Running Insight recently caught up with On Running co-founder Caspar Coppetti to discuss the brand’s environmentally inspired Cyclon technology and the unique subscription concept that recycles shoes for reuse.


Running Insight: Please describe the Cyclon technology in terms an editor can understand.

Coppetti: The Cyclon shoe is a product of three years of research in the On Lab and a breakthrough discovery of fusing two high-performance polyamides to fulfill the demands of a running shoe without compromising performance. The best part is that these two materials can be recycled together.


How does that work?

The upper is engineered from PA11, a bio-based polyamide derived from castor beans. The castor beans undergo a heating process to extract castor oil, which is then transformed into the Amino 11 molecule. We arrive at PA11 through a heat and pressure process. We’ve used PA11 in our shoes for quite some time, but it wasn’t until Cyclon that we discovered how to construct an entire shoe from this bio-based material. PA11 is durable and tough yet flexible and lightweight, making it the perfect material for a high-performance running shoe.


And the rest of the technical story?

The sole of the Cyclon shoe is made from Polyamide 12, or Pebax. Pebax is a popular material in the sportswear industry and also happens to be 100 percent recyclable. Due to the incredible quality of these two materials, used product can be ground, melted and transformed into shoes of the same type. We believe that Cyclon is a testament to the complementary nature of performance and sustainability. At under 200 grams, the Cyclon shoe is On’s lightest shoe in both weight and environmental impact.


How does the “subscription” shoe concept work?

Cyclon equips our subscribers with 100 percent recyclable high-performance products, but circularity is only achieved once we get the product back Ñ that’s where the subscription comes in. The Cyclon subscription service creates a relationship with our runners, one where they can return used products in exchange for our next model.


How does that all come together?

The recycling process begins when the Cyclon subscriber returns after-life product in its initial packaging. Used gear will arrive at recycling facilities, where it will be ground in preparation for melting and 100 percent reuse. We expect the Cyclon running shoe to provide unmatched performance up to 600km. That’s a lifespan of around six to nine months, which means we’ll be exchanging products twice a year. To achieve maximum sustainability we ask our subscribers to partner with us in only returning products once they have reached the end of their life cycles. While they’re out enjoying a new pair, we’re recycling the old, completing the circle.


It seems this is more than a way to sell shoes — it is more of a company commitment.

Growing up in the Swiss Alps gives you a special appreciation for the natural world. Nature is not only where we play and run, it’s also our source of inspiration and, above all, our home. The genius and beauty of the natural world is that it’s inherently cyclical Ñ all living organisms play a role in the health of the entire ecosystem. From birth to decay to rebirth, waste is never part of the equation.


And Cyclon grew out of that philosophy?

Cyclon is our effort to mimic nature by designing out waste and keeping materials in use. It’s our first step to challenging the linear production models of the apparel and footwear industry. The environmental impact of our products has always been top of mind, but now, as a truly global company with a worldwide community, we must take on more responsibility. Materials are responsible for 80 percent of our carbon footprint related to product. Created from over 50 percent bio-based materials, the Cyclon shoe has the potential to reduce On’s carbon emissions and waste from manufacturing by half, a first but mindful step towards protecting our planet.


How do you promote this to consumers?

Our vision for Cyclon is to include our community in the process. We want our subscribers to follow Cyclon’s journey, take ownership Ð or lack of Ð and truly be part of this groundbreaking moment in sportswear. Through Cyclon, we extend an invitation to invest in experience instead of ownership, an entirely new concept in the realm of sportswear.


Will this shoe be available through retailers?

The Cyclon subscription will not be available through our retailers when the Cyclon shoe launches in the latter half of this year. We’re looking forward to seeing how the service expands once it’s underway.


Does this sustainability concept add to the cost of the product and are customers willing to pay more for a sustainably-made pair of running shoes?

Consumers who purchase a Cyclon subscription are conscious of the effect their purchases have on the environment. We’re confident that experiencing the latest in running technology while contributing to sportswear’s circular economy is well worth the $29.99 a month subscription fee.


What comes after Cyclon?

I’m incredibly proud of the milestones On has achieved in the drive towards sustainable solutions and look forward to taking humble steps forward in making the greatest positive impact. n