Until a decade ago or so, sneakers were essentially used for sport, but today it is part of everyday wear and very much a fashion item. Did you know that the average pair of sneakers are made up of 65 components? And every single pair produces more than 13 kg of carbon dioxide emissions?
So it is even more important today to make a conscious choice and move towards eco sustainable products. Look for eco shoe brands that have made eco sustainability an integral part of their business. From sneakers made from wool to interchangeable uppers and soles, these are sure ways of how to reduce a carbon footprint.
Fashion and ecology are strengthening their partnership with new products and materials that are respectful of their environmental impact. More brands are introducing green sneakers that respect the environment and use sustainable and recycled materials, which is a game changer for your wardrobe.
Allbirds was launched in 2014 and is one of the eco shoes brands that make footwear from sustainable materials and natural fibers such as merino wool, eucalyptus and sugarcane waste. The lightweight and soft eco friendly shoes are backed by Leonardo di Caprio, amongst other big names.
Tim Brown, a native New Zealander, started Allbirds after he realised that the natural fiber wool that is available in abundance in New Zealand, was basically absent in footwear. Together with Joey Zwillinger, an engineer and renewables expert, they created a revolutionary wool fabric that is specifically made for footwear and sneakers made from wool.
They work with the leading organization ZQ Merino, to ensure that wool is produced to high standards of farming, land management and animal welfare. Materials used in their shoes include these:
- Superfine New Zealand merino wool is used for the upper. The wool fabric is breathable, moisture wicking and temperature regulating and is without any scratchiness.
- Shoelaces are made from recycled plastic water bottles and one bottle will make one pair of laces.
- Castor bean oil is used to increase the natural content in their insoles.
- Sugarcane is used in the foam sole.
The range of sneakers made from wool is for men and women and include these:
- Wool Runner Mizzles are wet weather sneakers that have a water repellent finish against rain and puddles.
- Wool Runner is the original creation and is suitable for jogging, hiking and cross country running, while also great to team with chinos and jeans for lounging.
- The Wool Loungers are slip-ons with wool uppers and soft wool throughout the lining. The mid sole is made from Brazilian sugarcane SweetFoam. Loungers are also available in cellulose Tencell lyocell fabric.
- Tree Dasher is a daily running shoe and is made with eucalyptus cellulose fiber upper and has a wool heel liner and a dual\-density sugarcane mid sole.
- Toppers are high top sneakers that covers the ankles and cellulose fabric is used for the upper.
- Breezers are ballet pumps for women.
Allbirds shoes are machine washable to sanitize and remove stains. Remove the shoelaces and insoles and wash them on a delicate cold cycle. Do not tumble dry them.
Packaging is using 90% recycled cardboard from post consumer waste, and it is used to serve as a shoe box and mailer bag in one. Allbirds is a carbon neutral business.
Allbirds, in collaboration with Leonardo di Caprio and Will Smith, have produced two pairs of limited edition sneakers. It was created with natural materials, including Brazilian sugarcane in their SweetFoam soles, and utilizing sustainable methods. All proceeds will be donated to di Caprio’s Forest Fund to help save the rain forest.
Allbirds is a privately owned company and it is a certified B-corporation business. In partnership with Soles4Souls, lightly used Allbirds footwear is distributed to needy communities around the globe. It is thereby giving them a prolonged life.
Allbirds is also launching its first apparel line.
- T-shirt made with “XO” fiber derived from discarded shells of marine life, including crab shells, which is an abundant polymer.
- Sweaters made with responsibly sourced merino wool.
- Puffer jacket made with a blend of merino wool, recycled polyester and Tencel cellulose fiber harvested from natural material rather than oil-based synthetics. Discover more about cellulose in this related post on What is cellulose pulp and with is Circulose?
Apparel not only feels better, performs better and looks better, but is also better for the environment. The environmental cost of the fashion industry is huge, generating around 20% of waste water and 10% of global carbon emissions. You can explore the Allbirds range by clicking on this link.
ACBC – Anything Can Be Changed
Two Italian designers started a brand called ACBC, which stands for Anything Can Be Changed. The Italian company specializes in the design and production of sustainable footwear and products.
