Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by All Birds #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by All Birds
Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneakers. Image by 8000 Kicks #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by 8000 Kicks
Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Saola Shoes #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Saola Shoes

11 Sustainable Sneakers: Best Eco Friendly Brands Ahead Of The Pack


Let’s put some sustainability in your step…by moving toward ethical and sustainable sneakers.

To be frank, the traditional footwear industry stinks.

But the last few years have seen leaps and bounds of progress, and we now have a healthy selection of ethical sneakers to put your best eco foot forward. 

From personal experience, Allbirds have got to be one of the most sustainable sneakers on the market (including a range of ethical running shoes).

Then there’s Baabuk, whose 100% Portuguese sheep wool (and machine washable) kicks are well up there.

And the most unique eco friendly sneaker brand award goes to 8000Kicks who make the world’s “first waterproof cannabis sneaker”.

To read more about why sustainable and ethical sneakers are necessary and how these brands made the cut, keep reading or click here.

No sense in standing still…Let’s get moving with best sustainable sneaker brands.

*This post contains affiliate links

1. ALLBIRDS

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward ethical and sustainable sneaker brands. Image by All Birds #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Allbirds

About Allbirds 

Allbirds is a San Francisco based B-Corp that makes some of the most eco friendly sneakers for women, men, and kids (or “smallbirds”).

We both own a pair which fits right in with our minimalist wardrobe. And can say they’re probably the most comfortable sustainable sneakers (or non-sustainable sneakers for that matter) we’ve ever worn.

Besides their range of running sneakers, they make loungers, breezers, skippers, and toppers in colors that are bright or soft and easily matchable.

This sustainable basics brand offers garments for the rest of the body, too.

Allbird’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Allbirds eco friendly wool sneakers are made using superfine ZQ Merino (which adheres to the most stringent ethical wool and most animal welfare standards) which demands 60% less energy to make than synthetic shoes.

Their Tree lines are made of eucalyptus pulp TENCEL Lyocell grown with 95% less water and produced in a clean, closed-loop process.

The laces are made of recycled plastic bottles (about one bottle per pair) and threaded through bio-based TPU eyelets. 

They use partial castor bean oil in their midsole to minimize synthetic content (though there is still some EVA here). For the outsoles, they are transitioning to using a new material called SweetFoam, made from Brazillian sugarcane certified by Proforest

Since its byproducts are used to power the mill and fertilize the field, it’s the world’s first carbon-negative EVA.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Their merino is sourced from New Zealand and spun in Milan, Italy in Europe’s only wool mill sustainably certified by the European Commission.

The Tree collection is made with FSC-certified eucalyptus from South African farms that are then made by the Austrian company Lenzing.

Finished fabrics get assembled at WRAP-certified factories in South Korea and China.

Green business practices:

They also use 90% recycled cardboard packaging “because every box deserves a second chance”. They are Carbon Neutral through offsetting all business operations.

Community & charitable giving: 

Through their partnership with Soles4Souls, they donate lightly used, returned shoes to communities in need.

Available: Allbirds

2. 8000KICKS

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneakers. Image by 8000 Kicks #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by 8000Kicks

About 8000Kicks

Portugal-based 8000Kicks make the world’s “first waterproof cannabis sneaker.” 

We know what you’re thinking: No, you can’t smoke the shoe (it has less than 0.3% THC) and no, TSA won’t detain you if you wear these on your next flight. 

Finished cannabis products are 100% legal around the world.

The only kind of high these sustainable workout sneakers will give you is a runner’s high.

The company started after founder Bernardo quit his job in 2018 hoping to make something revolutionary. 

He states, “If we can’t show everyone we can make better products with natural materials, then how are we supposed to win the war on plastics? How are we supposed to make this planet better?”

They currently focus on just one design: the Explorer V2– a versatile and eco friendly sneaker for men and women. It’s come in either beige or black.

They’re breathable, light, and suitable for either casual or activewear. 

