The sneaker industry isn’t exactly known for its sustainable practices, thanks largely to its complex manufacturing process, use of plastic, and trend-driven nature, according to Fast Company. Amid the climate crisis, though, a number of brands have begun embracing the use of natural and recyclable materials. Maybe you have a sneakerhead in your life who also happens to be anxious about the fate of humanity and other life on Earth in the face of global warming. With the holidays fast approaching, why not cop them a pair of sustainable sneakers that can help them reduce their impact on the planet, without sacrificing style? Here are our top picks.
New Balance collaborated with sustainable women’s fashion label Reformation to design these eco-friendly versions of the iconic New Balance 574s and X 90s. The labels, linings, and laces are made from recycled polyester, and the inserts contain ethylene vinyl acetate foam and BLOOM algae — yes, literally algae that may otherwise disrupt aquatic ecosystems. Released in October, these come in three versatile, easy-to-match-with styles.
Thousand Fell launched the Lace Up and Slip On — both unisex, and both made from coconut, recycled water bottles, and other sustainable materials — in late November. At the end of their life cycle, you can return them to Thousand Fell, which will donate, recycle, upcycle, or allow them to biodegrade — and, per The Cut, slash 20 bucks off your next pair.
For those who struggle to find the perfect no-show socks, a recycled rubber yoga mat insole and an aloe vera mesh liner allow you to wear the Lace Up and Slip On sans socks. These shoes come in white and one of five accent colors, making them a sustainable alternative to Reebok Classics and other fresh white kicks that go with pretty much any outfit.
Vancouver-based Casca designed the Avro to withstand various types of terrain, in hopes that it would lead people to consume fewer shoes, according to the Vancouver Sun. Indeed, the Avro is made from durable rubber that held up even after a year of testing in a number of physical activities, including tennis and hikes. A heel stabilizer and orthotic insole — made with special foam that resists flattening — provide ample support.
When I tried a pair, which Casca graciously sent me to try, they felt a little rigid, but after spending a day or so breaking them in, they fit really well. Available in men and women’s sizes, their minimalist style and leather exterior make them feel buttoned-up enough for the office but also casual enough for brunch or the gym.
Released this past November, the Maddox Resource Jogger for women is crafted solely out of recycled and overstock materials, including a recycled neoprene collar, recycled polyester laces, and outsoles impregnated with rice husks and recycled rubber grinding. Chunky, yet with a lightweight outsole, it comes in several styles — including the futuristic Metallic Combo, as well as the Blue Multi and Pink Multi, which are accented with vibrant overstock fabric, per The Cut.
Not only are these shoes made from responsibly-sourced materials, including wild rubber and jersey woven from 33% organic cotton, their manufacturer, French brand Veja, also seeks to treat its employees with dignity, producing its shoes in facilities in Brazil that adhere to International Labour Organization standards.
Apparently beloved by Meghan Markle and Katie Holmes, the subtly retro-looking V-10s come in an array of color combinations for men and women, and even vegan versions that swap out leather for coated canvas made with 50% corn waste. Another plus: They don’t take long to break in, according to Esquire.
These low-tops, recently released by Brazilian brand Cariuma, are made from bamboo, sugarcane, and other sustainable, vegan materials. Since bamboo regenerates from its own roots, it doesn’t need to be replanted, which translates into a gentler impact on the planet, according to Travel + Leisure. It also doesn’t hurt that the bamboo makes the IBI feel almost weightless.
Available in men and women’s sizes, the IBI spans the color spectrum, from muted neutrals to playful primaries. You can even throw them in the washing machine, so you can achieve that brand new-shoe look without actually having to buy another pair.
Barcelona-based travel gear company Tropicfeel’s Monsoon is made from sustainable, vegan materials. Three plastic bottles go into making each pair, whose insoles are made of BLOOM algae foam. Designed to double as urban and outdoor shoes, they’re lightweight, breathable, fast-drying, and slip-proof, so you can wear them not only on errands, but even on hikes. The unisex Monsoon comes in all black, as well as various earthy and pastel color combinations.