1 Wills London black vegan trainers | $98 – Ethically made in Portugal
2 Saucony vegan | $60 – made from hemp and canvas
3 Veja Esplar leather sneakers | $120 at Bandier – fair trade, organic cotton, low-chrome leather
4 Unstitched | $65 – these are made from Tyvek, which is recyclable, and they are vegan.
5 Coclico Leather Golden flat | $292 – ethically made in Spain
6 Syou eco-friendly grey | $149 – made from PET bottles and organic cotton from industrial fabric remnants
7 Veja Arcade sneakers | €99 – organic cotton, low-chrome leather, fair trade (I have these)
8 Ethletic | €60 – fair trade certified, natural rubber (had a pair of these many years ago)
This one is for Laurie! And anyone else who’s interested in sustainable, ethical, and/or vegan sneakers….
I would consider all of these shoes (mostly) inherently sustainable because they meet certain qualifications:
- made from natural fibers like organic cotton, fair trade certified cotton, hemp
- contain Natural rubber
- use low chrome leather or vegetable tanned
- engage local production, pay fair wages, provide ethical working conditions – provide meaningful, dignified work
- made in Small batches, Thoughtful production
(vegan is NOT NECESSARILY sustainable because many faux leathers are made from petroleum products, which do not break down and are hard on the environment to produce. But, if you are a vegan, then vegan shoes are ETHICAL, and align with your values. Many vegan brands though, ARE also sustainable in that they use recycled or recyclable materials, hemp and/or organic cotton. I’ve tried to feature those here)
Beyond a product’s inherent sustainability, I also believe that you can MAKE a product sustainable by wearing it often and taking care of it; making it last as long as it was meant to, and potentially passing it on once you are finished with it, instead of throwing it away. Investing in quality products that align with your values, lifestyle, and needs is also sustainable.
Ideally, you do both : buy an inherently sustainable product, AND make it even more sustainable, or “slow” it down, by wearing it as often and as long as possible. Luckily there are more chic, modern sustainable shoe options out there, but there are also some not-so-cute ones. Sneakers, especially are tough, and I’ve yet to find a supportive running shoe that’s sustainable enough for me, but I appreciate that Adidas, among other companies are aiming to make their products, and companies as a whole more sustainable overall:
Trainers are made from about 50 components, including plastic foams, solvents and metallic fabrics – all with the potential to be highly polluting. Nike has led on reducing emissions and waste, but Puma is also improving its efforts by publishing an eco profit-and-loss account. Saucony has earned the unofficial soubriquet of “running shoes that Thom Yorke doesn’t hate” with its supply-chain transparency and support of “slow fashion”: it brings out new designs only a couple of times a year as opposed to the turbo-charged brands that bring out a new model every six weeks. (via The Guardian)
Oliberte | sustainable lifestyle brand supporting workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa
Noah vegan shoes
What do you think? Do you have any other recommendations?
Thank you for this great information! I like the Saucony and Ethletic best. I like the Unstitched too but they’re not in my size. My one hesitation on the Saucony is several of the reviews mention that the wear out pretty quickly (big toe hold is a common theme!).
Grechen Reiter says
i don’t know what it is about the big toe area…i always get a hole in my brooks running shoes there….
let me know if you try anything! i had the ethletic sneakers many years ago (sent to review) and i liked them, generally, but i just don’t like chucks that much on me, and i find them rather uncomfortable…
Confession: I have a pair of worn out chucks under my desk (with an arch support insert). 🙂
Confession 2: I have two pairs of workout socks with big toe holes as well. Not so much on my sneakers (Nike Airs).
Grechen Reiter says
oh, then you should try the ethletics if you like chucks! 🙂
I love the look of all of these sneakers! Unfortunately the weather in Pittsburgh is starting to limit my footwear options for the winter. I know that based on your climate this isn’t your area of expertise, but any recommendations for a company that makes sustainable winter boots?
Grechen Reiter says
good question!!! (also an idea for another post LOL )
off hand, i can only think of the llbean duck boot (it’s still made in maine) – but those aren’t very pretty…
coclico makes lovely boots, and no6/sandgrens/svens make clog boots if that’s your thing.
i’ll come up with more and do a post next week!
I’m so psyched to see an article on vegan sneakers. I hope you tackle sustainable vegan dress shoes and boots next. Here’s a company I am watching carefully. They ran out of the black Chelsea boots in my size, but I’m so jonesing for them. http://en.useahimsa.com/