Is this the world's most sustainable shoe?

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On Running have unlocked extraordinary possibilities

This feature looks at the sustainability program of Cyclon. If you want to read about the features of the shoe from a performance perspective, we've got that in a separate feature here.

I don't want to oversell this, but On Running are really blowing up the whole game when it comes to shoe manufacturing, and I couldn’t be more into it. We're not here to talk about carbon plates or stack heights, we're here to talk about sustainability, and why On are the leaders.

You may have heard, but Cyclon is On Running’s first ever subscription shoe.

Subscription shoe? What does that mean? We’ll get to that in a minute, but what you really need to know is how the shoe is made.

It’s a shoe made from Castor Beans. Castor Oil Plants are drought tolerant plants that grow real big, real quick, and they produce beans or seeds. There’s a pressing process that turns these beans into oil, and that oil is then turned into different bio-materials which can eventually become things such as a knit upper for a shoe. The castor oil is essentially replacing fossil fuels in the production process (fossil fuels = bad).

This would all be super neat if it ended there. A more responsibly made running shoe that is less resource intensive to make, and doesn’t use fossil fuels. I could get around that. But that is literally just the beginning.

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ON co-founder Caspar Coppetti

The power of Cyclon is that it can be broken down and recycled, which is a massive deal. If you’re a committed runner running 50km per week, you’re going to go through 3 or 4 pairs of shoes a year - while some of us are rotating through that many pairs of shoes in a couple of months. What do you do with them when you’re done? If there’s a little bit of life left in them, maybe you drop them at a local charity program, but even then - they eventually end up in landfill. Think about that - all of the shoes you’ve ever worn are still sitting around somewhere, taking up space and not breaking down.

But how do you recycle a running shoe? You can’t just lob this one into the recycling bin with your juice bottle, but On have that covered. Part of what makes the Cyclon program so good is the circularity of it - you wear the shoe until the end of its life, and then you return it to On. They break the shoes down, and the materials then go back through the production process and contribute to becoming a new pair of shoes.

Importantly, the shoe is constructed using just one material family, which means it can be completely recycled after you’ve finished wearing it. Most running shoes are made from 40+ material families, making recycling almost impossible. The knit upper is made from a single cut of fabric, which reduces cutting room floor waste, while the midsole is Pebax - if you don’t know what Pebax is, don’t worry about it, but if you do - this will be good news to you. Pebax is widely considered to be a superior midsole foam, and a big improvement over traditional EVA foam.


To give us all a better understanding of how much better Cyclon is for the environment than a traditional running shoe, On have done some testing. They’ve compared Cyclon to the average On shoe and looked at the entire production process. The results are pretty staggering - particularly if you imagine applying them to all running shoes.

  1. From production to first recycling, Cyclon produces 50% less CO2
  2. Cyclon reduces energy consumption by 70%
  3. Cyclon produces 90% less waste in total, and zero waste once it’s in market

Obviously Cyclon is currently a very small piece of what On are doing, but the future possibilities in the entire footwear industry are enormous.


Upon learning about Cyclon there are two main questions that we have (and we’re betting you do, too!), and the first is around availability. Cyclon is currently in a pre-launch phase. You see, to make this program sustainable and efficient, it will only proceed once each region has reached ‘critical mass’. If we look at that in Australian terms, basically it means having enough orders to fill a shipping container, so the product isn’t shipped with fresh air in the container (inefficient).

What that means is right now you can pre-register, which is actually really cool. It’s not often that we, the people get to use our collective voice to make something happen, but this is exactly that opportunity. If you believe in the idea and the project, you can make a meaningful contribution and see it come to life.

You can register here.

The other question we have is, ‘What’s it like to run in?’, and that’s a great question. We’ve actually prepared a second feature on Cyclon that just looks at the technical details of the shoe, which you can read here.

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