Written by SaifZiya
You could look gorgeous putting on those eco-friendly jeans, feel nostalgic vibes in those cozy ecological pajamas, or live in those environmentally friendly leggings, but there’s something that is still missing… something you can’t go out without under any circumstances.
What we’re referring to is a pair of sustainable running shoes that give you the freedom to jump, jog, dance, or compete with your fellow joining them in a run in the morning—and most importantly, the shoes that keep the atmosphere more eco-friendly and fighting fit.
While there is an elegant and sustainable solution to the footwear—eco-friendly sneakers, they can’t be used while breaking a sweat at the gym, biking, or running. On the contrary, these ethical running shoes will offer extreme comfort and provide enough air to your feet, hence breathable. No matter if you’re willing to get these earth-friendly shoes for cool or wet runs, these shoes will, undoubtedly, make your day.
As you browse through the list, you’ll also come across some vegan shoes; the shoes that have been thoughtfully designed—without harming the animals in the process.
It’s no secret fashion industry is dirty, and loads of brands, in this day and age, are producing a variety of running kicks at a large scale to fulfill customers’ needs—all without thinking about the environment. Since shoes are closely allied with the fashion industry, that is something that jogs our memory about the famous ‘Rana Plaza’ tragedy, a fast-fashion disaster that shook the world.
Sustainable Running Shoes
While shoes, especially the running ones, are intended to offer comfort, durability, breathability, and protection to your feet against harsh conditions, if they are made using toxic, eco-unfriendly fabrics (materials), they would do the opposite like cause itching or rashes on the skin.
However, sustainably made running shoes, quite the reverse, are made with organic materials, ensuring no impact on the environment. Plus, eco-friendly brands produce sustainable runners at their ethical factories where a proper code of conduct, as per the state law, is followed to ensure the health of the workers. And, since sustainable shoes are made with toxic-free materials, they’re likely to survive in cold–wet, and hot scenarios.
Since the shoe industry is huge and accounts for 1.4% of the global greenhouse effect, knowing what practices the companies are using while making shoes is really important.
Therefore, we’ve put together this list of the best sustainable running shoes that keep your feet as soft as butter even in harsh conditions.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it:
“Break a sweat, not the planet”.
Allbirds is a footwear company that is based in Australia. It came into existence in 2014. Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger started the company with an aim to keep make their shoes as eco-friendly as possible.
Allbirds’ eco-friendly shoes have been designed from nature, for nature. To ensure sustainability, the company uses plant-based materials so the shoes don’t have any negative impact on our atmosphere.
Allbirds’ Beliefs about Sustainability & Ethics
Allbirds is committed to creating a world where people could run harder and tread lighter. As discussed earlier, the footwear industry alone contributes to 1.4% of the overall gas emissions.
Evidently, this is a very serious issue.
As Bret McKenzie—an Oscar-winning comedian—takes the podium to enlighten us about the impact and what it is in a footprint, it gets crystal clear that sustainability is the only option we’re left with to ensure a cleaner, healthier, and safer environment.
See how Allbirds deals with the issue.
Allbirds is open about what they do. They do admit that shoes emit CO2 when we tread, however, what they emphasize is the fact that it can be brought down to a great extent.
A regular sneaker emits about 12.5 kg CO2e which is affecting our planet and, therefore, something needs to be done about it thoughtfully. They’re geared toward creating no carbon impact from the start—it is all part of their plan as they say, “We’re not at zero” yet.
This is where things get interesting.
Allbirds is rooted in sustainability. They believe take the natural world as the source of inspiration, and therefore, they make sure that nothing impacts it while making those tough, gorgeous, and long-lasting shoes.
And, if you’re after the list of materials, here you are; Allbirds uses plant-based materials so as to sustain the atmosphere we live in, namely Wool, Tree, Sugar, and TRINO™.
