NFW partners with Meramec to bring 100% biobased PLIANT™ outsoles to market

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NFW_MeramecIn December, NFW celebrated one of its most exciting milestones to date with the launch of the Degenerate, the world’s only plastic-free, biobased shoe. As Sourcing Journal put it, the Degenerate sneaker could be “the Tesla of footwear.”

Designed by UNLESS Collective, the trailblazing streetwear brand backed by former Adidas executive Eric Liedtke, the Degenerate is in a category all its own thanks to the four 100% biobased NFW materials used to produce it.  

One of those materials is PLIANT™, NFW’s newest material innovation, which made its debut in the Degenerate’s striking outsole.  

Today, the majority of shoe soles are either 100% petroleum-based (i.e., synthetic) or contain very little (~10-20%) natural rubber. In fact, 70% of “rubber” produced today is synthetic. From the extraction of the fossil fuels used to make synthetic rubber to the continuous microplastic pollution shed throughout a synthetic outsole’s use, petroleum-based rubber damages the environment at every step.   

PLIANT™ is a 100% biobased alternative that eliminates toxic chemicals and microplastic pollution from the equation. The primary input is natural rubber, and our patented plant-based curative enables footwear-worthy performance with absolutely no synthetics for the first time. PLIANT™ leverages standard compression molding infrastructure, which allows for rapid scalability. Unlike any other, NFW outsoles can be mechanically recycled or safely returned to the earth. 

To make the magic happen, NFW is forging partnerships with manufacturers around the world. Our first such partner is Meramec, a global leader in footwear component manufacturing. With more than 60 years of industry experience, Meramec brings success at scale to the PLIANT™ material family.   

The PLIANT™ outsoles used in the Degenerate were produced at Meramec’s facilities in Santiago De Los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. 

“Meramec continually looks to partner with sustainability innovators like NFW, in order to bring environmentally friendly products to consumers,” said Meramec Group President Jeff Dieckhaus. “Meramec is excited to support NFW on their cutting-edge, PLIANT outsole. PLIANT directly attacks a huge need in the footwear industry by providing a zero-plastic alternative to more traditional rubber compounds, which are either synthetic or cured with petrochemicals.”  

PLIANT™ outsoles leverage the incredible versatility of the Hevea brasiliensis tree. Our categorically unique plant-based curative unlocks petrochemical-free performance for 100% natural rubber. By working with PLIANT™, designers and brands are no longer limited to synthetic rubbers and natural rubbers cured with petrochemicals.     

“NFW has found the solution to a problem that many footwear brands have been struggling with for years. Using purely natural materials in footwear hasn’t been feasible due to the perceived limitations of what natural materials can do. At NFW we have the technology to really unlock nature’s potential, and that’s exactly what PLIANT™ and the Degenerate demonstrate,” said NFW Product Strategy Manager Alan Lugo. 

The NFW team is in the process of forging partnerships with manufacturers around the world to integrate PLAINT™ into the supply chain. We are thrilled to have Meramec as our inaugural partner. 

To learn more and inquire about joining our PLIANT™ waitlist, click here. Both NFW and Meramec will be exhibiting at The NW Materials Show in Portland March 1-2. Stop by to see NFW at booth 817 and Meramec at booths 905/907. 

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