Adidas Going Natural With Mycelium Leather

Whether you are vegan or just want to try something new in the shoe department, Adidas will soon have your feet covered. They are currently working on a leather alternative made of mycelium, which is the network of fungal filament material that produces mushrooms, toadstools, truffles, and more. Hopefully they’re not using live mycelium, otherwise your shoes will grow mushrooms when they get wet like this mycelium canoe we saw a few weeks ago.

Adidas have really rooted themselves in sustainability over the past few years. They claim to have made 15 million pairs of shoes in 2020 out of recycled plastic waste collected from beaches and coastlines, and they’re shooting for 17 million pairs in 2021. The company started offering these in 2017, and they feature thread in the laces and other places that was spun from ocean plastic waste. Adidas are also using a lot of recycled polyester and are developing a new type of recycled cotton, according to Business Insider.

No use for mushroom shoes, canoes, or coffins (translated)? Everyone could probably use more insulation in their home. Why not grow your own?

Thanks to [Charles] for the mycelium coffin tip.

65 thoughts on “Adidas Going Natural With Mycelium Leather

    1. Excellent! My thought is hemp and other renewable resources…, not that fast growing trees or plants aren’t good…, would have been implemented more by now.

      Maybe best even to just use a re-usable bag like the one my first 3D printer came in today, albeit not so convenient for most if not many if they’re not used to bring with.

  1. If Adidas were even remotely interested in sustainability, rather than just greenwashing, they would allow for trading in of their old shoes in *all* locations where you can by new ones.

      1. You sound like a dude I met who thought that because we had an environmental fee on new electronics, he could just dump his old one in a ditch, because ppl were being paid to fish them out.

        1. Isn’t it more that by the time the rest of the corpse has rotted or been eaten off, the natural buoyancy of the shoe lets foot float to surface, where it’s returned by wind, wave and current to the beach?

    1. Since leather is cured with some of the planet’s most noxious chemicals, that’s when. Maybe you can check that some of the most polluted places on this planet are former leather factories.

      1. Most of the chemicals are pretty benign or downright harmless. Of course they’re usually pretty acidic or alkaline, so if you just dump them around without neutralizing or diluting, you’re going to do some damage.

        The problem is chrome tanning, and the disposal of the Chromium compounds. It’s not necessary to use Chromium, but it’s the fastest and cheapest method for many types of leather.

        1. “Most of the chemicals are pretty benign or downright harmless. ”

          So you freely admit that SOME of the chemicals in leather processing are toxic, tell me, that glass is “mostly” water, will you drink it?

          1. You don’t necessarily have to use ALL of the chemicals – it depends on the process. Some methods use toxic stuff, others don’t.

            For example, where do you think “tanning” comes from? It’s by the use of tannic acid from oak bark to preserve the leather, which also gives it a distinct color. The use of chrome tanning is because it’s very fast – up to 60 times faster – and it permits the use of dyes on the leather. Alternative processes using other metal salts exist.

            Another source of toxic stuff was the use of PCP and mercury to preserve the hides before the actual tanning process, to stop them from rotting. This has now been banned.

      2. Leather can be created with entirely natural materials from the same animal the hide came from if you want to – Brain tanning is a thing that has been done for eons. Probably the first leather processing technique, though there are other candidates for that role.

        And guess what responsible production of anything using even truly noxious chemicals is perfectly doable. Its how you use and dispose of waste and keeping any aerosol elements contained – all solved problems. Just don’t let the sweatshops at those methods, as they probably won’t do it safely for anybody.

    2. People seem to think that natural leather is from animals specifically raised for the leather as opposed to the actualy reality where the hide (and hence the leather) is by-product of meat production.

      Here in Australia, the overwhelming bulk of the hides from the abbatoirs are now sent to landfill as it is not worth processing the leather due to lack of demand.

      Instead of making use of a natural (by) product, people are happier to drill up oil to make fake leather and then claim to be green…

      1. @Shane I think you are on point with this. no one seems to think about the damage to the enviroment caused by creating “Green Alternatives” Leather tanning can be pretty nasty however there are alternative tanning processes that are not as bad.

        A leather pair of shoes will biodegrade when they are disguarded however a good pair of leather boots will last way longer than some of the alternative materials used these days. heck i had a pair of leather boots that lasted me a good 10 years, were re-soled once and i would likley still have them if they did not get stolen.

