10 Sustainable Sneaker Brands Making The Most Eco-Friendly Kicks
If you’re looking to give your sneaker collection a green upgrade, these are the brands making kicks that are kinder to the environment.
According to a recent report by Run Repeat, the sneaker industry is set to be valued at $75.8 billion by the end of 2023. While this number is already pretty massive, it’s expected to skyrocket to a colossal $98.1 billion in just five years’ time, increasing at a rate of 5.3% every single year. This is great for the economy and all, but it also means that Planet Earth is about to be impacted in a very big way.
A paper by environmental consultancy Quantis found that the sneaker game is currently responsible for 1.4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which is significant considering that air travel makes up 2.5%. Additionally, 77% of people believe the shoe industry should be doing a lot more to reduce its level of waste and pollution.
Thankfully, more and more eco-friendly companies are popping up by the minute. Utilizing everything from cactus leather to natural cork all the way to plastic collected from our oceans, while these labels are pretty small compared to the big names that currently dominate the market, they’ll be the ones to turn this whole eco-crisis thing right around.
So, if you’re looking to give your collection the green upgrade that it deserves, here are 10 sustainable sneaker brands you should know about.
There’s just no way you can talk about sustainable sneaker brands without giving Allbirds a very special shoutout. Even though the New Zealand-based company has been around for less than a decade, it’s made more positive environmental impact in this short period than most global names have in their entire lifetimes.
When it first started out, Allbirds made it its mission to introduce merino wool to the world of footwear. This proved a huge success, and the label eventually started to explore other ways that they could innovate in the sustainable sneaker space.
In the summer of 2023, Allbirds took the wraps off of the world’s first net-zero carbon trainer with the Moonshot. Featuring a light grey sock-like design, the knitted upper is crafted from regenerative wool and sits on top of a bioplastic midsole.
While this won’t be available until 2024, if you want to add something to your rotation now, we can’t recommend the Tree Runner enough. Built with responsibly sourced eucalyptus tree fibers, it’s naturally lightweight and breathable, making it one of the most comfortable kicks that you’ll ever wear. We promise.
Most of the sneaker brands in this article are relatively new in the grand scheme of things, but CLAE is one exception. Since 2001, the Los Angeles-based imprint has been committed to modernizing classic, casual shoes with groundbreaking fabrics and materials. And while it used to be celebrated for its luxurious leather models, these days its vegan collection is all the rage.
The Bradley Cactus is one of CLAE’s bestsellers. Traditionally, faux leather is made from oil and plastics, and it ends up being not-so-kind to the environment. The Bradley Cactus, however, is derived from sustainably harvested cacti that’s surprisingly smooth and supple to the touch.
The Malone Apple is one of the California label’s latest innovations, and as its name already kind of states, it’s derived from leftover pomace and peel from the fruit juice industry, which is sweet.
If you’re in the market for a pair of basketball sneakers or skateboarding shoes with an eco-conscious edge, Cariuma should definitely be on your radar. Since it was established in 2018, the Brazilian brand has been using natural materials for its trainers, ranging from organic cotton and bamboo to leather and suede that’s been responsibly sourced across the globe.
The Catiba Pro Low is the silhouette that we’d recommend. A contemporary take on a classic style, it’s triple-stitched for added durability and comes in a bunch of different colorways, so you’ll definitely be able to find a pair that suits your personal aesthetic.
If that wasn’t already enough, for every pair of sneakers you buy, Cariuma will happily plant two trees as part of its reforestation program. It’s small things like this that can really make a big difference.
Oliver Cabell is the purveyor of some of the cleanest and most luxurious kicks ever made. Founded in 2018, the brand started off in England and eventually made its way to the States, and that’s the moment when the hype immediately exploded.
Trainer fans fell completely in love with the company’s minimalist and handcrafted aesthetic, and while the shoes are priced on the high side, it’s committed to being as transparent as it can be about its pricing structure, which is always good to see.
In recent years, Oliver Cabell has started experimenting with more earth-friendly materials, and the Vegan 481 style is one of its best inventions to date. While it’s still made in Italy (of course), it switches out the traditional calfskin leather for a blend of corn waste and bio-based polyurethane. The midsoles are made from recycled rubber, and even the laces are derived from bamboo. This is why Oliver Cabell remains one of the best sustainable sneaker brands out there.
