9 Eco & Ethical Sneaker Brands You’ll Love

Sneakers and trainers are no longer just relegated to the treadmill or sports field. A great pair of runnersare stylish fashion accessories, and 90s-style sneakers and jeans are the go-to casual look. 

However, as it does with all trends, the fast fashion industry encourages a disposable system. Consumers are now rushing out to buy a new pair of sneakers as soon as their white Nike Airs or Stan Smiths lose their original pristine look. But investing in a pair of ethical, good quality shoes and learning how to care for them is ultimately more sustainable, both for the planet and for your bank account. 

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Over the years shoe companies have become notorious for bad environmental and labour practices. Which is why it’s so great we’ve found brands that are setting new standards.

Here’s the lowdown on which brands out-run the rest!

Ecoalf GoY-Ratings_4

Ecoalf ethical sneakers

California Sneakers | Ships within Europe and to the USA

Love the look and feel of Nike Free Runs but hate the brand’s unethical practices? Look no further! Spanish fashion label Ecoalf make lightweight trainers from recycled PET bottles and renewable Sorona fibres. Their shoes have all the good qualities of Nikes and none of the bad. Ecoalf creates high-quality, long-lasting products by repurposing waste such as fishing nets, old tyres, and even coffee grounds, into high-quality materials.

Ahimsa GoY-Ratings_4

Ahimsa ethical sneakersWomen’s Sneaker 771 Ivory | Ships Internationally

The phrase Ahimsa means non-violence or compassion, and the brand certainly channels this concept. They use eco-friendly, vegan materials such as reclaimed wood, natural cork, recycled PET bottle fibres and recycled cotton. They also recycle all leftover materials from the production process. Alongside this, all workers in Ahimsa’s Brazilian factory earn more than the average salary for similar positions, and receive an additional wage for groceries.

Etiko GoY-Ratings_4pt9

etiko-blueOrganic Fairtrade Lowcuts in Blue | Ships Internationally

Etiko is a small family owned business that has won several sustainability awards and all products are vegan and Fairtrade certified. The Australian brand produces ethical hi-top and low-cut sneakers in a range of colours to suit any style or outfit.

For Your Earth good on you great rating

FYE Opale SneakerOpale Sneakers in White, Electric Blue & Yellow | Ships Internationally

For Your Earth (FYE) is a streetwear brand making sneakers with sustainable materials, from the recycled soles to the organic cotton laces. FYE also uses non-toxic and natural dyes and pigments, and non-toxic water-based glues. Through their association with Planete Urgence, FYE funds the planting of one tree for each pair of shoes sold.

Nike vs Adidas – Who’s More Ethical?

Indosole good on you great rating

Indosole Kota HightopsKota Hightops by Indosole | Ships Internationally

We love to see brands using creativity to transform waste into something new and beautiful. Indosole repurposes old tyres and turns them into the soles of new streetwise shoes. Diverting tyres from landfill can have a very positive impact on the environment. Discarded tyres are normally either burnt, producing toxic fumes which pollute the environment, or left to become breeding grounds for diseases like malaria. Indosole shoes are 100% vegan, which is great news for animal lovers! Being a certified B Corporation also shows that the brand has a tendency toward sustainable and ethical ways of doing business.

Po Zu good on you great rating

Sneak C Silver | Ships Internationally

Po Zu makes sure their shoes are healthy for your feet by carefully selecting ethically sourced and natural materials. The brand also uses GOTS certified cotton and reduces its carbon footprint by manufacturing its products locally. Bonus point for the Star Wars collection, chanelling the sustainable and ethical fashion Jedi in us.

Nae good on you great rating

Milan Piñatex Sneakers | Ships Internationally

Nae is a Portuguese footwear brand using innovative materials to create shoes with “No Animal Exploitation”. Their sustainable shoe materials include recycled PET from bottles, OEKO-TEX® certified microfibres, recycled car tyres, natural cork, recycled thermoplastic and even pineapple leaf fibre! Nae also line their stylish sneakers with material made via a carbon-neutral manufacturing system.

Need some sustainable activewear to go with your sneakers?

Veja good on you great rating

Veja ethical sneakers
Arcade Flannel Dark White Sneakers | Ships Internationally

Made in Brazil from recycled cotton and wild rubber, these practical sneakers from French brand Veja are perfect for teaming with your favourite pair of jeans. Veja pays their co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers between 30% and 100% above the world market price.  By not advertising, they are able to invest more money into strengthening their ethical practices.

Adidas good on you great rating

This final brand might be a surprise.

In the 90s, sweatshops and worker mistreatment all became synonymous with big sportswear names such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and New Balance among others. In recent years a demand for corporate social responsibility has seen an increase in ethical practices.