        Its like saying EV’s are good for the enviroment, Look at how the litium is mined and the damage that creates, then how ong a cell lasts before it needs replacing and recycling them is not exactly a non toxic excercise and you cant recycle all of the components. The most toxic parts get dumped. Even worse Compare the fire of a petrol car to the fire of an EV and see what one spits out the most toxins.

      2. Besides getting bullied by PETA, I think certain large Asian countries might have been responsible for killing leather demand. Around the turn of the millennium they were making “leather” goods with a plastic coating on the leather, making it unpossible to feed it with oils to keep it supple. Practical upshot was that this leather was cracking up in use sooner than wholly artificial leathers. I went from leather uppers lasting 3+ years to leather uppers lasting 6 months. It’s still a problem to find leather sports shoes that haven’t been wrecked by design in this way.

        1. I have a pair of leather walking shoes 15 years old that I keep greasing and polishing, and they just keep on trucking. I wanted to buy a new pair already but I just can’t find new shoes made like that so I keep polishing these. French company, Mephisto, doesn’t make the model anymore. Real leather, all natural materials, and 100% India rubber soles.

          All the other shoes I’ve had either cracked at the bottom because they were made of some hard plastic instead of rubber and leather, or they were entirely made of wax impregnated cardboard with a thin dip of rubber on top, like some wartime ersatz shoes they used to make when my grandmother was young.

          1. My 25 year old boots have been living in the closet the last 2 years, sole finally gave out. They’re creased funny, scuffed funny, and ain’t never gonna smarten up, but kept my feet dry every winter with a good coat of dubbin. They’re still sitting because I can’t decide whether to get them professionally resoled or just glue some tire tread on the bottom or something.

    3. Meat on this scale is not sustainable for our planet its very heavy on the ecosystem thousands of km2 of natural forests are cleared for pastures yearly. In next few decades we will see rise of both vegan options and lab rised meat with decline in natural meat production that is if we want to keep this planet habitable for our children and grand children. Once we move it will be good to have alternatives ready for production. but yea for now it looks more like greenwashing.

        1. Wild animals are environmentally neutral or in some cases positive. However, farmed animals are definitely environmentally negative. Farmed animals are bred for specific traits rather than allowing natural selection to dictate them. As a result we have giant pigs, huge cows that produce crazy amounts of milk and chickens that lay tons of eggs. They are no longer ecologically sustainable animals in their current state.

          1. Wild animals are frequently a disaster for the local ecology too – non native species being an obvious one. But even a native creature in a landscape that has been and probably has to remain (to feed the humans) highly managed can be just as big a problem. In close proximity to humans predators that regulate numbers are often rare – or even extinct, so prey animals can actually boom so hard they wreck the local ecology way beyond a natural level.

            I’d also say you are completely wrong on the bred animals – they are highly efficient at creating the resources we consume. I prefer the older breeds for other reasons – they are usually nicer to eat. But on the ecologically sound front its not the animal itself but the numbers we eat and farming practices to support that number that are the problem – a single highly bred animal produces much more for its food consumption and land requirements than the comparable older breeds. Its what they have been bred for!

          2. Gravis,
            Yes and No, for CAFO you are absolutely correct that it is a huge environmental negative.

            For all farmed animals, you are incorrect there are also growers that specifically target letting the animals get culled / sold that cannot birth on their own / need tons of medical care, etc. For two more prominent examples do some research on Gabe Brown and/or Joel Salatin.

            Given that they are building top soil faster than the US govt says is possible (500 yrs to build 1 inch), I would think they are on the right track. Another good person to research would be Allan Savory and his work at using livestock (farmed animals) to halt and reverse desertification.

        2. Much talk is about how much methane cows emit, without mentioning that as humans increased the number of cows and other large farm animals, we have drastically reduced the number of large wild animals in an almost 1:1 ratio, which cancels the effect. I mean, there used to be between 50-100 million American Bison – now we have an estimated 94.4 million cattle instead, not to mention the wild horses, deer, elk, moose, caribou, and other game animals we’ve hunted to near extinction.

          It’s even possible that we’ve removed more methane-producing ruminants than we’re growing, but it could be true that the wild animals were already producing excess methane, destroying the environment through over-grazing etc. so we’re not exactly helping the case.