8000Kick’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Each shoe upper is made from responsibly sourced cannabis hemp fabric, which is not only durable (as proven by their “torture” tests) but waterproof.

This makes them easy to clean and dust-resistant, too. 

The hemp fibers are first separated from the bark, then allowed to “rest” for 4-6 weeks before being carded into strands and finally “steam explosion” (a non-chemical process) is applied rendering them into the final weavable fiber. 

The insoles are also hemp, which is anti-microbial and anti-bacterial.

The outsoles, once made of recycled rubber from “our competitor’s old sneakers” in the V1, are now made of Bloom foam algae which helps sponsor the removal of harmful algae from marine ecosystems.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Both their cork and recycled outsole materials are sourced and made in Portugal in a factory that provides free health care and education to its employees. The hemp is sourced in China, Romania, and France. 

Their other factory is located in China, which also holds strict labor standards.

We reached out to them directly to ask why they choose China and they explained it’s because “the best hemp in the world comes from there [and] we refuse to make shoes with second quality hemp.”

Green business practices: 

Compared to average traditional sneakers, each pair of 8000Kicks requires 72% less CO2 and 70% less water to manufacture.

Available: 8000Kicks

3. BAABUK

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Baabuk #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Baabuk

About Baabuk

Baabuk is a family-owned Swiss company that started with a simple Christmas gift: a pair of traditional Russian Valenkis felted shoes. 

Realizing these were the most comfortable shoes the founders had ever worn, they took to making their own. After perfecting the design, they received an astonishing 700 orders at their first trade show.

Now an ISPO Gold award-winning brand, they continue crafting cozy ethical slippers and affordable ethical sneakers.

For sustainable sneakers, choose between their Urban Woolers and Sky Woolers, available in either low or mid rise designs. 

Baabuk’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Wool is the base of all Baabuk booties, mulesing-free and ethically sourced from kindly treated sheep.

The Urban Woolers are the most sustainable, made of 100% Portuguese sheep wool, a soft Merino inner lining, and a durable TPU Thermoplastic sole.

The Sky Woolers also contain an upper and inner made from Portuguese mulesing-free sheep wool, but their soles are made of rubber and top-grain Nubuck leather.

Since we generally try to avoid leather, these would be our second choice.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

This Certified B-Corp says, “We love wool but we aren’t sheep”, which is why their supply chain is fully traceable and ethical.

They guarantee safe working conditions, no child labor, equal employment opportunities for women, and a 25% higher salary than the national average.

Their sneakers are 100% made in Portugal, including sourcing the wool from sheep in Serra de Estela Natural Park.

Felting occurs in Portugal’s historic Burel Factory (in the town of Manteigas near where the sheep are raised). This factory is famous for its long wool-making tradition using either hand techniques or 100+ year old machinery.

Green business practices:

Baabuk chooses wool because of its compostable end-of-life prospect and eco friendly nature. In fact, wool is 50% carbon sequestered through a sheep’s diet.

They offer a repair kit for $5 to help extend the life of your shoes and encourage folks to repair rather than replace.

Their sneakers are also machine washable.

Community & charitable giving: 

Their Miss Baabuka project partners them with the Swiss organization ProSpecieRara. They support this organization’s conservation mission targeting six rare sheep breed populations.

Available: Baabuk

4. SAOLA

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Saola Shoes #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Saola

About Saola

Pronounced SOW-la (after an endangered animal), Saola makes “kickass” kicks designed to get outside. 

There’s an impressive line of affordable, durable ethical sneakers to choose from, including ethical slip on sneakers.  

Reviews say they are some of the most supportive eco friendly sneakers and each design bears an earthy look to match whatever outdoor activity you wear them for.

Saola’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

For the uppers, Soala mostly uses synthetic leather made from a 40/60 ratio of Recycled Gold Standard certified PET (about 4-5 plastic bottles per pair) and PU.