Ecoalf is known mostly for its premium jackets, knitwear, sweatshirts and tees, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook the Spanish label’s shoe game. The Prince sneaker, for example, has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the market, producing 33% less emissions compared to your average trainer.
But how does it achieve this? Well, not only are they crafted from 100% recycled polyester, the fibers used for the overall construction are also made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
Ecoalf is recognized by B Corp as one of the greenest companies on the planet. By 2030, it wants to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions, and investing in one of its pairs can help it get a step closer to this very ambitious (but achievable) goal.
Established in 2010, Everlane was founded on the idea of creating the perfect T-shirt. When it first advertised this lofty initiative over a decade ago, anyone who was even remotely interested in fashion was hooked.
In fact, when the tee was finally ready to launch, the San Francisco-based company only had 1,500 pieces in their inventory – and over 60,000 hopefuls waiting to get their hands on them.
Thirteen years later, the buzz is still very much alive and kicking. Everlane eventually expanded into the world of footwear, and it’s now home to some of the most sustainable sneakers that we have ever seen.
The Tread-Base, for instance, is made from recycled cotton canvas and sits on top of a 100% natural latex rubber sole. The ReLeather Court Sneaker is also a really big deal, with a vintage-inspired design that’s comprised of recycled leather scraps that require no new tanning or dyeing, with minimal water use and waste.
If you look at what sneakers A-list celebs have been wearing this year, you might expect to find Air Jordans, New Balances or even a pair of ASICS. Yet surprisingly, Løci has been the brand that’s been on the lips of every VIP. From Ben Affleck and Olivia Wilde all the way to Princess Eugenie, some of the world’s most famous individuals have been rocking them religiously, and there’s really no questioning why.
Based in London, Løci states that each pair of its shoes saves at least 20 plastic bottles from ending up in the oceans or landfills. As well as this, when you buy the highly sought-after Atom or the brand new Fusion (or any of its other silhouettes for that matter), the company donates 10% of the profits towards building ocean conservation sites that protect endangered animals and plants across the globe. Look good, do good.
While Pangaia is known primarily as a clothing brand, the London-based label likes to think of itself more as a material science company. Why? Because the masterminds behind it are all scientists, designers and technologists who are always looking for ways to make your fits a little more environmentally-friendly.
After overhauling the humble hoodie back in 2019, it eventually proceeded to take on the rest of your wardrobe. And now, Pangaia is back with the very, very appropriately named Grape Sneaker.
Upholstered in leather made from grape skins, stalks and seeds that are discarded by the winemaking industry, this is one of the most sustainable sneakers you can buy today. The midsole is infused with almost 90% recycled rubber, and it’s available in a vast selection of colorways so you’ll definitely be able to find a pair that complements your personal sense of style.
Pangaia also recently debuted the Recycled Nylon shoe. It’s a lot lighter compared to the Grape, thanks to its upper crafted from recycled polyamide and a partially bio-based lining that reduces the industry’s dependence on fossil fuel-derived synthetic fibers.
Most eco-friendly sneaker companies keep things clean and simple. Don’t get us wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But for those of us who want something that’s a little weirder and wilder, that’s where Rombaut comes into the fold.
World-renowned for its cutting-edge and extremely unconventional designs, the Parisian company is living and breathing proof that even the most sustainable sneakers can make a fashion statement.
Looking through Rombaut’s collections can be a little overwhelming considering just how avant-garde everything is, but one silhouette that stands out from the rest is the Nucleo. A chunky, futuristic silhouette that looks like it walked off a Balenciaga runway, the upper is infused with vegan leather while the sole is made using a blend of algae resin and recycled plastic.
The Boccaccio is also another cool shoe, with a chunky midsole that’s completely biodegradable.
SAYE has garnered a pretty healthy cult following over the past couple of years thanks to its vintage-inspired designs that are every bit as stylish as they are sustainable.
Based in Barcelona, each of the sneakers is lovingly made in Portugal from the finest eco-friendly fabrics known to man. On top of that, for every pair that’s sold, two trees are planted as part of the company’s reforestation efforts.
If you can only cop one pair from SAYE, we’d go for the Modelo ’89. Outfitted in vegan nappa leather that’s actually corn maize, the interior lining is made from 100% organic cotton and the plush insoles are crafted from recycled polyurethane (leftover waste from a mattress factory, of course).
Even the packaging that it comes in is completely biodegradable, because every single detail counts. There’s a high-top version as well, for all you old-school basketball fans out there.