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Engineering Materials

Empowering athletes with sustainable high-performance footwear

Athletic equipment, including shoes, is making a serious impact on the environment. Governments and consumers are particularly concerned with the greenhouse gas emissions and landfill pollution that result from athletic shoe manufacturing – a global industry worth over $125 billion USD. As an athletic footwear producer, you are under pressure to meet the demand for sustainable shoes that don’t compromise on quality and performance. DSM offers you recyclable, bio-based material solutions for the design of midsoles that help athletes perform at their best.

Sustainability increasingly drives athletic footwear purchase decisions. A 2021 study indicates that nearly two thirds of US consumers are willing to spend more to purchase sustainable footwear. Industry research on leading athletic brands, such as Adidas, Nike and New Balance, suggests that the global market for eco-friendly running shoes will be worth over $13 billion USD by 2030. To meet this demand, you need to utilize sustainable, high-performance materials that provide the consumer with the comfort and support they expect.

Commonly used midsole materials don’t meet these requirements. Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) is cost-effective, but contains high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and is not recyclable. Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and thermoplastic polyamides (TPE-A) are non-toxic and can be recycled for numerous applications, but provide limited durability that can cause shoes to wear out faster.

To reduce environmental impact, midsole manufacturers also need to embrace cleaner production processes. Globally more than 80% of athletic shoe midsoles are made through chemical foaming processes that release substances of concern. This encourages suppliers to switch to physical or mixed batch foaming methods that are more environmentally friendly and often improve midsole performance.  

Compared to TPU and TPE-A, thermoplastic polyester elastomer (TPE-E) demonstrates high strength and mechanical property retention. Midsole designers can offer athletic footwear brands highly differentiated solutions by leveraging a robust TPE-E proven to elevate product sustainability.

Enabling you to adopt sustainable midsole materials and manufacturing processes

DSM’s Arnitel® is an advanced TPE-E trusted by more than 10 athletic footwear brands worldwide. With its outstanding processability for physical and mixed batch foaming, the material is optimized for producing state-of-the-art low carbon midsoles that allow athletes to perform faster and longer. Arnitel® benefits manufacturers by offering:

  • 5-10 times higher fatigue lifetimes compared to TPU and rubber
  • Low hysteresis for dynamic rebound capabilities and high resistance to compression
  • Consistent performance in -40°C to 120°C temperatures
  • Excellent resistance to chemicals and UV light
  • Fully recyclable and bio-based material grades
  • Mechanical properties validated via comprehensive computer-aided engineering services

Helping you give athletes the foot support they need

Arnitel® has earned a reputation for balancing durability and comfort in sportswear, due to its soft touch, lightweight structure, and rubber-like strength and flexibility. Compared to TPU, midsoles made from the material demonstrate a 17% higher rebound with high energy return. Arnitel® also exhibits extremely low energy loss after foaming – enhancing the wear performance of midsoles to ensure shoes offer reliable foot support during intense physical activities.

Offering you circular manufacturing solutions

Due to its polyester-based structure, Arnitel® is easy to recycle and enables manufacturers to save costs by developing shoes using one TPE-E material. Arnitel® Eco is a bio-based TPE-E that delivers high performance with a lower impact on the environment. This material is made from 50% renewable resources – based on rapeseed oil instead of mineral oil – and offers a carbon footprint reduced by up to 40% compared to traditional TPE-E.

Arnitel® B-MB is a drop-in alternative to traditional Arnitel® solutions. These grades provide the same performance characteristics, but replace fossil-based feedstocks with biomass waste.

This method lowers the material’s overall carbon footprint and ensures compliance with standards set by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) system. In 2021, Arnitel® B-MB was selected by Sympatex for developing high-quality outdoor sportswear.

A single pair of running shoes is estimated to generate 30lbs of carbon throughout its lifecycle – with midsoles making up 30% of these emissions. As a sustainability-led company, DSM enables you to deliver products made from renewable sources. You can accelerate the athletic shoe industry’s transition to a circular economy, while meeting customer expectations for quality and performance, when you partner with us.  

Contact us today to learn more about our materials solutions for athletic footwear. 

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Published on

11 May 2022

Tags

  • Sports & leisure
  • Consumer goods
  • Arnitel

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Urlings

Global Business Manager Arnitel®

Chris Urlings is Global Business Manager of Arnitel® at DSM Engineering Materials. Chris holds Master Degrees in International Economics and in Finance & Controlling, obtained at universities in the Netherlands. Chris has more than 10 years of experience in financial and commercial roles in materials sciences. He has been with DSM since 2008 and has worked at locations in Switzerland, the United States and the Netherlands.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacy Leong

Market Development Manager
DSM Engineering Materials

Jacy Leong is responsible for New Market and Application Development at DSM Engineering Materials. For more than 10 years, he has been an expert in industrial and footwear design. He has experience in innovation, design, R&D, and market development. In the last four years he has focused mostly on developing new business for DSM’s Arnitel Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE).

 

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