Skip to Content

The 6 Best Ethical and Sustainable Sneakers Brands To Wear

Looking for the best sustainable sneakers from ethical brands using high-quality and good-for-the planet materials? Look no further than these 6 brands.

Sneakers are a must-have item in many people’s wardrobes. They’re simple, comfortable, versatile, and stylish. What’s not to love about them? 

However, did you know that most sneakers are also bad for the environment? Your average pair of sneakers is made almost entirely of synthetic materials.

These materials like plastic, synthetic rubber, and nylon come from fossil fuels and they contribute to climate change and pollution. They also take a long time to decompose. This means they end up in landfills or oceans for centuries.

Fortunately, there are several alternatives to conventional sneakers that are more eco-friendly and sustainable.

These sneakers are much more sustainable than their mainstream counterparts. They are made from natural, recycled, or biodegradable materials.

These materials allow them to have a lower environmental impact like being carbon neutral and having an ethical supply chain. They also support ethical practices and social responsibility in their production. 

Sustainable shoes made with natural materials like sugar cane, for example, use less water, have reduced carbon emissions, and create less plastic waste that their traditional counterparts. What’s not to love?

In this article, we’ll show you how to choose sustainable sneakers that are good for you and the planet. We’ll also review some of the best eco-friendly sneaker brands on the market today!

The 6 Best Sustainable Sneakers Brands For Ethical Footwear

To help you find the perfect pair of sustainable sneakers, we’ve reviewed some of the best eco-friendly sneaker brands.

We’ve based our reviews on the following criteria:

  • Sustainability: How sustainable are the materials? What about the production, packaging, and certifications of the sneakers?
  • Style: How stylish are the designs? 
  • Comfort: How comfortable are they? 
  • Durability: How durable are they?
  • Price Range: How affordable are the prices of the sneakers?

Here are our top picks for the best sustainable sneakers:

1. Allbirds

Allbirds is a certified B Corp that makes sustainable sneakers from natural and recycled materials like merino wool, eucalyptus fiber, and sugarcane.

Their sneakers are lightweight and breathable. They also have a variety of styles, colors, and sizes to suit different tastes.

allbirds treerunner

Their best-selling model is the Tree Runner, a running shoe that combines performance and comfort. It has a knit upper made from eucalyptus trees.

The midsole is made from sugarcane and the sole is made from natural rubber. It also has a removable insole made from merino wool and castor bean oil.

This shoe is water-resistant and machine-washable – something that I love! A pair of Allbirds will run you around $100+ so they a great price for what you get, in our opinion.

They are extremely comfortable and durable. I love that they are machine washable. They are a great option for everyday wear and are earth friendly shoes.

2. Tropicfeel

Tropicfeel is a sustainable sneaker brand that makes versatile shoes for travel and adventure. Their sneakers are made from recycled materials like plastic bottles and rubber tires.

We love that they are quick drying, slip-on easily, and are waterproof.

Their most popular model is the Jungle style:

tropicfeel

This is a sneaker that is designed to adapt to any terrain and activity. Their shoes have an upper layer that is made using recycled plastic bottles.

The midsole is made from algae, which is so unique, and the sole is made using recycled rubber instead of new materials. The shoes are lightweight, breathable, and comfortable. 

They also sell a variety of clothing, accessories, and backpacks too made with the same commitment to quality.

Their shoes are designed for both men and women so make sure to select who’s foot you are shopping for.

3. Cariuma

Cariuma is a sustainable sneaker brand that makes classic shoes with a modern twist. Their sneakers are made from organic and recycled materials like cotton, bamboo, cork, and corn leather.

They also support ethical practices like fair trade, carbon neutrality, and tree planting. For every pair of shoes sold, they plant two trees.

Their most popular model is the Off White Canvas OCA Low, a sneaker that combines style and comfort. It has an upper made from organic cotton canvas.

cariuma

The inner lining is made using bamboo knit and the insole is made from cork. The sole is made from natural rubber. We love that they use natural fibers.

It’s great that this shoe is extremely durable and flexible while being an incredibly stylish pick.

These start at around $79 making them very affordable for sustainable style!

4. Rens

Rens is a sustainable sneaker brand that makes innovative shoes from coffee grounds and recycled plastic! The technology they use to create their bespoke fabrics is fascinating.

They definitely have a signature look which may not be for everyone. They do come in a range of colors for men and women.

rens
rens

Their sneakers are vegan, waterproof, and odor-resistant. You’ll also love that they are antibacterial and temperature-regulating!

They are made from recycled plastic and recycled coffee grounds! And bonus points, they feel like walking on a marshmallow!

