A few months ago, I came across an email that was sent to my running club. It was from a runner and entrepreneur from Australia who had just developed a running shoe made almost entirely out of recycled materials. He wanted to spread the word to runners around the world about a Kickstarter campaign that he was about to start in order to get the ball rolling for his new product. As both a life-long runner and a die-hard environmentalist, I was immediately intrigued. I personally contacted co-founder Sam Burke and told him how excited I was about his new running shoe venture. I wasn’t the only one. Within four hours of starting the campaign, Tarkine running shoes met their fundraising goal by selling over $44,000 in inventory.
According to statistics by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Americans throw away at least 300 million pairs of shoes each year. These shoes end up in landfills, where they can take 30 to 40 years to decompose. Ethylene Vinyl Acetate, which usually makes up the midsole of most running shoes, can last for as long as 1,000 years in a landfill. With this in mind, I knew that I had to purchase a pair of Tarkines for the environmental aspect. There were a few exciting qualities that I learned about this shoe that I just had to explore. The Tarkine website purports that their running shoes are made almost entirely out of recycled materials and their life expectancy is 700 miles, lasting almost twice as long as a typical pair of running shoes. Once these shoes reach the end of their lives, they can be fully recycled through a program that Tarkine has set up for their customers.
I purchased a pair of blue training shoes, the Tarkine Goshawks. The box they came in stated, “The world’s most eco-friendly high-performance running shoe”. I was curious to see for myself how well they performed by wearing them for my first official run in them.
Mile 5 – February 9, 2022
I slipped on my pair of blue and white Tarkine running trainers to take these virgin shoes out for their first run. I felt an instant feeling of comfort as soon as I slipped them on. The upper part was both firm and stretchy. As with all other running shoes that have a separated tongue, the Tarkines had no separated tongue, and the entire upper section was constructed as one continuous material which exerted equal pressure around my entire ankle. Once they were on both my feet, the front contour of these shoes appeared not to be your typical elliptical shape, but looked more like the asymmetrical contour of a human foot. At first, I thought that this shape looked strange, but I later realized that there was a method to the madness of this design feature. I learned that this duck-like foot shape addressed the issue of foot splay, which is what happens to the toes in our feet every time a runner lands on them after each stride. When our feet land, our toes naturally splay out from one another. The developers of these shoes were well aware of this splaying tendency and designed the Tarkines to account for this natural phenomenon.
I did my first run through my mom’s Staten Island neighborhood and around Clove Lakes Park. I ran up and down hills and through the streets. The shoes hugged my feet tightly but had some give to them. There were no pressure points or any other part of the shoes that made my feet feel uncomfortable. The rubber beneath was bouncy just enough to give me the sensation of being propelled forward as if I were wearing a pair of bouncy springs.
I completed my five-mile run and both of my feet felt great. There were no blisters like I usually get after wearing a new pair of running shoes. There wasn’t even any soreness for the shoes fit my feet like a glove due to their ability to give. With all of these positive experiences, I am looking forward to seeing if these shoes will continue to perform well as I put in many more miles on them over the next few months.
Mile 500 – September 27, 2022
Eight months and 500 miles after first putting on my new Tarkines, the blue color still appears vivid and fresh on the outside. I did wash them once since first using them. There are no visible signs of wear and tear on the upper parts. Any blue areas that appear bleached are simply dried-up salt accumulations due to sweat dripping onto my shoes.
The soles are still mostly intact except for some slight wearing due to the supination of my feet and at the very tips of my toes. You can still see 90-95% of the pattern design running throughout the sole.
In the photo below, one can see some wearing of the shoes right behind my feet. This may be due to this area of my feet often being calloused and hard.
The shoes still feel completely natural and comfortable when I wear them, even while running.
Mile 795 – February 25, 2023 – RETIREMENT!
I have now run in the same pair of blue and white Tarkine Goshawks for a year and at 795 miles, it’s finally time to retire them.
The shoes were surprisingly comfortable and well-fitting throughout their long life. Originally, I attempted to be anal about it and retire them at 700 miles as recommended by the company. Since I felt no negatives at this mileage, out of curiosity, I pushed the envelope to see how they would perform well beyond the suggested mileage. Besides various parts of the shoe continuing to slowly wear out, they still held their own and I was able to squeeze in a dozen or so more quality runs in them without any adverse effects.
It has been a great experience training in running shoes made from recycled materials. They were a great conversation piece with many of the runners who I ran with during their life. They were all fascinated with the environmental aspect of these shoes and the fact that they were named after the Tarkine, an endangered rainforest in Australia.
To the people at Tarkine, you make a great shoe!