Will runners subscribe to a 100 percent recyclable shoe rental plan?

Photo: On
Sep 17, 2020

The Swiss running shoe company, On, won’t let consumers buy its new Cyclon shoes when it launches them next year. Instead, the company has come up with a monthly rental plan whereby runners receive replacement pairs and return the previously worn ones so they can be recycled and turned into new sneakers.

To gain access to the shoes and the system that supports it, Cyclon renters put down a deposit of $29.99 and pay the same amount monthly for a minimum of six months. The concept is that runners in training will need a new pair twice a year. On sends its Cyclon sneakers to those in the program every six months. The goal is for runners to avoid wearing out the shoes and putting themselves at risk of injury.

There’s also the added bonus that the shoes have been designed to be 100 percent recyclable.

Cyclon subscribers will receive a new pair in the mail. To return the old pair, they simply place them in the same box that the new sneakers came in and send them back. On will then recycle the shoes to be made into speed boards and more pairs of Cyclon sneakers.

Will runners subscribe a 100 percent recyclable shoe rental plan?
Photo: On

Runners interested in taking part in the Cyclon program can pre-register to take part when it officially launches in the fall of next year. The brand claims that the ultralight shoes (under seven ounces) are made to take the pounding that goes with intense training.

“Making a fully recyclable shoe is one thing. We went a step further. We wanted to show that sustainability and performance can go hand in hand,” said Olivier Bernhard, On co-founder and leader of the innovation team. “The outcome might be the most high-performance shoe we’ve ever engineered.”

Subscription services have helped businesses create ongoing revenue models during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 90 percent of those with subscription plans have posted flat or higher sales since its onset, according to a Zuora study.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will On find success with its Cyclon rental/recycle program? So you see further applications for this type of initiative in the rest of the footwear category?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Assuming their shoe is a great running shoe, I can see many people adopting their shoe and can see other brands quickly following this concept. "

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "Will runners subscribe to a 100 percent recyclable shoe rental plan?"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Raj B. Shroff

As an avid runner, I think this is an incredible idea. Runners tend to be highly passionate folks with disposable income and are often early adopters. Assuming their shoe is a great running shoe, I can see many people adopting their shoe and can see other brands quickly following this concept.

There will be challenges such as getting runners to change shoes (I have been running with the same New Balance series for 15+ years). But if they can get people to try them and go after new entrants, this is super smart.

Rental or subscription models are nothing new but I am digging this idea as it combines that concept with sustainability. IMO, this is an example of the “future is here, it is just not evenly distributed.”

Ed Rosenbaum

Runners put a lot of confidence in the shoes we wear. Feet are different and the shoes worn are made to fit the individual runner’s requirement. For instance, I am a pronator and require orthotics molded to fit my feet. These fit inside the shoe and keep my feet free of injury. There are many requirements a serious, or not so serious, runner requires in their shoes. Some shoes are for daily training. Some are for races. Renting shoes and getting new pairs does not sound like something a runner would do. I would be surprised if this even gets off the ground with the running community.

Suresh Chaganti

So $30 a month to get two pairs a year. That’s $180 per pair. The retail price of these shoes will determine whether runners will find this to be an attractive deal. If shoes like these typically retail at least 25 percent more, I can see it being somewhat attractive. Brand loyalists will probably sign up because they can’t buy these as standalone products. For the rest, it has to make sense financially.

The concept itself is interesting and could prompt big brands like Nike and Adidas to launch subscription programs for shoes.

Stephen Rector

The key here is that the customer gets a new pair each time. If the shoe fits the customer, then I think this can work. I don’t see this in other categories, unless it’s a person that always wears the same dress shoe and might want to just get a new pair often? But it seems like a bit of a stretch.

Xavier Lederer

This sounds like a very good way to drive customer loyalty, especially if they regularly innovate and improve their shoes – so that each pair of shoes that their customers receive is a little better than the previous pair – while helping reduce the sticker shock. I would assume that over time they will adjust the rate of replacement to the type of runner (not everybody needs two new pairs of running shoes every year).

