In an effort to get the ball rolling on getting back into shape, my best friend and I have begun a power walking routine twice a week. With the chilly temperatures, and the fact that she is pushing a stroller, we settled on the indoor sanctuary of the mall for the first few weeks. My friend advised me that I should get myself over to the New Balance store and pick up a pair of walking sneakers after a couple weeks of pounding the tile in the only sneakers I currently own which are not exactly walker friendly. I definitely need the support so I began searching for options, wondering if there was such a thing as an environmentally friendly sneaker and I was delighted to discover END Footwear.
END stands for Environmentally Neutral Design and these folks are really striving to be just as their name indicates.
Their company moral is to do more with less. For example, their shoe soles are created from a single mold as opposed to a different mold for each style, the plastic shank (arch) was removed (there is still support at the arch, just continuous material instead of a separate piece of plastic -- formed by yet another steel mold) and the manufacturing process only produces 1 - 5% waste (which they regrind and put back into their next product). Not to mention they are currently working to develop a 100% glue free shoe and have donated all of their test and development samples over the past two years to the Soles4Souls organization.
These shoes are just coming available in a variety of outdoor specialty shops (released for mass market beginning this past January 2009) and online. It was nice to see they are available at REI as I have a location somewhat close by so I can try them on before purchasing but I was curious what the cost might be for an environmentally responsible athletic shoe so I did some online research on the Women’s shoe line at Zappos.com. At first I was shocked to see the price hovering in the $85.00 range so I decided to do a cost comparison to the New Balance shoes my friend had recommended and I was delighted to learn their average cost for a similar style shoe was around $75.00. A ten dollar difference would be acceptable to me in order to make a better environmental selection.
The drawbacks I discovered while reading customer reviews about END are primarily associated with the look of the shoe (which of course is a personal preference because I thought quite a few of them were really attractive) as well as the fact that, although the company is based out of Portland, Oregon, the shoes are manufactured in China (this means overseas shipping creating emissions).
In the end the positive impact this company is putting out there far outweighs any drawbacks and I fully intend to try out these shoes this weekend. If they are comfortable I will likely acquire a pair. In the meantime, due to nothing more than what I have discovered online, I am granting END Footwear a Three Leaf Rating! After testing I will report back and who knows, their leaf rating might just tick up another branch.