          There’s just this weird notion that animals in nature always live in “harmony” or in balance, and everything is just hunky dory as long as the human animal isn’t around, although the entire feedback mechanism that produces this harmony would need nature itself to be some intelligent superorganism (the Gaia hypothesis). Otherwise the system will always teeter on the edge of destruction one way or the other. That’s because the feedback mechanism for any multiplying and evolving organism to stop over-exploiting its environment is hunger, disease and death.

          1. Well in the absence of human influence or major natural disaster the other lifeforms of this planet have always created balanced and stable ecologies. We do tend to make a train wreck of all we touch, since we started being all industrial and revolutionary in particular.

            You are not wrong that humans have in the process of making room for their cattle got rid of other comparable creatures… However even if the methane level is lower (though I doubt that, but it is not going to be as vastly up as much reporting would have you believe) a mono culture has its own flaws , and that’s what we tend to produce it seems. Which isn’t good for the ecology and actually makes farming harder – when theres nothing else around and so many of the same critter in proximity over vast areas diseases and pests will take off quite well…

          2. >the other lifeforms of this planet have always created balanced and stable ecologies.

            Untrue. There have been many biologically caused ecocatastrophies on earth. E.g. the oxygen crisis, which has happened multiple times. Any stability of “balance” is a myth created by us, because we’re looking at the things over such a short time span that we don’t directly see how things are gradually turning for the worse.

            In reality biological life goes bang-bang against the environmental limits of our planet, and every time it hits the wall, something changes and a new set of organisms that can survive in those conditions take over. Then they evolve happily for a few hundred million years, multiply, specialize, and fill every niche until the ecosystem becomes like a house of cards. Most organisms get stuck in evolutionary dead ends where they can’t stop doing something that is harmful for themselves, because evolution doesn’t have a reverse gear: in order to back out you have to “de-evolve” and become worse at surviving.

          3. Basically, evolution lacks any foresight and planning, because in a random process that keeps applying every possible solution to survival all the time. That’s why it cannot produce any long term stability: if things settle down to a steady pattern, something else evolves that breaks that pattern, because it can. There is no such thing as a perfect system.

          4. I was talking about the ecology as a whole – evolutionary dead ends and changes are part of that. What we humans have been doing is wholesale destabilisation and destruction in a timescale nature doesn’t do baring the major ‘acts of god’ type events.

          5. i.e.
            There’s a huge difference between evolutionary constraints and competition creating changes over time, and artificially unstable/unsound ecology that can fail and cascade rapidly potentially leading to a basically lifeless planet (By lifeless meaning the higher order organisms not a pile of technically alive goo) as evolution fails to keep up at all.

            Which with our love of massive and rapid alterations to local ecosystems, excessive use of artificial pesticides, fertiliser and other intensive farming practices (which on the local scale just creates a pretty much dead zone where nature failed to keep up and create any sort of balance – requiring yet more pesticides and fertiliser – a lovely feedback loop), the complete disregard for the oceans and making the atmosphere a greenhouse we are really at risk of.

            I personally don’t think it likely to really happen, even if it does start cascading that badly – humanity is highly ingenious so some of us will likely survive. Probably by creating little pockets of managed ‘stability’ thus keeping select other things going long enough to adapt to the massively changed environment.

            Or In short bugger the Panda, its not worth saving, being an evolutionary error – Not all change is bad, but for pitys sake go slow enough the poor critters have a chance to evolve and keep up! We need them working for us recycling all the resources we can’t, not extinct…

  2. Once they begin production of the mycelium shoes… Adidas will be opening a chain of restaurants.

    “Waiter….. I’ll have the size 11…..oh and with extra laces….does this come with a side of DeJean Toe Jam ?”

  3. >They claim to have made 15 million pairs of shoes in 2020 out of recycled plastic waste collected from beaches and coastlines

    Doesn’t matter. Recycling still wastes a ton of resources; recycled polyester (PET) still consumes over 40% the energy to process and only results in about -30% CO2 emissions compared to new plastic – and that’s on easy mode where you get nice clean washed PET bottles straight out of the bottle return system. One can only imagine how much fuel and other resources are wasted in collecting discarded scrap off of some random beach, not to mention the separation, sorting, cleanup…

    Once the polyester is turned into a fabric and dyed and mixed with cotton or whatever, it becomes un-recycleable because separating the polymers again would cost too much. The only alternative there is chemical separation, which is basically melting the plastic down into some solvent – which is just kicking the can down the line to how to then recycle the solvent to avoid making it out of petroleum?

