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The right pair of sneakers will work for almost any occasion. Getting coffee with friends. A day at the office. Running errands.
However, a large number of popular sneakers are full of plastic-based fibres, harsh dyes, and petroleum-based materials.
However, there’s a growing range of amazing sustainable sneaker brands creating comfy and stylish options out there.
We took the time to go through each brand’s products, analyze their materials, review their supply chains, and of course, handpick the best options.
You can use the contents section below to jump to specific brands in this list, or feel free to scroll through leisurely.
- 1. Allbirds
- 2. Tropicfeel
- 3. CARIUMA
- 4. 8000 kicks
- 5. Rens
- 6. SUAVS
- 7. On Running
- 8. Thousand Fell
- 9. Beflamboyant
- 10. Rothy’s
- 11. Etiko
- 12. Allbirds Tree Pipers
- 13. Babuuk
- 14. Veja
- 15. Adidas x Parley
- 16. Converse Renew
- 17. Matt & Nat
- 18. Giesswein
- 19. Stella McCartney
- 20. Kengos
- 21. Nothing New
- 22. Tread By Everlane
- 23. Casca
- 24. Vessi
- Sneaker Uppers
- Sustainable Sole Materials
Don’t have time to read the full article? No problem, check out our top picks below!
Let’s jump in.
Our Favorite Sustainable Sneakers
Sustainability: Eco-friendly materials, Certified B Corp, shoe donation program.
Price: $$ – $$$
Best for: Stylish and ultra-comfortable everyday sneakers
Drawbacks: No completely waterproof styles (only water resistant)
I’ve personally owned the Allbirds Tree Dashers (pictured) for a few years now. I started out with the original version, then moved onto the updated version, and both times I’ve been impressed. They’re super comfy, have a nice simple style, good support, and best of all, you know Allbirds isn’t destroying the planet to create them.
Our editor Georges owns a pair of their more simple sneakers, the Tree Pipers. They’re deceptively comfortable and super breathable, making them a great summer sneaker.
Allbirds are a B Corp, which is proof of their sustainable efforts. They also have a Forest Stewardship Council certification – that means that their materials meet standards to ensure the protection of forests around the world.
Allbirds ethical sneakers are made from of eco-friendly materials such as merino wool, recycled plastic bottles, and TENCEL™ Lyocell.
If that’s not enough to convince you, Allbirds top it off by donating used and returned Allbirds to communities in need of shoes all over the world.
Sustainability: Recycled, and eco-friendly materials, 1% of sales go to environmental conservation causes
Price range: $$
Best for: Travelling and adventure shoes, including sustainable slip on sneakers
Drawbacks: Thin mesh on Canyon model may not be suitable for winter
Tropicfeel make the perfect sustainable sneaker for anyone who loves to stay active, travel, and look good at the same time.
Their sneakers are light weight and breathable, deisgned to be comfortable all day long, whether you’re hiking up a steep trail or exploring a new city.
They’re quick-drying, and contain a blend of features to make them waterproof, comfortable, lightweight, and slip-on.
Tropicfeel’s production process is transparent, and they donate 1% of their sales to protect the environment for future generations.
Sustainability: Sustainable materials, vegan options, plant 2 trees for every purchase, plant-based insoles, recycled shoe boxes
Price: $ – $$
Best for: Casual sneakers
Brand Rating: 4/5 Stars
Drawbacks: Toe box can be quite narrow in some styles
CARIUMA offer a range of stylish everyday sneakers for women and men. The brand has strong sustainable credentials. For every purchase, they’ll plant two trees.
The shoes are super comfy (if you don’t believe us, check out the 1000+ customer reviews on their website!), and perfect if you’re regularly walking and need some reliable, stylish shoes.
CARIUMA use a variety of sustainable materials including bamboo, GOTS certified cotton, cork, recycled PET, and manola oil – a natural alternative to petroleum. You’ll find a variety of styles, including low and high-tops.
4. 8000 kicks
Sustainability: Plant-based materials, made with hemp fibers and algae-bloom soles, completely vegan, and carbon neutral.
Best for: Waterproof, plant-based sneakers
Drawbacks: Not Machine Washable
8000 kicks are reinventing sustainable sneakers, bycreating waterproof kicks from naturally anti-microbial and Thermo-regulating hemp fibers.
We’ve tested them ourselves (our pair is in black – pictured) and were impressed. The hemp material has a lovely texture and the sole is supportive, but with a good bounce.
8000 kicks present the world’s first hemp insole, which is super supportive and extra comfortable. They have also partnered with Bloom Foam to create a light yet durable foam sole from algae blooms – which can be detrimental to marine ecosystems if not controlled.
