Sneakers and trainers are no longer just relegated to the treadmill or sports field. A great pair of runners can now be 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!
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.
Women’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.
Organic 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.
Opale 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.
Kota 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.
Bonaventure Sneaker | Ships Internationally
These sneakers from Canadian label Matt & Nat are perfect for adding a bit of height without sacrificing comfort. The brand uses 100% vegan, sustainable and recycled materials such as PU, cork, rubber and recycled PET bottles in their products. Its factories are also SA800 certified, which ensures the basic human rights of its workers by providing a sufficient living wage and a safe, nondiscriminatory workplace.
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?
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.
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.
Stan 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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Brand ratings are correct at time of publication. Featured image via Veja. Images via brands.