The 8 Best Eco-Friendly Sneakers of 2021

These are the sneakers of the future

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The Rundown
Sneakers don’t get more sustainable than these breathable shoes from Allbirds.
Enjoy eco-friendly, fashion footwear without compromising on your beliefs with these lightweight low top sneakers.
These slick sneakers are an innovative design made from plastic salvaged from the oceans.
Stylish, vegan, and eco-friendly tennis shoes are words that come together in AVRE’s cute and comfortable design.
Nothing says cute, eco-conscious throwback like these adorably retro kid’s sneakers.
A textured arch for zonal grip on the trail allows you to focus on the scenery, rather than worrying about discomfort underfoot.
These 80s high-top sneakers are made from sustainably-sourced organic cotton and FSC-certified rubber.
Best for Travel:
Astral Hemp Loyak at Amazon
A super flexible outsole makes these extremely grippy and a great option for travel.

Sneakers are a favorite for many of us, offering comfort and casual style that’s a match for almost every situation and event. But, with petroleum-derived materials such as PVC and EVAs being commonly used in shoes these days—and being estimated to take thousands of years to decompose—making more conscious purchasing decisions when it comes to your next pair of sneakers is a choice many of us are facing. 

Buying sneakers that are environmentally conscious is easier than you might think. Keep an eye out for recycled materials, such as post-consumer recycled plastic that has been repurposed into yarn or shoelaces. Organic cotton and other plant-based materials such as eucalyptus fibers and hemp also have significantly smaller environmental footprints than virgin plastics. To save you the hassle of hunting out your next eco-friendly sneakers, we dove deep into the brands taking great strides towards sustainability.

Here are the best eco-friendly sneakers for casual comfort.

Best Overall: Allbirds Tree Dashers

Tree Dashers

If you’re on the hunt for sustainable sneakers that are lightweight, eco-friendly, and 100 percent vegan, it’s time to meet B Corp and eco-conscious footwear brand Allbirds. The soft, breathable fiber used to make these tennis shoes is spun from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees, sourced from South African farms where harvested rainwater replaces traditional irrigation.

Post-consumer recycled polyester is repurposed to make the laces, while Brazilian sugarcane makes up the world’s first carbon-negative green EVA, which keeps the midsole bouncy. Eucalyptus fiber uses 95 percent less water to make than traditional materials such as cotton, Allbirds—with a few offsets thrown in for good measure—are a carbon-neutral company.

Available in men's and women’s styles that run true to size, these sneakers are breathable and accommodating to your feet. One drawback is that they don't offer much arch support, so they're better as everyday shoes than hikes or runs.

Best Budget: Toms Carlo Sneaker

Toms Carlo Sneaker

Affordability doesn’t have to mean compromising on your ethics—or at least not in the case of these casual low-top sneakers, available in nine colors (we like Oxford Tan Eco). Part of the Ecowise range from industry innovators Toms, they combine a lightweight and breathable canvas upper with an Ortholite insole made from a mix of plant-derived and recycled materials.

Like many of Toms canvas shoes, it's a good idea to choose the smaller option if you're not sure what size to get because they tend to stretch out over time. The one downside of these shoes is that the canvas doesn't last as long as some other shoe materials.

Extremely versatile, these sneakers are just another example of why Toms is a leading force when it comes to sustainability and ethical choices in the fashion industry. Since 2006, they’ve been giving back to communities across the globe with their one-for-one giving model, and their membership of the Fair Labor Association is yet more proof that they actively support ethical practices in their supply chain.

Best for Men: Adidas Solecourt Parley Shoes

Adidas Solecourt Parley Shoes

Built for the tennis court but designed to protect the planet, these slick sneakers from Adidas are an innovative design made in partnership with Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit that works to intercept plastic on beaches and shorelines across the globe. 

Offering professional-level stability for your feet, these stylish sneakers will be a match for activity on and off the court. Better still, close to 50% of the textile upper is made from Primeblue, a high-performance yarn containing 50 percent upcycled plastic waste. We love the fact that Adidas has committed to cutting out virgin polyester from all of their lines by 2024.

Best for Women: Avre Limitless

Avre Limitless

Each pair of Avre shoes upcycles eight to 10 plastic bottles. The shoes are formed using 3D knitting technology, which means very little material is wasted compared to cut-and-sew shoe manufacturing techniques. The result is a seamless and comfortable shoe that's also very durable. They're available in seven modern color combinations and are shipped in minimal packaging.

Avre is a woman-founded company, which donates a percentage of its profits to different eco-friendly and social causes. If you prefer a sneaker with laces, the brand also makes a collection of walking shoes with arch support (view on Avre).

