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12 Apr

How Ethical Is New Balance?

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New Balance is a popular athletic brand known for its quality sneakers. But how ethical is New Balance? Read on to learn more about the brand’s “Not Good Enough” rating, which was published in March 2023 and may not reflect claims the brand has made since then. Our ratings analysts are constantly rerating the thousands of brands you can check on our directory.

Is the “ultimate dad shoe brand” sustainable?

New Balance is a Boston-based brand that has been in the shoe industry for over 100 years. Known a few years ago to be the un-cool, “ultimate dad shoe”, New Balance has since become a go-to for runners, athletes, and everyday consumers alike, praised for its comfort and high quality. The brand benefitted from the return of the dad shoe trend, and thanks to well-designed collabs with sneaker designer Salehe Bembury and musician and actor Jaden Smith, it slowly “soared to the top of the streetwear game”.

On the sustainability front, New Balance says it’s committed to more sustainable practices, claiming it is “changing the way [it does] things to reduce [its] environmental impact” and “making changes today to achieve these goals between now and 2030”.

Words and goals are great, but how is New Balance really impacting people, the planet, and animals? How ethical is New Balance? Let’s find out.

Environmental impact

Bold climate response has never been more urgent, and our corporate goals aim to create a healthier planet,” says New Balance. The brand is indeed making some efforts to reduce its environmental impact. However, there is still room for improvement, and New Balance received an “It’s a Start” rating for its environmental policies.

The brand has set a target to eliminate hazardous chemicals by 2025 and claims to be on track. However, there is currently no evidence that the brand is taking meaningful action to reduce water use or protect biodiversity in its supply chain.

Additionally, despite its “green leaf standard” that “highlights environmentally preferred material (EPM) adoption across [the brand’s] footwear and apparel products,” New Balance uses few lower-impact materials.

While New Balance’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact are a good start, significant progress still needs to be made to keep up.

Labour conditions

New Balance also rates “It’s a Start” for its impact on people.

The brand’s social auditing program covering its entire final production stage is accredited by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which ensures a good level of working conditions in that part of the supply chain. The brand received a score of 41-50% in the 2022 Fashion Transparency Index.

However, there is no evidence that New Balance ensures its workers are paid living wages in most of its supply chain. The brand claims to have a program to improve wages, but there is no evidence it’s being effectively implemented. Additionally, there is no evidence that New Balance implements practices to support diversity and inclusion in its supply chain.

Overall, New Balance has taken some steps to improve labour conditions, but there is still work to be done to ensure fair and ethical treatment of workers throughout its supply chain.

Animal welfare

New Balance’s animal rating is “Not Good Enough”.

There is no evidence that the brand has an animal welfare policy. Some of its products use leather, wool, down, and exotic animal hair. New Balance does not appear to use fur, angora, or exotic animal skin, but whether animal-derived materials are traced even to the first production stage is unclear.

Based on our analysis of publicly available information, we cannot rate New Balance higher for its impact on animals. The brand has a lot of work to do to improve its practices and transparency when it comes to animal welfare.

Overall rating

Overall, we rate New Balance “Not Good Enough”. While the brand has taken some steps towards improving its impact on people and planet, it still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to using more responsible materials and ensuring living wages for its workers.

Note that Good On You ratings consider hundreds of issues, and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information, see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

See the rating.

As consumers, we can make a difference by taking care of what we own, reducing what we buy, shopping second hand, and choosing to support brands that are doing better. If you’re interested in more sustainable alternatives to New Balance, we recommend checking out second hand options first. And if you want to buy new, check out the brands below.

Good swaps

“Good” and “Great” alternatives to New Balance.


Rated: Good

Fashion and responsible production can go together and Womsh is the brand that proves it. Its shoes are entirely designed and manufactured in Italy, and its clothing range is made from lower-impact fabrics like organic cotton.

Find most shoes in EU sizes 35-42, and clothes in XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Womsh.


Rated: Good

ABLE is a US-based clothing and accessories brand that works with communities all over the world to make a meaningful impact, producing slow fashion that pays a living wage to women who have faced extraordinary circumstances. It uses lower-impact materials, and reuses water and materials to minimise waste. With thoughtful design and a level of quality that guarantees its products for life, its pieces aren't just an investment for your wardrobe, they are an investment in women around the world.

Find the range in sizes 2XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop ABLE.

Good Guys

Rated: Good

Good Guys creates cruelty-free shoes for women and men, founded and designed by Marion Hanania in Paris. Through Good Guys, Hanania aims to create the perfect cruelty-free, made in Europe closet, where no animal product is involved, and the production guarantees fair trade working conditions.

Find most shoes in EU sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop Good Guys.

Shop Good Guys @ Immaculate Vegan.


Rated: Good

NAE is a Portuguese footwear, bags, and accessories brand using innovative materials to create goods with “No Animal Exploitation”. Its lower-impact materials include recycled PET from bottles, OEKO-TEX® certified microfibres, recycled car tyres, natural cork, recycled thermoplastic, and even pineapple leaf fibre.

Find most of the shoes in sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop NAE.

Shop NAE @ Urbankissed.

Shop NAE @ Immaculate Vegan.


Rated: Good

Veja is a French brand designing ecological and fair trade footwear, and is also a responsible fashion pioneer. The brand uses lower-impact materials, like GOTS certified cotton and vegetable-tanned leather. Veja pays its co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers between 30% and 100% above the world market price. By not advertising, Veja is able to invest more money into strengthening its practices.

You can find Veja shoes in women's EU sizes 35-46, and men's 35-47.

See the rating.

Shop Veja.

Shop Veja @ Cerqular.

Shop Veja @ LVRSustainable.

Shop Veja @ Outerknown.

Shop Veja @ Threads 4 Thought.

Shop Veja Kids second hand @ Retykle.


Rated: Good
Close view of someone in shoes by COG.

Based in France, COG is a footwear label that creates more sustainable, vegan shoes from 100% recycled materials, including natural corks, used cotton scraps, end-of-life rubber, and plastic bottles fished out of the sea.

Offered in sizes EU 35-46.

See the rating.

Shop COG.

Shop COG @ Immaculate Vegan.

Flamingos’ Life

Rated: Good
Someone putting on sneakers by Flamingo's Life.

Flamingos' Life creates sneakers that are free from animal-derived materials for everyone. The brand uses lower-impact and PETA approved vegan materials, including upcycled materials.

Find the range in sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop Flamingos' Life.


Rated: Good

ID.EIGHT is an Italian brand that was born from the meeting between Dong Seon Lee and Giuliana Borzillo, both come from the world of footwear, where they worked and met. Together they have created a more ethical and sustainable collection of sneakers with a refined design. The shoes are made in Italy with lower-impact materials from food industry waste such as apple peels, grape stalks and seeds, and pineapple leaves, as well as recycled cotton and polyester.

Find the shoes in EU sizes 36-46.

See the rating.


Ella & Witt

Rated: Good
Cropped shot of three people wearing a blue, white, and grey pair of sustainable sneakers by Ella Witt.

100% vegan and PETA certified, Ella & Witt is a cutting-edge German brand that offers sneakers, boots, and more. Believe it or not, these red sneaks are made from corn leather and recycled PET bottles as carrier material.

Find shoes in sizes 41-47.

See the rating.

Shop Ella & Witt.

Check out our ultimate guide to more sustainable sneakers

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash. All other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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