On Running stormed onto the scene in 2010 and has just announced CleanCloud™ — a shoe foam made from carbon emissions!


The Zurich-based company has been working on this groundbreaking technology for the last four years and has made five CleanCloud™ shoes as a proof of concept. 

‘Holding the first-ever shoe made of carbon emissions in my hands is a huge milestone – not only for On but for the whole sports industry,’ said Caspar Coppetti, On’s Co-Founder and Executive Co-Chairman.


On Running is Turning Carbon Emissions into Running Shoes

How does it work?

The process of capturing the carbon emissions is complex, but begins with On capturing emissions from certain factories before they enter the atmosphere. 

They are partnering with another company called LanzaTech to intercept carbon monoxide emitted from industrial sources like steel mills and landfill sites that otherwise become carbon dioxide — the infamous greenhouse gas. 

Once captured, the carbon enters a patented fermentation process that converts it into liquid ethanol — much like the fermentation process that occurs in a traditional brewery. 

They dehydrate the ethanol, turning it into ethylene before it is polymerized to become a versatile and lightweight EVA — aka the foam in shoes!


On Running is Turning Carbon Emissions into Running Shoes

How they got there?

It wasn’t all blue skies and clear sailing to arrive at CleanCloud™. 

‘It has been emotional – the most intense project I ever worked on,’ said Nils Altrogge, On’s Head of Technology Innovation. 

‘There were times when I had tears in my eyes, I was so frustrated. But we never stopped believing we could find solutions.’


On Running is Turning Carbon Emissions into Running Shoes


On put the call out to biochemists within the industry as well as academia and there were reportedly some pretty hairbrained ideas along the way, including, but not limited to programming bacteria. 

What they settled on is no less crazy sounding… The bacteria utilised in the fermentation process is a special strain first found in rabbit droppings.

What’s on next?

According to On’s Co-Founder, ‘there’s also potential to use it [CleanCloud™] in other parts of the shoe, and other products, in the future.’

‘It’s a win-win situation: we are capturing emissions before they pollute our atmosphere and are at the same time moving away from fossil-based materials.’ 

The CleanCloud™ shoe follows on from On’s Cyclon range which comprises of fully recyclable running products as part of a subscription-only service. The Cyclon shoes themselves produce 50% less CO2 than an average On shoe and 90% less waste in total.

However, the goal for CleanCloud™ is to replace all of On’s shoe soles with this new form of carbon emission-based EVA. 

The shoe world is making leaps and bounds on the sustainability front and while it looks as though On is winning the race, there’s even a young Australian start-up called Tarkine who are making recycled and biodegradable running shoes.

Furthermore, On want to see their technology shared throughout the industry. 

‘We’re dreaming of decarbonising our industry. And this is just the beginning,’ said Nils.

‘Making five pairs of the Cloudprime was an incredible story. But we’re thinking about five million – and more.’


On Running is Turning Carbon Emissions into Running Shoes


It’s expected it will take at least three more years before the CleanCloud™ foam becomes standard in the global production of On’s shoes. 

For now, a select few elite athlete testers have been given an advanced taste.

‘I thought that it’s maybe not possible that the shoe is as good as the other On shoes because of the sustainable material. But it is, it feels comfortable, gives you enough support and makes running effortless. It is a big step in the right direction for our future,’ said Fabiane Meyer, a German 1500m runner.


On Running is Turning Carbon Emissions into Running Shoes


Want to learn more about On’s sustainability journey? Check out their Impact Progress Report.