The hemp fiber outer is coated in an eco-friendly waterproof membrane, making these sneakers 100% waterproof.
Sustainability: B-Corp Certified, wool sourced from mulesing-free sheep, follow traditional, ethical processes when producing their sneakers. Pay their workers 25% higher than national averages, hiring process to promote diversity.
Price range: $$ – $$$
Best for: Comfy minimalist wool shoes.
Drawbacks: Not vegan product as made from wool.
First of all, they’re a B Corp, part of the global movement of business as a force for good. They meet all the guidelines for social and environmental performance and ensure their processes benefit their workers, community and environment.
Their wool sneakers are sourced from sheep in Portugal and New Zealand. In Portugal, their sheep live in the protected Serra da Estrela Natural Park, a large protected area, and are all mulesing-free. The farms in New Zealand are chosen for their sustainable water and soap washing processes that involve recycling to make sure no local water sources are polluted.
Ecothes editor, Georges, has worn his Babuuks regularly and found them to comfy and light. The elasticated laces are a nice alternative to traditional laces, too.
For a look behind the scenes with the founder of Baabuk, check out the interview here.
Sustainability: Completely vegan-friendly shoes made with thread from 100% post-consumer recycled plastics
Best for: Travel shoes, slip-on sneakers
Drawbacks: Not as transparent about where shoes are made as other brands on the list
SUAVS are machine washable and fold flat for easy packing if traveling regularly. A key point of SUAVS is that they’re breathable sneakers with a moisture-wicking knitted upper, meaning you can wear them without socks, and your feet won’t get sweaty.
Some reviewers say that they can give blisters on the first few wears, so we recommend wearing them before traveling and wearing them for long days walking.
7. On Running
Sustainability: Completely vegan, low-waste production processes, transparency via their Impact Progress Report, shoe recycling program
Best for: Running, hiking, and being active
Drawbacks: Some style run narrow and may be unsuitable for wide feet
On Running makes high-performance sneakers which are perfect if you’re looking for a pair that are up to the challenges of your active lifestyle.
On make road and trail running shoes, as well as hiking boots, all with their signature sole.
In terms of sustainability, we’re impressed. All of their shoes are vegan (we reached out to them to confirm this), they use a range of recycled plastics and polyesters, and they have a transparent supply chain to help you understand where your sneakers came from. On Running also release a transparency report which shows their environmental impact, challenges they’re facing, and documenting their progress.
One final initiative we like is their Cyclon subscription service. When you sign up for it, you’ll get a new pair of Cyclon running shoes on a timescale that you choose, and you can send back your old pair to be turned into new shoes.
Sustainability: Vegan, recycled materials
Price range: $$
Best for: Minimalist vegan sneakers, Sustainable white sneakers and tennis shoes
Drawbacks: Customers say it can take time to wear in
The sneakers are completely vegan, made from materials like recycled rubber, coconut, sugarcane, and recycled plastic bottles.
You can wear them with our without socks, and they come in a variety of colors.
Sustainability: Vegan handmade sneakers from sustainable materials. Every pair supports in the planting of trees. Recycled, plastic free packaging.
Price range: $$
Best for: Minimalist vegan leather sneakers
Drawbacks: Flat sole some may find uncomfortable with foot problems.
Beflamboyant are a refreshingly different vegan sneaker brand, creating high-quality sustainable sneakers, from sustainable and cruelty-free materials.
This PETA-approved brand creates unisex vegan leather sneakers ethically in Portugal. The vegan leather is made from corn, and the heel and laces from recycled PET.
We’ve personally tested Beflamboyant’s new Manimal sneakers – our pair is pictured below – and were really impressed at how high-quality the vegan leather looks and feels in person.
The inner lining is made from bamboo, a renewable, natural material which is naturally breathable and moisture wicking.
Sustainability: Using natural materials such as hemp and cotton. Turing millions of recycled plastic bottles into their signature thread. They are working towards zero waste and a carbon-neutral supply chain.
Best For: 3-D knit and handcrafted, fully machine washable sneakers in cool neutral shades.
Drawbacks: Potential to release micro plastics when washing.
Rothy’s is a stylish, sustainable shoe brand with a difference. They are leading the industry on a push for production circularity by 2024. Their collection of shoes are durable, comfortable, and fully machine washable, so you can enjoy them for years to come. Rothy’s is also piloting their shoe recycling program this year.
Their signature recycled thread has recycled millions of plastic bottles and diverted 100 tonnes of virgin plastics out of the ocean. In addition, they work with natural fibers such as cotton and hemp for their iconic shoe collections.