All their shoes have a minimalist design. They are made using coffee yarn with an EVA foam midsole. The sole is made using recycled rubber.

Rens makes lightweight and breathable shoes that are comfortable to wear all day. Once you go Rens, you’ll never go back.

A pair will set you back $119.

5. Thousand Fell

Thousand Fell is a sustainable sneaker brand that makes recyclable shoes. Their sneakers are vegan and stain resistant. They are also machine-washable.

The company also has a closed-loop system that allows you to return your old sneakers for recycling and get a $20 credit for your next purchase. Their popular models have a timeless design.

thousand fell

They are made using coconut husk, corn fiber, and recycled plastic. If you are looking for durable shoes that are also supportive, this is it. 

6. Rothy’s

Saving one of my favorite brands for last, Rothy’s is one of the best brands in my opinion for sustainable style.

Their shoes (and bags!) are made from recycled water bottles bringing new life to products that would otherwise end up in a landfill. I love that they support a circular economy.

They have a huge range of styles for men, women, and kids. My favorite is the Original Slip-On Sneaker. They have all kinds of patterns and colors.

rothy's

Their products are thoughtfully made from recycled, natural and/or renewable materials. They have their own factory to ensure both quality and ethical production practices.

They are the world’s first shoe manufacturer to have received both the LEED and TRUE Platinum certification.


Why Are Sustainable Sneakers a Better Option?

Shoe manufacturing, like many industries, can have significant environmental impacts throughout its supply chain.

Some of the environmental problems associated with shoe manufacturing include:

  1. Resource Consumption: Shoe production requires vast amounts of natural resources, such as water, energy, and raw materials like leather, rubber, and synthetic fabrics. Excessive resource consumption can lead to water scarcity, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and depletion of non-renewable resources.
  2. Chemical Usage: The shoe manufacturing process often involves the use of various toxic chemicals and bio-based materials, such as dyes, adhesives, and finishes. Improper handling and disposal of these chemicals can lead to water pollution and soil contamination.
  3. Waste Generation: Shoe production generates a considerable amount of waste, including manufacturing scraps, rejected products, and packaging materials. If not managed properly, this waste can end up in landfills, contributing to environmental pollution and habitat destruction.
  4. Deforestation: Leather shoes, in particular, can drive deforestation when the demand for leather leads to the expansion of cattle ranching or the destruction of forests to make way for grazing lands.
  5. Carbon Footprint: The transportation of materials and finished products in the shoe manufacturing supply chain contributes to the industry’s carbon footprint. This includes shipping raw materials from suppliers to factories and distributing finished shoes to retailers and consumers.
  6. Water Pollution: The use of chemicals and dyes in shoe manufacturing processes can lead to the discharge of harmful pollutants into water bodies, impacting aquatic ecosystems and human communities that rely on clean water sources.
  7. Labor Conditions: Though not strictly an environmental issue, unethical labor practices in some shoe manufacturing facilities can lead to poor working conditions, exploitation of workers, and social inequality, all of which can have indirect environmental consequences.
  8. End-of-life Disposal: Many shoes end up discarded in landfills at the end of their life, contributing to the waste problem. Additionally, some shoes are not easily recyclable due to complex material compositions, making sustainable disposal a challenge.

To address these environmental issues, sustainable practices in shoe manufacturing are essential.

This can involve using eco-friendly materials, adopting water and energy-efficient manufacturing processes, minimizing waste generation through recycling and upcycling, ensuring responsible sourcing of materials, and supporting ethical labor practices in the supply chain.

Additionally, encouraging consumers to choose more sustainable and durable shoe options and promoting shoe repair and recycling programs can help reduce the environmental impact of the footwear industry.

pollution

5 Tips For Taking Care of Your Sustainable Sneakers

Sustainable sneakers are designed to last longer and reduce waste. However, they still need proper care and maintenance to keep them in good shape. Here is how to care for your sustainable sneakers: 

1. Follow the care instructions:

Different sustainable sneakers may have different care instructions depending on their materials.

Check the label and follow manufacturer instructions on how to clean, dry, and store them. 

2. Clean them regularly:

Like any shoes, sustainable sneakers can get dirty or smelly from regular use. To keep them fresh, clean them regularly with eco-friendly products.

Use a soft brush, damp cloth, or a mild soap to remove dirt and stains from the surface. You can also use a baking soda paste, a vinegar solution, or an essential oil spray to deodorize them.

Avoid using harsh chemicals that can ruin them or harm the environment.

3. Dry them properly:

When your sneakers get wet, you need to try and prevent mold, mildew, or odor from developing.

You can do this by drying them properly. You can either air dry them or use a dryer on a low setting. 

4. Repair them if needed:

When your shoes get damaged, repair them instead of throwing them away. This extends their life span and reduces waste. 