They have come up with a solution to sustainable footwear and have designed a “Jogger” shoe where the upper or “skin” and the sole of the footwear comes in two parts and are connected with a patented zipper system. The “skin” of the shoe offers the wearer multiple options and is biodegradable.
The Zipshoe uses modular technology that has been patented by the founders. It is characterized by the detail that the upper and the sole are joined by a zip. The zip closure system means it is possible to mount different uppers to a sole, and thus create different looks.
So the customer can buy one sole and then different uppers to create different combinations. The sole is the part of a pair of sneakers that has the greatest environmental impact. By using just one sole to create one, or three or even ten pairs of sneakers, you can still be respectful of the environment.
Materials used in the eco shoe brands are all strictly animal free, bio-based and recycled.
Modular and eco friendly startup ACBC produce the sneakers in different versions and are using several eco friendly materials for their products:
- Corn Bioskin is a bio-based leather alternative with a 60% bio based content. It is obtained from corn processing waste and rebotilia, 100% polyester fabric derived from recycled bottles. So it combines agricultural waste from the corn industry with 100% recycled PET. The use of fossil energy can be reduced by 44% compared with petroleum derived synthetics.
- Cellulose fibers derived from eucalyptus and sustainable wood sources. It uses 95% less water than traditional cotton and halves the carbon footprint. It is used in insoles and mid soles as it is soft, breathable and sustainable. Read more about cellulose fibers in this related post on Viscose fabric – the textile made from cellulose.
- Gots certified organic cotton and BCI Cotton aims to improve global cotton production and BCI is a global non-profit organization. It is used in uppers and linings because it is breathable and wicks moisture away from your feet. Discover more about organic cotton here.
- Seaweed: the most sustainable foam is derived from algae bio-mass in a process that restores the balance to endangered waterways by cleaning it. It is used in insoles and mid soles as it is flexible and light. You can read more about seaweed fabric in this post on What is Seaweed Fabric: the fabric from the ocean And discover more about Bloom algae foam and the uses in this post on Eco-conscious shoes: Top footwear brands made of recycled plastic.
- Grape leather is a bio-based fabric and is made from agricultural waste that remains after wine has been made. Read more about it in this post on innovative textiles for vegans.
- Cork is used in insoles for the moisture wicking and anti-bacterial properties. Read more about this awesome sustainable fiber and how cork is used in footwear in this post on The Ultimate Guide to plastic free vegan shoes.
- Pineapple fabric in the form of Pinatex is a natural material and is made from a byproduct of the pineapple harvest. It is used in uppers and discover more about this innovative textile in this post
- RPET is recycled polyester, thus saving on plastic waste and helps to reduce CO2 emissions. It is used in uppers and linings for the waterproof and breathable properties. Many brands are already using recycled plastic in shoes so discover these brands in this post on the 8 Best Sneakers made of recycled plastic.
ACBC is doing the research, certification and production of materials. You can greatly reduce your environmental impact by supporting ACBC. They also have collection points where used shoes are recycled and used in products like making anti-shock surfaces for children’s playgrounds.
From January 2021 all ACBC products will be accompanied by a sustainability declaration. This will include a complete list of materials and components that were used, together with relevant certificates, leading the way in how to reduce a carbon footprint.
In collaboration with Philippe Modal Paris, ACBC have launched a low environmental sneaker, called Lyon, that uses recycled, animal free and bio-based materials. It uses material such as eco-leather in corn fibers, organic cotton and recycled polyester. There are two versions of the Lyon sneaker available:
- The one version has the upper and lining made with bio skin, a vegan leather with a 60% bio-based content obtained from wheat processing waste. Tongue and collar on the upper are in rebotilia, a 100% polyester fabric derived from recycled bottles.
- The other version has the upper made from GOTS certified organic cotton.
Both version has the sole in re rubber that contains 10% recycled rubber from production waste. The insole is recycled foam which uses a technology where 98% of the foam is obtained from production waste, with 2% water based glue.
The Lyon sneaker has a very low environmental impact.
Reebok, another one of the eco shoe brands, is moving away from petroleum derived plastic and the green materials, for use in new shoes, are castor seeds, eucalyptus and seaweed.
The plant based running shoes are called Forever Floatride GROW and the plant based materials are replacing plastic components.
