These are the best vegan sneaker brands for walking, weekends, and work!
By Katy Caric
Vegan sneaker brands are staying abreast of the latest footwear trend – basically, the chunky, clunky (but surprisingly comfy!) trainer. The Adidas Ultraboost kicked off the trend, with its thick white sole, and Balenciaga’s multi-hued triple S shoes soon followed, and became a cult favourite, despite looking a bit like something out of a Transformers movie.
They may look bulky, but at least they’re way more comfortable than heels!
Why non leather doesn’t mean vegan friendly
Those two styles mentioned above aren’t normally made out of leather, but don’t think that means they’re vegan friendly. Some seemingly ‘vegan’ shoes can contain hidden, animal-derived ingredients, or can use materials that were tested on animals.
For example? Perhaps surprisingly, plastics can be an animal-derived material that you will find in most sneakers. Yep, that’s right: plastic laces and soles are commonly made with animal fat. This is due to the slip agents that reduce friction.
Another material in traditional sneakers that many fail to realise isn’t vegan is the glue. The collagen from animals is an ingredient that is sometimes used in shoe glue.
So, even if your shoes seem to be made mainly from polyester, canvas, cotton or hemp, they’re probably not vegan unless they state they are.
What to look for when shopping for vegan sneakers
Unfortunately, many vegan shoes are far from eco-friendly in any way. This is changing slowly. More vegan trainer brands are now including upcycled food, like apple skins, or recycled plastic bottles in their arsenal of textiles.
But even if the materials used are animal-friendly, according to PETA, there are some factors you should be aware of when shopping for vegan shoes. If you want them to be sustainable, that is! For example, PETA recommends you be aware of the following:
- Non-synthetic materials: Nearly all running shoes are made exclusively with synthetic materials to keep them light and breathable, but some are made of synthetics blended with animal skin (leather).
- Glues: The synthetic materials of running shoes are put together using strong industrial glues. In some brands, the glue is derived from animal bones or collagen, as mentioned above.
- Dyes: Most shoes are made with synthetic dyes, but some brands may colour their shoes with inks and dyes derived from animals.
Thankfully, it’s become easier than ever to be kind to your legs and feet with the perfect pair of vegan running shoes that are not only made with no cruelty to animals, but that are sustainable, too, thanks to the use of natural materials like hemp or Tencel or recycled fishing nets and plastic bottles.
Here are some of the best ethically made, sustainable vegan sneaker brands that you an wear with just about anything!
The Best Vegan Sneaker Brands
It’s now official: kinda ugly sneakers are the hottest accessory! And Stella’s iconic ‘Eclypse’ shoes provide are just so cool. Grounded by a chunky rubber sole, this style is made from a combination of faux leather and suede and is undoubtedly the best of all the vegan sneaker brands for making a fashion statement!
But if you’re looking for stylish shoes to work out in, you’re in luck. Just check out her collab with adidas, pictured below. Comfy, vegan, AND chic!
Price: From around $250
Gym friendly? Depends on the style.
This brand makes super-comfy vegan sneakers from recycled plastic bottles. But that’s not the only way they’re ethical! This brand donates 10% of their profits to two great charities: Girls in Tech & Oceana.
Their styles range from proper running shoes to the type of fashionable sneakers you’d just wear to walk around in jeans with.
Price: Around $150
Gym friendly? Yes! But it depends on the style you choose.
3. NAE Vegan
Sneakers can be tricky for vegans to find because of all the sneaky animal-based products like glue hidden in the shoe. Nae Vegan makes sure absolutely zero animals are harmed from the glue to the lining to the sole. These ethically made shoes were created in NAE’s Portuguese factories from recycled car air bags, making them ethical, stylish and sustainable.
Price: Around $125
Gym friendly? Well…depends on what you’re doing in there! Perfect for weight lifting or using stationary bikes, for example.
Reebok? In this list? Heck yeah! Their latest sneakers are made from an incredible, new vegan material made from cotton and corn fibres. These are the world’s first 75% USDA certified bio-based shoe, so you can feel really good about what you’re wearing. In fact, they’re probably one of the most eco friendly of all the vegan sneaker brands! We also love that these trainers are also unisex.
Price: Around $60
Gym friendly? Sure, why not? Try them on the stationary bike or elliptical trainer
5. Matt + Nat
This is probably one of the best known of all the vegan sneaker brands. Matt + Nat have long been at the forefront of the vegan accessories movement, and their unisex Oak lace up sneakers are the perfect classic for any wardrobe.
The best part? At under $100, these definitely won’t break the bank. But if you’re not keen on these, they have plenty of other styles – and most of them are unisex, too!
Gym friendly? Not really…but they look cool with jeans or shorts, or matched with a Matt + Nat vegan bag!
Our favourite vegan brand is well known for making slip on shoes from recycled plastic bottles. And now, they’ve expanded their range to include lace-up trainers! We love that they come in an array of pastel shades, and that they’re so damn comfy!
That’s mainly due to the fact that these shoes feature a two-part footbed, designed for supportive structure and cloud-like comfort. A plush, cushy collar hugs your ankle while a soft terry-lined tongue provides adjustability and a sock-like feel. Nice, right?
Gym friendly? Well again – it kind of depends on what you wanna do in there. Weights and machines? Probably fine. Running? Not so much.
