10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands

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How To Choose The Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands

The shift to sustainability starts with millions of small steps. In the case of running shoes, brands around the world have made great strides towards eco-alternatives for those who want to make their footprint on the earth a little lighter.

When it comes to the footwear industry, sneakers are perhaps the most popular style, companies pumping out over 23 billion pairs each year. That’s 46 billion shoes made from brand new materials like polyester, rubber, and nylon, produced from petroleum, and processed using toxic chemicals that create clouds of giant cO2 emissions.

The sad part is that, though all of these materials are recyclable, often, shoes are just thrown in the trash, headed towards the landfill to slowly break down over the next 30-40 years, if not more. Perfectly good materials go to waste along with the carbon emissions it took to create them.

Thankfully, there are brands dedicated to disrupting this toxic cycle, some of which have been doing so for decades. There are a few newcomers to the scene on this list as well, fueled with the passion for helping the planet before it’s too late.

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands

Ahead, we’ll introduce you to our top 10 picks for the best sustainable running shoe brands on the market, starting with one that’s been around for over 15 years, Veja.

1. Veja

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
Veja

In English, the brand’s Brazilian name translates to “look.” The vision of Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, Veja was created in 2005 to transform the way sneakers, a cultural symbol, were seen and experienced.

A brand with a name like Look wouldn’t be as impactful if its practices weren’t laid clearly before our eyes. On its site, you’ll find details—down to the price they pay for organic cotton—about how, where, and why the brand sources and makes its sneakers.

In addition to showing customers exactly where each manufacturing process takes place in Brazil, you can read all about the makeup of its shoes on each product’s page.

Veja offers a range of men’s, women’s, and kid’s sneakers, but since this is a best sustainable running shoe brands list, we’ll be zooming in on its runners. Making just three styles of eco-friendly running shoes for adults, we found that the majority include a mix of recycled polyester, organic cotton, and natural rubber.

Veja’s transparency and admission of details no conventional brand would ever let past their lips make it a shoo-in for our top 10 best sustainable running shoes.

But what do customers think? That Veja creates one-of-a-kind running shoes. Short distance runners remark on the superb grip of the Condor 2, along with the brand’s trademarked L-Foam that minimizes impact.

You can get a pair of Veja’s for $140-$180 in classic colors. But, there are a few neon glints thrown here and there.

2. AllBirds

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
AllBirds

AllBirds has been around since 2014 when Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger came together to launch an innovative running shoe brand that used the natural power of Merino wool. Australian natives, the duo were no strangers to the sustainable properties of wool, a fabric that had been used for socks, but not often for athletic shoes.

AllBirds designs don’t include any fancy bits and bobs or flashy logos. Its running shoes are simple and designed to be worn casually or even by those logging frequent 10ks.

The shoes, created to last through the seasons, come in two styles for men and women—Tree Dashers and Wool Dashers. The latter is made from premium Merino wool.

Tree Dashers come from eucalyptus tree fibers, another Australian native, that offer a lightweight shoe lined with the antibacterial and anti-odor miracle fabric that is Merino wool.

Related: View our full Allbirds Shoes Review to learn more.

The reason AllBirds made our cut for the best sustainable running shoe brands lies in its choice of renewable materials, but also in its transparency. Sustainability and being open about sourcing and manufacturing go hand in hand, as words are useless without the proof to back them up.

What makes AllBirds running shoes some of the best is their use of a SweetFoam (sugar cane) midsole that returns energy to the runner with every step. This material also helps to make the brand’s runners completely carbon neutral, their cO2e score clocking in at 11.3 kg before the company buys offsets.

AllBirds running shoes have been tested with over 50 casual and professional athletes through an entire year’s worth of runs and were proven to pull their weight—and yours. The runners love how soft the Merino wool is on their foot, noting that it’s more of a slipper than a running shoe, conforming to your foot perfectly.

Machine washable and biodegradable, you can get a pair of AllBirds for $125-$145.

