Sole Searching The Best Places to Shop for Sustainable Shoes
From sneakers to stilettos and everything in between, shoes have some of the heaviest carbon footprints in the fashion industry. Here are 10 brands that are stepping away from the stigma.
Killer heels truly do live up to their name—and not just because they kill your feet. From sneakers to stilettos and everything in between, shoes have some of the heaviest carbon footprints in the fashion industry. In addition to requiring a great deal of energy to produce, shoes often contain environmentally-threatening materials. For example, shoe manufacturers might use leather, faux leather from plastics, or non-biodegradable plastic that ends up in landfills across the world. Not to mention, shoe production releases high amounts of carbon dioxide and chemicals.
The good news is that several brands have kicked these poor practices to the curb! Stylish and durable brands have found more eco-friendly options that are not only better for the planet, but also foot-friendly and stylish to boot. The higher the quality, the longer they’ll last! Sustainable shoes that last are the way to go.
From fancy footwear to sneakers on a budget, BWB’s Rebecca Leffler walked a mile in sustainable shoes to help you stay green head-to-toe.
Their approach: “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. Reformation is #2.”
The wildy popular sustainable women’s clothing and accessories brand has amassed a loyal fan base of women across the globe. Reformation crafts their wearable styles with a “work hard, play hard, save the world at the same time hard” approach.
This fashion with a heart also has sole. Reformation has set out to stomp the frightening statistics that say shoes make up 1/5 of the fashion industry’s total impact and nearly ¼ of the climate damage. The brand launched their second Ref Shoes collection in the Fall, complete with recycled tape zippers, shoelaces from recycled polyester and shoe inserts made from EVA foam and BLOOM algae. Take your pick: lace-up ankle boots, stiletto heels made with 100% Eco Nappa Leather, or sandals that show some skin. Sustainability has never been so sexy!
Tread by Everlane
Everlane design their leather trainers to last so fewer pairs end up in landfills.They’re carbon-neutral, unisex, comfortable and affordable. They cost just $98 a pair and come in seven colors.
The design is, like all things Everlane, fashionable and functional with their signature minimalist style. The trainers feature 94.2% virgin plastic-free soles and a blend of natural rubber and post-industrial recycled rubber. Their leather is cleaner and they use recycled plastic to make the laces and lining.
Everlane has long been a pioneer in the sustainable fashion world. They’re committed to eliminate all virgin plastic from their supply chain by 2021. In addition, they’re working with organizations across the globe to reduce their environmental impact and change the entire industry for the better.
Adidas x Parley
All Day I Dream About Sustainability? Iconic brand Adidas has made history by partnering with environmental organization Parley for the Oceans to make sneakers and sportswear from recycled ocean plastic. Parley collects trash from coastal areas and sorts the waste, then Adidas turns the recycled plastic into comfortable shoes. And Adidas isn’t stopping there. The brand is reportedly developing a 100% recyclable shoe called the Futurecraft Loop launching in 2021. The shoes are designed to be used, returned, broken down and turned into a brand new pair. Run, return, recycle: The future of footwear.
With one foot in design and the other in corporate social responsibility, Veja has stamped their French footprint in the global footwear fashion world.
From transparency to organic materials to fair trade sourcing, founders Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion have pioneered a new way of making sneakers. Think: soles made of wild rubber from the Amazonian forest, rice waste, banana oil or sugar cane. These soles even come in a full vegan line. Using raw materials sourced from organic farming and ecological agriculture, Veja has seen colossal success for the brand. As a result, their “V” logo has gained super-shoe status in their native country and worldwide.
Launched just over one year ago, Cariuma is a Brazilian brand banking on bamboo. Known for being lightweight, flexible and resistant, bamboo is the base of their new casual shoes – along with a blend of recycled plastic from water bottles. The upper shoe is made with just three pieces, including the lining! In other words, Cariuma manages to reduce labor, CO2 emissions and waste all at once. In addition, Cariuma’s shoes are temperature-regulating so you can wear them in any weather!
Cariuma’s IBI vegan shoes sold out just two weeks after launch, building up an astonishing waitlist of over 5,000 people and 10,000 feet. Luckily, their vegan shoe is back by popular demand! The IBI is the first-ever shoe made with sustainable bamboo, recycled-plastics knit and a sugarcane EVA sole. Not only is it carbon neutral, it’s also machine washable, affordable (selling for just $98) and available worldwide. Even sweeter news: The sugarcane EVA makes their shoes feel light as air for an oh-so-comfy fit.