Sustainability: Fair Trade Certified, vegan, Certified B Corp
Best for: Vegan alternative to Converse
Drawbacks: Reviews say shipping may take longer than expected to some areas.
The brand is Fair Trade Certified and transparent about its supply chain.
Etiko has a wide range of styles available, and they’re a great alternative to popular brands like Converse or Vans.
Sustainability: Eucalyptus upper, sugar cane midsole, carbon neutral, Certified B Corp.
Price: $$ ($95)
Best for: Smart-casual summer shoes.
Drawbacks: Flat sole without full arch support.
The Tree Pipers are the latest addition to Allbirds‘ line up of sustainable sneakers.
These low-top, lightweight, minimalist sneakers are made from sustainable materials like sugar cane and eucalyptus, and are completely carbon neutral as the brand offsets all carbon created during the manufacturing process.
Our editor, Georges, has personally tested the Allbirds Tree Pipers and has found them comfortable and versatile. Read our full review here.
The Tree Pipers are available in blue, white, and gray, and they’re a great choice if you need a versatile summer sneaker.
Sustainability: Vegan leather
Best for: Vegan alternative to popular brands like Nike.
Drawbacks: Some styles scuff easily.
Veja sneakers are instantly recognizable by the signature ‘V’ logo.
They create a range of sustainable vegan sneakers that are cruelty-free and ethical.
They’re stylish, too. In our opinion, Veja’s sneaker designs rival any other leading sneaker brand in terms of looks, and as most of their sneakers have a minimalist design they can be dressed up or dressed down as you please.
Only 5% of shoes are recycled each year, with many ending up in landfills. When disposed of in landfills, footwear can take up to thousands of years to naturally degrade due to plastics and other materials used.
For an eco-friendly switch choose a shoe with sustainable, recyclable, or biodegradable materials, and make sure to recycle shoes instead of sending to landfills.
Sustainability: Sneakers made from coffee grounds and recycled plastic.
Price: $$ – $$$
Best for: Waterproof recycled sneakers
Drawbacks: Not all half sizes are available
Meet Rens, the 100% vegan and waterproof sneaker made from recycled coffee grounds – yes, you read that right.
Rens takes coffee grounds which are the by-product of the food industry, and transforms them into a coffee yarn. The yarn is combined with recycled plastic bottles to create Ren’s signature sneakers.
Each pair of Rens shoes comprises six recycled plastic bottles and 150 grams of coffee waste.
Rens are easy to slip on, and owners of Rens sneakers comment on how comfortable their sneakers are for all-day wear.
The brand has recently released its third performance style the Nomad sneaker which features a thicker sole and laces.
15. Adidas x Parley
Sustainability: Recycled plastic trash turned into shoes
Best for: Classic Adidas styles in recycled materials.
Drawbacks: Not as ethical as other brands listed.
The Adidas x Parley shoes look great. You’ll find some of Adidas’ popular trainers in there such as the Alphabounce.
The trainers are made from at least 75% upcycled plastic trash collected from beaches and coastal communities. As well as this, they’re produced in low energy, low water usage process meaning you get the benefits of sustainability combined with the performance of Adidas shoes.
16. Converse Renew
Sustainability: Upcycled materials
Best for: Ethically made Converse
Drawbacks: Not as ethical as other brands listed
You probably don’t associate Converse with ethical sneakers, but as it turns out, they’re making some interesting shoes to promote upcycling.
They have a few different versions of the Renew shoes. Firstly, they do one-of-a-kind Chucks made from recycled and previously used jeans. They collaborate with Beyond Retro, a sustainable fashion brand, and vintage retailer, to source the pre-used jeans that can be turned into shoes.
As well as this, they have a range of shoes whose upper is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
If you’re a Converse person, it’s definitely worth checking out the Renew range for your next pair.
17. Matt & Nat
Sustainability: Vegan, sustainable materials
Best for: Luxury style at fair prices
Drawbacks: Made from recycled plastic.
Like Veja, their selection of shoes are minimalist and stylish, and can definitely be worn with a wide range of outfits.
Another benefit of Matt & Nat’s sustainable sneakers is that they’re actually very affordable, considering their style. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the market for some new fashionable minimalist sneakers.
Sustainability: Oil free production, ethical mulesing-free merino wool, 100% Austrian production, zero material waste or scraps
Best for: Minimal and comfortable wool sneakers.
Drawbacks: Not vegan as made from wool.
Giesswein is a third-generation family-owned Austrian brand creating a variety of ethical minimalist sneakers.
Their sneakers are made with 100% mulesing free merino wool, which is breathable, waterproof, and super comfortable.
