The Best Eco-Friendly Running Shoes of 2022

The Allbirds Tree Dasher 2 is our top pick.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Person running on the beach in blue and pink sneakers

Dulcey Lima / Unsplash

A good pair of shoes is necessary for running, but the sad news is that shoes won’t last forever, meaning you’ll need to replace and properly dispose of your old shoes. Lots of new running shoes are typically made from virgin plastics, nylon, polyester, polyurethane, synthetic rubber, and textile dyes, which all have a large carbon footprint because of the amount of energy needed to process the materials. In fact, a 2013 study from MIT found that a typical pair of running shoes creates about 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, most of which comes from manufacturing.

But not all shoes are created equal, and lots of companies are creating more eco-friendly running shoes while battling carbon pollution. These shoes are made from materials such as recycled plastics and natural rubber, and have a smaller environmental footprint compared to traditional running shoes. They’re also produced in facilities where workers are treated better and paid fair wages.

We researched the market to find the best eco-friendly running shoes.

Best Overall

Allbirds Men's Tree Dasher 2

Allbirds Men's Tree Dasher 2

Allbirds

Allbirds’ Tree Dasher 2 shoe is great for everyday runs, walks, road, and light workouts. It’s made with a light, responsive foam and extra grip for improved running, and the no-slip heel collar locks your ankle in place. The heel also helps to soften impact with each step. The SweetFoam midsole is made from a carbon negative acetate, which is produced from sugarcane, and the shoe itself is carbon neutral due to sustainable practices and funding high-impact carbon projects.

Other materials used in the shoe include a FCS-certified Tencel Lyocell from eucalyptus tree fiber, FSC-certified natural rubber on the outsole, bio-based nylon eyelets, shoelaces made from recycled plastic bottles, castor bean oil-based insole foam, and merino wool lining in the heel. Allbirds’ suppliers must commit to a Code of Conduct to ensure that all workers are treated fairly and with dignity. The shoe is also available in women's sizes.

Runner-Up, Best Overall

Brooks Ghost 14

Brooks Ghost 14

Amazon

The Ghost 14 from Brooks is the company’s first carbon neutral shoe, a feat done by reducing carbon emissions. Brooks reduced its manufacturing waste with this shoe by converting materials in the product to recycled alternatives, using low-impact dyes, and sourcing materials from factories that use renewable energy. Almost all upper textiles contain a minimum of 30% recycled polyester, and many 100% recycled polyester, including the sock liner, top cloth, tongue lining, and toe box reinforcement.

Brooks also compensates for the carbon emissions it haven’t yet eliminated with carbon offsets. The Ghost 14 provides a cushiony, comfortable fit with neutral support, and is one of the company’s most popular shoes. They're also available in men's sizes.

Best for Trail Running

Merrell Moab Flight

4.9
Merrell Moab Flight Shoe

Backcountry

Available for men and women, Merrell’s Moab Flight shoe is a cushioned yet supportive shoe designed for trail running. It’s made with 70% recycled mesh uppers, 100% recycled laces, partially recycled rubber, and an ethylene-vinyl acetate foam insole with 50% recycled top sheet.

They’re also a vegan-friendly shoe, and Merrell is working hard to source recycled and natural materials so that we can all explore the outdoors without further damaging our planet. Numerous colors and styles are available.

Best Flexible

Vivobarefoot Geo Racer

Vibobarefoot Geo Racer II

Designed to allow you to move freely, these runners are great for those wanting a more natural feel that’s lightweight. Made for men and women, the Geo Racer is foot-shaped and wide to allow your foot to spread out inside the shoe for natural stability.

They’re also flexible to allow more movement and are made from recycled materials reusing post-consumer plastic waste, and from materials free from animal products. Vivobarefoot also designs its shoes to be remade and reworn, so the company encourages buyers to send their old Vivobarefoot shoes back after they’re done with them.

Best for Kids

Veja Canary Running Shoes

Veja Canary Running Shoes

Veja

In multiple colors and styles for girls and boys, these Canary runners from Veja are made with materials such as rubber and rice waste, recycled polyester, Amazonian rubber, and sugarcane. Some versions do have a bit of leather in the design, so they're not all vegan.

The leather is sourced from farms located in southern Brazil and contain no chrome, heavy metals, or dangerous acids in the tanning process. The simplified tanning process also limits the use of chemicals, energy, salt, and water. After tanning, the water used is even recyclable.

Best Waterproof

On Cloudflyer Waterproof

On Running Cloudflyer Waterproof

On Running

Based in Switzerland, On makes a line of waterproof running shoes that will keep your feet dry while hitting the pavement. The upper is 100% wind and waterproof, and "Zero-Gravity" foam and CloudTex in the outsole give you a soft landing. The molded heel provides a snug fit, and On’s signature speed-lacing system allows your foot to slip in and out with ease.