Stella McCartney was the first vegan luxury brand ever. As such, it has been a principal pioneer of the new sustainable fashion era. Her upcoming Spring-Summer 2020 collection celebrating “the power of plants” will be her most sustainable season yet. For instance, 75% of the collection is made from zero-impact fabrics and innovations like new Koba faux fur, an alternative to non-degradable plastic options.
Her Loop Sneakers are footwear feats without glue; as a result, you can easily separate and recycle the upper and sole. Stella makes all types of shoes from non-leather materials as part of their cruelty-free ethos, from ballet flats to lace-up heel sandals to platform sneakers. As such, this season’s campaign tagline is “becauseluxuryfashion doesn’t have to cost the earth.”
Known as “the world’s most comfortable shoes” (can confirm!), Allbirds sprinted onto the shoe scene in 2014. Ever since, fans across the globe have been flocking to slip their feet into these sheepishly stylish sneakers and comfortable collections.
Made from their trademarked Trino, a blend of Merino and Trees, Allbirds are made of responsibly harvested eucalyptus tree fibers and ZQ Merino wool.Their laces are made from recycled bottles, while their packaging is made from 90% recycled cardboard.
Wool is breathable, lightweight, moisture-absorbing, temperature-regulating and odor-minimizing, making it the perfect base for arguably the most comfortable shoe on the planet.Good for you while good for ewe too – no sheep are harmed in the making of these wooly wonder-shoes.
Chair today, gone tomorrow. French brand Le Lissier has a unique approach to upcycling, creating stylish sneakers from old curtains and upholstery fabric. The concept: reusing produced fabrics to prevent creating any new waste. The sneakers may be designed for casual wear, but the fabrics come from fancy tapestries and furniture from France. While founder Nicole Carrouset was going through old curtains from her grandmother, she thought the designs would make great sneakers. Then, the brand was born.
Each fabric is chosen for its color, design and quality. Since each fabric is unique, no shoe is the same. Designed in Paris and handmade in Portugal, Le Lissier’s collection is the perfect blend of antique chic and upscale upcycling.
In other elegant European sustainable shoe news, Yatay is an innovative Italian-made brand that takes sustainability to another level. Their main manufacturing plant uses self-sufficient solar panels and every step of their fabrication process is designed for low environmental impact. For instance, their materials are all between 65-85% USDA certified organic-based. Furthermore, they don’t use animal products and they encourage customers to give their shoes to someone else or to return directly to the brand if they no longer want them. Yatay will remove the rubber soles and melt them down to make a new pair!
Plus, for each pair of Yatay shoes they sell, they pledge to plant a tree in a forest in Kenya. With unique styles and colors ranging from classic white to vibrant green, they are a delicious addition to the fashion of footwear.
To date, 70% of Sézane products use environmentally friendly materials; the brand is hoping to see that number rise to 80% in 2020. 31% of their leather is vegetable-tanned,andthenew sustainable version of their popular “Jack”shoes have outsoles with comfort foam made of 100% recycled polyester, organic cotton laces, and sewing thread with the OEKOTEX label that confirms the absence of harmful chemical substances.
Thanks to Sézane’s recycling program “La Grande Collecte,” more than 12,000 pieces have been recycled, 100% of their shipping boxes use recycled or FSC-certified cardboard, and all of their locations are powered by renewable energy. In 2021, Sézane aims to switch the power supply of their digital services to at least 50% renewable energy, toreach 80% eco-friendly materials, and increase the traceability for every aspect of their manufacturing process. So while the shoes aren’t yet 100% carbon footprint-free, Sézane calculates its carbon footprint every year and they’re certainly walking very quickly in the right direction.
Speaking of tomorrow, the brand’s DEMAIN solidarity program has raised more than 2 million euros to date to support dozens of organizations and thousands of children around the world.
Rebecca Leffler is a Paris-based writer and journalist who, after a career as the French correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter and as a film critic on Canal+, traded red carpets for green smoothies. She’s written five books about healthy lifestyle from Paris to NYC and beyond, including Très Green, Très Clean, Très Chic: Eat (and Live!) the New French way with plant-based, gluten-free recipes for every season, and most recently Le Nouveau Manuel de la Cuisine Végétale. Rebecca has pioneered the “vegolution” in Paris, where she continues to organize events focusing on healthy eating, yoga and la vie en rose… And green! You can keep up with Rebecca on Instagram!