The brand makes all of their shoes in Austria, with zero material waste, zero oil usage, and high-tech water recycling systems.
My pair of Giesswein sneakers is pictured. The quality feels good, and the comfort isn’t going to let you down. I did find myself wearing my Allbirds more than these, as the comfort is slightly higher, but they fill a similar role in your wardrobe.
19. Stella McCartney
Sustainability: Vegan materials
Best for: High-fashion sneakers.
Drawbacks: Pricier than other shoe brand recommended.
Stella McCartney is a completely vegan brand and always has been. It’s impressive considering the scale of their operations.
They use a variety of sustainable materials instead of the materials sneakers are traditionally made from.
For example, the recycled polyester they use has a 24x lower impact on the environment than Brazilian calf leather does.
If you’re looking for luxury sneakers, Stella McCartney is a great option.
Sustainability: Plant based materials, completely animal-product free, no harmful glues, natural rubber, and eco-friendly dyes.
Best for: Unique designs to help you stand out.
Drawbacks: Not waterproof or suitable for walking long distances.
Kengos is creating unique and sustainable knitted sneakers from plant-based, renewable materials, including eucalyptus, corn, cotton, and cork.
Instead of using synthetic rubber, polyester, or adhesives, they opt for natural rubber and a unique knotting design to hold their shoe together. The bespoke 1Knot™ construction method allows every pair of Kengos to be easily dissembled at the end of their life cycle and recycled.
I’ve personally tested Kengo’s sneakers (my pair is pictured) and love the refreshing simplicity of this shoe, not forgetting to mention, they look very unique.
They’re nice and light and the sole feels solid, so you’re not lacking support.
This sustainable sneaker brand will help you stand out from the crowd with its cool designs. Kengos come in 7 vibrant colors, all created with environmentally friendly dyes.
21. Nothing New
Sustainability: Eco-friendly materials
Best for: High-tops for everyday use.
Drawbacks: Flat sole with minimal arch support.
Nothing New make low and high-top sneakers that are simple, but stylish.
Every pair uses 5.6 plastic bottles that are repurposed into canvas, which saves ~160 gallons of water per pair when compared to traditional 100% cotton canvas sneakers. They also use materials like recycled cotton, organic cotton, and post-industrial recycled fishing nets.
All of their recycled plastic meets the Global Recycle Standard so you know they’re not cutting corners when it comes to sustainability. The outsoles are made from recycled rubber and cork.
What’s more, they’re super comfy. The Ortholite Eco-Step insoles will keep your feet happy all day long.
Sustainability: Plastic reduction, eco-friendly leather, recycled materials, carbon offset program
Price: $$ – $$$
Best for: Casual sneakers that can be dressed up or down
Drawbacks: Reviews say they can be uncomfortable until broken in.
The sole in Everlane’s Tread sneakers is 94.2% free from virgin plastic, compared to most sneaker soles which is made entirely from plastic. They use recycled and natural rubber that would otherwise go to the landfill, cutting emissions by 54%.
It’s worth nothing that Everlane’s shoes use real leather, so if you’re looking for a vegan shoe, these aren’t for you. On the bright side, the leather is sourced from a Gold Certified tannery, with a 46% lower carbon footprint than most leather tanneries.
The inside of the shoes is made from recycled plastic bottles, using around 9.5 bottles per pair.
Everlane has also partnered with NativeEnergy to offset their carbon emissions, making these sneakers carbon neutral.
Sustainability: Knit uppers from recycled plastic bottles, leather from LWG gold tanneries, and a 2-year warranty
Best for: Walking, hiking, and everyday shoes
Drawbacks: Expensive price point; however, a 2-year warranty is included.
Want to find the best-fitting sneakers? Check out Casca, which designs its insoles with 3x the padding and comfort of regular insoles.
The brand also has a feature of smart 3D technology to custom print bespoke insoles to match your exact foot shape.
Casca uses recycled plastic bottles to create its Avro knit shoes, which come with a durable mountaineering grade sole and an anti-roll heel for extra stability.
The Avro knit shoe is currently only available in grey, white, and black shades. We hope the brand will expand its collection to include a range of vibrant colors.
Sustainability: Completely vegan waterproof sneakers, made from animal-free materials, with reduced water and energy usage
Best for: Walking in colder climates
Drawbacks: The waterproof nature of these shoes means feet can get sweaty in hot climates.
Vessi is the new vegan shoe brand on the block, standing out from competitors thanks to their unique, completely waterproof sneakers.
The brand champions the use of more eco-friendly materials and sustainable production that uses 30% less water and 600% less energy than conventional non-vegan alternatives.
