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According to a report by e-commerce platform Shopify, the online revenue of athletic footwear could reach $63.5 billion in 2022, an increase of 23% from 2020. Unfortunately, many of those sneakers arrive on consumers’ doorsteps boxed twice—the regular shoebox one would generally expect but packed inside a larger shipping box. 

For the 2020 Space Hippie release, the Nike packaging team, led by Rich Hastings, took the opportunity to design the “One Box,” a shoebox that serves as a mailer that also reduces the amount of packaging material used.

Using that limited release as a starting point, the Nike packaging team worked on a more durable, discreet box while minimizing the product’s overall environmental footprint. Nike also says the One Box is compatible with nearly any shoe they make.

“Packaging is sometimes an afterthought,” said Hastings in an announcement for the new sustainable packaging. “But what people may not realize is that it can have a huge impact on the environment.”

The thoughtful design eliminates tape with a tear-away tab that opens the shoebox. Anticipating returns, the inside of the vessel includes an adhesive strip, negating the need for more sticky stuff. Instead of going with a bright orange exterior with Nike swooshes all over it, the One Box keeps it plain-looking by design. The underwhelming outside of plain cardboard hides the actual contents of the box from potential porch pirates looking to steal your style, literally. Nike opted for white ink on the inside after noticing white midsoles were getting smeared. According to Nike, this ink choice also reduced the water used in printing.

Nike describes the One Box as a pilot program, though at the global shoemaker’s scale, that translates to millions of pairs of shoes shipping in the newly designed shoebox, with the number increasing as they refine the design.

As retail evolves, the role of packaging changes. A brightly colored shoebox boldly emblazoned with the brand logo works well in a conventional IRL retail setting, in a time before the concept of ordering shoes existed. The traditional shoebox wasn’t designed to be shipped and possibly returned, and attitudes over the environmental impact of purchases have inspired Nike to refresh this conventional form of packaging.

One Box was not only optimally designed for the way more of us buy shoes today, but it also reduces the amount of materials used by 51 percent, resulting in a more sustainable and functional package.

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