    The whole fetish to recycle plastics isn’t solving the problem, and it doesn’t even help much. It merely sustains the problem by giving the illusion that we’re dealing with this. A far more useful idea is to burn the plastic for energy OR to bury it in a landfill, and then stop making more until you figure out a renewable way to do it.

    1. >One can only imagine how much fuel and other resources are wasted in collecting discarded scrap off of some random beach, not to mention the separation, sorting, cleanup…

      So you’re saying the green thing to do is leave all the junk where it is, and wait for turtles to collect it? Even if it took as much energy processing, which it doesn’t, at least you are reducing the amount of waste already out there. How is that not a win?

      Several comments in this thread shows that no matter what the industry does, it will never be enough to make people happy. People seem to fail to understand that to make a situation better, you have to start by making it less worse. People are bashing Adidas for only trying, but don’t bother pointing others that are doing even less. As a result, if I ever create a factory, I won’t even bother trying.

      1. >So you’re saying the green thing to do is leave all the junk where it is

        No. I’m saying don’t build an industry around junk that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

      2. >How is that not a win?

        Well, if instead of using even more energy to process the junk into sneakers, you could simply chuck it in an incinerator which means you’re slightly reducing the CO2 production elsewhere in the energy infrastructure. Even when you do collect the junk, there are better uses for it than shoes.

        1. That’s a pretty hard position to argue – the ‘junk’ is waste material that will make good, long lasting shoes, being durable, chemically pretty resistant and flexible enough. Meaning shoes are almost certain to be made out of virgin chemically identical (Or damn close at least) material if you don’t use this recycled stuff – and that is never better.

          Building them only to shortly after incinerate because they are last years model or some other such stupid business practice is a valid concern. But just burning or dumping waste you could recycle in place of new materials is flat out stupid, no two ways around that. It might currently be cheaper, and its certainly easier to extract more crude, crack it and make the plastics from scratch again and again, but its in no way better.

      3. Or you could bury it in a landfill, which is also sequestering the carbon. The whole point here is that we don’t actually need the shoes; the shops are full of shoes and shirts that nobody wants and nobody actually buys.

        A great deal of the textile industry output just goes to the bin in the form of stock burning and pre-consumer waste in manufacturing. Companies literally burn their unsold stock because they don’t want to put them on discount to compete with their own sales, and they want to saturate the market with a variety of products because all the competition is doing that as well, which is fine for them because their actual manufacturing costs are a tiny fraction of the business revenue. Advertising takes more money than actually making the shoes, so when some kid in Bangladesh makes an Adidas shoe for less than a dollar, it gets sold for $120 in the US – and if it doesn’t sell then they simply chuck it. Clothes are not produced to a demand – they are deliberately made in excess.

        It’s just conspicuous consumption and trying to excuse it by saying it’s recycling garbage, inefficiently, is just a distraction.

          1. Or if it’s tax-deductible as charity – but the point still stands.

            There’s about 60-70 pieces of garments imported into the US per year, per person. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy a new shirt every week. The market is over-saturated with clothing that nobody buys. The over-supply is about pushing the brands and the products to the consumers past your competitors, so everywhere you go there’s Adidas shoes or Levi’s jeans on the shelf in all sizes and shapes and colors, in hopes that someone would buy it. Fashion has the same point: making different clothes for every season and occasion for novelty instead of need. All of that leaves a large surplus, which, if sold at a lower price would eat away the sales at the higher price point so they don’t even try to sell it. They get rid of it.

            The clothing industry is maintaining a simultaneous over-supply and artificial scarcity.

    1. That is what I took from this article.
      I try to control, limit, or, eliminate any yeast, mold, or fungus in my footwear, and now a company plans to make footwear out of those lifeforms?

  4. Really not sure I see the point of this at all – there are natural sustainable materials that lend themselves to apparel much better than this. What are they treating it with to make it into footwear, and does it even last 10 mins of ultimate frisbee?

  5. Shoes are very hard to recycle and just get tossed. Millions of them. Every year. Because most are made with an expected lifetime of 10-12 months. If at least the synthetic tops are replaced with a biodegradable alternative, is that not better?

    Also, the mycelial materials industry has been desperately needing this kind of support to get on its feet; it’s good to see a big manufacturer opening a market. I’m definitely getting some of those shoes to send a message that people are looking for alternatives.

    And, frankly, it’s kind of creepy to clothe ourselves in the skins of other creatures, no? We have so many humans die every year, why don’t we just reuse their skin instead? 😬

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