Are ecological football boots the future? Sokito leads the way as Nike, adidas and PUMA join

While the major players are experimenting with sustainable designs, a new company is trying to speed up the industry.

At the end of 2021, adidas launched its first vegan football boot. The boot was a collaboration with Stella McCartney, with input from Paul Pogba, and adheres to the designer’s strict sustainability standards. Since then, adidas has commemorated “Earth Day” with a new version of its Gamemode silhouette, Nike has launched Vapor Next Nature, its most sustainable Mercurial to date, and PUMA has used recycled plastics for its First Mile collection. So maybe the football industry is finally getting serious about sustainability.

The move to a greener football boot isn’t just being led by the big boys, and a new company is aiming to drive change within the industry. “The football boot industry needs to start having a more open conversation about sustainability,” explains Jake Hardy, founder of sokito, a new brand of boots with an ecological approach. “We need to talk about extending the life cycle of boots and raising awareness about the environmental impact of the different materials used in boots today.”

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Hardy made the decision to found Sokito based on a trip to Vietnam, where he saw tailors making custom shoes out of unwanted waste from large factories. This sparked the inspiration for Hardy, which he combined with his previous experience running a football boot restoration business. Hardy incorporates both influences, although creating professional-grade football boots is an entirely different challenge.

“Sokito’s approach was to reverse engineer a football boot and look at each individual component with three factors in mind: performance, planet and price,” continues Hardy. “When it comes to our football boots, it’s all about the detail. From researching and testing new materials to the way we work with our master shoemakers, we put a lot of emphasis on getting the balance right, so our product delivers maximum performance.”

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The balance between performance and sustainability is something that the big boot brands have also had to overcome. Launching the brand’s First Mile boots, PUMA’s Dominique Gathier spoke about the importance of introducing sustainable materials “without compromising the high-end performance benefits of our signature silos.” Another difficulty comes from the stress the boots are put under when worn in matches, which means strength and durability are key. “We’ve tested a lot of materials and a lot of plant-based alternatives haven’t worked to the necessary standard,” Hardy acknowledges.

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Sokito has settled on a makeup that uses Pebax, a material produced from beans, and Tencel from used paper, along with recycled nylon and carpet waste, plastic, and rubber. This composition means that all boots have a minimum of 56% ecological materials (69% in Sokito’s custom models). “The overall effect is that our boots have a pretty unique feel compared to other products on the market,” adds Hardy. “Along with our custom manufacturing process, we have something quite unique to offer gamers.”

In its quest to make the entire football boot industry more sustainable, Sokito goes beyond simply using recycled or alternative materials. Another aspect comes through his boot recycling program, which he believes is the first in the world. “Right now, it’s impossible to recycle a football boot because the technology isn’t currently available,” says Hardy, adding that research showed that 12.5 million pairs of boots are heading to landfills in the US and the EU every year. “So we are very pleased to have developed a pilot scheme to test new machinery that can break down old boots into materials that can then be reused. We want to divert boots from landfills and be part of our planned circular model of turning old boots into new boots.”

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Another approach is the definition of sustainability, putting fair working conditions on an equal footing with ecological concerns. “Sustainability is just as important as taking an ethical approach to doing business, I don’t see how you can have one without the other,” continues Hardy, adding that the brand’s mission is to “do the right thing for people and the planet.” .

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Hardy is under no illusions about Sokito’s role in the football boot industry, something that has been dominated by the same handful of big names for decades. Unsurprisingly, its advertising and sponsorship budgets are a fraction of those of its competitors, but the brand still hopes to make a big impact through its messaging.

“I’d like to think that our presence in the market and future campaigns will accelerate conversations around sustainability,” says Hardy. You have B Corp brands like Fairphone and Patagonia that are revolutionizing their industries by speaking up and tackling some big issues, so it would be great to emulate the kind of impact they’re having in their respective markets.”

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