Every new supplier that works with On has to acknowledge and commit to a code of conduct before starting business together, and the company is working hard to eliminate harmful materials in its products. The brand already uses better materials such as recycled polyester and vegan leather, and a number of waterproof items are PFC-free (PFCs are a chemical that can persist in the environment indefinitely).

Best For Cold Weather

Icebug Haze RB9X GTX Shoes

Icebug Haze RB9X GTX Shoes

REI

Icebug’s mission is to get people out more and to be a leader in transforming the shoe industry to be sustainable. The company designs running shoes made to be worn in cold, icy climates, and has both studded and unstudded designs so you can choose what works best for you.

In 2019, Icebug became the first climate-positive outdoor shoe brand, and from 2020 onwards, it has offset all of its carbon emissions by 200%. The studded designs come with studs on the bottoms to grip icy roads if needed, and materials used include recycled polyester, cushy foam made from algae, recycled rubber, and Bluesign certified textiles.

Best Black

Hylo Run 2

Hylo Run 2 Running Shoes

Hylo

Made for men and women, the Corn Runners from Hylo Athletics are made using seven renewable materials, which minimizes the use of petroleum-based products and helps lower the company’s carbon footprint.

The Corn Runners are made from corn fiber, natural rubber, corn-based reinforcement, “corn spring,” organic cotton, water-based glue and ink, and a few other eco-friendly ingredients. Corn Runners are great for road running, or a run at the track or gym. The lightweight shoes provide comfort and stability, and when you’re finished with them, you can send them back to Hylo Athletics for recycling.

Final Verdict

We love the Allbirds running shoes for all of the brand's efforts in materials and suppliers to produce a carbon neutral shoe. We’d also like to give a nod to Icebug, as not many companies are producing cold-weather running shoes, let alone running shoes that are eco-friendly.

What to Consider When Shopping for Eco-Friendly Running Shoes

Materials 

Look for running shoes made from materials like natural rubber, vegan leather, and recycled plastics and polyester. Avoid materials such as virgin plastics and polyesters, synthetic rubber, leather that’s not traceable, textile dyes, nylon, and polyurethane. 

If a company is green at all, its websites will usually have an entire section dedicated to talking about its sustainability efforts, and materials will be listed next to the shoe description. If there's little info about the materials, it's likely the shoe isn't particularly sustainable.

Suppliers and Manufacturing

Along with eco-friendly materials, where these materials are coming and how they’re being made from is also important. A good indicator of an eco-friendly company is one that has a code of conduct that all suppliers must agree to in order to do business with the company. Other certifications and terms to look for are Bluesign, certified B corporations, climate neutral certified, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), fair-trade certified, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), and OEKO-Tex standards.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do you clean running shoes?

    Remove excess dirt with a clean cloth and warm water. For caked on dirt and mud on the soles, make sure the mud/dirt is dry and use a bristle brush and some warm water to remove it all. You can also remove the laces if they’re dirty and place them in a mesh bag and wash in the washer.

    For the uppers, you can use a mild soap and some warm water and a brush to clean them. Rinse with water. For insoles, you can also remove those and scrub with warm water and soap and allow them to air dry. To dry the whole shoe, place it somewhere with a neutral temperature and allow them to air dry. Never dry in a dryer or with high heat, as this can ruin adhesives and ruin their shape. 

  • How often should you replace running shoes?

    In general, you should replace your running shoes between every 300 to 500 miles, or every six months. Around this mileage, parts of the shoe like the cushioning and sole start to wear out, and working out on worn-down shoes has a harder impact on your joints and muscles. However, if your running shoes aren’t really showing signs of wear and breakdown at this point, you might be able to wear them for longer.

  • Can running shoes be recycled?

    Some running shoe brands allow you to send back your old running shoes to them so they can be properly recycled. There are also other programs like Nike Grind, One World Running, and Soles4Souls that will recycle your shoes for you as well. You shouldn’t just throw away your old running shoes though, as if they end up in the landfill they will take longer to decompose and can leach out toxic chemicals into the environment.

Why Trust Treehugger

This article was written by Amanda Ogle, who is a sustainability reporter for Treehugger. She is a veteran journalist who researches sustainable materials, practices, companies, and technology in order to write honest reviews for Treehugger.

To choose the best options for this article, she consulted dozens of customer and third-party reviews, and read dozens of company sustainability initiatives, considering each running shoe’s functionality, sustainability, and design.

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