The Shoe Made of Old Bottles, Tires & CDs—That’s Breaking Distance Records

“It’s good for anything up to a half marathon or so.”

When I asked the Brooks sales reps at the Marine Corps Marathon about the Green Silence, that’s what they told me.  Light, fast, and minimal—just not meant for long distances.

Brooks Green Silence Black Kelly Green 1 300x134I didn’t let it deter me.  I had fallen in love with the Green Silence when I learned about it this summer: Not only is it all of the above, and in my opinion a perfect minimalist alternative to barefoot-style shoes for road running, but it looks awesomely-weird and is eco-friendly.  More on that later.

Good for a marathon and (way) more

Long story short, I wore them in the marathon the next day.  If people can run a marathon barefoot, there’s no reason I can’t do it with a pair of flimsy shoes, I figured.  And in this case, I was right.  No problems other than the (unrelated) IT band issues I expected, and even those could have been far worse.

But get this—after I got home, I found a card in the shoebox listing some of the features of the Green Silence, including the fact that Scott Jurek (everyone’s favorite vegan ultrarunner) wore them at the 2010 AU 24-Hour World Championships.  But he didn’t do much there—he only ran over 165 miles and set a new American 24-hour record.

Let me repeat that.  24 hours, 165 miles.  And yet the Brooks people told me the Green Silence isn’t really for anything more than a half marathon!  Now, I realize Scott Jurek is superhuman—but that doesn’t mean his feet don’t hurt like yours and mine.  And it’s not like he’s a huge barefoot guy, either.  So why Brooks sells the Green Silence as a short-distance shoe, I have no idea.

CD’s, Tires, and Bottles…Oh My!

I knew the Green Silence was eco-friendly, but I didn’t know how or why when I bought them.  Here are just a few of the remarkable “green” features they boast:

  • The laces, meshes, and webbings are made from recycled plastic bottles.
  • The heel counters (the plastic pieces that reinforce the back of the shoe) are made from recycled CDs.
  • The outsoles are made from 30% used tire material.
  • The sockliner foam is fully biodegradable.
  • The packaging is 100% recycled material, with chlorine-free tissue, water-based inks and adhesives, no silica packs, and only minimal stuffing.
  • Brooks uses 50% less material to make the Green Silence than is used in standard shoe manufacturing.

Pretty neat, huh?  I don’t consider myself much of an environmentalist, but even I found this all pretty awesome.  A nice bonus for a shoe I’d probably wear anyway.

Where the rubber meets the road

So all of this greenness is great.  But it doesn’t matter much if the shoes are terrible.  Fortunately, they’re not.  Here’s my personal experience with the Green Silence.

The first thing I noticed about the Green Silence (other than the funky look) was the weight.  They weigh 5.9 ounces, only about 20% more than Vibram Fivefingers.  The upper of the Green Silence is really flimsy—nothing like the stiff material that most shoes are made of, so there’s really no breaking-in to be done to these.

The sole is shorter than that of most running shoes, and the heel isn’t built up much higher than the front of the sole.  These two things were important to me—I wanted a shoe that was a lot like barefoot running or running Vibram Fivefingers, but with just slightly more cushioning, since I find road running in Vibrams to be uncomfortable after a while.  I want these shoes to be my everyday road shoes.

When I put on the Green Silence for the first time to test them out, I noticed that I ran differently.  I naturally landed on my midfoot rather than on my heel, something that I’m still not convinced I even do in my Vibrams.  (I have no idea why the Green Silence should encourage midfoot running any more than the VFF’s, but for me, that’s how it is.)  I could definitely feel the lack of cushioning though, even walking around the expo—if you want a soft feel when you hit the ground like most fancy running shoes give you, the Green Silence are not for you.

green silence laces image 225x300My only complaint about the shoes is the lacing.  Rather than running straight up and down the top of the shoe, the laces curve along the top of the foot.  I’ve found I have to tie the laces pretty tight, due either to this curvature or the flimsiness of the shoe, and by the end of a long run the tops of my feet hurt from the tightness.  I also found that my toes hit the front of the shoe a lot, leaving me with a not-so-pretty nail situation after the marathon.  (Maybe getting a larger size shoe would have prevented this.)

So that’s my take.  Anyone else run in the Green Silence yet?  I’d love to hear if your thoughts are the same as mine.

All I know is this is the first time I’ve been excited about a shoe in a good while (especially one that doesn’t have individual toes on it!). If you decide to buy a pair from Amazon using this link, I’ll get a cut and we’ll all be winners. icon smile

Looking forward to hearing what the barefoot crowd, the racing flat crowd, and the environmentalists think of these babies.  I know you’re out there, so chime in.

“good for anything up to about a half marathon.”
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Comments

  1. These seem great. I want to get them. I just checked out the site and it says the green/black ones are mens width, the red/yellow are unisex width, and blue/black ones are womens width. How much of an impact does the width have?

  2. I love these shoes so much that I have two pair. I’ve run 1 5k, 3 halves, and 1 full since May this year with them. I call them my PR shoes. Of those 5 races, 4 of them were PRs. However, my sports doc says that I went overboard with them, which caused me to injure myself. So, I’d suggest taking some time to slowly adjust to them. Otherwise, pretty awesome shoes!

