Now, more than ever, the sneaker is our friend. With a weekly routine that could consist of any mixture of working out, working from home, commuting to the office, and then walking the same six-block neighborhood radius, comfort and ease rule just about every sartorial decision we make — and sneakers check off each of those boxes (with added bonus points for personal-style expression, too). But when it comes to sustainability, our favorite supportive shoe isn’t always as eco-friendly.
Many sneakers can be heavy on non-biodegradable synthetics, which ultimately contributes to the pile-up of plastic that’s seeping into every surface on the planet (even the atmosphere). But, luckily, there’s a growing host of footwear brands working to come up with a more sustainable solution: styles with all the bounce, comfort, and swag that we look for in a tennis shoe, without all of the waste and environmental degradation that’s commonly associated with sneakers.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of sustainable sneakers, then you’ve come to the right page. Do the planet (and your feet) a favor by shopping with one of our favorite eco-conscious-kick creators ahead — from Reformation to Veja.
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Everyone is stepping into the eco-conscious space, and it’s about time. Reformation is one of the brands leading the pack, as the label has put sustainable practices at the forefront of its business model. The Harlows are created from past Reformation products and are crafted in Brazil from soft cow leather that’s tanned without using harmful materials. After a year of releasing its fully recyclable sneaker, the shoe is still a must-have item as colorways and sizes consistently get sold out.
Reformation Harlow Leather Sneaker, $, available at Reformation
Since day one, Toms has been dedicated to using vegan and sustainable materials like recycled polyester, natural hemp, and organic cotton for its shoes. While people recognize the brand for its effortless slip-ons, it also makes easy-to-wear sneakers. This knit style is a prime example. It’s comfy, matches any attire, and is sustainable. (The shoe is partially made from Repreve, a recycled polyester blend from used plastic bottles.)
Shop Toms at Nordstrom
TOMS Alpargata Resident Slip-On Sneaker, $, available at Nordstrom
Introducing your staple Nike shoe, but with an eco-friendly revamp. It’s made with at least 20% recycled material from post-consumer and post-manufactured waste, so you can freely buy more. And it doesn’t comprise the crisp white aesthetic, durability, and support it’s known for.
Nike Nike Air Force 1 ’07 Next Nature, $, available at Nike
Invest in a pair of colorful sporty sneakers that aren’t only designer but eco-friendly, too. Chloé’s Nama trainers are created from a blend of materials with 40% recycled debris, such as nylon, polyester, cotton, yarns, and rubber. Every inch of the shoe has a thoughtful, eco-friendly touch. For instance, the sole is assembled with water-based glue, which has fewer chemicals than regular glue, and the leather is sustainably manufactured through the Leather Working Group.
Shop Chloé at Matches Fashion
Chloé Nama Blanket-Stitch Recycled-Mesh Trainers, $, available at MatchesFashion
If you absolutely despise laces, you’ll get a kick out of this. (No pun intended.) Axel Arigato’s Clean 360 Laceless is a reinvention of the classic Clean 360. Everything from the shoe to the dust bag is made from recycled materials like rubber and polyester — the packaging is also FSC certified. On top of that, the Swedish brand has a product footprint section for each shoe where you can follow the supply chain.
Shop Axel Arigato
Axel Arigato Clean 360 Laceless Sneaker, $, available at Axel Arigato
Everlane’s sustainable mini-line, ReLeather Sneakers, consists of two classic styles: the Trainer and the Court, a skate-inspired shoe designed for daily wear. With a Leather Working Group-approved hide constituting the shoe’s upper and a sole made from a blend of natural and recycled rubber that’s 94.6% free of virgin plastic, it’s a chic, environmentally friendly choice.
Shop sneakers at Everlane
Everlane The ReLeather® Tennis Shoe, $, available at Everlane
Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion launched this sneaker brand in 2008, and their now-ubiquitous “V” logo-ed trainers are made with materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and natural rubber. Thanks to their sky-high sustainable standards, it took the brand four years to perfect the Condor, a high-performance running shoe that’s made with 47% natural and recycled materials.
