Because the recycled fabric behaved differently from typical footwear material, New Balance designers Christine Hall and Drew Spieth had to make adjustments to accommodate the material’s distinctive features. Besides whittling away any extraneous components, Hall and Spieth also borrowed elements from the NB Minimus by using the same pared-down outsole and last. “For the design intent of the upper, the same philosophies are applied—minimizing the amount of materials used so you’re not over-building the shoe, but making it as comfortable as possible,” Spieth says.
An average of eight recycled plastic bottles goes into each pair of newSky sneakers.
The recycled fabric, known commercially as Eco-fi, replaced parts of the shoe that previously utilized foam, leather, or virgin plastic, including the entire upper. Instead for conventional reinforcements such as plastic or leather, Hall and Spieth braced the heel with heavier-weight fabric and strategic stitching along the back seam. “The heel is where most of the reinforcing happens,” Hall says. “But when we doubled-up the material, you don’t need any reinforcement because the material is doing it itself.”
By exploiting the fabric’s unique characteristics through heating, molding, and pressing, the duo was able to strip away many traditional, non-recycled materials. The result is not only a shoe that’s gentler on the planet but also one that looks and feels good. “It was a big goal to keep it functional and looking stylish,” Spieth says. “At the end of the day, it looks like an interesting shoe and also looks great on the foot.”