Each component has been rigorously tested and researched to ensure that the natural, sustainable fibers, answer the need for high performance in footwear. The mix with natural materials will make up at least 50% of the sneakers.
- Upper is made from material derived from the eucalyptus tree. Eucalyptus bark creates a mesh upper that is breathable.
- Midsole is from sustainably grown castor seeds. Castor bean oil helps to create a highly cushioned foam.
- Inner sole is Bloom seaweed algae foam, which provides a very comfortable foot bed. When using the Bloom algae foam, a minimum of 30 liters of polluted lake water is cleaned.
- Outer sole is natural rubber, which adds flexibility. Discover more about rubber in this post on Latex vs rubber: is it the same thing?
Making running shoes in plant derived materials are challenging as they have to withstand the impact. The Forever Floatride sneakers are available for men and women.
Adidas, who controls Reebok, have already launched sustainable footwear and also has a range with Stella McCartney.
“Our Icons go Vegan” campaign, that Adidas has just launched, applies vegan philosophy and cruelty-free to the iconic shoes. Apart from the Adidas Stella McCartney range, the choice has now been extended to the Samba and Continental 80 models and are available in Cloud White, Collegiate Navy and Scarlet at a price of $80 per pair.
Adidas produce eco friendly shoes that are dedicated to the well being of the environment. The upper is 70% recycled plastic, lining is 100% recycled polyester and the sole is a combination of 90% natural rubber and 10% recycled rubber. Related post: Best natural rubber flip flop sandals.
It is using polyurethane rather than leather and all glues and dyes are vegan friendly. The mid sole has an EVA foam (ethylene and vinyl acetate) which is derived from algae foam.
Read more about Adidas and their work with Parley for the Oceans and Stella McCartney in this post on the 8 best sneakers made of recycled plastic. Nike is also discussed in the post.
Shop your eco shoe brands here by clicking on this link.
If you have any questions or suggestions on these eco shoe brands or sneakers made from wool, or even more ideas on how to reduce a carbon footprint, then please leave you comments below and I will get back to you.
42 thoughts on “Eco Shoe Brands: Sneakers with a Green Soul”
Hey there Line,
This is a great article and provides some great insight on eco friendly shoes that i did not know existed. I have always been a big fan of Reebok and I never knew they made eco friendly shoes. I will definately be looking into getting some. The ACDC zipshoe are also pretty cool and I am sure they will be a big hit. Thank you for this very insightful article.
Hi Lawrence, it is encouraging to see that there are many of the well known brands that are incorporating eco friendly materials and practices in their products. All the best, Liné
Very interesting. To be honest I have not considered eco shoes which is strange as I am careful about the type of food that I eat!
It is great that so many well known companies are starting to manufacture shoes from eco sustainable products.
I have not heard of certain brands such as AllBirds and ACBC but wonderful to read what innovative ideas they have had.
From an aesthetic point of view I liked the Reebok shoe the most.
Thank you Sheen, It is indeed great that there are more brands that are making eco sustainable footwear and using some very innovative materials.
Thanks for this helpful resource! I’ve been trying to make more eco friendly swaps in our household but have yet to try eco shoes.
I’ve heard a lot about Allbirds – they seem like a great eco shoe brand. I knew they made running shoes, but I didn’t realize they had women’s ballet pumps. That Breezers style is really cute!
It’s really great to see that bigger shoe companies like Reebok and Adidas are producing eco friendly shoe options too.
Eco friendly shoes are becoming more available and Allbirds is definitely worth checking out with their sustainable wool shoes and Tree Huggers made from eucalyptus trees. I hope it helps.
Wow, these are some really cool looking shoes and I love that they are made to be greener than typical shoes. I have a friend who swears by his Allbirds shoes, so it’s nice to learn a bit more about their process and source materials before purchasing my own pairs. Nice to see that these shoes look amazing so that you don’t have to sacrifice style in order to be green!
This is great to hear that your friend loves his Allbirds shoes, and yes, they do make shoes for women and kids as well.
Thanks for sharing your views on the sneakers with a green soul. It was very pleasant to read that shoelaces can be made from plastic bottles and 30 liters of polluted Lake Water can be cleaned by using Bloom algae foam in the inner sole of shoes. When I come to know about such ecofriendly products my heart is filled with happiness. Allbirds and ACBC are doing a remarkable work.
