Last month, WearTesters was invited to try the adidas Futurecraft Loop, a 100% recyclable performance running shoe. We were given the Futurecraft Loop alongside 200-ish influencers. Based on what I heard from the others in attendance, most articles about this shoe will focus on the recycling side of the shoe. This article will be what WearTesters does best, an in-depth performance review.
You can also see the Futurecraft Loop on our Best adidas Running Shoes list.
While the Futurecraft Loop won’t release publicly until summer 2021, a public beta is coming this fall. The public beta will be free, but you’ll have to apply for it. We’ll share the public beta details on WearTesters as soon as we get them.
First a little background. Some people called these a concept car for shoes, but it’s not. This is an actual shoe that Adidas is fine-tuning for release. This is a first-generation version where the brand needs wear-testing feedback. Adidas will keep modifying the sneaker until they go into production for the summer 2021 release.
The reason the shoe is so interesting is that it could be a game changer for the sneaker industry. Recyclable sneakers may create new business models in the footwear industry — think shoe subscription models where you pay a monthly fee and always have fresh kicks, or a trade-in model where you get a lower price on your new shoes by trading in the old ones (like Apple does with iPhones).
For this review, I ran 60+ miles on pavement, trails, and in a Flash Flood warning–level rainstorm. I also wore the Futurecraft Loop to Legoland, around NYC, and as my everyday kick-around shoes for a month. I wore them a lot. Why? Because Adidas asked me to. They asked everyone who got the shoes to run them into the ground for a month and return them. When the shoes are returned to Adidas, they will be washed, ground to pellets, and melted into material that will be used to make a new pair of shoes. At this point, they can only use the recycled portion to create 10% of the second-generation model, but they’re actively working to improve that. Mostly, they want to see how hard use will affect the materials and thus the second and third generations of the Loop. After I send these back, I’ll get the second-gen version to test. We’ll update this article or write a new one once we’ve had a chance to see how the second-gen Futurecraft Loop performs.
We’ll start with the materials because they’re the big story. The Futurecraft Loop is made from 100% reusable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) with no glue. They’re plastic shoes. The plastic is used in a much different way then you’re used to: spun to yarn, knitted, molded, and clean-fused to a BOOST midsole using Adidas Speedfactory tech. Adidas needed numerous technical innovations to make this happen. The one that really stood out to me was the TPU yarn. At first, it feels like you’re wearing a fuse-era basketball shoe. However, the TPU yarn breaks in over time in a way fuse doesn’t. It never got as comfortable as a knit shoe, but I did feel like it developed a nice one-to-one fit. The breathability of the yarn is another nice surprise. You don’t expect it, but the yarn’s airflow stacks up nicely against typical performance running shoes.
From an aesthetic perspective, Adidas made the Futurecraft Loop with the TPU in its raw state, so the color looked either bright white or slightly yellow depending on the lighting. Adidas left the TPU raw to better understand what happens to the materials as they age and are recycled to create the second-gen model. Adidas can color the TPU and showed us examples of red and blue versions. Apparently, the colors will get progressively darker as the shoe transforms from one generation to the next, so you’d get a slightly different shade each time the shoe was recycled.
The Boost midsole mold was reused from the Adidas Ultraboost 4. The Futurecraft Loop feels great on the road. The Boost is a different formulation than the normal version from the BASF Corporation. Adidas had to recreate it since this version needed to come from the TPU used on the rest of the shoe. Though a different formulation, the typical Boost bounce is there and there’s no real difference in feel from the Boost you have in your closet. Strangely enough, this new Boost does repel dirt better than previous iterations – random I know.
As a nice addition, the insole is cushioned using Boost. No complaints here on that upgrade from typical EVA foam. I did have complaints about the top of the insole. It’s the biggest drawback of the shoe and something that needs to be improved prior to launch. The insole covering is fibrous and rough. I think Adidas roughed up the yarn fibers so you don’t slide around. Unfortunately, the insole doesn’t smooth out over time as the cushioning molds to your feet. That means the insole is always slightly uncomfortable. I did get a blister on one of my toes after a few days of back-to-back running, and the bottom of my feet would often feel beat up after a long run. The cushion is typical of other Adidas models with boost, but they must improve the insole so long-distance runners don’t have issues.
The Futurecraft Loop fits true to size and wide footers shouldn’t have any issues. Because they’re made of TPU, the shoes are a little stiff for the first week, but they do break in and the TPU yarn molds to the sides of your feet. My only issue here is that the laces weren’t quite long enough and didn’t have enough stretch. The laces also slipped apart without a tightly pulled double knot. When I asked, the Adidas designers told me this is something they are actively working to improve. I was told making plastic laces is extremely hard, but they’re making progress on creating something that will function as well as normal laces.
This is one area where the Futurecraft Loop excels versus typical knit runners like the Ultraboost 19. While there’s no real heel counter, you do sit slightly inside the boost midsole. The TPU yarn is also very strong and stiff in the heel. While it does break in, it never gives as much as regular knit. Even on the most uneven trails filled with tree branches, I always felt securely on top of the midsole and was never in danger of tweaking an ankle.
Going into my testing, I was worried about the traction. After all, the outsole is made of TPU. I usually associate plastic with slipping and sliding on any slick surface. I started my first rainy run with trepidation. Luckily for me, the team at Adidas managed to create a TPU outsole soft enough that it almost works as well as rubber. The outsole had more than enough traction for completely wet streets, various trails, and concrete/pavement. The only time the traction didn’t grip well was if I ran through a puddle and the outsole got wet while the rest of the ground was dry. For 5–10 steps post-puddle, I had to be careful with my footing. Once the wetness was gone, the shoes returned to their normal traction. Overall, a fantastic effort for a plastic outsole. It does yellow (intensely) but durability shouldn’t be an issue. It didn’t wear out any faster than the regular Continental rubber outsole Adidas uses on the Ultraboost line.
The Adidas Futurecraft Loop feels like a stiffer, slightly less cushioned version of the Adidas Ultraboost 19. I’m excited to see how Adidas improves the laces, insole, and traction. I’m also ready to find out how the second-gen model performs, how Adidas does color on the Loop line, and how this may change Adidas’ business models. I’d recommend the Futurecraft Loop if you love the 100% recyclable concept or if you’re a serious runner that loves Adidas shoes. Give these a try when they go to public beta. Also, there’s a chance this may be the one shoe industry future (of 14,000,605 possibilities) in which the environment wins.