These two brands have been collaborating since 2005, but for me, the inclusion of Parley for the Oceans has been the best addition yet. The yarn in these is from Parley Ocean Plastic that is collected from beaches and coastal communities, making them super eco-friendly.
And did I mention that these much-imitated “Ultraboost” shoes are probably the most comfy trainers you’ll ever try on? After all, they’re so-named ‘for the extra boost you get from the patented cushion – perfect for serious workouts and runs!
Price: Around $150
Gym friendly? Oh yes! This is one of the best vegan sneaker brands for working out.
What do you get when you mix recycled plastic bottles, great design, and….coffee grounds? Rens sneakers, that’s what! These vegan sneakers use old java grounds not as a gimmick, but because coffee is naturally anti-microbial and odour resistant, which makes it perfect for shoes. These sneakers are also waterproof, quick-drying, and lightweight. This is definitely one of the best vegan sneaker brands for innovation. What’s not to love?
Image: @meeshuno Instagram
Prices: From $89
Gym friendly? Not so much, though I’d wear these maybe for hiking or walking.
9. Native Shoes
Native Shoes make vegan footwear, which is obviously great for animals. But this brand is super green, too! All of their styles are highly innovative, using zero waste, 3D knitted construction techniques, and their shoes are made with recycled threads, too. Could this be one of the most eco-conscious vegan sneaker brands around? We’d say so!
Price: Around $70
Gym friendly? Sure! Well, for elliptical trainers and walking on the treadmill, why not?
10. Puma Ultrasuede
Can you believe this style first debuted in 1968? But amazingly, Puma’s classic suede sneaker still looks slick – and it got a vegan makeover! Sure, they’re not a fully vegan brand, but the label is so committed to sustainability (they’re aiming to make 90% of everything they use totally sustainable by next year), we just had to include them.
Don’t be fooled by the word ‘suede’ here: the “Re-Suede” version is made of 100% recycled materials, and the outsole is derived from rice husks. Compared with virgin materials, the synthetic textiles used for the Ultrasuede reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by a whopping 80 percent, according to Puma.
Price: Around $70
Gym friendly? Sure! This is one of the best vegan sneaker brands for low-impact sports.
11. Saola Shoes
I bet ‘algae’ isn’t the first material that comes to mind with regards to vegan sneaker brands, but it’s 2020 and the world is a wondrous place! Saola Shoes have partnered with the team over at Bloom Foam, who remove harmful algae from the water.
They put it through a process that dries, crushes and converts it into a powder. The algae powder is then mixed with a synthetic material to create algae foam, which is then used for the soles of these stylish sneakers.
How cool is that?
Price: Around $80-110
Gym friendly? Nope, but they’re super versatile and easy to wear with everything.
Jorge and Tatiana are the young Spanish entrepreneurs who are taking steps towards bridging the gap between fashion and sustainability. The eco-friendly brand focuses on the attention to detail, ensuring every part of the sneaker is designed to last. Thanks to the classic colours chosen, the timelessness of the shapes, alongside the quality materials selected, these shoes should be in your wardrobe for years to come!
Price: Around $120
Gym friendly? No, but they look great with jeans or dressed up with a jacket.
Proving that it’s cool to care, Cariuma is a brand that is taking a stand against the throwaway world of fast fashion, providing a cool classic sneaker that is better for the planet. Reinventing the sneaker game, Cariuma’s range of shoes are crazy comfy and consciously made to last, embracing personal style over fashion trends.
Empowered by sustainability, Cariuma source their materials responsibly, curating premium raw materials so that they have a smaller footprint. And as a brand that really cares, they listened to the demand for a vegan option, and now have a huge range of vegan-friendly sneakers. Made with organic cotton canvas, natural rubber, laces from recycled plastic bottles and plant-based insoles, this footwear brand is truly made with both the earth and YOU in mind.
Price: Around $120 Gym friendly? They’re not made for the gym, but are perfect for keeping active!
14. Humans Are Vain
Let’s face it: humans are vain, and in their search for fashionable items, they’re damaging the planet we live on. As their name suggests, this eco-sustainable vegan brand from Sweden is tossing aside the egotistical demands of the fast-fashion industry. Instead, they create timeless sneaker designs through innovative production methods.
Fusing together upcycled ocean trash, recycled rubber and recycled cotton, alongside recycled packaging, Humans Are Vain is 100% vegan all the way, even down to the water-based glues used for production.
Price: Prices start at around $150 Gym friendly? Some models are! The others make the perfect minimalist design to wear with any outfit.
15. KUMI Sneakers
KUMI is a name you may want to take note of if you have a thing for sneakers! The creative duo behind the brand is creating a range of stylish shoes that are perfect for globe-trotters who respect the environment and its inhabitants. Aligning their values with their style, KUMI is comfortable vegan sneakers that will also help thousands of animals that need food and a decent home.
Made of corn and recycled plastic bottles, the sneakers are soft, resistant, easy to clean, flexible and lightweight. The perfect kick to help the wearer to leave a sustainable footprint wherever they step.
Price: Around $90 Gym friendly? Perhaps not gym-friendly but these will be comfy enough for walks!
Main and second images: Sydney Brown. All other images courtesy of the brands