This Nike shoe might look crazy but it could help save the planet

The Nike ISPA Link Axis is designed to be disassembled and recycled in every way possible, even if it looks freaky

Nike ISPA Link Axis Side Profile
(Image credit: Nike)

Nike, the manufacturer of some of the best running shoes on the market today, is taking its first steps towards a fully circular shoe in the latest ISPA Link Axis, which uses as few materials as possible and features a clever interlocking component design to do away with toxic glues.

Standing for Improvise, Scavenge, Protect, Adapt, every part of the ISPA Link Axis can be fully recycled at the end of its useful life. It does this by packing a 100 per cent recycled polyester Flyknit upper that has been precision-engineered to slot over the outsole.

This banishes the old-school cut-and-sew method to the factory floor, reducing materials and wastage at the same time. What’s more, the tooling used in the manufacture of the outsole was made from 100 per cent recycled thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) fashioned from scrap airbag material.

According to Nike, recycling shoes at the end of their life is sometimes impossible and, if not, an extremely energy-intensive process. Designers tend to use glue and other bonding elements that make tearing the shoe apart tricky.

Nike ISPA Link Axis Sole

(Image credit: Nike)

On top of this, recycling shoes usually requires shredding, an energy-intensive process that limits how the recycled materials can be used.

The fact that the Nike ISPA Link Axis can easily be taken apart by hand means all of the individual materials can be saved and recycled for future use. 

The only place Nike had to compromise was the 20 per cent recycled TPU cage. The company required this to be durable and provide traction, so it couldn’t be quite as green as the company wanted.

Still, it’s one step towards Nike’s completely circular vision, which it claims will yield no waste in the future and greatly cut down on the emissions produced by the manufacturing process. 

It all sounds good, but we can’t get away from the fact they look a bit like they’ve been repeatedly stung by angry bees.

If you like your kicks a little freaky, the shoe hits stores on 12 September 2023, where a pair comes in a Total Orange and Sonic Yellow colourway - a nod to the hues used in the prototype. It is available from Nike’s own SNKRS website - a hub for rare and limited edition footwear from the brand.

Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. When he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing. He's also a man who knows his tools, and he's provided much of T3's drills coverage over the years, all without injuring himself.