It is indeed awesome that recycled materials can be used to make eco friendly products.
Reducing carbon emissions is very important in our world. We do not want our world to be destroyed. Thus it is important to safe our world in any possible. I am shocked how the sneakers are made. Thought they made out of other materials. So I am shocked and surprised. Thank you for the informative article.
Eco friendly sneakers have far lower carbon emissions than traditional sneakers, so I am sure you are shocked to see that 13 kg of emissions are produced in conventional production. Sneakers with a green soul, like Allbirds, are far better for the environment, and your health.
Hi, Line, first, I want to compliment you for sharing such good information about eco-products. On your site, everyone can find only valuable information and I will turn back to read more about these beautiful articles here.
You wrote this eco- shoe article at the right moment for me. I like to buy new sneakers for this season, and Allbirds has some cute designs. I have a look at their site, and this company has very lovely patterns. I like that they are breathable and comfortable to run and walk.
Thank you for sharing such good information.
Thank you for your kindness and I am sure you will be very happy with your Allbirds sneakers.
Hi ,thank you for this post .It is the first time i hear about footprint emission .Thank you for this eye opening post .Honestly ,I like the design of these shoes ,they look very confortable .I think I may buy me a pair of Allbirds .They look fantastic .Thank you for this nice post ,I am also going to share it with my friends .
You are welcome to share it and I am sure you will be very happy with your eco friendly shoes from Allbirds.
I did not know that Reebok had a eco shoe that they retail. I do really like the Allbirds. It looks like it might be on the wide side for a shoe which is what I need. Do know if any of these brands actually do have a wide shoe? My son and I both have wide feet. It just makes it more comfortable.
Allbirds footwear is available in half sizes to accommodate wide feet. They do suggest that if you want a roomier fit for wider feet, that you go up half a size, and for extra wide feet, go up a full size. I hope this helps you.
Very interesting post. I am not surprised that making the average shoes produces 13kg of carbon emissions.
I had no idea there was such a good range of eco friendly sneakers/trainers.
I really love the ACBC range, such a brilliant idea to be able to buy different tops to add to the soles. I do like the way the New Zealand wool became a focus for a design too.
Good to see a couple of the big brands are moving towards more eco friendly designs.
With so much plastic in the world it is good to see such designs available.
It is indeed great that more brands are using sustainable materials to produce sneakers.
I absolutely LOVE that sneakers are becoming an everyday fashion rather than just an exercise outfit item. I personally like Nike and Rebok shoe brands, but appreciate that you included reviews of shoe brands I have never heard of before. I found the information about Adidas trying to be more vegan friendly very interesting. This makes me more inclined to purchase my next pair of sneakers from them.
It is indeed great that there are so many more brands that are putting the planet first and producing sustainable and eco friendly shoes.
I know, I love the fact that nowadays we can wear sneakers for any occasion. No more closed shoes with 2 inches heels for me any more! Oh wow, I had no idea that sneakers can produce that much carbon monoxide emission! That is alarming. It is great to see that Reebox and Addidas are on the list for the eco friendly. Thanks for sharing these companies with us. I am going to check Allbirds out as well, I like their style.
It is indeed great that big brands like Adidas, Nike and Reebok are producing sneakers that look after the planet. Allbirds is a great brand that produce some awesome sneakers and other products and it is good to hear that you like their style.
I have always just bought my sneakers based on how they look and how much comfort they provide for whatever sport I am doing. I have bought Addidas most of the time.This idea of eco friendly sneakers is a great one. Going forward I will shop with these tips in mind. You have also listed a number of brands my favourite is the Allbirds. I like the style, and colours, and the material, and the fact that it is machine washable. Are these products available to ship internationally ? I am in the Caribbean and would like to have access to at least one of these.Thanks for the information
Allbirds are indeed an awesome brand and they do ship internationally and I am sure you will be very happy with your sneakers from Allbirds or Adidas.
Thanks so much for sharing a good article to read to know more about Eco shoe Brands, as I’m interested to know more about a brand before I purchase something from them. As the world is changing fast lately, I think it’s important to find brands that are working to create green products that won’t hurt the ecosystem and the world can be a better place for everyone, I liked the idea to get a pair of shoes from Allbirds, as lately I discover how good is wool for any piece of clothing, so I will get a pair of sneakers from this brand!