They also depend on a renowned wood-based fabric called TENCEL™ Lyocell, and in our sustainable fabrics guide, we’ve already outlined the benefits of using lyocell (go check it if you haven’t already).
What about the ethical practices carried out by Allbirds?
Are they as ethical as they say, or they’re just one of the so-called brands tricking people into buying something that goes against nature?
We appreciate that you’re taking precautions, but Allbirds is an ethical brand and offers transparency to the people interested in buying products from them. Keeping track of the ethical factories and stores run and managed by Allbirds is a piece of cake actually—find them all here.
They believe in uniting people for the betterment of our environment. Said that, every single factory managed by them runs in line with the code of conduct governed by the company.
Before doing the final checkout, you could look at where running shoes have been manufactured.
Women’s Wool Dasher Mizzles
Image Courtesy: Allbirds
Why these shoes?
These sustainable shoes from Allbirds are no-slip kicks that have been produced using merino’s wool (just like the ones from Giess Wein). So, no matter how long you run, they will always keep your feet dry, thanks to the unmatched breathability. These have been made with renewable materials, are machine washable, and give you an odor-free experience, and that stability that you achieve is up to the mark.
As cool as their website looks, their sustainably made running shoes will have your heart at the first sight. Being a Fair Trade-certified shoe brand, Veja brings a lot to the table for the consumers by restoring balance in the worldwide trade.
They believe in working directly with the producers so that unnecessary steps required in the middle can be dispensed with.
Since the existence, they’ve been relying on sustainable materials. The producers who they take the organic cotton from are paid first, and then shoes are made later on. It depicts that people are always put first, then the product being made.
They decided to manufacture in Brazil as this country offers robust opportunities and added social value, and being a B-Corp-certified brand makes them even more socially and environmentally responsible.
VEJA’s Take on Sustainability & Ethics
This isn’t the first time Veja has managed to be listed on our website—it has also been vetted by us in another article published by our team: sustainable sneakers.
Given that the fast-fashion is a serious problem and impact every single soul on earth, how exactly does Veja deal with it?
Well, Veja has embraced ecological materials, such as 100% organic cotton. Yes, it is also true that some running shoes are made with recycled fabrics, such as recycled plastics.
Instead of investing money in advertisements, Veja believes in fortifying its ethical practices so as to make this world a better place for all of us. To achieve this vision, they’ve been taking advantage of the most ecological materials that help reduce carbon footprint.
While the materials used in the shoes vary from shoe to shoe, Veja tries to use as many eco-friendly fabrics as possible. That’s why most of the shoes have been designed using ecological materials, such as organic cotton, rubber (taken from Amazon rainforest), leather (100% vegetable-based), and recycled plastic bottles.
Also, each part of the shoe is made with different materials—heels, uppers, insoles, laces, binding, eyelets, outsoles, and construction use different fabrics.
This has been best described by “Nothing New” — another cool, sustainable brand that has found its place on this list (see below). So, in the case of Veja running shoes, the insole is made with sugar cane, r-PET, banana oil, natural latex, rubber, rice waste, etc.
Work & Ethics:
Among other fascinating things about Veja, their transparency also caught our attention. They keep their customers posted on where they manufacture the shoes, what materials they make use of, and how they do it.
Most of the shoes are manufactured ethically in Brazil.
Since we’re talking about the numbers, you’d wonder to know that they have bought 390 tons of cotton that is FT certified, and they did that between 2004 and 2019.
In addition, they’ve been joining different social programs actively to help people fight poverty and other major conditions.
Condor 2 Alveomesh White Pierre
Image Credit: Veja
Why these shoes?
Well, these shoes have been listed as “Vegan Shoes” on the website which depicts that no animals have been harmed or killed in the process. Almost all parts of these shoes are made with recyclable materials, such as lining tech and upper, whereas, the insole uses 21% recycled plastic bottles. In the heels and logo, 100% Ricinus oil has been used.
