How many of you became runners during the lockdown period? I didn’t… I hate running. I do it, but I never liked this activity. But it doesn’t matter if we run or not: we all have sneakers. Sneakers have become a fashion accessory, a city shoe, a shoe you wear all the time. This is also the element of our wardrobe that we throw away most often. In the world, every year, we produce 23 billion sneakers. To give you the idea of volume, Nike alone sells 25 pairs of shoes per second, non-stop. We buy an average of 3 pairs of sneakers per year. Runners running around 20 km a day consider their sneakers worn out after 6 months and buy a new pair. If we play sports, we are looking for new «technological» inventions for our feet. Isn’t it that only when we have the most ingenious shoes that we consider ourselves really well equipped for our sports session
Sneakers – not really the best shoe for sport session
Let’s take a closer look at sneakers as a sports accessory. Most people who run regularly sometimes encounter small incidents: a small injury, knee pain. And of course, we’re looking for a cure so we can keep running and not hurt ourselves in the future. Unfortunately, I already have bad news: if you ever had a leg injury – you are three times more likely to have new ones in the future. And the research proves that the shoe has nothing to do with it. The sneaker market plays on our fears. The ads are trying to convince us that with the new technology put in place, we will be more efficient, faster, more protected… In reality, technological inventions are a gadget created to increase sales. These inventions are not based on any scientific research (where a sample of people in the experimental group must be compared over a long period of time). The producers only advertise the latest inventions, but are not concerned with their effectiveness. In addition, some companies in the United States, such as Reebok or Nike, have had to reimburse their customers for their misleading advertising.
Our feet do not need rocket science
In fact, the only thing we really need is to feel comortable in a shoe. Scientists agrees: our comfort is the only thing that counts. If our foot feels good in the shoe then our posture is properly adapted and our knees are properly positioned. You do not need to buy sneakers that give miraculous promises, as there would be no difference if you ran barefoot. We could even run without shoes if we wouldn’t get hurt with things encountered on the ground. But what’s amazing is that the researchers agree – all we need is ground protection – and you can run with any shoe as long as you’re comfortable in it.
Dirty shoe business
It’s time to find out what lies behind all this «magic» of a sneakers. We all do think that running is the most «green» sport of all, doesn’t we? All we need is a pair of sneakers and we can run in the middle of the nature… Unfortunately, there is a problem – and not the least – our sneakers themselves. They are far from being “green ”. Even worse, sports shoes alone account for 20% of the pollution created by the fashion industry (which is the biggest polluter of all branches of industry). Already, the composition of the sneakers – the mixture of different materials (polyester, nylon, latex, polyurethane, leather and many other synthetic components) make it an impossible product to recycle. 20% of the shoes will end up burned and the rest will end up in a wastefields in poor countries… They will decompose for a millennium, however, they will be releasing microplastic particles throughout the process. But their final life is not the only problem. The biggest scandal is the pollution created during the manufacturing process.
Petrole and chromium
First of all, most of the components of the sneakers are petroleum-based chemicals. Leather used in mass production comes from poor countries (80% of the world’s leather comes from India – so forget the myth that we kill the animal for meat and use its leather for clothing; no, we kill other animals for meat and others for leather). In these poor countries, leather is tanned using chromium – a chemical that is dangerous and carcinogenic to humans. Thus, chromium and other tanning derivatives are released into drinking water and poison people and surrounding land.
Dozens of factories for one shoe
But this is just the beginning of the pollution created by the sneakers. A sneaker is composed of an average of 65 different elements (some say it can go up to 200). And each of these elements is produced separately, because each requires a specialized machine. And for the big manufacturers (those who sell 25 sneakers per second) it is cheaper to produce all those items in different Asian countries. In addition, they transport them to one place to glue them, then to another place for sew them and, finally, to another for final assembly. Producers are looking for greater profitability in production, even if it means having dozens of fabrics in different countries. They are not interested in the carbon impact they create. But that should be our greatest interest : us, consumers.
A shoe we don’t really need
Those who want the most suitable running shoes – follow the advice of scientists and buy simply comfortable shoes. We don’t need fancy shoes, the latest technical prowess. Tennis shoes, which are mandatory for all children who attended school some thirty years ago, are, according to the specialists, the most suitable for all sports activities. Even the United States Army uses these minimalist shoes for all training. Let’s not forget the most important information: a sports shoe is just a comfortable shoe. And choosing the sneakers of popular brands brings us nothing more than a heavy burden on the consciousness due to pollution, the poisoning of nature and the use of the work of underpaid people. The purchase of these dirty shoes should not be seen as a “trend” element of our wardrobe, but rather as a big mistake.
This post is also available in: French