It wasn't too long ago that the concept of owning the music we listen to was definite, unequivocal. If you wanted a new album, you bought it — as a CD or, more recently, as digital files. And if you didn't want to pony up $10 to $20, then you stole it, but you still owned it. Spotify changed this notion to such a degree that it's now far less practical (or, perhaps, sensible) to maintain a personal music library. On, the Switzerland-based running company, now wants us to think about sneakers the same way.
The company recently revealed the Cyclon, "the running shoe you will never own." It should surprise no one living in 2020, when you can subscribe to have toilet paper delivered to your front door, that this too is a subscription service. But On's program, which will cost $30 per month, isn't set up as a recurring delivery like many product subscriptions are. After you wear out a pair of Cyclons, you'll have to give them back. Only then will On send you a fresh set.
That's because the core of On's subscription is its ability to recycle the Cyclon and use it to create more Cyclons. The shoe, which On claims is built for training and racing rigors, uses one single ingredient: a polyamide derived from castor beans. The sole, the single-piece upper, the laces; all of them come from castor beans. That makes it possible for On to break it all down and reuse it to make new shoes.
Recyclable shoes aren't a wholly novel idea — Salomon recently revealed one that it will be able to turn into ski boots and other items — but tying them to a subscription model is. It creates a financial incentive for runners to actually return the Cyclon when they've worn through a pair.
There's still a high bar for buy-in, though. On estimates that the shoe is good for 400 kilometers (roughly 250 miles) of running. It's up to runners to calculate whether they log enough miles to make the $30 per month fee worth it, and if the idea of a more-sustainable running shoe is enough to balance any difference between the final figures.