Looking for some running shoes, but want to be more conscious of the environmental impact of your purchase? There are a lot of reasons to go green with your purchases including running shoes.
If you are not sure where to start, we have you covered.
Below we have put together a list of some of the best sustainable and eco friendly running shoes.
Read on to find out more!
Best Sustainable Running Shoes
So, we’re off to the actual shopping. Here are my top picks for sustainable running shoes. I’ve based my selection on the company’s history, used materials, and overall perks. Let’s see!
1. Wool Runners by Allbirds
As the name implies, these running shoes feature a comfortable upper made from Merino wool. Don’t worry, though. This doesn’t necessarily mean animal cruelty. Merino wool, just like our hair, needs to be regularly cut in order to maintain proper hygiene.
In addition to being naturally comfy, wool uses 60% less energy when compared to the other synthetic alternatives.
To make these running shoes even more sustainable, Allbirds uses recycled bottles to make laces and castor bean oil for the insoles. They even care about shipping by using recycled cardboard packages.
All these efforts have reduced their carbon footprint to 7.6 kg CO2e. This is notably better than the 12.5 kg CO2e emitted by regular sneakers. Allbirds also purchase carbon credits which makes them carbon neutral which means these some of the best natural running shoes out there and top sustainable running shoe brand.
Check out these eco friendly athletic shoes at Allbirds.com
2. Tree Runners by Allbirds
Still uncomfortable with the merino wool concept? No problem! Allbirds has an equally-sustainable pair of running shoes that are completely sourced from green sources.
They harvest eucalyptus trees to manufacture silky-smooth fiber treads. This makes their shoes highly comfortable and breathable to fit the most intensive runs.
They never abuse forests, though. Under certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, their process is guaranteed to protect forests and animals living there. Moreover, the South African farms, from which their materials are sourced, are cutting down on harmful chemical fertilizers.
When compared to cotton, this manufacturing approach uses 95% less water and reduces the carbon footprint in half.
3. Veja Condor Mesh Light
Veja has been in the shoe industry since 2004. In 2020, the Veja Condor running shoes were chosen as the running shoes of the year in the ISPO Sports fair.
Around 53% of these shoes are made from sustainable materials. For instance, the mesh upper is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, the lining features 33% organic cotton, and the outsole is constructed from 30% Amazonian rubber.
Their production lines are mainly located in Brazil to support the seringueiros families living in the Amazonian forests. Harvesting trees from these forests are made under the supervision of multiple organizations to avoid harming biodiversity.
Also you can rest easy knowing these are fair trade running shoes.
Check out Veja running shoes at Veja-store.com
4. Blake Black by The People’s Movement
The People’s Movement brand was started by a bunch of individuals who wanted to implement their innovative designs in eco-friendly shoes to be locally sold for their friends and family. Their aspirations got larger and larger with every pair they sold.
Today, the largest part of their products are made from upcycled plastic bags collected from Bali. If you’re unfamiliar, this is an Indonesian island that dumps thousands of tonnes of plastic waste every year in oceans and rivers.
Furthermore, they dedicate a share of their profits to help environmental initiatives like 5 Gyres. This one is fighting tooth and nail to remove ocean plastic.
In parts where plastics can’t be used, they utilize a bunch of vegan alternatives. These shoes’ upper features a vegetable fiber cotton textile.
Check the price of their sustainable running shoes at Movmt
5. Primus Lite II by Vivobarefoot
If you like running in barefoot shoes, Vivobarefoot should be the most sustainable option. In cooperation with Sorona, they utilize 100% vegan fibers in making the upper mesh and the footbed.
The soles of these ethically made running shoes measure around 3 mm only. At this thickness, your feet will sense every stride. It won’t be tiring, though. This is possible because of their 45% natural rubber construction.
For manufacturing, Vivobarefoot doesn’t rely on petroleum-based sources that cause CO2 footprint to skyrocket. Instead, they depend on algae biomass that actually benefits the environment when harvested.
Check out Vivobarefoot’s ethical running shoes here.
6. Ultraboost Parley Shoes by Adidas
I know that Adidas might not be the first sustainable brand that comes to mind. But I’m glad to tell you that they’re gradually getting better. They’ve been renovating their production process with sustainable materials to reduce water use and decrease carbon footprint.
Ultraboost Parley is an absolutely perfect example of its new regulations. In partnership with Parley, these shoes are made from recycled plastic bottles retrieved from beaches and coastal communities.
It’s estimated that every pair of these recycled running shoes uses around 11 bottles, which is definitely beneficial for our precious marine life.
