The models I’d acquire over the years—two different pairs of the Esplar designed for Madewell, and the V-10 Unicorn in iridescent silver, which I wear religiously—were first and foremost more comfortable than the Converse I wore into disrepair, and ultimately better priced and durable.
Since then, Veja has rolled out several interesting collaborations, including the recent one with Christophe Lemaire, as well as vegan variations. But its biggest innovation to date—the one I’ve been excited about since I first learned it was in the works—stands to shake up an industry dominated by legacy brands such as Nike, Mizuna, and Asics.
Veja’s Condor running sneaker is the first ecological shoe of its kind, designed with 53% bio-based and recycled materials. “Our challenge was to create a running shoe without plastic. 99% of the materials in existing running shoes are plastic and should be prohibited,” Kopp tells me. The plastic he speaks of, which wasn’t used to make the Condor, is specifically a polymer that’s 99% petroleum. “Our society’s dependence on plastic and oil is an ecological disaster,” announces the pocket brochure that comes with each pair. “From drilling petroleum to plastic waste flowing into the sea, why aren’t we looking at how we can reduce our dependence on both?”
Getting to that point required four years of R&D before the product was even conceived. The founders hired a running technician from Mizuna who brought deep technical knowledge and infused the company with the running culture it was missing. The brand overcame many failures over the years, testing and reinventing until they got it right. Right meant approbation from a host of testers, from amateurs to running industry pros, all over the world. “They were bluffed by the performance of the shoe, particularly given that it’s our first!” says Kopp.
The shoe is a balance of natural materials such as banana oil, rice husk, and sugar cane for the expanded midsole, castor oil for the upper stability inserts, and more innovative elements like Alveomesh (a technical fabric made from 100% recycled plastic bottles that lends breathability) and L-FOAM, a proprietary technology made out of 50% natural latex and 50% synthetic latex, used for the cushioning insert that protects against vibrations.
I brought home the light grey pair and immediately took them for a spin on the streets of Paris. I’m by no means a serious runner—ongoing back pain from a herniated disk limits the activities I feel comfortable pursuing—but as a fast-walker, I’m just as much the target audience as a casual jogger or marathoner. Don’t run at all? The Condor could still be worn as an everyday shoe.