Home > Style > Fashion > Designers are using sugarcane in sneakers as a sustainable alternative
Designers are using sugarcane in sneakers as a sustainable alternative

It has taken decades, even centuries, for sugar cane to move beyond the brown and white sugars typically used to make desserts, cakes and other everyday treats.

Now, the plant, grown all around the world — Brazil, India, China, and to a lesser extent Australia — could also become a credible, sustainable alternative to certain polluting materials, like plastic, used in the fashion industry.

Sugar cane sneakers

The giants of the sector are trying to innovate and reinvent to reduce their environmental footprints, looking to, among other things, the use of sustainable materials. To this end, several brands have turned to sugar cane — not to mention grapes or apples — as an alternative to materials that are more polluting, or less respectful of the environment and animal welfare, such as leather or the PVC used to make the outsoles of some shoes.

Sugar cane has quickly become an essential natural material for making the soles of sneakers — footwear that has been highly coveted worldwide for several years. One of the pioneering brands in the field is none other than Allbirds, which has made it its mission to be (at the very least) carbon-neutral and to offer only eco-responsible sneakers made from natural materials, all without compromising on quality or performance. And it’s a challenge that the brand seems to have met with flying colours, with Time Magazine recently describing Allbirds shoes as “the world’s most comfortable.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Allbirds (@allbirds)

Allbirds is one of the labels that has made sugar cane a key material in the design of its sneakers, notably used to craft its SweetFoam sole. This technology also formed the basis of the Allbirds and Adidas “FutureCraft.FootPrint,” the first low-carbon sneaker resulting from the two brands’ collaboration.

A promising future

But the San Francisco-based brand isn’t the only one to have set its sights on this natural, low-carbon component. Several brands are now incorporating sugar cane into their shoe design, particularly for the soles, helping to reduce the environmental impact of each pair produced. The Ubac brand, for example, which sells sneakers made with recycled wool, also uses sugar cane for its outsoles. This biosourced material has “excellent technical properties such as lightness, resistance and cushioning,” according to the brand.

This point of view appears to be shared by the brands Veja, Timberland and UGG, which have all launched models partially made from sugar cane. A craze that shows how much the environmental qualities of the plant could help drive change in the industry. In any case, its future seems to be all mapped out.

sugar cane sneakers
Ubac sells sneakers made with recycled wool, with sugar cane in their outsoles. Image: Courtesy Ubac

Coming soon to clothes?

Already fast becoming a must in the world of sneakers, sugar cane could quickly take over the textile industry too. The Picture brand recently presented the first ski jacket with primary technology based on biosourced fibres, made from sugarcane waste. An innovation that proves that sugar cane can also be used in the design of clothing.

It remains to be seen if, or to what extent, the textile industry is ready to embrace this natural component which could, in the long run, help drive plastic out of our closets.

This article was published via AFP Relaxnews

Hero and featured image: Courtesy Adidas x Allbirds

Sign up for our newsletters to have the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Yes, I agree to the Privacy Policy

Never miss an update

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates.

No Thanks
You’re all set

Thank you for your subscription.