Top 20 Sustainable Shoe Brands to Step Out Responsibly
As environmental issues gain increasing attention, more and more of us are actively seeking ways to incorporate sustainability into our daily lives. The fashion industry, notorious for its detrimental effects on the environment, has been of major concern for those who prioritise eco-consciousness. However, amidst this growing concern, a ray of hope emerges in the form of sustainable shoe brands. These brands not only offer stylish and comfortable footwear, but also prioritise minimising their environmental impact.
Let’s take a look at the top 20 sustainable shoe brands, catering not only to eco-friendly consumers but also to fashion-forward individuals who value style and sustainability in equal measure.
But First...What is a Sustainable Shoe Brand?
A sustainable shoe brand goes beyond just creating shoes. It embraces sustainability in every aspect of its operations, from the materials used to the manufacturing processes employed. These brands prioritise eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo, reducing their environmental impact.
In addition to minimising waste throughout production and transportation, sustainable shoe brands are committed to reducing their carbon footprint. They take a holistic approach, ensuring ethical labour practices are upheld throughout their supply chain.
Top 20 Sustainable Shoe Brands in 2023
Below, we have curated a selection of remarkable sustainable shoe brands that exemplify innovation and excellence in their products. Take a moment to explore their offerings and make a conscious choice towards a more sustainable future.
Renowned for their comfortable and cosy wool runners, Allbirds has won the hearts of eco-conscious athletes and fashion enthusiasts alike. Their use of sustainable materials such as merino wool, eucalyptus fibre, and sugarcane ensures that every stride taken in Allbirds leads towards a greener future. Allbirds has a strong commitment to ESG, and has an openly stated aim, its “M0.0NSHOT: The World’s First Net Zero Carbon Shoe”. The company has a code of conduct for its suppliers, and it works to minimise its environmental impact. Allbirds is also a signatory of the UN Global Compact, which is a set of principles for responsible business practices.
With a strong emphasis on recycling, Rothy's crafts eye-catching shoes using recycled plastic bottles, mainly from marine plastic collected from the coastline. Their stylish and versatile designs appeal to individuals who strive to make responsible choices without compromising on fashion. Rothy's has a closed-loop production process, which means that it recycles all of the materials used to make its shoes. Rothy's is also a B Corp, which is a certification that means that the company meets high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency
For sneaker enthusiasts, Veja offers an appealing selection made from organic cotton, recycled plastic, and rubber. With a focus on fair trade practices, Veja ensures that your stylish footwear leaves a positive impact on both people and the planet. Veja works with ethical factories that pay their workers a fair wage and provide them with safe working conditions. Veja is also a member of the Fair Labor Association, which is a nonprofit organisation that promotes ethical labour practices in the apparel industry.
Nisolo exemplifies the fusion of ethics and style through their use of responsibly sourced materials like leather, canvas, and rubber. Their timeless designs appeal to those who value durability and sustainability. As a certified B Corp with a strong commitment to ESG, Nisolo also collaborates with ethical factories and belongs to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to promoting sustainable practices within the apparel industry. Find out more about Nisolo’s Sustainability Framework here.
Thousand Fell stands out with its innovative approach, employing a blend of recycled plastic, rubber, and natural materials like palm leaf fibres and coconut husks. Their closed-loop production process showcases that sustainable footwear can be cutting-edge. As a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Thousand Fell aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. Their recycling programme is ultra simple: Send In. Recycle. Get Credit. The amounts you’ll receive for recycled footwear are clearly stated.
Native Shoes takes sustainability to the core of their brand by using entirely 100% recycled materials. Their colourful and comfortable designs appeal to eco-conscious kids and adults alike. The company collaborates with ethical factories and is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Native Shoes aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2023. Their recycling initiative, called the Remix Project, grinds down the lightweight shoe material and seeks to upcycle it into public use factors, such as playground flooring, insulation, and seating.
