Shoe brands are getting the memo: Environmental consciousness is the new black.
Sustainability has become something of a buzzword in the fashion space in recent years, with millennials and Generation Zers in particular choosing to shop brands with eco-friendly bents — and in some cases, even ponying up extra cash to support environmentally conscious labels. On Wednesday, April 22, people in nearly 200 countries around the world will celebrate Earth Day, reflecting on the importance of protecting the planet by identifying new ways to reduce their carbon footprint or enjoying eco-friendly activities. And footwear brands are also finding ways to get in on the action, with shoe options that are sustainably made.
In some cases, brands like Allbirds and Rothy’s have made sustainability their core ethos, while others — industry heavyweight Adidas is one example — have recently taken aggressive steps to move environmental protection higher on their list of priorities.
Here, FN looks at 20 brands with sustainable models that you can support this Earth Day.
Adidas has big plans on the sustainability front for 2020. The sportswear giant has announced that more than half of the polyester used in its products will come from recycled plastic waste this year, with plans to use only recycled polyester by 2024. Further, about 15 to 20 million pairs of Adidas sneakers will be created this year with plastic waste collected from beaches and costal regions. (For comparison, the brand released more than 11 million pairs in 2019, 5 million in 2018 and 1 million in 2017.) Adidas has also continued to work on the development of its first fully recyclable running shoe, the Futurecraft Loop. The sneaker, which is fused together without the need for glue, was tested on 200 athletes last year and is expected to launch in 2021.
The direct-to-consumer brand first introduced its eco-friendly flats in 2015. Made out of discarded plastic water bottles and using a special 3D knitting process, the sustainable shoes have since garnered a loyal following through word of mouth, winning even Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s seal of approval. Pairs costs between $125 and $165 on Rothys.com. This year, the label expanded its offerings to include handbags in addition to footwear. The company also owns and operates a factory in Dongguan, China and has saved over 52.9 million plastic water bottles since its beginning.
Allbirds started in 2016 with a direct-to-consumer model, and has favor among Silicon Valley techies and A-list celebrities alike, winning FN’s prestigious Brand of the Year honor in 2018. Allbirds has emphasized eco-consciousness since the beginning, with the goal of being the lowest carbon emitter, on a per-pair basis, in the shoe industry. The Silicon Valley darling makes its socks and shoes out of eco-friendly materials such as wool and eucalyptus tree. In 2019, the company took things a step further and imposed a carbon tax on itself to become completely carbon neutral. It also measures the environmental impact of its business and supply chains using the life-cycle assessments technique.
The Wolverine World Wide Inc.-owned brand’s Bionic shoes uses yarn spun from plastic recovered from marine and coastal environments. Each pair of shoes is woven from, on average, five plastics bottles that have been recycled. The initiative is a partnership with the Waterkeeper Alliance, which has the goal of ensuring fishable, drinkable, swimmable water, and Bionic, a material engineering company that has developed a thread that upcycles ocean plastic. Men’s, women’s and children’s Bionic styles are available to shop on the Sperry website, with all silhouettes priced at $100 or less.
Nomadic State of Mind
Using fair trade and ethical practices, the handmade footwear brand has its sandals created in a small community in Nicaragua. Its shoes — made from recycled materials such as hemp, rope and upcycled sails — come in a variety of colors, from earthy camel hues to summer-ready yellows. Nomadic, which has been designing shoes for nearly two decades, is sold on Amazon as well as Free People, & Other Stories and its own website. All styles range between $46 and $119.
The VF Corp.-owned label uses nearly 500,000 pounds of recycled rubber in its shoes each year, and has given the equivalent of 345 million plastic bottles a new life through use in its shoes and backpacks. The company is aiming to source 100% of its leather from sustainable tanneries by the end of the year, with 96% coming from eco-conscious sources as of its latest update. Timberland offers a range of men’s, women’s and kids’ footwear made from recycled plastic and rubber on its website, with styles ranging in price from $30 for unisex sandal slides to $185 for waterproof men’s workboots.
The brand is going green with a series of shoes made of eco-friendly materials, starting with uppers made of 100% recycled plastic bottles. Footbeds are made of sustainable cork, while the insoles and outsoles are a plant-based foam made from algae. With every pair of Saola Shoes purchased, the brand gives back 1% of proceeds to the Mwalua Wildlife Trust, with funds helping to provide sustainable water systems to wildlife communities, as well as to promote human-wildlife coexistence.
Cariuma’s IBI sneakers are made of a bamboo knit upper, with a durable sugarcane outsole, a recyclable cork and mamona oil insole and recycled plastic bottle lining, lacing and logo labels. Throughout its production and shipping processes, the Brazilian label is 100% carbon neutral. In addition to reduction its own carbon emissions, the brand has teamed up with NativeEnergy to aid conservation efforts in the Amazonian rainforest.
