On Friday, June 8, more than 1,500 people participated in the Adidas x Parley Run for the Oceans 5K at Temescal Gateway Park in Los Angeles. The three-hour affair kicked off four weeks of running events scheduled across the world in six key cities to celebrate the partnership and to launch Adidas’ newest UltraBoost Parley shoes.
Among the hundreds of attendees lining up at the starting line were global Adidas Runners, Parley ocean ambassadors, environmentalists, influencers and celebs such as Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen, actor Scott Eastwood and singer Jhené Aiko (who donned a full Adidas track suit to the affair).
To raise money for Parley’s ocean conservation efforts, participants were asked to download the Runtastic app on their smartphones and join the Run for the Oceans group prior to embarking on the course. For each kilometer logged from June 8, 2018, to July 8, 2018 (and from anywhere in the world), Adidas will donate $1 to the Parley Ocean Plastic program (capped at USD $1 million). At time of publication, approximately 1.6 million kilometers have been logged by 391,459 runners worldwide.
As part of the event, Adidas gave select runners a chance to try out its limited-release UltraBoost Parley and UltraBoost X Parley shoes, which are both made almost entirely from recycled plastic bottles (11 per foot). Resembling the colors of the ocean and signifying its fragility, the shoes’ colorways feature soft light blue and white with one pair having a more structured foam collar, the other a sock-like knit collar.
During the week, we caught up with Matthias Amm, product category director for Adidas Running, to learn more about the shoe, the partnership with Parley and what the brand will be doing to further commit to conservation efforts in the future.
In 2015, Adidas announced its collaboration with Parley, which they call a “vertical partnership.” Both sides have experts in the area of materials, and Adidas provided its best product engineers and shoe designers to meet with Parley’s network of Boston University scientists and ocean warriors. Together, they worked to create a shoe that would not only bring awareness to Parley’s cause but tangibly do something to help stop plastic from polluting our oceans.
“From that, it took us almost a year to really come [up with] and find a supply, a way of creating plastic bottles into yarn,” said Amm. “The properties of the yarn are a little different than virgin polyester and virgin plastic yarns, so we had to re-engineer a bit of the design of the shoe to make sure it’s giving you the same performance and aspect that you get from virgin plastic.”
Currently, the brands get their used plastic from the Maldives in an effort to clean up its beaches. “They were affected the most, or, they were shouting out the loudest to get help,” shared Amm. “So we partnered with them, and that’s where the first ocean schools and the plastic collection stations are [from].” As the program grows, Adidas and Parley hope to sign up more ocean states to explore additional supply chains across the globe. One of their first local ventures is their LA outfit, which uses trash picked up from the beaches and reworks it at their Atlanta factories into the shoes (albeit there’s only a small quantity of these LA-specific shoes available).
Though most of the Parley shoes are made from recycled plastic, the brand can’t claim it is 100 percent biodegradable or recyclable, just yet. It’s still made with Boost foam, and even that feature was highly discussed before launching the shoe.
“What we really found was that we need to get the consumer aware of the problem and how we can do that is really getting them onto the journey. And if we were to compromise on the performance, the consumer wouldn’t buy it—because it’s like, ‘OK, why should I buy it? It’s recycled, but it doesn’t give me the greatest running experience,’” said Amm. “And that was always the case, to look into new innovative solutions in the future and to make Boost with recycled plastic for instance. And we’re also looking into reducing our torsion bars and where there’s plastic, make it recycled content.”
As they looked at the market, they also saw a big pull from Generation Z, who was no longer only excited about the latest and greatest sneakers, but they wanted to make an impact with their purchases. Which is interesting to note since, even in the last five years, this trend has begun to take over all industries. Doing good and making a change are more of a selling point now than who’s wearing what. “They know—like the young generation know—if they don’t do anything, the world is going to go under.”
Going forward, Adidas plans to have all its UltraBoost running shoes made out of Parley ocean plastic and hopes to start making Parley a standardized material. “The real solution in the future will be the redesign,” said Amm. “We started to look into it a bit when we launched a future concept with biodegradable yarn, made out of a kind of spider silk kind of thing, which [is] biodegradable. But that’s the kind of materials which we’re looking for in the future, don’t really think about using plastic, we [are] really thinking about materials which are already from the start, really environment-friendly.”
For now, runners can get these limited-edition, UltraBoost Parley and UltraBoost X Parley shoes online (available now) or in stores on June 27 for $200. In the coming weeks, Adidas’ dark blue UltraBoost Parley colorway will be available in stores come June 20 for $180. If you haven’t picked up a pair yet, they’re worth checking out, and don’t forget to log your miles on Runtastic to support Parley’s Ocean Plastic program.