Sneakers are a staple; a must-have for every wardrobe. They’re extremely comfortable and versatile, meaning they can be worn daily to almost any occasion, and have become incredibly fashionable; with many celebrities opting to walk red carpets in a pair of sneakers, and many of us expanding our sneaker collection to include a variety of styles and colours, such as crisp white, classic navy, and timeless black.
However, with climate change threatening our planet (and our very existence – eek!), it’s more imperative than ever to make more sustainable and ethical choices when it comes to fashion. This means buying less, and when you do buy, buying from sustainable sneaker brands that produce sneakers that’ll last for years and have been made with renewable and natural fabrics.
But it can be hard to know what brands to trust, as ‘sustainable’ has become a bit of a buzzword that many fashion brands are adapting into their vocabulary. Therefore, we’ve researched what brands are producing truly sustainable sneakers (that don’t compromise on style) and are dedicated to reducing their environmental impact in more ways than one.
Features of sustainable sneakers
Most sustainable sneakers are made from either natural materials (wool, organic cotton, leather off-cuts, etc.) or upcycled/recycled materials (plastic bottles, old sneakers, etc). The materials should have been sourced in a sustainable and ethical way, which is easy to find out as reputable and trustworthy sustainable sneaker brands are extremely transparent and will have this information on their sites.
Other features to look out for are whether the sneaker brand is dedicated to producing their sneakers in a way that’s low in terms of a carbon footprint, whether the brand offsets their carbon emissions, and whether the brand champions fair working conditions for their employees and factory workers.
Sustainable Sneakers FAQs
What does 'sustainable fashion' mean?
Sustainable fashion refers to a movement pushing for the entire fashion industry to move towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. By brands becoming more sustainable they are reducing their carbon footprint, and encourage other brands to do the same. Plus, most 'sustainable' brands advocate for factory workers to have better pay and working conditions.
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If you’re looking for a new pair of sneakers, help our environment by purchasing from one of the following sustainable sneaker brands that produce eco-friendly footwear, that’s still extremely stylish and comfortable, through fair labour practices.
Cariuma embraces personal style over status-quo trends to empower conscious consumers to buy quality over quantity; which Cariuma believes is the only true answer to sustainability. The brand only uses premium raw materials such as bamboo and organic cotton, in order to yield a smaller footprint when crafting their sneakers, and ensures that all of their factory workers make a comfortable, living wage and adhere to a manageable work week to ensure a healthy work/life balance.
Completely transparent and dedicated to making the words style, comfort, and sustainability synonymous, Cariuma’s range of sneakers come in a huge range of styles and colours that’ll keep your feet feeling and looking good.
Allbirds is seriously committed to regenerative agriculture (shifting how they farm to draw carbon from the atmosphere), renewable materials, responsible energy (using less and cleaner fuel and electricity), and complete transparency; Allbirds' process and future plans are openly available on their website and the brand encourages for the public to keep them and other brands accountable.
Allbirds has a great selection of sneakers that come in various styles, materials, and colours, that are all comfortable and made in an ethical and sustainable way.
Tropicfeel believes it’s their responsibility to create products that are designed, sourced, and manufactured in ways that are good for their community and good for the planet. All of Tropicfeel's sneaker insoles are made with 8% Bloom foam, a material made from harvested algae; a process that helps protect aquatic life. Plus, 20% upcycled EVA material is used in all sneaker midsoles, helping reduce unnecessary waste.
With more than seventy percent of the materials used in Tropicfeel sneakers that are proven to be sustainable or eco-friendly, and a range of high-performance shoes in different styles and colours, this is one brand selling seriously impressive sustainable sneakers.
Some of these steps include only using leather that is natural and biodegradable, sending out their sneakers in 100% recyclable cardboard packaging, and partnering only with factories that use less water, electricity, and energy consumption.
Plus, Greats' range of sneakers have been designed to be trend-resistant, and are super easy to dress up or down. Any pair of Greats sneakers are going to play nice with anything you already own, and will comfortably take you where you need to go in sustainable style.
Casca intentionally design their sneakers to reduce off-cuts and wasted material, and ensure high ethical standards in all of the factories they partner with. A relatively new brand, Casca is aware there is much more to be done to become 'sustainable' but they are currently working on a more extensive sustainability plan to achieve this as quickly as possible.
Their range of sneakers is fantastic, and features a few different sneaker styles and silhouettes in a variety of colours. Any Casca sneaker will elevate your look as well as keep your feet extremely comfortable with triple-thick cushioning.
Their main mission is to never send another sneaker to landfill, and Thousand Fell achieves this with their recycling program. They ask when you’re finished with your sneakers, send them back to Thousand Fell so they can either refurbish them and donate them to someone in need, or they can ensure that the raw materials of the sneakers are reused.
Thousand Fell has several white sneakers, some with pops of colour, all crafted from recycled bottles, natural rubber, and innovative food waste component parts; but you seriously won’t be able to tell as these sneakers are extremely stylish and well-made.