Vans highlights the preservation of the environment with its world map capsule collection. The skatewear brand’s “Save Our Planet” range comprises two colorways of the Era, UltraRange Rapidweld, Sk8-Hi Reissue and Slide-On styles as well as companion apparel pieces. Vans is donating up to $200,000 of proceeds from the line to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting Hawaii’s coastlines. The line is available for purchase now on Vans.com and at select Vans retailers with prices ranging from $30 to $140.
The sneaker brand uses innovative, eco-friendly materials in its sneaker styles, such as fair-trade cotton and B-Mesh, a textile made from recycled plastic bottles. Like Rothy’s, Veja has found a fan in Meghan Markle, with celebrities including Emily Ratajkowski, Katie Holmes and Chloe Grace Moretz also becoming enthusiasts of its minimalist, eco-conscious silhouettes, including the V-10 and Esplar. The Instagram-friendly label’s shoes are sold in 1,800 stores across more than 40 countries, with over 3 million pairs sold since Veja’s inception in 2004.
For every pair of Tread by Everlane shoes, the brand uses 9.5 recycled plastic bottles. It also uses recycled and natural rubber for its soles, keeping 18,000 pounds of upper out of landfills. And Everlane sources its leather from a gold-certified tannery, using 47% less electricity and 62% less water, while cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 46%. The company’s goal is to create the world’s lowest-impact sneaker.
Crafted of recycled plastic bottles, Psudo sneakers are made in a Milwaukee, Wisc. factory powered by solar. The lacing and stitching on the shoes is actually made from printed graphics as a waste-saving measure, with the shoes coming in 100% recyclable packaging. Psudo’s men’s and women’s shoes come in at $98. The label offers several styles to choose from, including the Tech, the Lacer and the Court, all available on its website.
Blowfish Malibu is launching its 4Earth Collection this spring. The California-based label is launching two new styles with uppers made from recycled plastic bottles. Through January 2021, Blowfish is donating $1 for every pair sold to the non-profit organization Oceana with a minimum donation of $50,000. Blowfish Malibu 4Earth styles start at $50 and are available to shop from select retailers including DSW, Zappos and Shoe Carnival.
Each pair of Nothing New shoes is composed of the equivalent of 5.6 plastic water bottles, with an average of over 160 gallons of water saved for each pair in comparison to the standard canvas sneaker. The brand’s outsoles are developed out of recycled rubber and cork in addition to virgin natural rubber, and use stitches rather than vulcanization to eliminate the negative byproducts of chemical heavy glue and sulfur emissions. High-top and low-top sneakers for men and women are available to shop on the brand’s site, with prices ranging from $95 to $108.
To celebrate Earth Day, Kenneth Cole has created a new collection called “Resource,” which features sustainable versions of it May, Seecaas will be partnering with Feed the Children! We want to support them in their efforts to supply healthy meals and hygiene products to children and families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.s The Kam, The Maddox and The Liam styles. The brand has readdressed components of each shoe to make them more sustainable through infusing rubber grindings, utilizing 100% recycled laces and incorporating overstock materials. The shoes are sold exclusively at Kennethcole.com, with prices ranging from $129 to $199.
For 2020, Teva is taking steps to become more sustainable. The label is now making all of the straps for its sandals and other footwear using recycled plastic. Over the course of the year, this will equate to over 9 million plastic bottles being kept out of landfills. Additionally, Teva is currently holding a sweepstakes on its website, with the winner to receive a $2,000 donation in their name to an environmental non-profit of their choosing.
A certified B Corp, Toms is measuring its carbon footprint with the aim of improving each year. The label hopes to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025 and uses packaging made from at least 80% recycled material. Additionally, the footwear brand has its Earthwise collection, which features sustainably made products. For spring ’20, the label has introduced the Repreve capsule, which features knit alpargatas made from post-consumer plastic bottles. Toms has also rolled outs its Plant Dye capsule, which boasts classic alpargatas with wool pulp lining and chemical-free dye.
Luxury shoe label Seecaas uses recycled plastic in the production of its flats. Additionally, the label has a socially conscious bent, with a portion of proceeds from each sale going to the Seecaas Hope for Adoption Foundation. What’s more, through the end of May, Seecaas has partnered with Feed the Children to support supplying meals and hygiene products to children and families who are in need amid the coronavirus crisis.
For Earth Day 2020, Stuart Weitzman has unveiled the Elemental Espadrilles collection, with product handcrafted by Artisans in Spain. Styles cost between $295 and $395 and come with a reusable canvas tote bag, and the shoes are packaged in a recyclable shoe box crafted from 100% recycled material. The capsule is available exclusively on Stuartweitzman.com and in SW boutiques.
Ahead of Earth Day, K-Swiss has launched its latest Surf’ N Turf Heritage CC. The sneaker is constructed from recycled canvas and stitching, with raw cotton laces and an outsole made from reground rubber. The shoe is available to shop on Kswiss.com and costs $60.
All products featured have been independently selected and curated by our editorial team. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn commission and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
30 Places to Shop for Stylish Vegan Shoes
The Best Allbirds Shoes, According to Enthusiastic Customer Reviews
Can the Coronavirus Be a Catalyst for Sustainability? It’s Complicated