Salomon is another environmentally conscious brand that believes in accepting the challenges and make one-of-a-kind, sturdy, and comfortable trail/road running shoes. It is one of those internationally known brands that always keep it real and awesome—the eco-friendly shoe brands that don’t keep the end-users in the dark.
They have launched many recyclable running shoes in the past, and are planning to introduce all the outdoor lovers to another pair of cool and sustainable shoe that goes by the name “Index.01”. They’re going to release it in the spring of 2021. If you’re interested in buying it, you could register yourself using this form.
Index.01 has been made with sustainable materials and designed to last. So, no matter if you wear the shoes while jogging in the morning or you put them on when going gets tough, these shoes will never let you down. To see more about how they’ve reduced the environmental impact by using ethical practices, continue reading.
Salomon’s Sustainability & Ethical Practices
Let’s talk about the textiles first.
As mentioned earlier, different parts of a shoe take different types of materials/fabrics. The same things apply to Salomon’s sustainably made shoes. First of all, there’s no toxic used while manufacturing kicks at their disciplined factories, meaning it is highly unlikely their shoes will cause you any kind of irritation or allergic reaction.
Coming back to the materials, most shoes are made of recycled, bio-based materials. That way, once the end-user is done using the shoes, those kicks can be recycled into a ski boot shell.
It allows them to extend the lifetime of material by up to 10 times.
Work & Ethics:
In order to achieve the looked-for quality in the resulting product, the recycled material is thoroughly tested and blended in a systematic way, leaving no ifs and buts behind.
As they say, behind every successful person, there’s an inspiration.
In the case of Salomon, the scenario is kind of the same—they get their inspiration from the workers who work tirelessly. The workers in return for their handwork get amazing benefits, such as competitive wages on time, leaves, transparency, etc.
Salomon always believed in setting high goals and working hard to achieve them. They have some plans for the 2025 year like they’re looking forward to being listed among the top 25% companies in the employee engagement. Also, to create products more sustainably, they’ve dedicated themselves to increasing the percentage of recycled material up to 70% by 2025 and reduce carbon emission to a larger extent.
Image Courtesy: Salomon
As they say “Good things come with patience” — the same assumption can be drawn in this regard for the fact these Index.01 shoes are yet to be launched (most likely to be out in spring this year). Anyway, these shoes are a mixture of many recyclable materials, such as polyester, TPU, rubber, EVA, etc. However, if you’ve already made up your mind to buy these shoes, it’s about time you register them.
4. Native Shoes
Native Shoes—a.k.a. NS—got received an honorable mention in another editorial that was about eco-friendly sneakers. So, it’s apparent, this isn’t the first time we get the pleasure to furnish the plusses you’ll be getting if you consider investing in these shoes.
These eco-friendly shoes give you the freedom to step freely on the sidewalk, or even on concrete places. To make sure that nothing harms our environment, future fibers have been used to produce this pair of shoes (see in the materials segment).
Their shoes are lightweight, shock-absorbent, and most importantly they’re sustainably and ethically made, doing no harm to the atmosphere (air and water). Plus, no matter how long you take a run in the shoes designed by them, you won’t be suffering from that odor.
Yes, shoes are odor-resistant and can be hand washed.
Native Shoes’ Beliefs about Affordability & Ethics
So, how does “Native Shoes” deal with the issue that exists in the fashion industry and make those eco-friendly shoes?
Well, let’s find out.
If you take a glimpse at the “Remix” project, you’d get your head around that they’re planning to make their shoes 100% recyclable—and, they’re willing to achieve this goal by 2023, which is not very far.
Their shoes are made using solvent-free production, allowing them to use up to 70% less water, which results in the overall reduction of carbon emissions—i.e. up to 35% less CO2 as compared to the conventional practices used in the fashion industry.
Customers, from different parts of the world, are falling head over heels in love with their environmental-friendly shoes. The good news is that if you wish to have your old shoes recycled, you could do that straightforwardly using a step-by-step process available on their website.