Vessi creates six different waterproof styles from sneakers to slip-on, each with a lightweight, bouncy sole with added grip for traction in wet weather.
One drawback of Vessi shoes is the limited color choice available in the everyday sneaker style. Currently, Vessi only offers black, white, and grey shades.
What materials are sustainable sneakers made from?
When we look at the footwear sector, we see many innovations and materials launched onto the market every year. For example, sustainable sneakers on the market are now made from eco-friendly materials, including recycled plastics, hemp, organic cotton, and more.
We’ll break down the components of a sneaker, detailing some of the most popular materials used below.
Sneaker Uppers Made From Recycled plastic
The footwear industry is estimated to produce more than 20 billion pairs of shoes every year, with less than 5% of shoes being recycled. This means that many shoes end up in landfills, and stick around for hundreds of years, Switching to recycled plastic over virgin plastic saves energy and reduces waste in landfills.
However, one problem with using recycled plastic is that it isn’t biodegradable, so at the end of the shoe’s life, it won’t biodegrade if sent to a landfill instead of recycled.
Hemp Sneaker Uppers
Hemp is a relatively new sneaker material on the block, even though the textile has been around for hundreds of years.
Hemp is a fast-grown crop that requires less water than cotton and can be grown without harmful pesticides, making it a more eco-friendly alternative to cotton. In addition, hemp absorbs large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere and replenishes the soil it grows in – it sounds like a pretty good material to us!
Plus, Hemp fabric is up to 3x stronger than cotton.
Organic Cotton Sneaker Uppers
You may already know that cotton is one of the planet’s most environmentally damaging natural fibers. It requires large quantities of pesticides and water to grow and sucks all of the nutrients out of the soil, often leaving the earth unusable.
On the other hand, organic cotton uses up to ten times less water than conventional cotton and is grown without pesticides, making it safer for humans and the environment.
Sneakers Made From Merino Wool
Merino Wool is becoming popular for footwear brands thanks to its natural water repellency, breathability, and moisture-wicking properties.
It’s essential, however, to look out for brands using responsibly sourced non-mulesed wool to create their sneakers.
Responsible LWG Leather Sneakers
Leather has been a durable and classic footwear material for decades; however as we become more eco-conscious in our buying habits, consumers are demanding that they know their leather comes from responsibly sourced and tanned leather.
The Leather Working Group (LWG) is an organization that ensures leather is obtained humanely and that tanneries take precautions for workers’ safety.
Examples of brands using LWG leather include Cariuma.
What Sole Materials are used for Sustainable Sneakers?
Along with the uppers, the materials used for sneaker soles are important, as many shoe brands use non-responsibly sourced rubber, which involves the destruction and deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
There are alternatives to conventional rubber being used across brands today. Below, we’ve included a few eco-friendly sole materials.
EVA is a common plastic-based ‘rubber-like substance used in the soles of shoes and is not very environmentally friendly as it requires large amounts of energy to create and is not biodegradable.
Many sustainable brands are working with innovations in bio-based EVA, which means that instead of plastic-based EVA, the EVA foam is derived from natural materials like Algae-blooms or sugarcane.
An example of a bio-based EVA is Allbirds SweetFoam™ sole, which is made with the world’s first carbon-negative green EVA. You can read more about how Allbirds creates its soles here.
As we’ve mentioned, many brands obtain their rubber from the amazon rainforest, which leads to the destruction of habitats and loss of biodiversity.
Instead, look out for brands using responsibly sourced natural rubber from certified trees, such as the FSC.
Frequently Asked Questions
Allbirds Tree Dashers can be considered one of the most sustainable sneakers out there our editor Bethany has tested these herself and loves the comfort and style. These are closely followed by brands such as Cariuma, Babuuk, Tropicfeel and Thousand Fell.
When choosing a sustainable shoe look for the following:
• Produced ethically, supporting workers with fair wages and safe working conditions, look for companies with transparent supply chains.
• Made using sustainably sourced or recycled materials.
• No toxic dyes or chemicals used to produce the colours.
• If leather, ensure it is responsibly sourced.
• Produced either carbon neutral or with lower CO2 emissions.
Wrapping Up – Best Sustainable Sneakers
If you’re in need of a new pair of sneakers and care about the planet, look no further than this list.
These brands are some of the best out there right now, and you can trust that they’ve all been built to last, and look good.
If you know any more sustainable sneaker brands that deserve a spot on this list, leave a comment below or shoot us an email and we’ll check them out!
Make sure you read our sustainable socks guide, to pair with your new sneakers… you can thank us later.
Thanks for reading.