  3. These sound pretty cool. I’ve been looking for a FF alternative too (which I’ve been wearing for 3 years). Something quicker to get on.

    Any experience with other barefoot shoes?

    • I own a pair of the red/yellow ones but ended up giving them to my wife who used them in a 10k & a sprint triathlon. Like Matt I didn’t like the shoelaces & the shoe was a bit stiff. In the end I stayed with my KSOs. I think I’m going to buy Terra Plana EVOs next.

  4. Bought a pair in mid Sept and wore them a few times before setting a Half PR in the them in early Oct. I had a hard time finding a pair of flats that fit my wide feet. No luck with Kinvara or any Nike shoe. Green Silence were perfect. Plus I love the black and green. No hesitation in wearing them in 2 weekends for the Philly marathon. So light and low to the ground that leg turn over is awesome and there’s a lot of surface area with the bottom of the shoe which fits my mid-foot strike really well.

  5. Sandy from Texas says:

    I’m wearing my Green Silence right now! I bought them a month ago and love them for all the reasons you’ve listed. I’ve run only as far as 9 miles in them, but I think they look cool so I wear them as my casual shoes most every day. I initially found the laces slightly uncomfortable across the top of my foot, but they have softened up a bit. I normally run in Vibrams but wanted to work something else into my rotation. I run on pavement and while the Vibrams are still good for me up to 10 miles, I want something else in case I can’t wear them for longer distances. (Vegetarian, Vibrams, Green Silence…feeling close to you right now.)

  6. I’m skeptical of this shoe. How could it be close to the VFFs with that thick sole? How thick are the soles, a 1/2 inch?

    Does anyone know what the sole is like on the terra plana evos and how they compare to VFFs. I’m looking for something for the chicago winter thats at least water proof. Does anyone know if they fixed the feelmax’s yet. I read a review that said the soles soak up water like a sponge.

    I also have some runamoc’s from soft star which are great but you need to depend on a little foot sweat for them to stay in place and I don’t anticipate that at 20 below.

  7. I was really curious about the minimalist shoes, but wasn’t sure they were for me. I’ve had multiple knee reconstructions and have no menisci left, therefore no natural cushioning of my own. I decided to give them a shot anyways and got the Kinvaras. I absolutely love them and don’t think I’ll be going back to more conventional shoes any time soon.

  8. Sounds like an excellent idea to have shoes made out of recycled stuff. Although I’m sure the logistics of the shoe could be improved, as you pointed out.

  9. I will have to buy a pair and let you know!

  10. How is the fit? are they true to size? I am currently wearing Nike Free as a transition to a more minimal shoe (also changed my running mechanics to land mid/fore foot) but I have had problems with the Free laces causing pain on the top of my feet. I am looking for another minimal option for next year. Green Silence seems like a good choice, and I love that fact that they are animal-free.

    • Andy, they feel true to size to me, but since I usually wear Brooks shoes, that’s not surprising. However, like I said, my toenails hit the front of the shoe more than usual, which might be due to a narrow toe box (I didn’t notice it was narrow, but Grok says he heard it is).

  11. I ran the chickamauga battlefield marathon and set a PR a few weeks ago in my green’s with about 300 miles on them. I had been training and running long runs in them and feel it made my feet stronger and able to go the distance. I did have fatigue in the feet but don’t feel it was a factor. And hey we don’t run marathon’s to be ‘comfortable’ right? I have a new pair with 6 miles on them and will run Rocket City marathon this weekend in them. Love the new black and green. I agree on the mid-sole comment, after 350 miles my first pair only show wear on the ball of the foot, none on heel.

  12. I just ran 22 miles in these shoes…they are really great on roads and sidewalks, for short or long runs.

    Downside is in wet weather they seem to get “soaked” fairly quickly, and the soy-based inks do bleed, turning parts of your socks grey/black. It washes out so not a huge deal.

    I wouldn’t use them for long trail runs, but for everyday running you can’t go wrong!

    They are super light.

    • Thanks Ravi, good to know. I can see them getting soaked. Man, I’m loving them though for road running. They’re a perfect compromise between normal shoes and VFF’s. I probably wouldn’t wear them on a trail run either, for the protection and water-proofness.

  13. My husband loves his. He calls them his “Ronald McDonald shoes”. He got them last year (yellow and red colour) and in his first half in them he PR’d. He’s also run a marathon in them as well as used them in triathlons, and he runs trails with them. These are his only running shoe, so he uses them for all his training, too. I keep telling him he needs a replacement soon but he claims they are still comfortable. I’m surprised the rep said they were for halfs (halves?). We saw several runners running the Boston marathon in them this past April. In response to questions about the sizing, he usually wears an 8.5 but sized up to a 9 in these because the 8.5 was too snug. This was the first time he had tried a Brooks pair of runners and he found they run smaller than what he’s used to.

  14. Bobby LeClaire says:

    hey, how much of a cut do you get for us using that link?

