I recently received a free test pair of shoes from New Balance's new "eco-preferred" collection, and I love them. My blogger friend Shea Gunther received a pair as well, and dubbed them his new favorite shoes. It's true we are both white, and white people are supposed to adore New Balance.
What's great about the shoes? They are incredibly light, yet durable, strong and supportive. This makes them extremely comfortable. Know how many new shoes take a good while to break in, before they feel good? Not these. The moment I slipped them on they felt amazing, adding an extra spring to my step. I have taken them on rigorous trail hikes, run with them on track and on pavement, and trooped all over NYC and beyond, never with any discomfort.
The shoes -- technically called the New Balance 70 -- are also extremely breathable, making them great for summer and high activity. They have a super light, strong mesh over the toes, so my feet stay practically as cool as sandals, yet more protected. Beware however that they are therefore not waterproof, and splashing through puddles is not recommended (especially oil and slime-slicked Manhattan puddles).
So what's green about the new line from Boston-based New Balance? Seventy-five percent of the uppers are "environmentally preferred materials." Lacing, tongue, rand, saddle and quarter include recycled polyester. Fewer solvents are used, and rice husks are used in the outsole, and water-based adhesives are used in a number of places. The shoes don't ship with wasteful paper packaging inside. In fact the whole construction is intended to reduce waste, with pieces cut as closely as possible, fitting together like a puzzle, slashing the amount of wasteful cuttings produced. That sounds like smart business practice!
The shoes have an MSRP of $80, and come in men's and women's styles. The company says it is working on applying the lessons learned from the line to make the whole business more sustainable. In this way it is reminiscent of Nike's Considered initiatives.
By the way, this was the first time I'd had the chance to wear footwear that wasn't out yet (it debuted this month, but I received my pair at the start of summer), and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Since the 70s have a distinct, cool look and bright colors, I received many comments, especially on where I got them. They were even admired by shoe entrepreneur Galahad Clark of the innovative Terra Plana (review of those to follow shortly), who dubbed them "interesting" and "very light."
I do have one quibble with New Balance: I can't find any promotion of the eco-preferred line on their consumer website. What's up with that? They should be trumpeting the hip, progressive shoes and their commitment to going greener, and certainly there should be an "eco" dropdown from their navigation, especially in the "Outdoor" section, and on the left rail with the other "Narrow Your Choices" offers. I'd also link info about the shoes from the "Responsible Leadership" section.
I tried searching on their site under "eco-preferred" and "New Balance 70" to no avail. Hopefully updates are coming.
The New Balance 70s are pretty great shoes. Of course, one could ask them to be greener down the road. Why not up the recycled and natural content? Hopefully they will over time, and it will help if consumers show interest in this first outing. Yes there are "deeper green" shoes made from smaller companies, and those are great to support, but there's also something to be said for a large brand greening the world one footstep at a time.
What do you think?
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