Adidas sneakerStan Smith Shoes in Power Red | Ships Internationally

Greenpeace’s Detox the Catwalk campaign recognises the Adidas Group as being committed to eliminating hazardous chemicals from their supply chain. However, Greenpeace also states that they need to evolve faster to meet the 2020 Detox goal. The brand recently teamed up with environmental group Parley for the Oceans to create new, limited edition shoes made from recycled ocean plastics, and plans to make similar products in the future.

Adidas publically discloses its suppliers and sub-contractors, and is a signatory of the Bangladesh Fire & Safety Accord. Despite these improvements, the Adidas Group still does not pay their workers a living wage. The company is moving in the right direction, so we’re keen to see their future improvements.


With these stylish sneaker brands, you’ll not only be able to tread lightly on the Earth, but you’ll look great too. Do you have a favourite ethical sneaker brand? Tell us in the comments below!

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Editor’s note: This article was originally posted in October 2016 and updated in April 2017. Research and copy contributions by Lucy Drew and Lara Robertson

Brand ratings are correct at time of publication. Featured image via Veja. Images via brands.

Kendall Benton-Collins

Author Kendall Benton-Collins

Kendall has over a decade’s experience working in environmental conservation and communication. She’s the creator of Kindness by Design and a member of the Australia/New Zealand Working Group for Fashion Revolution.

More posts by Kendall Benton-Collins

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • nina says:

    please check out “Wado”- sneakers: https://www.wearewado.com/reforestation-project/

    Very chic sneakers! So the hipsterworld has no excuse to change their habbits too.
    Its a shame, their product is not vegan! But my guess is, they need to grow first.

    • gordonrenouf@gmail.com says:

      Hi Nina, thanks for the suggestion. It’s also good that they avoid using chromium to process the leather. But they could do more to provide more information on labour rights, both at their factories and further up the supply chain. They talk about ‘fair wages’ – but what does that mean? What are the working conditions like where their leather is grown and processed? And given their mission is to plant forests for environmental reasons it would be good if they also examined and communicated their own environmental impact in detail – at least measured and reported their own carbon emissions and acknowledged the greenhouse gas impacts of their main material (leather). They may be really good on all these things, or not, but we think all brands be fully transparent and provide that information to their customers and potential customers.

  • klara says:

    have you ever heard of Bohempia? It’s from Europe and all shoes made from HEMP. Quite cool. http://www.bohempia.eu

  • John says:

    Has anyone here tried Baabuk? They make wool shoes as well and advertise their brand responsibility.

  • Valerie says:

    Love this! Check out Z shoes! New shoe brand based in San Francisco, not only are they eco friendly, vegan and fair trade but they’re also helping stop human trafficking!

  • Mariah says:

    Oliberte in 2013 became the World’s 1st Fairtrade manufacturing factory! This should be at the top of the list because it’s likely the most ethical Coporation in Africa that is also organic and invested in it’s local communities. https://www.oliberte.com Can someone please make a chart comparing the Workers Rights Consortium vs Fair Trade Certified Brands?

  • Katherine says:

    Last time I checked, Matt & Nat used PVC as their vegan leather. Not sure if that’s still the case, though?

    • Gordon Renouf Gordon Renouf says:

      Hi Katherine
      Thanks for getting in touch. It’s a big issue! Matt and Nat say
      * The linings inside all bags are made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles.
      * They try to use sustainable materials such as cork and rubber.
      * “Various vegan leathers are used in production, … PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinylchloride). PU is less harmful for the environment than PVC and we make it a point to use it whenever possible.”

      All of the shoes they are currently selling do not use PVC (rubber, cork and PU). PU is not perfect – workers in factories in particular can be affected by toxic gases. Leather of course has some pretty serious environmental concerns as well, espeically if using business as usual chromium tanning (see The True Cost for some pretty horific images of the harm to communities from drinking the chromium polluted water in one of India’s leather tanning areas).

      We do think that Matt and Nat could be a little more transparent on their sustainability page about how much of each material they use, and if they have timelines or targets for moving to 100% less environmentally damaging vegan leathers. On the other hand we are not aware of any option that is vegan, perfect for the environment and even kind of affordable so there will always be compromises. We have an article planned for next month addressing exactly this issue.

  • Katrina says:

    What about if you want sneakers for actual exercise and not just street style. I’m currently using vivo barefoot but it would be nice to know where they really stand and what other brands I could choose from.

  • stephen says:

    Too much info to read. Just point me to the brands and leave it there.

  • NATASHA says:


  • Kim says:

    Great list thanks.
    What are your thoughts on how ethical the new Allbirds brand is? I’ve bought a pair and am really happy – they appear to be a fairly ethical company, but I don’t know for sure…

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