Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Right Way To Run

It's getting more and more difficult to sort out the right sportswear brand to choose in the run-up to the Olympics. I think for the time being it's a no brainer to steer clear of Adidas. Nike have made giant leaps in their sustainability profile, but that doesn't make them angels by any means.

So where do we turn for sportswear that ticks all the boxes? Apart from the obvious choice, I mean.

It's a tricky situation, made worse by the complexity not just of the global manufacturing process, but of the items themselves. As Lucy Seigel pointed out in a Guardian article in May, the modern trainer has getting on for fifty components, all of which have the potential to cause pollution somewhere along the chain. Figuring out ways of lessening the impact of these items is not an easy job. And although improvements are being made in workplace safety and ethics, change will remain glacially slow and open to stalls and hiccups for the foreseeable future.

So should we just give up on the idea of green performance wear? Of course not. As ever, it just means that as consumers we should take a little more care over our purchases. Brands like New Balance and Puma are making great strides down the right road, with the latter publishing an eco profit-and-loss account.

Fashion can also play a part, and I don't just mean different liveries and colour ways. The shift by smart athletes away from complex, heavily-padded trainers towards the "barefoot" method uses the bare minimum of foot covering to promote a toes-first method of running that's already breaking records. Barefoot trainers are significantly lighter and less costly in every sense of the word to manufacture. Again, New Balance are front-runners in this new field, but expect to see the big players make a much bigger deal about barefoot running in the next year or so.

It's a real shame that some of Pier32's favourite brands like Fair Corp and Veja don't yet offer a decent range of performance wear (although keep an eye on Fair Corp's diversification into cycling wear - we had a tiny preview of this at the Eco-Technology Show and the range looks good).

As ever, it's the slightly more niche end of the market that are the true innovators. Ethical snow, skate and sail wear is much easier to find than a trainer that won't break the bank and the planet. But this is a growing field, and as ever The View From The Pier promises to be, if not first off the starting line, then certainly in the front pack in reporting any innovations.

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