Everlane carefully considers their materials and works with their production partners to reduce waste, chemicals, and plastics that endanger the planet’s ecosystems. Everlane strives to use the most sustainable materials from farm to factory, and invests in new fabric innovations to ensure they're reducing the fashion industry's impact on the planet. Everlane is also committed to providing fair wages, labor conditions, reasonable hours, and a safe work environment, to all of their employees and factory workers .
The brand has a small range of sneakers available in timeless designs and classic colours, all of which will make you look and feel good about an eco friendly purchase.
BAABUK, a family-owned business, exclusively uses wool because it's a long lasting, recyclable, and renewable fabric. The brand goes to great lengths to ensure the best possible care is given to the animals that provide their wool and that there’s traceability and accountability for all the resources they use. BAABUK also provides their factory workers with a salary that's 25% higher than the national average.
The brand has a small range of sneakers to offer, that are moisture-wicking, durable, flexible, and water-repellent. Available in multiple colours, BAABUK's sustainable sneakers will elevate your look and keep you comfortable.
As of 2020, from all the textiles and leathers VEJA use while crafting their sneakers, 85% are considered environmentally 'preferred' raw materials; e.g. recycled PET, organic cotton, ChromeFree leather, organic jute, C.W.L., and recycled cotton, and VEJA will strive to reach 100% as quickly as they possibly can.
Completely transparent about their entire process, VEJA has a great range of sneakers, perfect for everyday style and comfort.
The famous brand has launched a 'Renew' range as part of their commitment to a waste-less future. The range features Converse's signature design of sneakers, but made from recycled materials. Converse's Renew sneakers feature breathable, engineered stretch-knit uppers made from at least 50% recycled content, 100% recycled polyester laces, and translucent midsoles and outsoles made with recycled rubber scraps from the footwear manufacturing process.
Available in a variety of colours, if you love a classic Converse All Star, this is the perfect way to dip your toe into the pool of sustainable sneakers.
Since 2018, Nisolo has offset the carbon emissions of everything they've produced in that time, and have incorporated only using upcycled and recycled materials when crafting their shoes. Plus, every Nisolo purchase provides a living wage to producers in the Peru factory they own, enables Nisolo to pursue living wages within the rest of their supply chain, and combats climate change by protecting trees from deforestation in the Amazon Basin.
If you're after eco-friendly sustainable sneakers, Nisolo is a brand you can't ignore. Their range of sneakers are available in stylish low and high top varieties in several classic colours, and any pair will, guaranteed, make you look sophisticated.
United By Blue
Additionally, United By Blue only ever use sustainably-sourced materials for their products; which are created to last, because the best way to be a conscious consumer is to ultimately consume less. Not only are they committed to sustainable materials, United By Blue is also dedicated to ethical manufacturing and a zero-plastic policy.
A certified B Corp, United By Blue has a great range of sneakers that're very stylish and versatile.
The brand also has some ambitious goals they're dedicated to achieve in the next three years. By the end of 2021, Rothy's will have a recycling program where consumers can send back their worn-out sneakers and Rothy's will either refurbish them or upcycle the materials.
By the end of 2022, Rothy's will achieve zero waste at their factory and will begin incorporating twice-recycled materials into their sneakers, and by the end of 2023, Rothy's aims to have circular production and carbon neutral status.
With only one sneaker on offer (although, in multiple colours), Rothy's sneaker range is small. But the sneaker has a classic American style and has been made sustainably, meaning Rothy's sneaker will take comfort, durability, and style to a new level.
All makers and artisans employed by Made Trade are paid a living wage and are provided safe and healthy working conditions. Plus, only eco-friendly practices are used in the manufacturing process. All products are made with earth-friendly materials; either responsibly sourced, harvested, recycled or upcycled, and are intentionally designed to create a minimal negative environmental impact.
Made Trade has a small range of men's sneakers that are incredibly cool. Made from responsibly sourced leather and suede, these sneakers are sure to fit in with your sustainable wardrobe, especially because they don't skimp on style.
Ethletic only uses natural rubber, extracted from the rubber tree, and organic cotton to make their products. Ethletic's manufacturing facilities are located in Pakistan, and their goal is to help improve the living conditions of the workers; therefore, 15% of all Ethletic sneaker's purchase price goes to the workers´ welfare association.
Ethletic have a huge range of vegan sustainable sneakers in a variety of colours and prints; the sneakers have a similar look to Converse's, making them classically cool and stylish.
The certified B corp, TOMS is dedicated to improving their carbon footprint, making products rooted in earth-friendly materials & processes, using sustainable cotton, and providing complete transparency to their consumers.
TOMS' range of sustainable sneakers are designed for comfort and come in a variety of styles and colours.
Dr Scholls' range of men's sneakers are inspired by the latest in athleisure and fashion, and the result is sustainable sneakers that are equally comfortable, versatile, and stylish.
Noah's wide range of sneakers, available in a wide variety of styles and colours, means that you don’t have to compromise on the latest trends to support sustainable fashion and enjoy cruelty-free products. It's truly win-win.