Shop Veja at Madewell
VEJA Vegan Leather Urca Sneakers, $, available at Madewell
Every material that goes into an Allbirds shoe — whether it’s the brand’s lightweight Runner, polished Tree Breezer, or high-impact Dasher — is sustainable, renewable, and/or recycled. Natural materials like merino wool (from humanely raised sheep), tree-based Tencel Lyocell, and rainwater-fed sugarcane co-exist with recycled synthetics like plastic and nylon to create a shoe that’s sublimely comfortable and eco-friendly.
Allbirds Women’s Tree Dasher 2, $, available at Allbirds
Reecycled by Reebok
Check out Reebok’s Reecycled (cute) landing page for activewear made from recycled fabrics — the assortment includes these throwback trainers reminiscent of the brand’s ’80s heyday. Not only do the sneakers boast vintage curb appeal, but they’re made from leather and textile with a minimum of 50% recycled content. It’s a running start for the behemoth exercise brand — we hope it’s in it for the marathon.
Shop Reecycled by Reebok
Reebok Zig Dynamica 4 Women’s Shoes, $, available at Reebok
Through its “Renew” imprint, this forever-cool sneaker brand has experimented with a host of fabrications, including using cotton canvas scraps from their own manufacturing excess and repurposed denim sourced from European vintage purveyor Beyond Retro for range of patch-worked, earth-hued classic Chuck Taylors.
Converse Chuck 70 Canvas, $, available at Converse
The elder states-shoe of sport is upping its eco-friendly cred with the recent relaunch of its classic tennis sneakers. The new iteration is free of virgin polyester, with an upper constructed from the brand’s proprietary recycled fabric, Primegreen.
Adidas Stan Smith Shoes, $, available at Adidas
This London-based brand is known for its cheerful collection of chunky-soled street sneakers, all of which featured a recycled rubber outsole and an insole made from recycled rubber and castor bean oil. The fabrics used in their eye-catching uppers are made from organic cotton and biodegradable wool.
In our search for the best pair, we’ve discovered a high-top Good News sneaker with a fashionable quilted exterior. Although it’s a different take on the brand’s usual cotton variations, the shoe is still sustainable.
Shop Good News at Urban Outfitters
Good News Roopa Quilted High-Top Sneaker, $, available at Urban Outfitters
This DTC shoe imprint turns out just a few impeccably designed styles — one of which, the Royale, is available with a knit upper woven from discarded plastic bottles. (Seven of them, to be exact.)
GREATS The Royale Knit Sneaker, $, available at GREATS
These super-minimal sneakers are the brainchild of Thursday Boot Company founder Noah Walsh, who set out to make a shoe that was 100% sustainable. Check out the handy-dandy diagram on the brand’s website, detailing every recycled fiber that’s used in the shoe’s construction — right down to the regenerated-plastic shoelaces.
The brand even has a virtuous circle program and offers $20 off new kicks to any customer who sends their old Nothing New shoes back for recycling.
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Nothing New Classic High Top, $, available at Nothing New
This Brazilian sneaker brand was founded in 2018 by two friends who wanted to create stylish footwear without the needless waste they’d witnessed working in the accessories industry. Their street-friendly kicks are available in cotton canvas or a breathable knit made from super-renewable bamboo, and come with cushy insoles made from cork and mamona oil.
Cariuma OCA Low Sneaker, $, available at Cariuma
Stella McCartney — a pioneering runway brands in the eco-friendly design space — has been using recycled polyester to create her high-fashion footwear since 2012.
Shop sneakers at Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney Loop Lace-up Sneakers, $, available at Stella McCartney
Earlier this year, the heritage sneaker brand introduced a low-impact version of their iconic Jazz Court tennis shoe, manufactured with renewable fabrics like cotton, jute, wool, rubber, wood, gardenia, and beet. (They also made sure to use wool that was humanely harvested.) Even better, it ships in an ink-free, 100% recycled shoebox without excess interior stuffing.
Saucony Jazz Court RFG, $, available at Saucony
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