Running Shoes Have Large Carbon Footprint

Researches at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that the typical running shoe has a carbon footprint that is larger than what would be expected. Most of it arises from the manufacturing process, particularly the great many steps involved in assembling as many as 65 individual components. But what this brief online Runner’s World article didn’t explore is how minimalist running can produce a smaller carbon footprint.    

Runner’s who heel-strike frequently wear out their shoes after 500 miles since by then the impact absorbing midsole loses much of its resiliency even though the rest of the shoe may remain in good condition. Adopting a lighter, bent-knee midfoot landing can greatly extend the useful life of a pair of running shoes since the improved form uses the body’s own spring-like mechanics to manage impact forces. No matter how much carbon is released in the manufacturing process, shoes that are replaced half as often result in a reduction in both carbon emissions and the number of spent shoes going into landfills. If barefoot running is added to a runner’s program, the shoes will last even longer, chronologically.

I would welcome a study that examined the carbon footprints of conventional running shoes compared with minimalist shoes. Generally minimalist shoes appear to have fewer parts. For example each of my Xero Shoes sandals has only two parts—the rubber sole and the lace. (Well actually, three parts, since I have the older style kernmantle laces consisting of a woven outer sheath and a separate inner core). And I expect the sandals to last for at least 2000 miles.

Minimalist running has multiple advantages, and minimal impact on the environment is one of them.

Running Shoes Have Large Carbon Footprint

By Scott Douglas

Research out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a reminder that running isn’t necessarily as ecofriendly a sport as we might think it is.

Published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the research says that the typical pair of running shoes generates 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, a carbon footprint equivalent to keeping a 100-watt lightbulb on for one week.    Read More »

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