Their best sustainable sneakers, the Samnoz shoe, features an upper made with blended 100% recycled canvas knit with 90% recycled PET.

All have organic cotton laces, cushioned bi-layer insoles with an upper layer of cork, and a lower outsole made of recycled algae Bloom Foam. This removes harmful algae from natural water systems and converts it into a powder that gets mixed with EVA. 

Some shoes instead use a partially recycled EVA for the outsoles.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Soala manufacture through a factory in southern China. 

One of the founders is permanently stationed in Asia to monitor its ethical standards. They chose to do this because many materials end up coming from China anyway, so it keeps shipping to a minimum.

Community & charitable giving: 

Saola is named after one of the rarest animals on earth, only discovered in 1992 and with about 300 remaining. Needless to say, wildlife conservation is a top priority for Saola.

As a fellow member of 1% for the Planet, 1% of proceeds go to the Mwalua Wildlife Trust, a grassroots wildlife conservation and biodiversity protection organization founded by Kenya native Patrick Kilonzo.

Available: Saola  

5. CARIUMA

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Cariuma #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Caiuma

About Cariuma

Cariuma makes sustainable sneakers and skate shoes in a way that’s better for people and the planet. 

Unlike industry-standard, fashion over function shoes, Cariuma’s are “good-looking, crazy comfy and consciously made”. 

These comfy ethical sneakers for women and men are available in several styles: think slip-ons, low tops, high tops, and more.  

Cariuma’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

Cariuma uses a range of natural materials like FSC and OEKO-TEX certified bamboo, BCI and GOTS organic cotton, and natural rubber.

Their insoles are made from ethically sourced Brazilian sugarcane (a polyethylene produced by I’M GREEN), cork, and mamona oil (a plant-based alternative to petroleum-based foam). 

For the vegan ethical sneakers (all 43% of them), the uppers, laces, thread, and labels are made with GRS-certified rPET (from recycled plastic bottles).

Their ethical leather sneakers use LWG certified leather and suede for the upper. The leather is produced using recycled/reused water and renewable energy and not associated with deforestation.

Only bluesign®-certified, non-toxic dyes are used. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

Following ILO guidelines, Cariuma prioritizes the health and well-being of its workers through living wages and a manageable work week. 

Their Code of Conduct is adhered to by their WRAP-certified manufacturing partner. 

They’re taking steps towards certifying and improving traceability for their suppliers, too. 

Green business practices:

The only true answer to sustainability is to buy less—which is why the sneakers are designed to be worn for a long time. Their sneaks have a protective toe cap and a fully-stitched outsole. 

Quality over quantity, as they say.

They’re also working on a program to recycle or reuse excess materials and only use recycled/recyclable packaging.  

Community & charitable endeavors:

For every pair of sustainable sneakers purchased, two trees are planted in the friends and founders’ homeland of Brazil. 

Available: Cariuma

6. VEJA

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by VEJA #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by VEJA

About VEJA

Brazilian for “look”, VEJA is changing the way the world sees sneakers.

Instead of using petroleum-based materials and cheap manufacturing, they create environmentally friendly sneakers out of biodegradable, recycled, and/or partially biobased materials.

Their line of classic sustainable white sneakers or colorful kicks is available in women’s, men’s, kids’, or unisex sizes.

VEJA’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

About ⅔ of VEJA’s eco friendly sneakers feature vegetable or chrome-free tanned leather uppers sourced from LWG Gold certified and REACH compliant tanneries. 

Their vegan models swap leather uppers for B-mesh (100% recycled plastic bottles), Hexamesh (layers of organic cotton and recycled polyester), and corn-based vegan leather.

Other components are made from about ~60% biobased materials such as castor bean inserts, sugar cane midsoles and insoles, and Amazonian rubber and rice waste outsoles.

Lining, laces, and buckles are made from recycled polyester or recycled cotton.

Supply chain & labor practices:

This Certified B Corp runs the extra mile for their supply chain, purchasing materials like rubber and organic cotton for double market prices.

