By: Tim Newcomb

Just over one year into existence, the direct-to-consumer Hong Kong-based Lane Eight footwear brand — started by brothers Josh and James Shorrock, veterans of the sneaker industry, including Adidas — have taken on an all-encompassing shift to sustainable materials by choosing recycled and plant-based materials.

“Since we started this brand, there was one glaring reality that we knew we wanted to address and that’s the idea of sustainability,” Josh says. “Going forward, we’re proud to say we’re moving away from all animal-derived materials and will be using more sustainable alternatives while still ensuring our shoes perform at the same level.”

Lane Eight launched in August 2018 with the Trainer AD 1 sneaker, designed as a multi-sport athletic shoe with enough fashion sense to be worn away from the gym. The original design included suede, plastics and non-sustainable knits. The updates bring in vegan fibers, recycled fibers and recycled plastic.

The switch will start with a Dec. 11 launch of the Trainer AD 1 — $95 — in Mint and Birch colorways, highlighting colors found in nature and in the new materials used. Lane Eight will transition the materials into the pre-existing Trainer AD 1, new Trainer AD 1 colorways and additional 2020 sneaker styles. “The palette for Mint and Birch is no coincidence,” Josh says, “inspired by the natural colors from the environment where our algae are harvested.”

Josh says they’ve put a focus on improving their product — the AD 1 fit is getting a tweak too — and they knew part of that included creating a more environmentally friendly product, even if it makes creating new products more challenging. “It’s a little bit trickier to make a more eco-friendly shoe than to develop a shoe using traditional materials and methods of construction,” he says. “We are finally in a position to be able to re-develop our signature Trainer AD 1 with new materials that minimize our impact on the planet.”

The first thing to go, Josh says, was the natural suede paneling, a co-product of the meat industry. Lane Eight switched to a microfiber for the same abrasion resistance, but at a lighter weight. With the knit upper, they opted for an “upcycling approach” by using a recycled polyester yarn. The new yarn takes 11 recycled plastic bottles to create one pair of Lane Eight shoes. Then, the Shorrocks opted for an algae-based Bloom midsole. Bloom is already known in the industry for creating midsole from algae blooms that would otherwise pose issues to marine ecosystems.

Finding the right suppliers, though, did provide some challenges during the switch-over. “Consistency is always essential, but often difficult to find,” Josh says. “Transparency is also a must. Oftentimes, suppliers will tout a newly developed material without providing all the details of the manufacturing process.” He says that Bloom and Sincetech, the recycled polyester knit supplier, have proven open and transparent from the start.

While Lane Eight wants to make a switch to sustainability, they don’t want to lose performance along the way. The Bloom midsole allowed them to create a blend that included the properties of their previous midsole and the new knit upper “performs exactly the same as our previous knit upper.” The midsole, Josh says, features built-in “momentum” with a bounce and a plush feeling. Using an ETPU sock liner with pellets — not too unlike the Adidas Boost design — in a full-length setup allows them to design for stability without flattening out the cushioning. The outsole includes TPU sidewalls for stability and rigidness and a rubber sole for traction across multiple activities.

As Lane Eight pushes for a piece of the footwear market in year two, they’ll use a sustainable approach to make a mark, a sneaker mark with a smaller carbon footprint.

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