Cole Haan Just Launched Their First Sustainable Shoe & We Had To Try Them Out

Cole Haan Just Launched Their First Sustainable Shoe & We Had To Try Them Out

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While Cole Haan is best celebrated for its modern-meets-timeless business casual attire, it continuously sneaks in everyday casual gear into its, well, sneaker roster. The latest in the lineup: the Generation Zerøgrand II, billed as Cole Haan’s first-ever sustainable shoe.

The sneaker release comes on the heels of the brand’s announcement that it will commit to using at least 25% recycled or naturally derived materials by weight in all products labeled “sustainable.” What that looks like on the Generation Zerøgrand II is a patent-pending outsole made of natural dandelion rubber — called FlowerFoam by the brand — which claims to absorb impact on the joints during daily use.

That’s not a bad idea given that the manufacturing and raw material extraction components of the footwear industry are said to contribute to 1.4% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study from sustainability consulting group Quantis. For context, that’s just shy of the aviation industry’s contribution of 2.1% of all global carbon emissions.

Here’s what to know about how the newest shoes adhere to Cole Haan’s sustainable goals, and whether they’re worth the $130 price tag.

Cole Haan’s first sustainable shoe, the Generation Zerøgrand II features a FlowerFoam sole made with a minimum of 25% natural dandelion rubber and recycled components throughout to create a shoe with over 25% recycled content by weight. It’s the brand’s first product offering in its campaign to become more environmentally friendly.

What are the Generation Zerøgrand II’s? The sneakers are part of Cole Haan’s Zerøgrand athletic shoe collection that launched in 2014, marrying both style and function. The shoes feature an upper made with vegan microfiber suede and felt fabric made of recycled water bottles. The laces and fabric topsheet are both made of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET), and the footbed, which Cole Haan calls Ortholite Hybrid, fuses recycled rubber and foam for that airy bounce in your step. The shoes come in men’s and women’s sizes in numerous colors like blue, black and white (what I chose for its versatility), and retail for $130.

Had the brand not been kind enough to send over a pair to test out, I don’t think I would have given them a second glance on shelves or online. It’s a shoe that looks sleek and minimalist at first, yet possess numerous surprising details once you put them on and squint. The Generation Zerøgrand II doesn’t have a tongue like a standard sneaker — instead, it’s more of a continuous opening that sits on the same plane as its eyelets, much like a slip-on shoe. Unfortunately, the tab at the back was too small for me to latch onto, forcing me to use my fingers as a horseshoe just to get my foot in. Cue finger cramps.

Cole Haan

The eyelets are all dotted in a metallic silver patch of material that sits in stark contrast to the heather gray felt stripe above the heel. The heel flares out slightly wider than the backstay and counter at the back of the foot, creating just enough of a Balenciaga or Alexander McQueen “dad shoe” effect to keep them looking modern over matronly. These aren’t functional qualities so much as aesthetic ones, which are elements I consider when looking for an ideal sneaker. After all, they need to be able to match with most outfits in my closet for them to get any wear time. There’s no doubt these shoes are versatile enough to tone down dress pants and a blazer or add structure to joggers and a hoodie. They look like a shoe you’d see a celebrity wearing at the airport or a tourist wearing on an all-day walking tour.

As the Generation Zerøgrand II is a performance sneaker, I put them to the test in multiple scenarios to get a full picture of how they hold up.

The shoes felt so light in my hands I was almost worried about how they’d fare in a high-intensity setting. I first took them

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