All raw materials are sourced and processed in Brazil, except for select cotton farming and spinning that takes place in nearby Peru.

Sneakers are assembled in a factory near Porto Alegre, where workers are protected by a fair trade code of conduct that provides fair wages, benefits, paid vacation, regular schedules, and protection from forced overtime.

They’ve calculated the cost to be 3x more to manufacture in Brazil than in China, but that’s a cost they’re willing to assume instead of placing it on the planet and laborers.

Green business practices:

VEJA makes up for those higher costs by forgoing advertising, which saves tremendous paper resources and money.

To see where they can improve, they’ve calculated their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions and created an emissions report.

Old sustainable footwear can be repaired or recycled at their shops in France and NYC.

Community & charitable giving:

VEJA’s Paris warehouse employs disabled or disadvantaged workers to help them get back on their feet. 90% and 25% have had health or housing problems, respectively.

Available: Nordstrom

7. THIRD MIND

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Third Mind #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Third Mind

About Third Mind

Here’s a new word for you: integrinuity.

Coined by Third Mind, this sustainable sneaker brand combines integrity and ingenuity in the pursuit of responsible performance. 

This innovative company makes men’s dress shoes that perform like a pair of sustainable sneakers. 

There are five sustainable mens sneaker styles available, in every color from classic black to a magical magenta. 

Third Mind’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

Third Mind’s list of sustainable materials is short but unique (outside the partially recycled rubber outsole).

Clarino® is a microfiber vegan leather that doesn’t require solvents to manufacture. Plus, it produces 70% less wastewater and 35% less CO2 emissions than the real thing! 

Sciessent® Lava uses zeolites (crystalline structures made from aluminum, silicon, and oxygen) to trap odors and keep antimicrobial chemicals at bay. 

NatureTex® is what earned the brand a spot on this list of sustainable sneakers. It’s made from 100% recycled water bottles!

Each pair of shoes is made with 70% recycled materials and only their strobel and midsole have some room (and plans) for improvement.

With concerns about microplastics, they’re not washable, but they send you a second replacement insole if and when the shoes get exceptionally funky. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

Third Mind believes in “community before commodity”. 

With every sale, the brand supports workers with fair wages and livelihood opportunities to support their families and build a stronger community. 

Most of the supply chain is in Putian, China. Each product description highlights how many workers are empowered with safe working conditions for each pair of shoes sold. 

Green business practices:

When you slide your feet into Third Mind’s shoes, you’re sliding on (and upcycling) ~20 recycled plastic bottles.

All glues are water-based (VOC-free) and the dyes are non-polluting, which means Third Mind can recycle all water used in production. 

In fact, many of the materials used by Third Mind are also bluesign® approved, too. Meaning that they’re free of toxic chemicals. 

Community & charitable endeavors:

To help the communities of their customers, they invite you to send them an email with a cause or problem and they’ll work with you to find a solution. 

Available: Third Mind

8. THOUSAND FELL

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Thousand Fell #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Thousand Fell

About Thousand Fell

Thousand Fell is the maker of the “best sustainable sneakers for a better tomorrow.”

They’re also the maker of the first zero waste, closed loop, recycled sneakers.

Between sustainable design and easy-to-recycle materials, these are ethical canvas sneakers you can wear over and over again—which means they won’t wear down our planet either. 

They have lace up and slip on womens and mens sustainable sneakers.

Thousand Fell’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials:

The soles are made with natural and recycled rubber (from a net zero emission supplier).

The foam is made with castor beans, and the uppers, mesh liners, and laces are made with bio-leather blended from recycled plastic bottles and corn waste.

The mesh sock liner also features aloe vera to combat bacteria. 

For bits that usually require plastic, locally sourced and food industry byproducts like sugar cane, palm leaf fibers, and coconut husk are used. 