Offering a conscious alternative, Ethletic combines organic Fairtrade certified cotton and recycled rubber from FSC-certified plantations, and cork in their shoe creations. Their focus on fair trade practices resonates with socially responsible consumers. The company works with the “Welfare Society”, the workers’ rights association at their partner factory in Pakistan. This ensures that, for each pair of shoes purchased, one dollar is paid as a premium to the society, which is then allocated to education, health care, or other relevant projects.
For those seeking luxury and sustainability in one package, KOIO delivers, with their sneakers made from vegetable-tanned leather, recycled plastic, and cork. The vision is to become the world’s first regenerative luxury footwear brand, with a comprehensive materials use framework that seeks to find solutions across the entire product development and lifecycle use factors that results in meaningful impact. Read more on KOIO’s efforts here.
With their iconic One for One programme, TOMS made a significant impact on children's lives in need. A pair of shoes purchased meant the company gave another pair to a child in a developing country. After giving away 100 million shoes over 14 years, Toms has now shifted its focus to a new campaign: “⅓ of Profits for Grassroots Good”. The causes Toms supports range from cash grants for communities (Purpose), environmental initiatives (Panet), and an internal culture of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism. Read more here.
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Minimalism meets sustainability with ABLE's shoes made from recycled materials. For the conscious consumer seeking simplicity in their footwear, ABLE has got you covered. In addition to its commitment to sustainability and ethics, ABLE also has a strong social mission. The company partners with organisations that support women's empowerment, and it donates a portion of its profits to these organisations. Their responsibility is threefold: to the customer, the planet, and for social impact. Read more here.
The Root Collective
The Root Collective seamlessly combines style and ethics, utilising sustainable materials such as cork, leather, and canvas to create fashion-forward footwear that makes a positive impact on the planet. The Root Collective has a strong social mission to empower women and support their economic independence, as well as for sustainability in general. The company partners with organisations that support women's empowerment, such as the International Trade Centre and Women's World Banking. The Root Collective also donates a portion of its profits to these organisations.
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Reformation offers sustainability without compromising on luxury, making it a top choice for fashionistas who appreciate high-end designs. Their women’s shoes, made from recycled leather and deadstock fabrics, showcase the beauty of conscious consumption. In addition to its commitment to sustainability and ethics, Reformation also has a strong social mission. The company partners with organisations that support environmental causes, such as the Clean Air Task Force and The Nature Conservancy. They have plenty of transparent sustainability information, reports, and commitments, all available here.
VIVAIA prioritises sustainability with their sneakers crafted from recycled plastic and rubber, providing both comfort and environmental responsibility. In addition to its unwavering dedication to sustainability and ethical practices, VIVAIA also upholds a robust social mission. The company collaborates with esteemed organisations that champion environmental causes, including the Plastic Bank and 1% for the Planet. Moreover, VIVAIA contributes a portion of its profits towards these commendable initiatives.
Bhava Studio caters to yoga enthusiasts seeking eco-friendly options. Their shoes, made from organic cotton and recycled plastic, not only support fair trade practices but also align perfectly with mindful living. Alongside its dedication to sustainability and ethical practices, Bhava Studio upholds a profound social mission. The company collaborates with esteemed organisations like PETA and Mercy for Animals, championing the cause of animal welfare. Read more about the “Fashion Victims”, namely the Animals, the Planet, the Workers, and You, here.
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Fortress embraces sustainability without sacrificing style. Their boots and shoes, crafted from sustainable materials like leather, canvas, and rubber, are the perfect companions for eco-conscious adventurers. Fortress not only upholds sustainability and ethical values but also embraces a robust social mission. The company collaborates with esteemed organisations dedicated to environmental causes, including the Plastic Bank and 1% for the Planet. The company’s key focus is on continuing to partner with family-owned and operated Peruvian factories to ensure fair conditions and wages.
