Meet the eco-friendly shoe built for endless repairs and restoration

Disassembly Lab's 3D knitted recyclable sneakers could be a game-changer in the footwear market.

Disassembly Lab - credit: images courtesy of Robin Luginbühl and ECAL
Disassembly Lab - credit: images courtesy of Robin Luginbühl and ECAL /

Everyone loves a good pair of shoes. Some folks enjoy them for the look, comfort, practicality, price, or maybe a combination of all those things. Shoes are great, but they aren't built to last forever. As much as you'd love to see your pair of retro Jordan's survive for years on end, whether you wear them everyday or keep them deadstock, they're bound to fall apart at some point.

But what if there was a shoe that essentially lasts until the wheels fall off? Even if the shoe was breaking down on you, the possibilities of bringing it back to life are endless. Introducing Disassembly Lab and product designer Robin Lugenbühl's diploma project focused on creating sustainable footwear.

Disassembly Lab - credit: images courtesy of Robin Luginbühl and ECAL /

Made up of 3D knitted elements, the shoe makes life easier for its wearers and manufacturers, as there is creative freedom for assembling and disassembling parts as one pleases. The soles, which are made from Thermoplastic polyurethane (or TPU), are removable to be cleaned, restored, or replaced outright to give the shoe some new life.

Disassembly Lab and Robin Lugenbühl re-imagine the purpose of shoes, conceptualizing a set of sustainable, do-it-yourself sneakers.

It's not just the soles that you can take apart, from the fabric's upper layer to the threads and elastics holding everything together in place, the entire shoe can be dissected piece by piece. The shoe is rooted in practicality, thus every piece of the sneaker is a bare necessity. Adding to the shoe's goal of being eco-friendly, the shoe endorses recycling materials to create the elements, whether it's using leftover fabrics from the fashion industry to recycled rubber.

Disassembly Lab - credit: images courtesy of Robin Luginbühl and ECAL /

A student at L’école cantonale d’art de Lausanne (or ECAL), Disassembly Lab is the brainchild of product designer Robin Luginbühl’s Diploma Project in 2023. Despite being a conceptual and formal study, Luginbühl’s vision for eco-friendly shoes has been the subject of others, including Zellerfeld’s washable 3D-printed shoes, Noa Zaidman's recyclable modular shoes, and Diogo Pimenta's three-part, modular sneakers.

Disassembly Lab's goal in mind is to inspire manufacturers to integrate 3D knitting or printed parts, making it easy for people to simply replace the elements rather than the entire shoe. Ergo, it's not so much getting their particular designs out on the market but rather envisioning a world where eco-friendly shoes can become a norm in the footwear landscape.