Keeping those sustainable white sneakers white for longer (and contributing to the pair’s overall durability), they use a natural quartz barrier to make them stain and water-resistant. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

The brand’s ethical canvas sneakers are made in a family-owned factory located in Brazil using as many locally sourced sustainable materials as possible.

To promote more fast fashion alternatives, the nearly Certified B Corp is also a member of Textile Exchange—a nonprofit improving the textile industry.

Green business practices:

TS uses both carbon and water offsets, and encases their shoes in an organic cotton tote bag that can be reused or repurposed. 

The shoe box is also the shipping box, and is made with recyclable, FSC-certified, and carbon-neutral cardboard. 

If you live in NYC, you’ll even get your shoes delivered by a bike messenger to minimize the shipping impact. 

Their recycling program allows you to either drop off or mail back your old TF shoes for $20 towards a new pair. They partner with TerraCycle to recycle the raw materials in your shoes.

Community & charitable endeavors:

Thousand Fell is a member of 1% for the Planet

Any shoes in decent condition returned by the recycling program are sent to Soles4Souls to give sneakers a second life somewhere in the global community.

Available: Thousand Fell

9. ECOALF

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by ECOALF #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by ECOALF

About Ecoalf

Ecoalf lives by the slogan, “Because there is no Planet B”.

In fact, it’s printed on the soles of their huge range of PETA-approved vegan ethical sneakers.

In addition to sustainable high top sneakers and more, they make a wide range of award-winning apparel for men, women, and kids like their sustainable rain jackets.

Ecoalf is based in Spain (the first fashion brand in Spain to become a certified B-Corp) and was founded by Javier Goyeneche after the birth of his son Alfredo.

Ecoalf’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Vegan shoe brand Ecoalf has lots of different designs for those looking to buy ethical sneakers. 

The fabric depends on the design.

Their Mustique, Ohio, and Because lines are made from 100% recycled polyester made from plastic bottles, while their Dallas, Land, Yale, and Sandford lines are 100% recycled nylon made from discarded fishing nets.

The Felders ethical high top sneakers, which are made of Pinatex, a vegan leather made from pineapple leaves. 

Their athletic Oreson Sneakers boast their most recent fabric innovation, a blend of 59% recycled polyester and 41% sorona, a corn-starch based biopolymer.

Every design meets non-toxic REACH standards.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Aside from the basic BSCI or SA8000 certifications, all entities of the Ecoalf supply chain have at least one Bluesign® certification or OEKO-TEX 100 certification.  

Green business practices:

To date, they’ve removed over 700 tons of waste from the ocean.

With the help of BICOME, they assess the impact of each products, with results available in each product description.

To close the loop, they also use zero waste packaging, namely recycled cardboard boxes made in Spain and dye-free recycled filler paper. 

Community & charitable giving: 

The ECOALF Foundation coordinates with the Spain branch of Upcycling the Oceans to clean up the Mediterranean.

They donate 10% of all profits to this foundation, which participates in other waste management and environmental education initiatives. 

Available: Ecoalf  |  Amazon UK

Ecoalf has featured in our article on sustainable streetwear.


10. NATIVE SHOES

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Native Shoes #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Native Shoes

About Native Shoes

Native Shoes is based in Vancouver, Canada and they make future-forward vegan sustainable sneakers in classic designs to help the whole family “Live Lightly”.

While they offer mens and womens’ sustainable sneakers, their array of bright-colored options are especially fun for the kiddos.

As some of the most affordable ethical sneakers out there, you can pick up most styles for under $100.

About Native Shoe’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

As a PETA-certified “beast free” vegan sustainable sneaker brand, Native makes shoes from microfiber vegan leather. 

Some feature a zero waste 3D knit upper made of 50% recycled materials that are stretchy, breathable, and washable – so have no fear of rocking even their white eco friendly sneakers. 

Most of their range still has an EVA mid and outsole, so be sure to dispose of them correctly.

Native’s Jefferson Bloom line is toeing the frontiers of sustainability by incorporating harvested algae biomass into the design.  

