Sustainable fashion and travel for the conscious woman

Sustainable fashion and travel for the conscious woman

These 15 Brands Are Making the Best Sustainable, Ethical, and Recycled Sneakers

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Sneakers have been a bit of a challenge for the sustainable fashion industry. There are a lot of different components to consider (like non-toxic glue that actually holds, for example), and considering that sneakers have to endure much more wear and tear than say, an ethically made sundress, the durability aspect is crucial.

Although there is still room for improvement in the eco-friendly sneaker arena, there are definitely some brands picking up the slack and innovating in new, sustainable ways, without sacrificing the durability we’ve gotten used to that in conventional sneakers is achieved using plastics, chemicals, and other non-biodegradable synthetics.

What to Look for in Eco-Friendly Sneakers

Purpose: What do you need your sneakers for? If you’re looking for casual, everyday use, look at brands like Veja, Everlane, Rothy’s, and Nisolo. If you’re looking for a more high-performance athletic shoe, take a look at the adidas x Parley collection or Timberland. For something in between, brands like Allbirds and Ecoalf are perfect for things like long city commutes or short hikes.

Recycled Materials: When it comes to performance and durability in sneakers, natural materials unfortunately just don’t always hold up as well as synthetic materials do (yet). One way around this, however, is using recycled materials. Most of the brands below are using recycled components somewhere in their shoes, from plastic bottles to coffee.

Natural Materials: The plus side of using natural materials when it comes to performance is that natural textiles tend to be more breathable. The brands below incorporate all kinds of natural, renewable, and biodegradable materials into their shoes, such as wool, corn, cotton, leather, cork, and rubber.

Fair Wages: As always, we look for brands that are transparent about where and how their shoes are being made. Are their employees being paid fair wages? Are they working in safe conditions with access to things like healthcare?

[If you’re looking for other types of eco/ethical shoes, check our boots roundup and our sandals post.]

Considering those aspects of what makes a sustainable, ethical sneaker, here’s a roundup of our favorite brands:


As a certified B Corp, Allbirds makes their shoes out of sustainably sourced wool, FSC-certified Tencel, recycled plastic bottles for the laces, sugarcane for the soles, and natural castor bean oil for the insoles. They also give shoes to those in need through Soles4Souls and use 90% post-consumer recycled packaging, without plastic. They started out with their Wool Runners, but have since expanded to an entire line of sneakers, whether you’re looking for high tops, slip-ons, or flats.

Carries: Women, Men, & Kids

Prices: $95 – $115usd



Rothy’s has been one of the go-to brands for sustainable flats over the past several years. And now they’ve got a sneaker too! The Upper knit is made from Rothy’s signature thread (spun from repurposed plastic bottles), the footbed made with plant-based materials, and the padded ankle collar is cushioned with excess material to minimize waste. Plus, they’re machine washable, their packaging is 100% recycled, and shipping carbon offset.

Carries: Women

Prices: $165



Veja’s minimalist shoes are crafted of organic cotton, wild rubber sustainably sourced from the Amazon rainforest, and mesh made from recycled plastic bottles. Fairly made in Brazil, the brand is committed to transparency and ethical business practices throughout their production processes.

Carries: Women, Men, & Kids

Prices: $80 – $165


Reebok Corn + Cotton

With a 100% cotton upper and a biobased sole derived from corn, the Cotton + Corn shoe is the first ever 75% USDA certified bio-based shoe.

Carries: Unisex

Price: $90



Named after one of the rarest and critically endangered animals on our planet, SAOLA is dedicated to doing what they can to preserve our now fragile ecosystems. They use recycled plastic bottles, organic cotton, natural cork, and recycled algae foam to make their sneakers. They’re a member of 1% for the Planet and each purchase goes to support the Mwalua Wildlife Trust.

Carries: Women & Men

Prices: $100 – $130



Most of REI’s sneakers are more for activities like hiking or climbing, but they do have some more stylish shoes that are also really supportive for your feet. Every brand that REI carries meets a minimum standard of ethical and sustainable operation. Although not every single item is made out of recycled and/or natural materials, but most of them are made in a conscious way and are also really high quality. Or, you can shop from their Used section, which is perhaps the most sustainable (and affordable!) option. For more about REI’s sustainability initiatives in depth, read this.

Carries: Women, Men, & Kids

Prices: $40 – $200



Using a roster of natural materials like bamboo, sugarcane, recycled plastic bottles, and cork, Cariuma has created an entirely vegan, carbon-neutral sneaker. Formed from just three pieces, the upper’s knit construction was designed to require minimal cutting, less labor, and less energy overall. Plus, a partnership with Native Energy allows the brand to fully offset its carbon footprint through Amazon rainforest conservation and biodiversity preservation efforts.