3. Icebug

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
Icebug

Icebug is a Swedish brand on a mission “to get people out more AND be a leader in transforming our industry to be completely sustainable.” Created in 2001 by a mother and son team, Eliza Törnkvist and David Ekelund, the brand specializes in traction footwear.

In its men’s and women’s collections you’ll find 14 different styles of running and performance shoes spiked with cleats or firm grips. The shoes look incredibly high-tech, and it’s actually surprising they’re sustainably made.

IceBug shoes are made from 100% recycled PET polyester, BLOOM foam (algae), and recycled mesh made from old fishing nets. You can see the exact breakdown of what’s in each of the brand’s sneakers, and while the entire shoe isn’t made from recycled material, it’s certainly high up there.

IceBug strives in other ways to help the planet, reducing greenhouse emissions as much as possible, then offsetting them using UN-certified emission reductions.

Runners say they feel extremely confident when wearing IceBig on the ice, and that they’re able to run at their normal pace without worrying about slipping and falling.

Pick up a pair for between $160-$220.

4. Hylo Athletics

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
Hylo Athletics

Hylo Athletics is perhaps the newest name in the sustainable shoe game, its first design released during the 2020 Pandemic in the UK. The brand, founded by Michael Doughty, offers just one style of shoe for men and women, but one is all it needs considering the engineering for said shoe is out of this world.

The shoes come in six solid, versatile colors, are lightweight and supportive, but it’s their construction that makes shoppers do a double-take. They’re made from a mix of corn fiber, natural rubber, algae bloom, organic cotton, with water-based glue, and just a touch of polyester.

By choosing such a high rate of natural materials, local sourcing, and minimal packaging, Hylo’s carbon footprint is just 7.83 kg. The brand squashes its impact down to zero by funding a project that installs biogas digesters in Sichuan that turn organic waste into clean fuel.

At the end of Hylo sneakers’ lives, they are completely recyclable. The brand even offers free return labels for those shipping their retired shoes back to be recycled.

When you think “Corn Runners” the word “durable” doesn’t exactly come to mind, but runners around the world are continually surprised at how sturdy the shoes actually are, along with being breathable, lightweight, and comfortable—and perfect for runs.

Grab a pair of Corn Runners for $130.

5. Giesswein

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
Giesswein

Giesswein is the name with the longest history on this best sustainable running shoe brands list. The Austrian company’s specialty is woolen shoes and apparel, and in 2019, it sold over 1 million pairs of shoes alone.

The brand is on a mission “to make wool perform in its most optimal way, and to use these properties to enhance your clothing and footwear.” Run by the third generation of Giesswein men, Markus and Johannesburg, the brand creates modern takes on traditional woolen shoes, offering 3D stretch to ensure they’re snug and stretchy for the perfect fit and feel.

Giesswein is a traditional company with admirable values, like wasting absolutely no wool and recycling 90% of the water used in production.

Using Merino wool, a natural and renewable resource, the brand’s shoes wick away sweat from your feet, keep them warm, and negate odors.

The brand makes three styles of running shoes, the Wool Cross, Wool Peak, and Wool Cross X Alpine. Customers love that with any of these shoes, socks aren’t required, the shoe itself fits snug enough to the foot that it acts like a sock itself and keeps moisture away from your feet.

Using Giesswein Energy Run Material, the shoes actually give you energy back with every step, cushioning your impact on the ground. Their running shoes are made of something called Woolfinity, a twisted Merino wool yarn that increases the shoes’ durability and resilience when running. 

Giesswein’s website says that they’ve made 700k customers happy with their shoes, which cost $160

6. Vivobarefoot

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
Vivobarefoot

With shoemaking in their blood, seventh-gen cobblers Galahad and Asher Clark set out to make footwear a little differently. Their idea was sustainability, and so each and every shoe they make is made from a mix of recycled materials, and fewer materials overall. 

The premise behind barefoot footwear is to bring us all closer to the earth. The brand’s shoes connect us with nature, so it only makes sense that the things that tread the ground be kind to it too.

