Image by On Running
This post contains some affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, EcoCult receives a small percentage of the sale price. We only recommend brands that we truly believe in. Support our editorial work by supporting them!
There’s a lot of to ask of a great running sneaker — especially a sustainable one.
You need reliable performance, support and breathability, and supreme comfort to power you through your routine run or intense training session. It needs to be well constructed enough to last multiple seasons without breaking down, all while being ethically made with responsible materials.
If that sounds complicated, don’t stress. We broke down our criteria for quality sustainable running sneakers so you can shop smart for your workout.
Performance Quality: A quality running shoes need to have significant support, impact absorption, and traction. Several of the brands below have sneakers especially designed for road or trail running, and offer extra grip features such as studs for extremely cold conditions. Look for innovative structures that focus on practical performance through impact protection, cushioned inner soles, and designs that support your entire foot through the most intense workouts.
Breathable & Sustainable Materials: Most sustainable sneaker brands uses a combination of natural, bio-based and recycled synthetic materials to create supportive but comfortable running shoes. Avoid virgin synthetics when possible, and instead opt for reused or recycled polyester. Look for merino wool, which is naturally moisture wicking, breathable, and doesn’t hold on to odors like synthetics. For inner and outer soles, look for brands that responsibly source natural rubber and latex.
Durability & Longevity: A pair of running shoes, especially sustainably made ones, should be well constructed enough to last you for several seasons. Look for the materials listed above, as well as the design of the sneakers itself. Some brands also offer repair services or advice on how to get the maximum lifespan out of your shoes.
Ethics & Transparency: Look for brands that map their supply chain frequently to audit their manufacturing partners and suppliers. This helps to ensure fair wages and conditions for garment workers, as well as responsible environmental practices with minimal impact. If you’re unsure if a brand is trustworthy, check for third-party reassurances such as B Corp or Fair Labor Association.
So, all that being said, here are some eco-friendly running sneakers we recommend.
What we like: Veja is a certified B Corp that makes comfortable and durable sneakers for road running and training. It works directly with material producers to ensure fair pay, including the rubber it sources from family-run coops in the Amazon. It uses other materials such as ricinus oil, and recycled synthetics, and natural latex to create long lasting inner and supportive elements. You can see each shoe’s material makeup on its product page. Veja’s entire collection is ethically made in Brazil by its long-term factory partner.
Our review: We tried a pair of Veja’s Condor 2, and they held up through travel and a three-mile run. They were comfortable and bouncy right out of the box, and gripped well on both the road and mud. The recycled polyester blend “alveomesh” is surprisingly breathable for a synthetic upper. They seem to be well made (aside from the toe, which feels a bit thin,) but we’ll let you know if the lightweight materials hold up. Just make sure you go a size up, as they tend to run a bit small.
What we like: Allbirds is a certified B Corp that creates lightweight running sneakers from natural and recycled materials. It uses Tencel, merino wool, and its original Sweet Foam to make durable styles that offer a range of support, impact, and underfoot feels. You can choose your shoe by your specific running needs, including everyday runs, long-distance marathons, or off-road treks. The brand fosters a short manufacturing chain with close relationships backed by regular audits, and maps its tier 1 and 2 suppliers. Allbirds also has a resale platform where you can buy gently used pairs and trade in your old runners for a discount on your next purchase.
Watch out for: Allbirds has yet to map its tier 3 and 4 suppliers on its website.
What we like: This Swedish, certified B Corp offers running shoes for everyone from beginners to practiced athletes. It uses recycled polyester, BLOOM algae foam, and waterproof bluesign-approved lining for stability and long-distance comfort. Icebug collection features incredible traction for all terrain types and offers studded options for running in frozen weather. The brand is also a member of the Fair Wear Foundation and regularly audits its factories in Vietnam and China.
Watch out for: Some Icebug sneakers use virgin synthetics
What we like: This Austrian family-owned brand makes merino wool runners for a naturally breathable and moisture-wicking workout. They’re lightweight, flexible, and supportive with a ribbed tread for traction. The runners are machine washable with an interchangeable merino wool performance inner sole. Giesswein sources traceable Mulesing-free wool from mills in Italy and Britain and conducts its entire manufacturing process in Austria to minimize shipping emissions.
Watch out for: There is little information available on where Giesswein sources the Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) soles for its sneakers.
What we like: This certified B Corp makes lightweight minimalist running shoes designed to feel as close to being barefoot as possible. Vivobarefoot uses recycled plastic, traceable merino wool and leather, and hemp for its road, trail, and training running collections. The brand maps its value chain on its website, and offers both a secondhand selection and a repair service (for customers in the U.K.) to extend the lifespan of the sneakers.
Watch out for: While it does utilize Bloom algae-based EVA foam, it currently makes up only 5% of the foam, with the rest being typical synthetic EVA.
What we like: This brand makes plush running shoes designed for smooth running and maximum shock absorption. You can shop running shoes in range of cushion levels, frequency of runs per week, and running types. Its latest line of running shoes, the Index, is fully recyclable. Salomon is a member of the Fair Labor Association and maintains an ethical policy for all suppliers. All of its partner factories are audited annually.
Watch out for: There is little information available on its material sourcing.
What we like: This Swiss-engineered running brand innovates design and materials to sustainably create high-quality sneakers. Its collection of road and trail runners are lightweight and designed with impact protection. The brand works closely with its suppliers and lists each manufacturing partner on its website. On also offers a subscription program for its recycled and recyclable “Cyclon” where you send back your worn pair for a new one every six months.
Watch out for: Only a small percentage of its synthetic materials are recycled.
What we like: Nike’s history of quality activewear speaks for itself, but the brand is also top-ranked for its decarbonization efforts (according to the non-profit Stand.Earth) and strong chemical management policy. It’s made numerous sustainability commitments, including clean energy policies and supply chain transparency. Its “sustainable materials” labeled shoes contain at least 20% recycled materials by weight, and it encourages you to get the longest lifespan out of your sneakers through mindful practices.
Watch out for: The brand still uses a significant amount of virgin synthetics.
What we like: Hoka makes durable and lightweight trail, road, and gym training sneakers for every type of runner. The majority of its shoes are made with at least one recycled or reused material element. Its parent brand, Deckers, maps its tier 1 and 2 supply chain partners. HOKA adheres to the United Nation’s International Bill of Human Rights and uses recycled paper in all of its packaging.
Watch out for: It’s unclear what percentage of virgin synthetics is in each shoe. The brand has yet to map its tier 3 and 4 partners.
The post The Top 9 Sustainable Running Sneaker Brands, Ranked appeared first on Ecocult.