Carries: Women & Men

Prices: $98 – $179



Rens sneakers are made out of recycled coffee (yep) and plastic bottles. Coffee is naturally anti-microbial and odor resistant, which makes it a great material for tennis shoes. These sneakers are also waterproof, quick-drying, and lightweight.

Carries: Unisex

Prices: $89 – $99



Everlane is on the path to net zero impact with Tread. They use full-grain leather from a gold-certified tannery and the least amount of virgin plastic possible. Then they calculate the carbon footprint of making the sneaker and partner with two third-party firms in order to offset emissions. Their goal is to one day close the loop completely to create net zero impact apparel, shoes, and accessories.

Carries: Women & Men

Price: $98



Nisolo shoes are intentionally designed to be versatile and long-lasting. They are ethically made in Peru, Mexico, and Kenya, where all of the artisans earn fair wages, healthcare, and a healthy working environment. They also partner with Ecosphere to offset carbon emissions and protect forests in the Amazon.

Carries: Women & Men

Prices: $128 – $168


Rothy’s slip-on sneakers are made from recycled plastic bottles along with recyclable, carbon-free rubber; vegan, non-toxic adhesives; and recycled foam insoles. Everything is made in their own factory, which means they have control over ethical manufacturing and zero waste practices.

Carries: Women & Kids

Price: $125

Oliver Cabell

A direct-to-consumer brand, Oliver Cabell uses high-quality natural leather to handcraft their sneakers. The company has a radical transparency policy so you know exactly how your shoes are made, where they’re made, and what materials are used. Plus, they’re launching a recycled 3D printed shoe soon!

Carries: Women & Men

Prices: $178 – $208


Thousand Fell

Thousand Fell is the only sneaker brand we’ve found so far that is specifically designed for circularity. They begin with a design that’s meant to last and use materials that can either be biodegraded, recycled to make new shoes, or upcycled into materials for new projects—things like aloe vera, rubber, castor bean oil, recycled plastic bottles, coconut husks, sugar cane, palm leaf, and quartz. Then, when you’re done with your shoes, you send them back. You get a credit toward your next pair, and your old pair is recycled into a new one.

Carries: Women & Men

Prices: $120


SOLE x United by Blue

Using materials like Australian merino wool, BisonShield™ bison insulation, recycled cork, and Bloom Algae Foam, this collaboration between SOLE and UBB is a shoe that’s eco-friendly while also lightweight, breathable and durable. Plus, every purchase removes a pound of trash from our waterways.

Carries: Women & Men

Price: $149


adidas x Parley

adidas partners with Parley for the Oceans to bring us a collection of high-performance shoes using partially recycled plastic. This collection includes running shoes, cleats, tennis shoes, and volleyball shoes.

Carries: Women & Men

Prices: $100 – $160



Timberland’s products are made to last a really long time, so you can get the most of out of your shoes. The brand is currently working on five sustainability goals for 2020 and is in the process of transitioning out of using plastic materials like PVC and PFC and incorporating more organic, renewable, and recycled materials into all of their products. Their tennis shoes contain partially recycled plastic and rubber.

Carries: Women & Men

Prices: $70 – $120


Enzi is a premium footwear brand that seeks to challenge global perceptions of Africa through design, artisanal production and a transparent process that exceeds international fair trade standards. The shoes are designed by co-founder Jawad Braye and made in Ethiopia, where the high quality leather is sourced.

Carries: Mens’ / unisex

Prices: $135 – $200



TOMS has upped its game since they first came on the scene with their not-so-high-quality slip-ons. They still partner with organizations that fight for things like equality, safe drinking water, and other resources to underprivileged people all around the world. They use eco-friendly materials like hemp, organic cotton, and recycled polyester in many of their shoes, and their boxes are made with recycled waste and soy ink. They’re a certified B Corp as well.

Carries: Women, Men & Kids

Prices: $45 – $80



If you’re looking for a sustainable alternative to Converse sneakers, Etiko is your brand. They use organic cotton and natural rubber and are on track to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2020. They’re Fairtrade International Certified and a B Corp.

Carries: Women & Men

Prices: $40 – $130



Committed to sustainability, innovation, transparency, and timeless design, Ecoalf uses mostly recycled materials like plastic bottles, fishing nets, tires, cotton, and wool in all their products. When using virgin materials, they use natural cotton, Tencel, hemp, and linen. All of EcoAlf’s suppliers have at least one of the Bluesign and/or OEKO-TEX certifications, meaning they meet strict third party standards when it comes to materials and manufacturing processes used. EcoAlf is also a certified B Corp and is committed to the social rights and protections of its workers and suppliers’ workers as well.

Carries: Women, Men, & Kids

Prices: $65 – $145

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