What type of fabric does Native Shoes use to ensure the eco-friendliness in the shoes?
Having dug deep, we came to know that their shoes are made with non-solvent materials, which implies that they’re completely safe for all outdoor lovers.
In Apollo 2.0, they have used future material — Clarino Tirrenina™, a future fiber that is solvent-free. When compared to other traditional microfibers, Clarino is clearly a winner as it is capable of saving up to 70% water, and avoids up to 35% CO2.
And, since we’re talking about a pair of shoes, and not a T-shirt or activewear, you have to understand that shoes require different materials for different parts.
Keeping that in mind, we got enlightened that NS also takes advantage of other materials, such as recycled elastane, perforated vamp, partial microfiber lining.
As for the insole, it is made with recycled elastalite, whereas, the outsoles are made using light high-traction rubber. To make the shoes study, the company has also used suede leather. Don’t worry, there is no animal glue that has been used in the making nor has there any animal been harmed during the manufacturing.
They’re also having one-of-a-kind, top-of-the-line men’s shoes that you could gift your much-loved friend and make his day.
Work & Ethics:
Let’s first talk about the factories where the products are made.
Currently, the shoes are made in Vietnam and China and they’re proud to have embraced ethical practices. That means behind every shoe, a code of conduct has been followed by the company, ensuring safe and working conditions for the workers.
No worker is forced to work more than the required working hours, nor is there any child labor that the brand supports.
Native Shoes has been making waves ever since they accepted the challenges and turned out to be geared toward sustainability. The fact that they’re a PETA-approved brand makes them even more vegan-friendly.
Image by Native Shoes
Why these shoes?
Well, to be frank, these Apollo shoes will let you run hard and tread lightly. Choose any color you love—black or white—and experience the lunar landing every time you step in them. These sustainable shoes require 70% less water and let you avoid up to 35% of CO2.
5. HYLO ATHLETICS
This brand made me question myself: why didn’t I find their shoes earlier or they’d have been on the top of this or probably would be having someone’s attention in our other articles. Their environmental-friendly shoes have been rated “up to the mark” by the people who decided to with them.
From people who are on the lookout for everyday running shoes to the ones who are in search of training ones, they’ve got a huge selection of shoes that are made for different purposes in mind. In addition to using natural materials in the shoes, they can be recycled like a charm. If you’re looking for ways to recycle your shoes, please head to the guide segment on their website.
HA’s Approach to Sustainability & Ethics
It’s no wonder that HA’s shoes are carbon negative — they don’t contribute to the CO2; rather, they reduce the impact of the greenhouse effect. What’s also impressive is that these shoes are very lightweight, and that’s the reason you won’t feel anything while wearing them—like you’re walking or running barefoot.
Need to shop for gym shoes at the same time?
Well, there’s no need to purchase gym shoes separately as these will keep you satisfied.
Since they are carbon negative brand, their shoes reduce up to 7.83 kg CO2e which is achieved at different phases through which a pair of shoes goes. The carbon footprint is reduced using sustainable materials, ethical manufacturing, etc. Not just that, the place where they source the materials is within a 100km radius, avoiding the carbon that is produced through the transportation.
HA makes use of the following materials to make those sustainable, lightweight, durable, and stylish shoes:
- Corn Fiber
- Organic Cotton
- Castor Bean Oil
- Algae Bloom
- Corn Spring®
- Natural Rubber
- Water-Based Glue
The Upper sole of the shoes is made with Corn Fiber and Organic Cotton is used to produce the insole of the shoe. You could find all the details on the product’s page.
Now, who would have thought that we can actually use corn fiber to produce shoes sustainably?
These shoes are definitely futuristic and innovative.
What about the zero-waste practices?
Does HA make use of the waste by recycling it to make new products?
Well, guess what—that’s exactly what they do. They ask their customers to send their old shoes to them so that they can be broken down and reused in future products.
