The best ethical and sustainable trainer brands

19 May 2021
4 min read

How many pairs of trainers do you own? Did you know each pair has 63 component parts, most made out of rubber or unrecylable plastic and each with their own polluting supply chain?

If there’s one thing you could change in your wardrobe to help reduce emissions its your trainer brand.

A typical pair of trainers generates 13.5kg of carbon dioxide emissions according to research by MIT. Because so many pairs are sold, Nike sells 25 pairs a second, globally that adds up to a carbon footprint almost as large as air travel.

Conventional trainer brands are coming under increasing scrutiny for their environmental impact

Conventional trainer brands are coming under increasing scrutiny for their environmental impact and what they claim is “sustainable”, and many are taking steps to minimise their footprint. Adidas, for example, has a commitment to ending plastic waste, while PUMA has sharply increased its sustainable materials targets in recent times. Nike, meanwhile, is working towards zero carbon and zero waste.

But these are established brands working to more greenly reimagine their operations. As they do so, a plethora of sustainable-from-the-start labels are flourishing, building ethics and key environmental considerations into their strategies from the ground up. Here are our favourites.


Allbirds Women’s Tree Flyers trainers

Allbirds sprang into the footwear scene with its sustainable merino wool trainers. This brightly coloured running shoe is suited to middle-distances. It’s made partly from castor bean (48% bio-based midsole), using less energy than most trainers. FSC-certified breathable uppers are created from lightweight eucalyptus fibre.
The external heel is made from recycled scraps of the midsole.
Carbon footprint of 8.09kg of Co2e. Allbirds balance emissions by funding environmental projects.

Women’s Tree Flyers £150,


Ecoalf Cervino Trainers

Ecoalf’s main objective is mitigating the damage caused by plastic waste in the ocean. As such, its trainers – and there’s a huge range on offer, from running shoes to vintage-style street kicks – are made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled nylon from fishing nets. All of the brand’s packaging is made from recycled cardboard and dye-free recycled paper, too.

Cervino Trainers £129.90,


Waes 1971 Pink Suede Trainer

Waes claims to be the world’s first and only plastic-free footwear company. Its 100% biodegradable shoes are made using sustainable materials and natural organic processes, and the company’s entire supply chain is carbon neutral. For every pair purchased, the company offsets the associated carbon footprint with donations to the SeaTrees Project, which works to restore global mangroves.

1971 Pink Suede Trainer £140,

Hylo Athletics

Hylo Light Khaki Trainer

Hylo was co-founded by former Premier League footballer Michael Doughty, so expect high performance from their trainers. This everyday running shoe is made from 16 components rather than the usual 63. Ingredients include corn fibre, algae bloom and natural rubber. Hylo is on a mission to reduce landfill. The company accepts old used trainers, from any company, recycles them and gives you a £10 credit as part of the deal.

Hylo Light Khaki Trainer £110,


Veja X BA&SH Ouro Pierre

Founded in 2005, Veja puts emphasis on the economic – as well as environmental – role of sustainability, buying the rubber for its shoes at double the market value in order to enhance the economic worth of forests, thereby helping to protect them. The brand also uses organic cotton and Brazilian leather that is vegetable-tanned and comes from ‘the pampa’, meaning the cows are fed only on native vegetation.

Veja X BA&SH Ouro Pierre £160,


Po-zu Onyx, white and navy Vegea

Po-Zu (derived from the Japanese word ‘to pause’) makes comfortable, stylish footwear that’s designed to last. All of its trainers are vegan, made from a variety of leather alternatives such as linen, like these ones, or Frumat and Pinatex – materials made from apple and pineapple waste. Its range is also made in factories that are 100% solvent-free.

Onyx, white and navy Vegea £45,

Flamingos Life

This Spanish brand has a plant-based ethos. The company aims to make biodegradable sneakers with all production based in Spain and managed by families. Trainers are made from vegan materials such as corn, bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, grown only with water (no pesticides), and natural rubber extracted in a sustainable way from the Hevea brasiliensis tree.

Retro 90s White Vanilla Tomato £160 Made from cornwaste and bamboo,


Over a third of British adults would be happy to buy preloved sports gear

No, this isn’t a sustainable trainer brand but it is all about sustainable trainers. New research from sports brand Decathlon has found that over a third (34%) of British adults would be happy to buy preloved sports gear, with running trainers the most popular item to buy second-hand! Check out sites like, and to see how much money you could save on quality trainers without the environmental price tag.

The bottom line

Well-established footwear brands are waking up to the need for sustainable, ethical practices, but they’re certainly behind the curve compared to the companies listed here. Next time you’re in the market for a new pair of trainers, choose a sustainable brand that will help you tread far more lightly on the planet.


The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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