This process restores 80 liters of filtered water back into the environment for each pair of shoes, which helps keep marine ecosystems healthy and prevents 15 balloons of C02 from entering the atmosphere.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Native Shoes are made in China and Vietnam with “stringent ethical practices in place” to monitor fair wages and working hours. 

Aside from having constant connections on the ground to these factories, they visit several times a year.

Green business practices:

Native Shoes initiated The Remix Project by partnering with Zappos for Good to better manage the life cycle of their shoes, by offering a free recycling program. 

The goal is to be totally circular by 2023, so you can return any of their shoes either online or at a physical drop-off location

Community & charitable giving: 

All recycled shoes go into community projects, like building playgrounds from recycled materials in their home community of Vancouver.

Available: Amazon

11. NOTHING NEW

Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Nothing New (@cuffington) #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle
Image by Nothing New

About Nothing New

After learning about the horrifying statistics behind footwear, Nothing New decided to make a vow using sneakers made out of just that: absolutely nothing new.

Their sustainable canvas sneakers are made with either natural or 100% recycled materials.

Bearing ultra classic, solid color designs, they offer low or high top eco friendly sneakers for women and men.

Nothing New’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

The uppers are made of Better Canvas™, a 100% post-consumer Global Recycle Standard certified plastic (5-6 bottles worth) material, lined with cotton canvas sourced through the Better Cotton Index. 

The heel counters come from 100% recycled fishing nets and the outsoles are a blend of recycled rubber, recycled cork, and natural rubber.

The ethical sneakers are finished with post-consumer plastic labels and laces, certified conflict-free copper and zinc alloy eyelets, and fully stitched construction (no glues or vulcanization).

Their LEATHER² line stomps on virgin leather in favor of GRS certified upcycled Italian leather.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

They source plastic for upcycling from Vietnam, Haiti, and Thailand, collected by people employed under a supplier that runs in accordance with the ten U.N. Global Compact principles and ILO.

The trash is processed into thread, dyed, and woven in ethical factories in China.

Green business practices:

They work with several carbon offset partners to be completely carbon neutral. 

Their Virtuous Circle Program means you can send your worn out Nothing New shoes back for free and get $20 off a new pair. Your old ones will get put back into use somewhere.

Available: Nothing New

WHY BUY ECO FRIENDLY SNEAKERS?

More than 23 billion pairs of sneakers are made every year. Nike alone sells about 25 pairs per second. And because shoes have inherently limited lifespans, this leads to over 300 million pairs getting thrown out each year. 

Less than 5% of trainers and tennis shoes get recycled.

This is especially sad when you consider traditional sneakers are made with materials that hardly break down, if at all. 

That’s not even considering footwear’s most common criminal: leather.

While there do seem to be some ethical leather sneaker options (like upcycled or recycled leather), traditional leather will simply never belong in a pair of sustainable sneakers.

Leather isn’t just a by-product of the meat industry; the leather industry needlessly kills over 1 billion animals per year. 

Animal rights aside, the leather industry feeds heavily on the livestock industry, one of the world’s greatest producers of greenhouse gases.

Then there’s the tanning process, one of the most polluting in the world. Arsenic and cyanide are among 250 other chemicals used.

On the ethical side, tannery workers get exposed to these chemicals, which research shows leads to respiratory problems and cancer.

Between the rate of consumption and poor fabric choices, traditional sneakers just aren’t sustainable.


HOW WE FOUND THE BEST SUSTAINABLE SNEAKERS

Lots of companies these days are toying with sustainable footwear.

Even industry monolith Adidas has eco friendly sneakers made of recycled ocean plastic gathered through a partnership with Parley for the Oceans.

They’re also behind the Reebok Corn + Cotton shoes.  

Real steps toward sustainability or just a marketing ploy?

The jury is still out. Read our deep dive on sustainable running shoes for more on that.

For this article, we used our sustainable and ethical fashion criteria.