There’s not just a single reason why their shoes are top-rated by the consumers, people are crazy about their shoes and many things.
Every single worker working at their ethically managed factories is paid the most competitive wages on time.
HA has zero tolerance against discrimination whether it is based on religion, sex, race, color, identity, community. All employees receive the value or appreciation they deserve and they’re made sure they’re happy—the company regularly visits the factories to ensure that all the workers are happy with the wages and facilities provided.
We literally couldn’t find negative reviews on their website. Some people have even suggested that these shoes feel like you’re wearing slippers as they’re super easy to put on and take off.
Our Best Pick!
Why these shoes?
Well, HA has designed these shoes with sustainability in mind. Apart from being high-performance shoes, these are lightweight—weighs only 215g. You could use them for your everyday run. It’s not just the sustainable materials we loved, the fact that they are recyclable, too is something that can’t be neglected. So, when you’re done using them, recycling them would be easier.
6. ON RUNNING
On Running, as the name suggests, is geared towards providing outdoor lovers one-of-a-kind, lightweight, soft, eco-friendly kicks (shoes).
If you’re dying to get your hands on 100% recyclable shoes, then look no further, OR’s Cyclon shoes are the ultimate choice for you in that area. In addition, there are many other substantial shoes that you could lay your eyes on.
There’s something unique about their website. Oh, yes—it is their unmatched shoe finder that you could use to know about the shoe in detail that you’d prefer to purchase.
Just a couple of questions need to be answered like “What is your favorite activity?”—for example, do you want a pair of shoes for all-day wear, running, or hiking?
Once you answer that, you’ll be choosing the “Usage” i.e. would you be using them on road, indoor, or trail. Moreover, you could select “Distance per run”, “Stability”, “Competition”, or “Waterproof” options to filter the list as per your personal preference.
On Running’s Philosophy of Sustainability & Ethics
How does OR manage to get the upper hands over other fast-fashion footwear brands available on the market?
Let’s shed light on the ethical and sustainability practices carried out OR:
Since the beginning, sustainability has been their core of how they work. To ensure the eco-friendliness, OR complies with all the industry regulations required as per the local law of the place where the shoes are made.
They’re transparent with their customers and the workers.
One Running and UNFC have come together to limit climate warming with an agreement. They believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to reduce the impact of CO2 by shopping thoughtfully—i.e. with more responsibility or sustainably.
To take it even further, they’ve also joined ScienceBasedTargets with an aim to reduce CO2.
See how they’re dealing with climate change.
OR is one of those brands that make 100% recyclable shoes, keeping the fact in mind that it’s more complex than creating a T-shirt or other clothing. That’s because different materials have been used in different parts of the shoe. Anyway, their shoes boast fresh cushioning and are made with bio-based and recyclable materials.
That means, they’re making the most out of zero-waste production. The shoes are made from natural and synthetic polyamides—meaning, they can be recycled easily.
But again… the type of material used in the shoe actually depends on the type of the product. Different shoes used for a specific purpose may require different fabrics. That’s the reason sustainable sneakers and running shoes are poles apart as far as their use is considered.
Work & Ethics:
Unlike other fast-fashion brands, On Running always practices ethical sourcing and manufacturing and, therefore, adheres to ILO standards.
Values and the vision of the people they work with have always a big part of the success. That’s why since the beginning, they’ve chosen the partners more wisely.
They take care of their workers by ensuring that they’re satisfied with the wages paid, working hours, and working conditions. Said that, no worker has to spend more time working than required. There are special guidelines for each employee that facilitates them towards making a better future.
Also, OR is against any kind of discrimination happening in the workplace. There mustn’t be any sign of harassment.
See their code of conduct (pdf).
Image Courtesy: On Running
Why these shoes?