The goal at Vivobarefoot is to “make regenerative footwear and experiences to bring you closer to nature.” Offering four men’s and four women’s active shoes, each one is designed to help you perform to your best, using recycled PU foam for the insole. 

Related: Check out the full VivoBareFoot Shoes Review for a full analysis.

The shoes are also completely animal-free and recyclable after you’re done using them. All you need to do is ship them back and Vivobarefoot will take care of the rest.

With a 4.3/5 star rating on Trustpilot from over 7k shoppers, runners love them for their support and second-skin-like feel.

You’ll find Vivobarefood running shoes anywhere from $115-$170.

7. On Running

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
On Running

The On Running story begins in Zurich, Switzerland in 2012 with a simple yet bold mission to “change the world of running.” Founded by Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann, and Caspar Coppetti, the brand is a result of the three friend’s passion for running and the need to find the perfect running shoe.

It needed to have a cushioned landing but firm take-off, and for that, they turned to a fabric called Helion™ super foam, implemented a Speedboard® heel, a wide outsole, and a cushiony tongue to create the Cloudflyer Waterproof running shoe.

Today, the company offers more than 16 different running shoe styles for men and women. They’re each made from a mix of fabrics that are 100% waterproof and windproof.

On Running is transparent, and they admit they have a long way to go in the realm of sustainability. The reason they’re on our best sustainable running shoe brands list is for their accountability and the fact that the Cyclon is the brand’s first 100% recyclable shoe—plus it only costs about $27 and is made from bio-based sources.

All of the brand’s other shoes clock in around $140-$230 and use about 20% recycled material. A well-known and favored brand in the running community. On Running shoes are available in over 6,500 stores in more than 50 countries around the world.

8. Lane Eight

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
Lane Eight

Lane Eight is the product of James and Josh Shorrock, brothers who are on a mission “to make the world’s best workout shoes.” The perfect shoe also needed to be good for the planet, which is why their signature running shoe, the Trainer AD 1, is made from recycled plastic with an algae-based cushion and vegan suede.

Founded in 2017, the brand is based in Hong Kong, China. Its one shoe style is offered in 13 different colors and patterns—a range of bright neons, fun patterns, and classic neutrals. There is some variation in colors between the men’s and women’s lines, but not much.

The shoe is designed for running, but works for gym sessions or casual walks too—it’s versatile and works for a range of movements, unlike traditional brands whose shoes cater to one type only.

The reason Lane Eight landed a spot on our best sustainable running shoe brands list is for its materials and the way it gives back. Removing toxic algae blooms from the ocean and using them as a cushion in its shoes, the brand also makes sure to send clean water back to the environments it takes from, negating toxic runoff and capturing carbon dioxide with the algae foam.

Lane Eight also works with organizations like Shoes That Fit that gives unworn and gently worn shoes to kids in need.

You can read all about what the Trainer AD 1 is made from clearly on the brand’s website, like 11 recycled plastic bottles, and it’s this kind of transparency that makes the brand one of the best eco-friendly running shoes around.

The brand’s trainer has a 4.7/5 star score from 835 buyers, with frequent comments of how comfortable and breathable they are. You can pick up a pair for $110.

9. Ecoalf

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
Ecoalf

Ecoalf won the Schwab Foundation’s Social Innovators of the Year award in 2020 for its line of conscious sneakers. Named after founder Javier Goyeneche’s sons, Alfredo and Alvaro, the brand has proved itself as one that’s honestly sustainable in every sense of the word.

The folks at Ecoalf believe they have a mission “that goes beyond just business.” Since fashion is the second largest industry in the world that causes the most pollution, designers need to step up to the plate.

Ecoalf does its part by choosing recycled PET and reducing water and energy consumption. The brand uses 50% less energy and 20% less water than other sneaker companies do, and generates 60% fewer carbon emissions.

You can see a list of where the brand sources its recycled polyester—from post-consumer trash, the sea, and garment waste. So far, it’s recycled over 250 million plastic bottles into its collections, with 1.4 million used in the Fall/Winter 2020 collection made from 96% recycled materials.

