Did you know that more than 23 billion pairs of shoes are produced each year? That’s like three pairs of shoes per person in the world! Sadly, more than 300 million pairs of shoes end up in the landfill each year, and the average shoe takes 30 to 40 years to decompose. Fortunately, some brands are starting to make more sustainable sneakers and running shoes that are nearly or completely plastic free, as well as eco-friendly hiking boots, that will boost your performance while protecting the environment.
I’m always on the lookout for more sustainable footwear and accessories made from eco-friendly materials like plant-based leather, organic hemp, and other natural fibers. There are some companies in the fashion industry making new sneakers out of recycled plastic bottles, ocean plastic like fishing nets, and other plastic waste.
While it’s essential to clean the plastic out of the ocean and find uses for recycled plastic instead of producing new virgin plastic, personally I don’t think that clothing is the best use for it. It takes energy and other resources to recycle plastic, so it’s best to turn it into products that will be used a long time. Shoes only last for a relatively short amount of time, then they get discarded or need to be recycled again.
Here are my top picks for the most sustainable sneakers and eco-friendly running shoes that are better for the earth and will leave you feeling accomplished.
My 7 Favorite Brands To Shop For Plastic Free and Sustainable Sneakers
1. Good News
Good News truly lives up to its name by bringing good news to the shoe industry in the form of sustainable sneaker options. They use recycled rubber to create their soles, organic cotton, and other recyclable materials to reduce their carbon output and reduce their processes. They also donate their deadstock to refugees in need to prevent unsold inventory from going into the landfill. I have the Lace-up Low Top Sneakers and they are my go-to day to day sneaker.
The Tree Dashers are my favorite eco friendly running shoe and go to white sneaker. Allbirds’ goal is to completely eliminate their carbon footprint. By nature, an Allbirds shoe manufacturing produces about 5 kg less carbon than the average shoe, but they want to do more. From running shoes to everyday wear, they have a variety of styles that are produced with all natural materials, including wool and recycled cardboard, to keep items out of the trash. Also, if you’re looking for a pair of shoes for travel, Allbirds are super comfortable for walking around all day exploring new places.
The only 100% compostable sneaker, Waes is doing big things for sustainability. They have an entire collection of high quality zero-waste sneakers, each of which is made using sustainable materials and organic processes. They also offer free shipping and returns so you can shop with confidence.
Etiko’s line of vegan shoes is every bit as fashionable as they are ethical. Social impact is every bit as important as environmental impact. They use sustainable production practices, work with certified fair trade suppliers and have high standards for the partnerships they create. In addition to manufacturing ethical running shoes (and other sports gear), they’re also focused on human rights. They pay fair wages that help to lift their workers out of poverty and create a better life for themselves and their families.
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5. Native Shoes
Native Shoes are as down to earth as they come. Their plant-based shoe is a true engineering marvel, using components from pineapple, linen, kenaf, lactae hevea, and cotton. These raw materials take less energy and less water to produce. They’re also active proponents of shoe recycling. They are working on a program that will allow them to manage the entire life cycle of every pair of Native Shoes.
Reebok might not be the first name to come to mind when you think of eco friendly sneakers, but the design team has produced a plastic-free shoe that’s both comfortable and visually appealing. Made from cotton and corn (yes, corn!), the Cotton + Corn shoe is the first-ever shoe that’s at least 75% certified by the USDA. It’s super comfy and I love all the different color options.
The company has admitted that the shoes aren’t as sustainable as they possibly could be, due to the process it takes to break them down after use, but they are a big step in the right direction. One item of note: the shoe is available as a unisex option, so pay close attention to sizing to get the right fit.
One of my favorite pairs of shoes for weightlifting workouts are the vegan Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II. They have a sleek barefoot design, which helps you build up stability and strength in your feet and ankles over time. They’re made from recycled and bio-based materials and are incredibly lightweight. Also great for runs and hikes!
Disclosure: Every product is carefully selected by our editors. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.