Cyclon has been awarded “Product of the Year”. Not just that, these shoes have also been awarded for the sustainability achievements which really changes the game. Whether your quest is to get involved in training sessions or you would love to unleash the running power, these sustainable kicks will be a lifesaver. What’s more, these are not dyed or bleached and are extremely lightweight (weighs only 200g) while offering you a close-fitting experience.
7. GIESS WEIN
Giess Wein, whose logo has been inspired by the merino sheep, is clearly a winner as far as most sustainable shoe brands are taken into account. GW’s shoes are well known for the extreme quality and earth-friendliness as the kicks are made with 100% merino sheep’s wool.
So, how did they start?
Long story short—GW wanted to make something stylish and comfortable for the public, something that doesn’t go against nature. Although they’ve always been against animal cruelty, they got an idea—using animals as a resource without having to hurt them.
Even though that’s how they started, evidence of the merino sheep dates back years—merino was found in the earlier 12th century somewhere in Morocco. In fact, you may not believe but merino wool has been a favorite fabric of outdoor lovers a.k.a. athletes.
GW’s Attitude towards Sustainability & Ethics
Other than bringing ultimate craftsmanship to the table, Giess Wein (GW) also wanted to ensure that you get the most out of comfort, style, and aesthetics, and most importantly, doing all of this while keeping eco-consciousness in mind.
Using organic fabrics in apparel may sound easier, but using organic materials while manufacturing shoes is no piece of cake.
But still, GW made it look easier and proved all the naysayers wrong by making shoes using 100% sheep’s wool. It’s not just the regular wool, it is merino’s wool that creates no bad odor.
Not just that, your feet won’t be sweating as you take a long run. Yes, you guess it right—they are breathable, super lightweight, and can be worn without the socks. That’s loads of freedom because not everyone is a fan of wearing socks.
Plus, these shoes are temperature-regulating, meaning if it is winter, they’ll keep you warm, and when it is cold, your feet will feel warmer, thanks to those tiny air pockets locked in inside merino’s wool.
Moreover, this special wool has been effective in keeping feet dry all the time as it’s having the properties of absorbing weight in moisture. You wouldn’t believe but the fabric used in the shoes is also capable of being stretchable which takes the lasting comfort to the next level, and we don’t think that you’ll ever find anything like this.
Still, crave for more? Read why merino’s wool is sustainable here.
So, where exactly does the wool come from?
If you truly care for the ethical practices embraced by GW, then it’s important to know how they’re doing the business. The sheep whose wool they use in the shoes live in South Africa, South America, New Zealand, and Australia.
Sheep can be sheared two times a year max.
While sourcing the wool from sheep, they keep in mind all the rights and protection laws so that no harm is caused to the animals.
Unlike other businesses that depend on mulesing, they rather dispense with it and go with the other options available.
Merino Runners Women
Image Courtesy: Giess Wein
Why these shoes?
First things first—these shoes are made using 100% virgin wool—the merino’s wool. Put differently, these shoes are completely safe for the environment and no animals are harmed during the production. They are ultra-lightweight and super flexible. Furthermore, there is an anti-slip feature that will give you achieve balance.
It’s no secret that shoes are something you cannot step out of your home without. Whether you’re planning to take a trip to the shopping center or you wish to go to your favorite place with your friends, shoes are always a complement to your outfit.
And since you’ve been crazy about those eco-friendly get-ups, you can’t fail to avail yourself of these sustainable running shoes. Not only will these shoes look great on you but also they will help you reduce the carbon footprint—hence sustainably made.
You could wear these eco-friendly kicks while jogging, put them on when competing with your friend in a run, or you could even live in them while sitting cozily with your soul mate at a coffee shop—these are the shoes you’ve always wanted to own.
But can you actually own these shoes forever?
No, really—we wish you could but you can’t (at least not forever) because these shoes have to be recycled. And, if you truly care for the planet, you’d recycle them after you’re done with them. However, there’s no forcing you, after using them, if you don’t feel like having them recycled, put them to some good use—donate them to someone in need.