About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and working on on his
dad bod father figure.
These sneakers are garbage. Literally. This pair of Nike DBreak-Type SE sneakers are made from trash – recycled plastic bottles turned into polyester canvas, ground up foam and rubber production scraps turned into soles, and recycled or sustainably grown cotton threads used to stitch the uppers. This unique concept sneaker reimagines the retro heritage runner style as a modern eco-friendly pair made from mostly recycled pieces. The deconstructed aesthetic adds lots of character, especially with the exaggerated stitching, recycled foam tongue, and cool blue midsole with multi-color flecks of rubber.
Nike has been doing big things in the manufacturing world with their Move to Zero sustainability mission. Over the past decade, their endless journey towards zero carbon emissions and zero waste has helped bring some much-needed focus on climate change. Innovative sneaker designs and production techniques have also added new products to Nike’s portfolio and a bit of extra cash to their bottom line. Imagine that you can capture and reuse production scraps, combine those with recycled pre-consumer and post-consumer pieces, and tie in sustainable natural fibers. You could then churn out some new eco-friendly products made from the scrap that would have otherwise been on top of a landfill.
Setting aside the sustainability goals and recyclability, are these eco-smart sneakers worth purchasing?
Nike’s… “Air Recycle?”
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Excellent! No issues and highly recommended.
- 4 – Good. Above average, but not perfect.
- 3 – Average. Minor issues, might be good at the right price.
- 2 – Fair. Below average due to defects, flaws, or imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price.
Hanging with the fam.
- Brand: Nike
- Style: Retro Runner Hyrbid
- Size: 11 US (43 EU)
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Glued
- Upper: Recycled canvas
- Sole: Retro studded sole
- Details: Stitched eyelets, stitched Swoosh, and synthetic heel
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $90 USD
“Move to Zero” = Nike’s sustainability mission
We ordered these Nikes through Nordstrom, knowing that they were on backorder with no specific future ship date. Surprisingly, they shipped just one week later and were delivered nine days after being ordered. We knew they would be on backorder; the wait wasn’t too bad.
FYI: Nordstrom has the best return policy that I’m aware of. Everything’s handled on a case by case basis with no specific time frame with their end goal of making their customers happy. They believe that when they treat their customers fairly, us customers will be fair with them, too.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy ordering and the best return policy on the planet.
n.354 = Nike’s name for their archive of past prototypes
Nike’s recycled cardboard sneaker box sucks. It feels thinner and cheaper than other boxes and mine arrived half crushed. Inside, the sneakers were barely wrapped in a simple layer of tissue paper. I know this is part of Nike’s sustainability movement, and I do appreciate that, but they should increase the durability of the packaging. Some sneakerheads like to hang onto their boxes for storage and to showcase their collection. Also, there were no spare laces or extras inside.
Score: 2/5 Stars – Box is wrecked, no spare laces, and shoes were loosely wrapped.
They arrived in quite the banged up box.
Nike says the canvas fabric used for the upper is made from recycled plastic bottles and pre/post-consumer scraps. Taking a closer look, you can visibly see that because it’s awash with multicolored fibers. The overall warm grey hue is super versatile and pairs well with pretty much any outfit. Most of the upper’s seams are stitched with a tonal charcoal thread, but the exaggerated bit near the toe is done in a bright Carolina Tar Heel blue that arcs down and blends masterfully with the recycled rubber and foam midsole. The Nike Swoosh is stitched on with a contrasting off-white shade of thread, which I greatly prefer to the thin Flyleather leather/fiber product that’s usually tacked onto the side of their shoes. I also prefer the stitched eyelets to their bright and shiny metal counterparts, at least for this pair.
Canvas upper is made from recycled plastic bottles and production scraps
The tongue is a monster’s mash of recycled foam padding that looks like it came from a Unicorn’s rectum. It’s super colorful, kind of fun to look at, and it gives the overall grey slate a big pop of color (especially when you’re looking down from above). The Flyleather heel tab and fabric tongue patch are both labelled in highlighter yellow text and say “n.354” – that’s Nike’s name for their archive of past prototypes that are being reimagined to explore new ideas and push the boundaries of footwear design.
Wild. On purpose.
The foam midsoles, rubber heel cups and outsoles are WILD. The squishy midsole has this overall light blue hue and is pockmarked by little bits of recycled rubber and foam. My pair has these microbursts of regurgitated color: orange, green, red, blue, neon yellow, and even pink and purple! The rubber heel cups and outsoles are also Jackson Pollocked with colorful bits of rubber that got thrown into the vat and extruded into the final forms. I’ve seen some pairs that err on the side of kitty litter, but my pair looks like you’re walking on the aftermath of a confetti party. Yeah, it also kind of looks like vomit.
Like a Unicorn ate a bunch of Oreo Cookies… then tossed them.
I’ve been wearing these DBreaks with tapered raw denim jeans and a plain black tee. This level of contrast and saturation moves the visual focus down, making the sneakers the highlight of the outfit. Alternatively, they could also be worn well with slim fit chinos and a lightweight sweatshirt ala J.Crew.
Score: 4/5 Stars – I’m impressed with the overall style, substance, and construction for Nike.
Stitched Swoosh, instead of the usual applied number.
Comfort, Fit, and Sizing
Comfort is always subjective, but I found the DBreak to be surprisingly comfortable. Sure, they’re not as comfortable as New Balance 997s or as squishy as Yeezy 350s, but they’re totally manageable for a retro sneaker. The recycled fabric upper provides some support without feeling too heavy. The recycled Nike Grind midsole and waffle rubber outsole provide a lot of the bounce, squish, and comfort. The recycled foam insole isn’t very thick, but it’s supportive enough when combined with the other bits below your feet. I actually forgot I was wearing the shoes after just a few minutes. That foam insole is ever so slightly glued down, but it can easily be removed should you want something more supportive in there.
Size wise, I’m a consistent 11 US in all Nike products and the DBreak is no different. They do feel slightly more tapered than usual, but I wouldn’t size up or down unless you naturally need a wider width.
For reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in most dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last. I take a 10.5 E in Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for me. I also take a 10.5 in Vans and an 11 in most Adidas or Nike sneakers.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Comfortable, but not as squishy or supportive as New Balance sneakers.
Comfy. There are more supportive sneakers, but these get the job done.
As a part-time sneakerhead, I’m always on the hunt for something that’s unique and a little colorful, but not too crazy where my slightly conservative boss would say something if I wore them in the office. I think these limited-edition DBreak-Type SE’s fill that role very well. In my opinion, they’re pretty stylish, fairly comfortable, and hit your wallet for less than $100! Even if Joe thinks “they look like they hit a pile of Unicorn barf”, ***editor’s note*** I’m not wrong, and… I also really like them. I can’t quite explain why… I think they’re an easy win. Give ‘em a try and let us know what you think.
Avg. Score: 3.75/5 Stars – Quality wise, on par with other Nikes. Style wise, very cool!