What to Look for
Shoe production is part of the same problem as fast-fashion. Often products are manufactured cheaply, worn for a short amount of time and thrown into landfill, flowing a linear, wasteful economy. This is why we recommend looking for shoes which will last a lot longer and when you do dispose of them, recycling them rather than throwing them into landfill. A second big issue with shoe manufacturing are the harmful chemicals required to make the shoes. Often machines are used to manufacture the shoes, machines which run on large amounts of fossil fuels. Beyond this the materials used are unsustainable, often using up natural resources and the factories are based in third-world countries due to cheaper labour, often meaning long carbon-exhaustive journeys are required to reach the shops or customer. Look for companies that used more sustainable materials such as recycled materials, Piñatex and organic cotton.
The Brand: Veja are committed to the environment and are completely transparent about how their products are made, how much labourers are paid and what chemicals they use. Any cotton is certified organic bought directly from farmers. This ensures the cotton is sourced with care for the environment, and workers are fairly paid. They also upcycle, being the first trainer brand to use fabric made entirely from plastic water bottles: B-mesh. Their other materials include: Hexamesh, composed of 70% organic cotton and 30% recycled plastic bottles; J-mesh created using a blend of jute, recycled cotton and recycled PET; recycled polyester; CWL, a vegan and bio-sourced material made from cotton fabric covered by an upcycled corn-based coating. These guys really know how to reuse materials!
The Product: Veja offer a huge range of fashionable trainers in classic and more modern styles. They are easily recognisable by their signature 'v' on the side of the trainers which can come in vibrant or more muted colours. More recently they have released a range of running shoes.
The Brand: As a certified B-Corp you can feel confident that Allbirds have sustainability at the centre of what they do. They follow the principles of measure, reduce, offset. They combine the materials, manufacturing, product use and end of life to calculate each product's footprint and put it on display as the first step towards reducing it. They are working hard to drive emissions down to zero and eventually hope to be carbon-negative. However, until they can do so they tax themselves for the carbon they do emit by investing in offsets.
The Product: Allbirds have a heavier focus on running shoes, however do provide more casual trainers and slip-ons. They have three main running shoe styles: the Wool Dasher Mizzles which are weather-ready running shoes with extra grip; Tree Dashers, which are supportive and breathable for your everyday runs; Wool Dasher Mizzles - Mid, which are again a weather-ready running shoe but have a mid cut knit sock collar to keep you warmer and drier.
The Brand: NAE stands for 'No Animal Exploitation'. The brand make shoes which are an animal-friendly ecological alternative against human exploitation. What makes this brand sustainable is mainly the materials used. These include: Piñatex, a natural fabric made from pineapple leaves which are usually discarded; organic cotton which is grown from non-GM seeds and without pesticides, harvested from fields which are regularly rotated to allow the soil to recover; cork harvested from cork oak trees, cork farming actually has a negative carbon footprint; recycled PET which uses up materials already in circulation rather than consuming natural resources; vegan leather which is a mix of cotton, polyester and nylon (recycled whenever possible). The company also manufactures locally in Portugal to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Product: Our favourite thing about NAE is the huge variety of shoes they offer. whether you're looking for some boots for muddy walks, sandals for summer or smart shoes for work they have it all!
The Brand: Funky Kalakar focus on circular fashion. They do this by making the whole of their shoes from discarded car tyres to prevent landfill pollution and using natural resources. Moreover, their packaging is 100% plastic-free and 100% biodegradable. Their vegan shoes are certified by PETA and they make their products by hand to reduce their carbon footprint. They also have a scheme called 'Go Zero' in which they encourage you to send your old shoes to them in exchange for a 15% discount on your next purchase.
The Product: They offer a range of comfy slip-ons, flats for everyday wear and smarter shoes, including heels, for more occasional wear.
We try our best to research and find the best environmentally-friendly companies to recommend here. However, if you have any suggestions that we might not know of, or disagree with any of our recommendations, please get in contact: firstname.lastname@example.org .We always want to learn more about the companies with the potential to save our future.