This biobased sneaker is—literally—breaking the mold.

Photo: Reebok

In case you haven't noticed, "plant-based" is basically ~the new black~ when it comes to healthy food, diet, and personal care products. Interest in veganism is on the rise (just ask Google Trends), and more non-vegans are interested in living largely plant-based lifestyles. (Say hello to flexitarianism.) In fact, the plant-based food and beverage market now exceeds $4.9 billion in the U.S., with sales growing more than 3.5 percent since last year, according to Food Business News, who also reported that the number of products launched with the "plant-based" label reached 320 in 2016, compared to 220 in 2015 and 196 in 2014. (Even Baileys launched vegan booze, you guys.)

But food isn't the only area where plant-based products are on the rise. Reebok is pioneering the plant-based shoe trend-and just released their debut product, the NPC UK Cotton + Corn sneaker. The upper section is made from 100-percent cotton, the sole is made of corn-derived TPU plastic, and the insole is made from castor bean oil. The sneaker comes in recycled packaging, and all the materials are undyed. The result: The first-ever 75-percent USDA-certified bio-based shoe (and they're cute too).

In 2017, Reebok's Future Team (the group developing the Cotton + Corn initiative) announced that they were working on creating the first-ever compostable shoe. While they haven't quite gotten there yet, this bio-based sneaker is a step in the right direction. (No pun intended.) Eventually, their goal is to create a whole range of plant-based shoes that you can compost after you're done with them. Then they plan to use that compost as part of the soil used to grow new materials for shoes.

"Most athletic footwear is made using petroleum to create synthetic rubber and foam cushioning systems," said Bill McInnis, Head of Reebok Future. "With 20 billion pairs of shoes made every year, this is not a sustainable way of making footwear. At Reebok, we thought, ‘what if we start with materials that grow, and use plants rather than oil-based materials?' By using sustainable resources as our foundation, and then through ongoing testing and development, we were able to create a plant-based sneaker that performs and feels like any other shoe."

"We're focusing on creating shoes made from things that grow, made from things that bio-compost, made from things that can be replenished," he says. (ICYMI, shoe companies are also storming the market with eco-friendly wool sneakers.)

Wondering how corn is used to produce that cushy, springy sole you love in your workout sneaks? Just thank science. Reebok partnered with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products (a manufacturer of high-performance bio-based solutions) to use Susterra propanediol, a pure, petroleum-free, nontoxic, 100 percent USDA-certified bio-based product derived from corn.

You can snag a pair of the unisex sneakers now on for $95. (While you're at it, stock up on these sustainable fitness clothes for the ultimate feel-good outfit.)

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