I am sure you will be happy with your purchase from Allbirds and great to know that you are also helping the planet at the same time.
Hello. Good day. Compliment of the season. Sneakers is a cool footwear. It doesn’t just only let you looks cool, but also makes you appear smart whenever you step out. Sneakers now can be put on under any clothes just as long as it goes and looks good and cool to the eyes. Sneakers is so very comfortable to put on. It doesn’t give any stress or discomfort at all. It’s so simple.
Sneakers are indeed versatile and if you choose a green brand, then you not only look cool, but you are also helping the environment.
Excellent list of eco shoes. Thanks for sharing!
I have converted all my clothes into eco-friendly outfits. Now I am in search of shoes. I love Reebok; I didn’t know they make eco-friendly footwear. My shoes get dirty pretty quickly, as I walk a lot. Is the material upper can be washed easily?
Can I put them in the washing machine? Is there a special soap that you would recommend using for eco-friendly shoes?
Thank you so much!
The material that is used for the upper of sneakers, would determine whether you can wash them in a washing machine. So depending on the actual model that you have, it might be machine washable or not. I would use a biodegradable natural soap. I hope this helps.
Wow, the fact that sneakers are made of 65 components just blew my mind. I didn’t that so much work went into creating sneakers and that their production emitted so much carbon dioxide …
The brand ACBC reminds me of the band ACDC ;-), but I like their name and what it stands for – Anything Can Be Changed. This is something I believe in. I like change, change is usually for the better. I like the model of their zipshoe. It looks practical and as if it molds to your foot. I love that you can add different soles, so changing the look of the shoe, the higher heel sole gives it a more elegant look. And I especially love that the materials are animal free and biodegradable! I think that I would prefer to buy shoes of ACBC. Seaweed and cork are wonderful materials for fabrics, strong and durable. I have also heard of pineapple plastic, but I don’t know much about it yet. Did you know that in Mexico they discovered a way to make plant-based leather of a cactus? It’s really interesting and I am looking forward to seeing products made of that material.
Yes indeed, cactus leather, called Deserto, is being made and you can read more about it in this post on 5 Innovative Textile Solutions for Vegans
I was really happy after hearing that eco-friendly methodology can be used to manufacture the shoes. I have good experiences with Adidas shoes and their durability and comfort in long-term wearing. thank you very much for presenting us with the manufacturing materials and the knowledge behind them. that is very interesting.
thank you again for sharing this article.
It is indeed good news that more eco shoe brands are using eco friendly and sustainable materials and practices
I LOVE this! It’s nice to see the apparel industry, which has received a well-deserved reputation for indifference to its impact on the earth and human rights, try to turn things around with earth-friendly options. My favorite shoe is ACBC shoe with the changeable upper. This is an ingenious idea for people who wish to have numerous style options available on any given day. I also very pleased that two big players, Reebok and Adidas, have decided to jump on the bandwagon. While I applaud ALL the companies who are doing this, these two companies can, because of their broad reach and name recognition, can bring the idea of sustainable footwear to the forefront of public attention!
I agree with you and it is indeed awesome that big eco shoe brands like Reebok and Adidas, as well as startup brands are supporting the call for looking after the planet
Hi, awesome article to provide important knowledge to the world about how we can do our part to help, I hadn’t really looked into shoes that are eco friendly but now I think I should get my self a few pairs and spread the word!
Interesting to see that shoe laces can be made from plastic bottles, hadn’t a clue about that!
Recycled materials and specifically recycled plastic bottles are being used in footwear and apparel. There is such a huge mountain of plastic waste that there is really no need to make any virgin plastic.
Very interesting Line’,
I would have never guessed there were so many different manufactures of eco-sensitive shoes. I knew the normal process of manufacturing was bad but it is great to see there are so many companies jumping on board to help produce more sustainable products.
Thanks for sharing this info, I really like the Allbirds! They are sensible and look great. I am a bit reserved about buying shoes online. Is there a way I can try them on before I buy or at least have a good return policy where I can change them out if they don’t fit?
Lots of shoes to choose from!
Hi Chad, Allbirds have a very good returns policy and you can have a look at their range here. I hope it helps