Materials: 

We want materials with as low impact as possible, both from the raw production side and from the product’s end-of-life. Just below, we’ll dive into sustainable materials specific to sneakers.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

This means consideration for human rights across the supply chain. Companies should treat workers fairly and provide safe, meaningful employment opportunities.

Third party certifications (like B-Corp and Fairtrade) really help to provide reassurance that they’re not just greenwashing

Green business practices:

Efforts to reduce their carbon footprint (and offset what they can’t), offer recycling programs if their products can’t be composted, and use low waste packaging are just some of the many ways these eco friendly sneaker brands are reducing their eco impact.

Community & charitable giving: 

We prioritize companies that give back and demonstrate they care about more than just their own profit. Because much of this technology is so recent, many of these sneaker startups haven’t quite found the footing to be fully charitable quite yet.

Sustainable Materials for Eco Friendly Sneakers

The best options are those that make totally natural sustainable sneakers (meaning they’ll biodegrade). 

Recycled materials (like recycled plastics such as Econyl and old sneakers) may not be biodegradable, bur they’re still considered more sustainable than virgin materials that promote petroleum mining.

This gets complicated because sneakers aren’t made of only one thing. There are five main components to consider: uppers, laces, insoles, midsoles, and outsoles. The best sustainable sneakers consider ALL of these.

Uppers: Companies are not only making ethical sneakers from the usual suspects like organic cotton, bamboo fabric, hemp, and Lyocell, but out of interesting upcycled fabrics harvested from the waste of other industries.  

Take Piñatex, made by taking the wasted leaves from pineapple farmers (which normally get burned) and turning them into fabric.

Laces: Currently, organic cotton is the best option here, ideally without plastic tip covers.

Insoles: Cork fabric is the best insole alternative, providing a healthy environment for feet due to its antimicrobial properties and foot molding capabilities. This relieves joint pressure, provides cushion, and wards against foot odor.

Midsoles: This component still presents the largest problem for sustainability. Most still incorporate non-biodegradable, plastic-based materials in the midsole due to their performance properties.

EVA foam can almost always be found in even sustainable running sneakers to give them supportive, light cushioning.  However, many ethical sneaker brands are using a blend of partially recycled EVA.

Outsoles: As is the case with sustainable rain boots, natural rubber is ideal. It provides the most durability while still being bio-based and biodegradable. It’s also renewable and sourced by harmlessly tapping the natural latex of the tree (just as one taps for maple syrup).


FINAL THOUGHTS ON ETHICAL & SUSTAINABLE SNEAKERS

The sustainable footwear industry is taking a step in the right direction. 

Brands are catering for all our conscious footwear needs from ethical boots and eco friendly sandals to recycled flip flops and ethical heels.

Any of these sustainable and ethical sneakers would complete your ethical activewear getup, so you can have a sustainable sweat fest.

Or just a casual stroll in the park. Whatever works.

This is just the beginning, with more innovations in-step (like Rens totally waterproof eco friendly sneakers made from coffee). 

If you’re excited about your reduced (carbon) footprint thanks to the best sustainable sneaker brands, sneak this article into your friends inbox.


Let’s put some sustainability in your step… and move toward eco friendly and ethical sneaker brands. Image by Thousand Fell #ethicalsneakers #ecofriendlysneakers #sustainablejungle

3 thoughts on “11 Sustainable Sneakers: Best Eco Friendly Brands Ahead Of The Pack”

  1. Thanks for this very interesting article!
    I didn’t know many companies … so thanks to the description of each one it helped me to understand a little more about their eco-sustainable choices.

    In particular, the history of the Saola company is interesting, I bought the Cannon Rose Gold from them and they are very comfortable!
    I found a similar pair of shoes in the ACBC store. Now I can’t do without both!

    Very detailed and complete article with all useful information, congratulations again 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey Larissa, thanks for the comment! Veja looks interesting! We’ll take a look on our next update of this article, thanks for the suggestion!

      Reply

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