  15. Joe Kanaszka says:

    Hey Matt –
    I’m due for a new pair of trainers soon – got about 400 miles on my Grooks Glycerin 8s. After being “fit” at a running store they classified me as neutral + which means a neutral shoe with xtra cushioning due to my high mileage – (over 25 per week approx).

    I find the Glycerins really heavy though and would love to get a more minimalistic shoe. I’m a mid-foot striker for the most part. Would you suggest the Green silence for an everyday road trainer as well as a half/full marathon racer?
    Thanks man

    • Joe, I ran in the Brooks Defyance for a long time (maybe 4-5 marathons/ultras). I really liked them because of how light they are while still being a sturdy neutral shoe. (Not sure how that would compare to the Glycerin, but I think the Defyance is lighter.)

      I trained for some of my first injury-free races in the Defyance, and as I developed confidence in my ability to put in a lot of miles without injury, I started to experiment with lighter, more minimal shoes. And that’s how I got to the Green Silence, which I run in now and really like. I imagine I’ll stay with it for a while.

  16. Curious…

    Are the green/black colors only mens sizes??

    I have clicked around the brooks website, and that is what I seem to be finding. If I am a 7.5 in women’s running shoes, what would be the equivalent in men’s? Is it even smart of me to run in a men’s shoe?? I have a somewhat wide foot…

    My curiosity for minimalist running, and my love of all things green (not just color… eco-friendly!) make me want to try this shoe out

    • Yeah, the green/black are only men’s, I believe. There’s a turquoise and black that’s for women, plus a red and yellow (and maybe others) that I’m not sure what sex they’re for.

  17. Melissa Tucker says:

    I love Green Silence!! I just ran the Ocean Drive Marathon this past weekend in mine and bettered my marathon time by 20 mins!! I could feel my running form change on my first run in them. I feel like I run much more efficiently, and I haven’t been injured since I started running in them.

  18. Couldn’t agree with you more about the Green Silence.
    Right after I read Born to Run, I got online to dive into shoe research, and ran into numerous videos on youtube touting the benefits of the VFF and various other “minimalist” shoes. I ran into an obscure video of some kids running around in the green Silence and it just appealed to me. I went to the local fleetfeet and tried on a pair, and I was hooked!
    After ongoing painful painful recovery periods related to heel striking during regular runs (knees/hips/neck/back). I stopped hurting about 6 months ago after wearing these babies. I am running a faster mile, and completely painfree as well (despite having reconstructive knee surgery). I absolutely swear by them, and will only run in these year round.
    Cheers, great blog!

  19. I’ve been following your website for a while and came across this article about your green silence. I have worn VFF’s for two years now and have suffered repeated calf strains during my training. I always put this down to ramping up my training miles to quickly but after the last time I decided to take your advice and try these. I noticed straight away that I was not suffering any calf strain after my initial run of two miles ( still on the road to recovery). I started to increase my milage and still no signs of stress. I have run eight miles in these and although this is not that long for me I still have no muscle soreness or signs of injury. In the VFF’s my legs were always sore and tight but in these it’s like I have not been running! I agree about the toe area and have wondered how my toes would cope on a long distance but I am quite amazed about the difference they have made to my form.
    All the best
    Alex

  20. These are awesome trail shoes! I dont like usual trail shoes because they feel to bulky when you want to go fast. However they give terrible blisters . I ran a 5k on pavement and my forefoot was on fire . These shoes dont drain worth anything, and as soon as you get them wet its garanteed blisters. Im just keeping them as fast trail run workout shoes.

  21. So this is pretty delayed…but I’ll say it anyways. I LOVE my Green Silence. I am not a very experienced (or good) runner, but I’m in the military so I have to run. I’ve always run in Brooks because they’re the only ones that seems to fit my narrow feet well. I’ve had several surgeries on my ankle, so I used to run in the Adrenaline, which is much meatier, heavier, and more supportive. After a while, the weight of that shoe started bother my ankle more than not having support, so I switched the the Green Silence. It gives a great amount of cushion for me, while being very light. When I first saw the shoes, I expected them to weigh more. I was actually pretty shocked when I picked them up at how light they are! It’s hugely unfortunate they are discontinued, but I have still been able to find them here and there thankfully. Some people don’t like the laces, but they are far better than tradition laces for me. I have a tall foot, so traditional laces put uncomfortable pressure on that bone that sticks up on the top of your foot (sorry not sure which one that is). Overall, best shoe I have ever run in!

  22. I absolutely love the Green Silence. They’ve brought me PRs, improved my gait, eliminated plantars faciitis and saved me from achilles tendonitis. At one point I developed extreme ankle pain in both feet and I had to stop running for awhile at the recommendation of my chiropodist. He said I had tarsal tunnel syndrome. I think I’m feeling that coming back again on the inside of my left ankle. I’m wondering if it has to do with the fact that I’m wearing my shoes out because Brooks has discontinued the shoe, and I’m trying to squeeze extra mileage out of my 4 remaining pairs. I usually retire them at about 400 miles; but, I’ve got one pair that feels good, and they will soon be at 500 miles. What are your thoughts on this? Can this shoe cause tunnel tarsal syndrome? Also, why has Brooks discontinued such a popular shoe? They haven’t responded to my question on this at their Facebook site.

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