nike Vaporfly 4% running shoe. This lightweight foam is reused in a method that produces only about half the carbon dioxide equivalent of creating typical Nike foams.

“Because of the high bar we had already set using recycled materials like polyester and techniques like Flyknit, we needed to find something with an even lower impact and that led us to waste as a resource,” Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, Nike Sustainable Design Lead said Forbes.

“It was equally important not to over-process these materials and not to put carbon emissions back into the equation. So you can see how this led to a raw expression of the quality of materials and the innovations needed to bring them together in a performance shoe.

The outsole of each Space Hippie shoe is made from “crater foam”, which is a mixture of standard Nike foams and 15% recycled rubber that has been ground into granules, which has been the hallmark of Nike Grind. In addition to reducing the use of virgin materials, allowing for a reduced carbon footprint, the use of Nike Grind means that each shoe’s midsole features a unique texture and color combination.

“That’s where we were inspired by ISRU [In-Situ Resource Utilization], a space exploration concept that proposes using materials sourced locally on other planets, but integrating them into habitats and other necessities through high technology,” Murphy-Reinhertz said. “In the same way, we have turned to the abundant resource of waste and transformed it through innovation.”

The Oregon-based sportswear maker has an impressive history of corporate social responsibility. In 1994 it launched its Grind program, which turns used training shoes and excess materials into running tracks and since 2010 it has stopped 7.5 billion plastic bottles from ending up in waterways or landfills with upcycled footwear and apparel like the Nike VaporMax Random, which is made with over 75% recycled materials.

“We [Nike] have been embedding sustainability for decades, not only in our operations, but also in how we innovate to reduce our environmental footprint while providing high performance products for people,” said Murphy-Reinhertz.

“Now we are articulating this process as Move to Zero. It is our journey towards a zero carbon, zero waste future. It is a bold commitment, but we cannot sit idly by and wait for solutions, at Nike, we want to create them, but the most important thing we can do today is listen to the scientific goals to fight climate change and act now.

So what do they like to wear? We had the opportunity to test the original variant, the 01. They are eye-catching, there is no doubt. The Flyknit-style upper stretches a bit and there’s no tongue, which means the Space Hippie forms a sort of tight seal around your ankle…once you put your foot in it. It takes a bit of effort and probably means that over time the first thing that will give is the loop in the back, which is essential when trying to squeeze through it.

They’re comfortable, but anyone with wide feet is going to struggle a bit. And tragically, it’s not just a criticism of Nike, few – very few – shoe companies cater to wide feet. I’m a 6 foot rugby player – a first rank rugby player – and I can pretty much fit into a US 11½. I will never be able to wear socks too, there just isn’t enough room in the width.

I have a pair of Brooks running shoes, as they run extra large sizes, although they look ugly and there is little to choose from. But comfort comes first when it comes to running. So my Space Hippies are now my official beach shoes, which is perfect since I won’t need socks anymore. If you don’t suffer from wide feet, the Space Hippie would make a great running shoe while looking pretty groovy.

The Space Hippie 01 comes in a cooler, made from recycled cardboard, of course, and a tote-style shoe bag. They sell for $130.


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