Alohas embrace the summer vibes with Alohas' sandals, crafted from sustainable materials like cork, plant-based leather, and recycled plastic. They bring the essence of the beach to eco-conscious consumers. Alohas also embraces a social mission, and the company actively collaborates with organisations that champion environmental causes, including the Surfrider Foundation and 1% for the Planet.
Experience elegance and sustainability in perfect harmony with Poppy Barley's flats, made from organic cotton and recycled rubber. They prove that fashion can be responsible too. Poppy Barley is a certified B Corp and donates to the Plastic Bank and 1% for the Planet, the company actively contributes to environmental causes. Moreover, Poppy Barley allocates a portion of its profits towards supporting these organisations, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to doing “business differently”.
Seeking comfort, style, and fair trade practices? Look no further than Baabuk's shoes, featuring sustainable wool from both the Serra da EStrela Natural Park in Portugal, and also from non-polluting suppliers in New Zealand. For manufacturing, the company provides 25% higher than average salary to predominantly women workers in Nepal, and the company is B Corp-certified.
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Straight from Brazil, Cariuma's sneakers infuse sustainable fashion with a touch of South American flair. Crafted from organic cotton, recycled plastic, and rubber, they are a statement of style and environmental consciousness. The company is all about sustainability, and the brand screams it loud and proud. This runs from materials, factory operations, supply chain traceability, reforestation initiatives, and developing net-positive impact for all stakeholders along the way.
With a commitment to zero-waste production, Flamingos Life offers “shoes made from plants” that seamlessly blend sustainability and fashion-forward designs. The company forms partnerships with organisations dedicated to environmental causes, such as the Eden Reforestation Projects and Waste Free Oceans, to help with reforestation, water, the sea, and in building overall operational transparency for consumer trust.
The Sole Takeaway
In conclusion, each of these top 20 sustainable shoe brands offers unique attributes that appeal to environmentally conscious individuals who aim to step out responsibly and stylishly. Whether you prioritise materials, production processes, ethical practices, or philanthropic efforts, there is a sustainable shoe brand that suits every conscientious consumer. By choosing these eco-friendly and socially responsible options, you can walk with confidence, knowing that your footwear aligns with your values and contributes to a greener and fairer world.
Having said that, here’s some more:
8 Reasons Why You Should Choose Sustainable Footwear
The conventional manufacturing process of shoes often involves the use of harmful chemicals, excessive water consumption, and significant carbon emissions. In contrast, sustainable shoe brands utilise eco-friendly materials and adopt environmentally responsible production methods to minimise their carbon footprint and reduce their impact on the planet.
The fashion industry is notorious for generating substantial amounts of waste, and the shoe industry is no exception. Sustainable shoe brands employ recycled materials and innovative production techniques to create products with minimal waste, contributing to a more circular economy.
By choosing sustainable shoes, you support the responsible use of natural resources. Many sustainable brands use materials such as organic cotton, recycled plastic, and natural fibres, helping to conserve valuable resources and alleviate environmental pressures.
Promoting Ethical Practices
Sustainable shoe brands are committed to ethical and fair trade practices. They prioritise the well-being of workers and communities in their supply chain, ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions are upheld.
Preservation of Biodiversity
The impact of the fashion industry on biodiversity should not be underestimated. Unsustainable practices, such as deforestation for leather production, can harm natural habitats and wildlife. By supporting brands that responsibly source materials, you contribute to the preservation of biodiversity.
Addressing Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global issue, and every industry, including fashion, must play its part in mitigating its effects. Sustainable shoe brands utilise renewable resources and eco-friendly materials, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
Setting a Trend for Change
As consumers, our choices have power. By supporting sustainable shoe brands, we send a message to the fashion industry that there is demand for eco-friendly products. This, in turn, encourages other brands to adopt more sustainable practices, leading to a positive ripple effect throughout the industry.
Sustainable shoes often use natural and non-toxic materials, which can be beneficial for your health. Traditional shoes made with harmful chemicals may pose risks to both wearers and the environment during production and disposal.