Its shoes also use recycled cotton and tires in its men’s, women’s, and kid’s collections along with algae and Sorona® (partly plant-based and recyclable). The result? Shoes that are recyclable and completely vegan.

Ecoalf offers a mix of casual, hiking, and walking shoes that can also double as casual runners. The Oregon Sneakers and Arctic Sneakers look to be the best choices for hitting the trail, the first, saving 148.61 liters of water in the production process.

We understand why this brand won that award, its practices and shoes, an admirable journey. You can get a pair for yourself and do the planet a solid for $115-$145.

10. Lunge

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands
Lunge

Lunge exudes German quality. From the sleek engineering of its running shoes to the high standards for sustainability, the brand, whose factory is located in a former cowshed in Düsseldorf, Mecklenburg, was launched in the 1980s.

The majority of the materials the brand uses for its shoes come from Germany, meaning their carbon footprint will already be quite low. Only sourcing from trusted, high-quality suppliers, Lunge adheres to the many German guidelines for sustainability to ensure that having a great run doesn’t mean damaging the earth.

You’ll find three different styles of running shoes at Lunge, the Classic Run, Derby S, and Integer, offered in cool colors like curry yellow and lawn green. Made of all vegan and non-toxic materials, Lunge running shoes are made with 80% EVA (normal sneakers have 20%) to balance comfort with support.

The high level of EVA makes them more efficient than traditional runners too, meaning you’ll retain energy when your foot hits the pavement. Reviews say the brand’s shoes are bouncy and provide an extra boost when running on the track.

Experience comfort, performance, and a low environmental impact with a pair of Lunge runners for $180-$250.

Do The Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands Last?

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands

A lot of the shoes on this list contain a mix of materials, the majority using recycled materials like PET to earn them eco-star status.

For designs made primarily from plants, your shoe won’t necessarily break down any faster than a traditional one would because natural materials are hardy and durable. Plus, you’ll need to send the shoes back to be recycled and composted, you won’t be able to bury them in the garden—meaning they’re not going to break down easily.

There are a few names on this best sustainable running shoe brands list that use plants to create their shoes, but the majority use recycled plastics, along with recycled wool, and cotton.

These choices help the brand cut down on waste and carbon emissions while still retaining the quality and function of a traditional running shoe.

Are Sustainable Running Shoes Suitable For Serious Runners?

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands

Most of the best sustainable running shoe brands listed here have rigorously tested their shoes with long-distance runners. These companies are often started by people who are serious runners, and for that reason, they’re serious about designing a shoe that will go the distance.

Eco shoe brands know they have a large bill to fit to be successful, and one of the components of that success would be creating a supportive shoe that would last through the toughest conditions.

Some of our top picks are compatible with orthotics for extra support, have interchangeable soles, or offer a range of fits catering to all types of feet. So, yes, sustainable running shoes are just as suitable for serious runners as they are for those who go for casual, light jogs.

Can You Recycle Sustainable Running Shoes?

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands

When reading through this best sustainable running shoe brands list, you probably saw the words “biodegradable,” “compostable,” and “recyclable” quite a lot.

Before you plan out a nice garden grave for your expired plant-based runners, you should know that none of them can be composted at home. Instead, they’ll need certain conditions to break down properly, and often, brands provide incentives for you to send your expired, bio-shoes back to be properly broken down in their facilities.

Most eco-shoes are a mix of materials, meaning all parts won’t break down the same way. You may find a shoe that’s made from both organic cotton and recycled PET, and though the cotton will decompose on its own, the PET won’t.

For more information on how to recycle or compost your new sustainable shoes, talk to the brand you bought them from.

What Are The Best Materials For Sustainable Running Shoes?

10 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands

Running shoes are traditionally made up of a mix of plastic, rubber, polyester, nylon, and sometimes even synthetic leather or PU. It takes 30-40 years for some of these materials to break down, while others will continue living on for much longer, and though we don’t usually like to point fingers, plastic, we’re talking about you.