George Anderson

Most avid runners can find a good pair of shoes between $125 and $180. Since it is not unusual for them to go through more than one pair a year, the price for the rental is still within what they would probably be paying for new sneakers outright. Then, in On’s case, the wearer gets to do something socially positive by recycling the shoes in a process that the brand has striven to make easy. Both of the above points to a winner for On.

The remaining element is product quality. Of the few people I know who own On shoes, all speak positively about the fit, weight, stability and cushioning. On’s co-founder is saying that Cyclon may be the best sneaker it has produced. Sounds like another positive to me.

Ed Rosenbaum

George, in terms of recycling, most running shoe stores recycle shoes each year and give a discount on the new pair.

Gene Detroyer

The goal is for runners to avoid wearing out the shoes and putting themselves at risk of injury.

This I understand. My wife is always telling me when I’ve worn out my sneakers and it’s time to get a new pair. It seems I’m completely oblivious of the need.

However the measure of when the sneakers wear out is extraordinarily variable. If the average is six months that means that some people will need new sneakers in two or three months and others maybe not for 8 or 10 months.

And of course, you have to address how good this running shoe is. Who does it work for? Is it the casual runner (six months) or is it the serious runner (two months)?

For me, when I find a shoe that works, and my wife tells me it’s time for a new pair, I just order the same pair. It really isn’t a big deal.

Jeff Weidauer

The success of this program rests on the quality of the shoe. As an avid runner, I know which shoes fit me best and how many miles I can put on them before replacement. This is more likely to serve as a model for existing brands to copy.

Steve Montgomery

Admittedly I am not a runner but I see the $231 cost of trial as being a bit steep. I believe their goals are admirable but I don’t see this as being a case where customers will embrace the subscription model.

Craig Sundstrom

All those who just don’t “get” this concept raise their hand.

Thanks. That sudden rush of air tells me I’m not the only one, but let’s start at the beginning. Who — or what — is “On” shoes? Admittedly it may be a big name with the target market, but if it isn’t, I think they’re just combining too much novelty into one package. If it is, we’ll just have to see how it works out. Personally, I don’t think I’d be interested in this.

Rachelle King
This is definitely a fresh approach to selling footwear. Once you move past the somewhat limiting concept of not actually owning the shoes, there is much to embrace. For one, you never have to worry about what to do with your old shoes, a space saving benefit urban runners might appreciate. Second, this concept is designed for serious runners, not weekend warriors. So, both product and concept relevance are high. Serious runners know the importance of a well-fitting, well-supported shoe and often go through several pairs while training. On must get credit for being so precise with this target audience. The minimum ask of $180 for 2 pairs of shoes is actually reasonable. The only thing left is to help runners adapt to this new approach to buying shoes. On will need to lean into cultivating this market segment with CRM, but this could potentially change how serious runners buy shoes. This concept might also extend to the airline industry’s flight attendants or even doctors and nurses, all of whom place high value on the… Read more »
Brett Busconi
2 years 2 months ago

They need to go overboard with truly making this shoe a real option for runners. As a near daily runner (one must give one’s feet some time off) the shoe “fitting” my particular needs is paramount. If they have options and provide a great experience, I think this could be a starting point.

For those pointing out that it is for a specific target audience — yes, that is for sure the case. Who else thinks they wear out shoes in 6 months? I still think it can be a strategy to move the needle for On.

This concept can play in other areas beyond footwear if positioned correctly. I think it is an interesting approach. Parlaying a subscription model to protect the health of the customer and the planet at the same time is a great marketing tool. All goes back to the product they roll out and the good target market press they can generate. Cost really is not too big a factor given the target, to me.

Mary Henslee
2 years 2 months ago

I like this concept, if the product quality meets runners’ demands, and if subscribers are given a choice of styles, fit and colors for their replacement shoes. I think the shoe subscription idea has “legs” (feet?) especially for children’s shoes. I suggested this idea pre-COVID, to allow parents to get a larger size every six months as their kids grow.

"Assuming their shoe is a great running shoe, I can see many people adopting their shoe and can see other brands quickly following this concept. "

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is On’s Cyclon rental/recycle subscription program to be a success?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...