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Subscription Economy

The Immortal Shoe You Will Never Own: Cyclon

By Ji-Soo Kweon
The Immortal Shoe You Will Never Own: Cyclon

Imagine a completely recyclable pair of running trainers that is replaced whenever they wear out. Welcome to On’s new shoescription. 

Consumers are more concerned than ever about the sustainability and eco-friendliness of their purchases. There are many unsustainable practices integral to contemporary consumer culture that have a damaging impact on the environment, leading consumers to search for a better model. Introducing: the sustainable shoe subscription, Cyclon. 

Cyclon is a new ‘shoescription’ concept being launched by On, the Swiss sportswear company with a focus on high-end running shoes. For $29.95 a month, customers can use a pair of Cyclon shoes which are made of 50% bio-based materials and are 100% recyclable. At the end of the shoes’ life, customers can exchange the old pair for a new set, which is made from recycled shoes. This innovative subscription business model paired with a closed loop production can help reduce the significant environmental impact of the fashion and footwear industry, which generates 10% of the world’s greenhouse gasses. 

Serious runners are encouraged to replace their shoes frequently, which not only means customers are obliged to make a frequent investment in a pair of expensive shoes, but also to throw shoes made of petroleum-based materials into landfill. Cyclon’s revolutionary business model allows athletes to change shoes as often as necessary without generating waste. On recommends that the Cyclon shoes be replaced after 400km, which amounts to about 10 months of 10km per week. This would make one pair of Cyclon shoes cost a subscriber around $300, which is equivalent to the price of comparable high-end athletic shoes.

On is the first athletic shoe company to truly embrace the ‘circular economy’, as well as pioneering the concept of a shoe subscription. Competitor brands have made attempts towards the shoescription, but On’s offering is currently unique. Adidas has launched Futurecraft Loop, a similar closed-loop recyclable shoe concept, and Nike has sustainability schemes to recycle old shoes into new sports gear and sport surfaces. Speaking to Highsnobiety media agency, On co-founder, Casper Copetti, explains that ‘while other industries moved away from the classic buy-it-and-own-it business model to providing streaming and subscription-based services, the world of running shoes has, ironically, been left behind.’ The hope is that a subscription business model will make the fitness industry’s first forays into the circular economy both financially and ecologically sustainable. 

Environmentalism has fuelled the sharing economy in a variety of ways. The most obvious impact is that collaborative consumption limits how much ‘stuff’ must be produced to meet consumer demand. Rather than owning and consuming goods individually, consumers can share resources; not only in services like car/bike/scooter sharing, but also in ‘sharing’ a catalogue of content: such as Netflix or Spotify. However, the digitalized subscription economy can facilitate sustainability innovation beyond the incidental reduction in manufacturing goods; it can help companies reimagine products that were previously made, used, then thrown away into a sustainable closed loop production cycle. 

Whilst we can all make efforts to minimize what we buy and ultimately discard, we inevitably need to use products with a short usable lifespan that need to be continually replaced. Rather than the old way of make, use, dispose; the circular economy offers a means of allowing consumers to replace old items without generating waste. These exciting new innovations can benefit from simultaneously diving into the thriving digitalized subscription economy, which ensures steady revenue and generates a loyal customer base. For purveyors of products that cannot easily be ‘shared’ in the traditional sense, the circular economy is a viable, sustainable alternative to our contemporary reliance on waste-generating disposable products. 

Cyclon plans to launch in 2021, and customers can sign up on their website with a $29.99 deposit now.


Photo: Courtesy On Running


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