Now that you’ve read about some of the coolest sustainable running shoe brands around, it’s important to understand what the materials they’re using mean for the planet.

Recycled Rubber

First off, any material you recycle is going to be better for the planet than if you were to source brand new. Rubber comes from petroleum or certain types of trees and hardens into a flexible, springy, and tough material.

Rubber is usually used to make the bottoms of running shoes, where its durability definitely comes in handy. If made from plant rubber, it will naturally break down but it takes over 100 years to do so.

Natural Yarn

Natural yarn can be made of any kind of natural material like cotton or wool that is spun into filaments and then woven into yarn. When yarn is spun, the strands are twisted, resulting in a super-strong structure perfect for running shoes that see a lot of action.

Since natural yarn is soft, it cradles your foot for a more comfortable wear. Plus, it’s made from organic matter, so it’s completely biodegradable.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is a natural resource, sheared from the fluff of happy, hillside sheep. The material is naturally strong, odor-resistant, and protective, making it ideal for things that go on your feet.

There are so many good things about Merino wool, but there are a few downsides like though it wicks moisture away from the skin, the material itself can take a long time to dry. Also, though we like to think of the sheep as happy, some are poorly treated and the shearing process can injure them if not carefully done.

Cork

Cork comes from the cork oak tree. It’s spongy, supportive, and durable, and bounces back with ease. If that doesn’t sound like the ideal base of a shoe then we don’t know what is.

Cork breaks down naturally and can be tossed into your home compost, but getting cork from the trees can be tricky as you can only harvest them every 9-12 months so as to not harm the tree’s life—but that’s more of a pro than a con. It just means that cork may not be as widely used as it could be.

Recycled Plastics

Recycled plastic is great. Many of the companies on this best sustainable running shoe brands list use recycled plastics in their designs, turning plastic water bottle waste into supportive shoes that save the planet.

Plastic, whether in PU or Polyester, because of its naturally tough and flexible nature, translates to a withstanding material that holds up under constant pounding, water, and movement.

Though there are tons of great reasons to use recycled plastics, like stopping the creation of new ones, at the end of the day, the material is still plastic. It can only be recycled so many times in its life.

Recycled Mesh

To give a close and supportive fit, some of the best sustainable running shoe brands use woven mesh for the body of their shoes. This mesh acts like a sock, providing light compression to your foot and ankle.

Recycled mesh may have come from other running shoes and is often made from polyester or nylon. Neither of these materials is natural, so they won’t be able to be composted, but they can be recycled.

Organic Cotton

Compared to traditional cotton, natural cotton uses 80% less water to produce. It’s used by many sustainable brands and is perhaps one of the easiest choices when it comes to choosing an earth-friendly option.

Organic cotton is kind on skin, breathable, and soft. When choosing it for a running shoe, this material has a comfortable feel for feet that go the distance.

Perhaps the only downside to this biodegradable material is that organic cotton farms produce 25% less cotton than traditional types, meaning it will be a more expensive option.

Recycled Polyester

Polyester is made from petroleum and during its production, harmful chemicals are used. This process means that toxins are released into the atmosphere and flushed down the drain in the form of microplastics that end up in our drinking water or the ocean.

Recycled polyester saves this process from being repeated, but often, bleach and chemicals are used during the recycling process to get the different shades of fabric to all match.

Anything that saves on materials and resources will always be a better choice, but in terms of sustainability, polyester is non-renewable and cannot be composted. Because of its sturdy nature and flexibility, using it for running shoes makes sense.

Sugar Cane

Sugar cane is a pretty awesome renewable resource and it’s 100% recyclable, meaning it can be used over and over again without breaking down—even though it’s a natural resource.

Sugar cane, when processed for shoes, is called SweetFoam, a spongy, durable, and supportive material that’s used for the bottom part of a shoe. It’s made from the parts of the sugar cane that would have been discarded after all the sweet goodness is sucked out.
It’s been said that SweetFoam has the potential to be a zero-carbon emissions material.


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