Purchasing eco friendly footwear is even more important than buying sustainable clothing! Here’s why
By Lora O’Brien
If you’re looking to take a more sustainable approach to your wardrobe and have no idea where to start, your kicks are a great place. Working for a sustainable magazine has taught me a lot when it comes to fashion and its impact on the planet. Eco friendly footwear isn’t always mentioned when we talk about fast fashion, yet it’s absolutely essential, for several reasons.
First up, the shoe industry is powerful key contributor to polluting landfill sites. This could be because more people are likely to throw out old shoes than to donate them. When they’re tossed into landfill, the chemicals used in the manufacturing of shoes slowly start to leak into soil as the shoe slowly starts decomposing. And of course, these chemicals harm both the wildlife and humans.
But that’s not all! Did you know that the footwear industry accounts for a fifth of the fashion industry’s environmental impact, generating 1.4 per cent of global carbon emissions annually? In fact, there are more than 20 billion pairs of shoes manufactured each year! That’s a whole lot of toxins, chemicals and fossil fuels used up.
Thirdly, shoes are as sought after as clothes by fashionistas. Maybe even more so! And like fast fashion clothing, many shoe brands are fast fashion, too. They’re often produced cheaply using highly toxic materials and substances, like PVC. Not only does this harm underpaid workers, but those poor quality shoes, often made from nasty materials, are worn just a few times before heading to landfill sites. And get this – some shoes can take up to 1,000 years to break down! Yikes!
What to look for in sustainable footwear
When it comes to seeking eco friendly footwear, there are two key things to keep in mind: shoes should be sustainable and ethical. Here’s what to watch for.
1. Check for natural fibres
Be sure no harmful materials are used, such as petroleum-based materials (though it’s ok if they’re recycled). Natural fibres are sustainable as they come from renewable resources. Natural fibres are anything that comes from a plant, such as organic cotton, hemp, flax, linen, or wood, such as lyocell or modal fibres by TENCEL.
2. Ensure ethical production was used
It’s a sad fact that some of the biggest brands’ shoes are often produced in factories that use unfair working conditions. Eco friendly footwear brands should support fair labour practices and engage their supply chain to lower their ecological impact. Brands should be transparent about every aspect of the production, from working conditions down to the materials used to make the footwear.
3. Recycled materials matter, too
Not all elements of eco friendly footwear are always made from natural materials. In that case, check to see if recycled plastics and rubbers are used. This is increasingly common for not only the uppers of running shoes, but the soles, too.
5 Eco friendly footwear brands we’re loving
Not sure where to shop for eco-friendly footwear? We’ve done the work for you, and found some of the best styles and brands, below!
Want a pair of sustainable sneakers that feel like clouds on your feet? These Allbirds trainers will help you to tread lightly in everything you do. That’s thanks to their breathable fabric made from responsibly sourced TENCEL™ fibers.
Perfect for: Workouts! Whether you’re jogging on the street or climbing the Stairmaster, these will feel like a cloud for your feet!
Looking for a vegan sneaker that’s sporty, light and fresh? The BALLOON sneaker by Legero is particularly fairly, light and breathable – not to mention sustainable. That’s thanks to the TENCEL branded fibres used, made from renewable raw material wood.
Due to its clever lacing design, BALLOON can be individually adapted to the foot. Its colour-coordinated textile lining guarantees absolute breathability and a perfect foot climate, no matter what the weather.
Perfect for: A sneaker to take you to the office and back in stylish fashion.
You know what’s really important when considering eco-friendly footwear? Ensuring your feet don’t get stinky! This can happen a lot with petrol-based materials that don’t breathe. But these shoes by Goodmove feature TENCEL branded fibre uppers. This fabric provides excellent breathability, is naturally antibacterial and is sustainably sourced, too.
Perfect for: Long, hot days. Your feet will always feel fresh!
Sure, sneakers are great. But have you ever wished you could walk around all day in your slippers? Now you (kind of) can thanks to Mahabis! They’ve gone the extra mile to create a slipper that you can wear at home and when taking a stroll outdoors.
Once you’ve slipped your foot into these, you’ll find the breathability of a sandal merged with the practicality of a lightweight sneaker. The super-soft upper is made from TENCEL branded fibres, which are gentle on the skin, biodegradable and long-lasting.
Perfect for: They’re the perfect shoe to pop on and wear throughout the whole day, indoors and out.
Will’s Vegan Shop absolutely nails it when it comes to cruelty-free footwear, and their LDN Biodegradable Sneakers are no exception. Effortlessly cool and available in three mono shades, they’re sustainable and super comfy on the feet.
Perfect for: Pairing with jeans or tights when you’re out and about. I mean, these are pretty chic, right?
Main and second image: Allbirds