Check out at the running shoe range at Adidas.com
7. Everlane Tread Trainers
Everlane has recently gained a lot of popularity in the field of sustainability. First and foremost, they source their raw materials from the finest local farms to support independent farmers.
Then, they only partner with the most ethical factories around the world to produce the best products with the least waste.
These eco running shoes were built with 54% less plastic by utilizing full-grain leather. Their unique manufacturing process is able to reduce chemical wastes typically seen in the tanning process.
For the soles, they used a mix between natural and recycled rubber with only 5% of virgin plastic.
8. New Balance X Reformation X90
Since viscose textiles are sourced from wood pulp, they partnered with Canopy to make sure forests are properly protected and preserved. They also mix around 20% of their cotton waste in this process to save more and more of our precious trees.
Moreover, all the linings, laces, and labels are fabricated using post-consumer recycled polyester. Last but not least, the soles are made from a combination of EVA and bloom algae.
Why Should You Shift to Eco-Friendly Running Shoes?
If we want to fully describe the impact of the sneaker industry, we’ll need dozens of pages rather than a simple article. However, I’ll try to simplify the most important facts that would be enough to reveal the ugly face of this business.
According to recent statistics, we throw around 300 million pairs of shoes per year. If we’re lucky, the unsustainable shoe materials should completely compose in around 40 years.
Worst of all, brands don’t seem to understand what they’re doing. The shoe industry produced more than 23 billion pairs in 2015. This clearly exceeds the needs of our 7-billion population.
But brands won’t respond unless customers develop proper awareness. That’s why everyone should buy a pair or two, at most, of sustainable or eco-friendly shoes. While the decomposition rate will differ according to the used materials, it’ll certainly take less than 40 years.
What to look for?
Sustainability has been gaining more and more popularity recently, which is definitely a good thing. But on the downside, a lot of brands have been falsely claiming that their footwear is 100% eco-friendly.
So, to avoid buying zero-value products, here are the most important aspects you should find in a good sustainable pair of running shoes.
Avoid Leather as Much as Possible
The leather industry is, without doubt, the worst part about the footwear world. First things first, sourcing leather boosts the livestock industry, which is responsible for 14.5% of the total emissions of greenhouse gases.
It’s shocking to know that leather doesn’t just accompany meat production. It’s estimated that a billion animals are slaughtered each year merely for tanning their skins and hides!
If using leather is inevitable for you, opt for more ethical forms like upcycled or recycled leather.
Look for eco friendly materials and natural materials
Naturally, the best pair of running shoes should be made from 100% biodegradable natural materials. But sadly, this isn’t always possible.
That leaves us with recycled materials. Yes, they’re not necessarily biodegradable. But they’re surely better than sourcing materials that are virgin.
Also, be aware of the production processes involved in creating the running shoe as this can have a large environmental footprint.
Outsoles: Natural Rubber
Natural rubber is currently the best option for durable, non-slip outsoles. Unlike its synthetic counterpart, it doesn’t require harmful chemicals to manufacture. Moreover, farmers harmlessly collect it from rubber trees without cutting them.
Midsoles: Recycled Plastic
As of now, midsoles constitute the biggest sustainability challenge in footwear. It’s the main part behind shoe performance. That’s why brands still cling on to non-biodegradable materials for their fabrication.
An eco-friendly pair should be made from recycled materials such as plastic and/or recycled EVA. Yes, we want to completely remove the petroleum-based EVA as soon as possible. But it’s the best we can do right now to maintain functionality.
Although cork is a type of wood, it’s slightly compressible. It’s capable of molding to your feet’s outline to promote comfiness and improve running.
Just like natural rubber, cork doesn’t require cutting trees to be harvested. The bark of cork trees can be shaved every nine years without compromising the internal structure by any means.
Laces: Recycled Polyester or Natural Cotton
In spite of its small size, laces are still bad for the environment, especially under the crazy footwear consumption rate I mentioned earlier.
Organic cotton or 100% post-consumer recycled polyester should be suitable.
Fair trade and Ethical Practices: It is easy to argue why being fair trade and having ethical work practices is sustainable in the long run, so be sure to look out for companies and brands making sweatshop free running shoes (ethical) and fair trade athletic shoes.
Ironically, footwear has a big footprint of greenhouse gases. And it’s up to us, and only us, to say no.
I think that the most sustainable pair you can buy is the Allbirds Wool or Tree runners given they are carbon neutral and use sustainable methods and materials.
Never underestimate the power that your simple purchase can do. If customers become more aware of the benefits of sustainable and eco-friendly shoes, brands will have to comply.