Best for Kids: Veja V-10 Velcro CWL White Rouille

Veja V-10 Velcro CWL White Rouille

Nothing says cute, eco-conscious throwback like these adorably retro kid’s sneakers from Veja. A robust sole gives added cushioning and comfort to these shoes manufactured in Brazil from a whole host of recycled and eco-friendly materials. Recycled EVA, organic cotton, sustainably sourced rubber, and sugar cane make up the insole of these smart sneakers, while the lining is 100 percent from recycled plastic bottles.

When it comes to the upper, organic and fair-trade certified cotton from rural farmers in the northeast of Brazil is made into C.W.L, a vegan alternative to leather. It’s been designed as a way of avoiding the petroleum-based materials from which many leather replacements are made and is sealed using corn resin and castor oil for a durable finish.

Best for Running: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG Mens

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG Mens

Whether you’re new to the barefoot running revolution or a staunch loyalist, you’ll want to consider investing in these trail running sneakers from Vivobarefoot.

Built to better fit the natural contours of your feet and with a wafer-thin, 4-millimeter thick sole to give your feet almost direct contact with the ground for a more natural run, they’re made from recycled PET and rubber compounds and are 100 percent vegan. They also have a textured arch for zonal grip on the trail to help you focus on the scenery rather than worrying about discomfort underfoot. 

Vivobarefoot offers a 100-day trial period during which you can return these sneakers, no questions asked. Once they’ve lived a long and happy life out with you on the trail, you can post them back to the company’s reselling arm, Revivo.com, which will clean and restore them to sell secondhand.

Best Fair Trade: Ethletic Fair Sneaker Hiro II Cranberry Red

Ethletic Fair Sneaker Hiro II Cranberry Red

These 80s high-top sneakers are both ethically and sustainably made. Organic cotton from small, fair-trade farming cooperatives is woven to make the upper of these retro shoes. A padded heel and removable sole made from coconut fibers add support, while ventilation holes offer breathability. These sneakers use FSC-certified rubber grown on sustainably managed plantations in Sri Lanka. 

What sets this brand apart is its work in giving a face to the normally anonymous fashion industry. When buying your sneakers, you can find out exactly which crafters based in Pakistan made your new shoes, and you can even add a tip to your purchase to thank them for their work.

Best for Travel: Astral Hemp Loyak

Astral Hemp Loyak

Designing low-impact, high-performance activewear is the mission statement of this footwear brand, and Astral's soft hemp and rubber sneakers hit the mark. With an upper made from 77 percent hemp and 23 percent recycled polyester, these casual shoes are designed for tough outdoor wear. A flexible outsole makes these shoes extremely grippy and a great option for travel. Not only do they look good, but they’re as comfortable on a trail as they are wandering around a museum. 

Hemp is lauded for its durability, with a significantly better abrasion resistance than cotton, which, combined with natural antimicrobial properties and UV-resistance, make it an ideal choice for performance sneakers. It’s also easy on the Earth, requiring 21 percent less water than cotton and can be easily grown without pesticides or other polluting chemicals.

Final Verdict

For comfortable sneakers that’ll be a talking point thanks to their provenance from eucalyptus trees, you can’t go wrong with the Allbirds Tree Runners in both men’s and women’s fits (view at Allbirds). If you like to make a statement with your feet, the Ethletic Fair Sneaker Hiro II—available in Cranberry Red and 11 other dazzling patterns—is the ultimate ethical choice (view at Ethletic).

What to Consider When Shopping for Eco-Friendly Sneakers

Third-Party Certifications

There's a range of footwear manufacturers that claim to be eco-friendly. Fabrics certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, GOTS, or Fair Trade, among other sustainability certifications, offer some proof that materials come from sustainably managed farms or are part of manufacturing processes that ensure fair wages and safe working conditions for those involved. Ultimately, eco-friendly fashion often goes hand-in-hand with ethical apparel. 

Materials

The most sustainable materials for shoes are either natural fibers or recycled materials. Plant-based natural fibers include cotton, hemp, flax, eucalyptus. Wool is also a popular natural fiber, but it’s not vegan. Natural rubber can also be an eco-friendly alternative to plastic. 

End of Life

Look for sneakers that are built to last. Companies that offer a take-back scheme where you can return the shoes to the manufacturer to be restored and given a second lease on life are also a good choice.


Why Trust Treehugger?

To make this list, we looked for organic, recycled and plant-based fibers that leave a lower impact on the planet, and many are also vegan. We also looked for shoes with trustworthy sustainability certifications.

Author Steph Dyson enjoys writing about sustainable fashion, with a keen interest in swapping out polluting fabrics for those made from cutting-edge plant-based alternatives. Conscious decision-making lies at the heart of every purchase she makes and she believes that each of us can make a huge difference by making small but meaningful changes to the ways we shop and live.