5. Recycle or donate them if possible:

To avoid sending them to landfills or oceans, recycle or donate them when they get to the end of their lifespan.

Some sustainable sneaker brands even have programs that allow you to return your old sneakers for recycling and get a discount or credit for your next purchase. 


fast fashion trash

What Makes a Sneaker Sustainable?

Here are some of the factors that make a sneaker sustainable: 

Materials:

The materials used to make a sneaker are what determines its environmental footprint.

Natural, biodegradable, or recycled materials are great because they reduce waste, save resources, and minimize emissions.

Production:

The production process of a sneaker also affects its sustainability. Sustainable sneakers use methods that are energy-efficient and less toxic to the environment. They also avoid harmful chemicals that can pollute the environment.

You also want to consider brands who use ethical production methods as well. There are a few standards and certiciations you can look for:

  1. Fair Trade Certification: Fair Trade ensures that producers in developing countries receive fair wages and work in safe conditions. It promotes sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers and discourages child labor and exploitation.
  2. Rainforest Alliance Certification: This certification focuses on sustainable agriculture and forestry, promoting biodiversity conservation and the rights and well-being of workers and communities.
  3. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): GOTS certifies that textiles and clothing are made with organic fibers and produced under socially responsible and environmentally friendly conditions throughout the entire supply chain.
  4. SA8000: Developed by Social Accountability International (SAI), this standard is based on international labor standards and ensures companies treat their workers ethically and with respect.
  5. Responsible Down Standard (RDS): RDS ensures that down and feathers used in products like clothing and bedding are sourced from ducks and geese that are treated humanely, never subjected to live plucking or force-feeding.
  6. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): FSC certification guarantees that products come from responsibly managed forests, ensuring ecological, social, and economic benefits.
  7. ISO 14001: While not specifically for ethical production, this ISO standard is related to environmental management systems, helping organizations minimize their environmental impact and operate in a more sustainable manner.
  8. Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code: The ETI Base Code is a set of principles that companies can adopt to ensure ethical practices within their supply chains, covering areas such as freedom of association, fair wages, and safe working conditions.

Just because a company does not have these certifications yet does not mean they don’t have ethical production practices. Inquire with the company directly if you are curious to learn more.

Packaging:

The packaging of a sneaker can also have an environmental impact.

Sustainable sneakers use packaging that is minimal, recycled, or compostable. They also avoid plastic bags, stickers, or labels that can end up as litter.

Certifications:

The certifications of a sneaker can help you verify its sustainability claims. Sustainable sneakers have certifications from reputable organizations. Some of the common ones are:

  • B Corp: A certification for businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
  • Fair Trade: For products that ensure fair wages, safe working conditions, and community development for producers
  • GOTS: For organic textiles that ensure they are grown and processed without harmful chemicals
  • PETA-Approved Vegan: A certification for products that do not contain any animal-derived ingredients.
  • FSC: For wood products that ensure they come from responsibly managed forests that protect biodiversity

Having all of some of these certifications is a great way to ensure that you are picking more sustainable options for your shoes! They are choices you can really feel good about.


How To Choose Sustainable Sneakers For Yourself:

Choosing sustainable sneakers can be tough. With so many options available in the market today, the following tips will help you find the best pair for your needs:

Do your research:

Before buying any pair, do some research on the brand and the quality of the products that they make. Check their website for information on their materials and production processes.

You can also read customer reviews to get a better idea of their quality and customer service.

Compare your options:

Once you have a list of potential brands, compare them based on your preferences. Consider factors like style, comfort, durability, and price. 

Try them on:

If possible, try them on before buying. This will give you a good idea of whether or not they are the right fit for you. They should look and feel great on your legs.

Check for any defects as well as anything else that might affect their performance.

Take care of them:

After buying a pair of sustainable sneakers, take good care of them. This will extend their life span and reduce waste. Follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Clean them regularly with eco-friendly products. And when they get damaged, attempt to repair them before recycling or donating them only when they are no longer usable.

Final Thoughts on Sustainable and Ethical Sneakers

Sustainable sneakers are a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. You’ll love them because they are made from eco-friendly materials and use production methods that are good for the earth. Most of them also have certifications that verify their sustainability claims and standards. 

As we have seen, they come in various styles and colors, so there’s definitely a pair out there that you’ll fall in love with. They are also comfortable and very durable. 

Hopefully, this article has helped you figure out how to choose the best sustainable sneakers that are not only good for you but also great for the planet.

And with our recommendations of some of the best eco-friendly sneaker brands today, you’ll definitely find the perfect pair for you. Good luck!

About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.

Website: genthirty.com