Saturday, June 15, 2024

Sustainable Sneakers for Luxe Comfort: From Balenciaga’s Banana Fiber Triple S to Celeb Fave Veja


Leather-free sneakers have gone mainstream, and the best ones are coming from luxury brands now offering sustainable options for every look. From the runway to the streets, sneakers are definitely in. 

A great pair of sneakers is the key to any good wardrobe. Not only are they extremely versatile, pairing with pretty much anything in your closet, but they are also the best way to walk around in comfort. It is no wonder they have replaced the stilettos of seasons past.

However, sneakers aren’t traditionally known for their sustainable features, most being made from polyester or leather. But a new wave of shoes making the rounds are changing that. Made with eco-friendly materials from bio-based textiles to recycled polyester and even cactus leather. The sneakers of the 21st century are flashing their sustainability without compromising their style.

What makes a sneaker sustainable?

Since there’s no regulation on the term sustainable, it can be a difficult metric to quantify. But there are some core considerations when shopping for sustainable sneakers.

First up: leather. Derived from animals including cows, kangaroo, and buffalo, along with more exotic skins like crocodile, alligator, or snake, leather is a leading contributor to climate change. Livestock production accounts for about 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. It also brings a whole host of ethical issues, unlike vegan leather, which can be derived from plants, fungi, and synthetic materials.

valentino sustainable shoes
The Open for Change shoes are a sustainability first for Valentino | Courtesy

Other considerations include upper materials, which can be virgin plastic-based nylon or polyester if not leather. The soles can also be made from unsustainable materials such as polyurethane and synthetic foams. Laces too can come from GMO cotton or plastics. The best rule of thumb is to look for shoes that clearly identify the source materials and practices that go into the shoes.

Some shoes are now touting biodegradability — meaning the shoes break down just like organic matter leaving no trace. Just be sure to read the fine print, here. Are all materials biodegradable or just part of the shoe?

And when it comes to end of life, most all shoes can be recycled—at least in part. But don’t throw them in your blue bin. You’ll need to send those old kicks back to the manufacturer or look for stores offering takeback or buyback programs. Sometimes there’s even an incentive for the consumer such as a discount on your next purchase.

The best sustainable luxury sneakers

The luxury footwear market is experiencing a stampede of sustainable offerings. And they’re well worth the spend. Not only are you getting a stylish pair of luxury shoes, but the combination of high-quality materials and craftsmanship along with knowing they’re made with sustainable and ethical materials make these sneakers worthy of wearing virtually everywhere.

Balenciaga x Bananatex Triple S

Balenciaga builds on its sustainability commitment with a new Triple S sneaker made using Bananatex canvas. The shoe was years in the making and features a 3-layered outsole, embroidered size at the edge of the toe, embroidered, debossed and rubber logos, bi-color hiking boot style laces, and easy back and tongue pull-on tabs.

Balenciaga x Bananatex sneaker.

Adidas x Stella McCartney Earthlight Sneakers

Stella McCartney is known as a leader in the sustainable fashion space and her partnership with Adidas is just as sustainable. These Earthlight Sneakers are made with 100 percent recycled polyester that comes from ocean plastic.

Adidas Stan Smiths

The Adidas Stan Smith sneaker is iconic. They have been around since 1971, and while their style remains untouched, the materials are new and improved. Made with a series of recycled materials, the upper features at least 50 percent recycled content in a quest to help end plastic waste.

Valentino Open for Change Sneaker

Another newcomer to the sustainable sneaker game, Valentino has reimagined its fan-favorite sneakers with sustainable materials. The sneakers, made ethically in Italy, are crafted from a combination of polyurethane and sustainable viscose.

Veja Condor 2 and V-15 CWL

Veja knows how to craft a beautiful sneaker so it’s no surprise the shoes are a celeb fave. Meghan Markle, Emily Ratajkowski, Emma Watson, Katie Holmes, and Reese Witherspoon have all been spotted in Vejas. The line includes sleek white kicks, trendy high-tops, and even athletic tennies. These sneakers and high-tops are made with an upper crafted from organic cotton and covered in resin from corn and castor oil. The V logo is made of rubber and rice waste, the laces are 100 percent organic cotton and the inner lining is a combination of organic cotton and recycled polyester.

Cariuma Knit Slip-On

You’ll be able to walk for days in the knit slip-on from Cariuma. Crafted from sustainably harvested bamboo and recycled plastics and ultra-comfortable. The insole is made from removable lightweight memory, cork, and Mamona oil. The green EVA on the outsole is crafted from sugarcane.

Saye Modelo ‘89

Saye is on a quest to become a zero-waste brand by using all bio-based and recycled materials. All of its shoes are made in certified Fair Labor factories. It also works towards fighting deforestation by empowering local communities, planting 2 trees for each sneaker sold (200,000 trees and counting). Its Modelo ‘89 has a carbon footprint of nearly 54 percent less than the average sneaker.

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength

The Vivobarefoot Motus Strength is the first-ever zero-drop barefoot strength-training shoe and the first in Vivobarefoot’s pinnacle performance range. The lightweight shoe is made for moving naturally during high-impact workouts, with added protection and stability. Made with 98 percent recycled PU foam, this shoe also helps to reduce waste and the use of virgin plastics.

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength shoe.

Saucony Peregrine RFG

Made for running, these Saucony’s are so sleek you’ll want to wear them everywhere. Not only are they super comfortable but they’re made from organic and renewable materials. The rubber outsole comes from recycled tires, the cushion uses 30 percent sugarcane-based foam, and mesh is made from responsibly sourced materials.

Saucony sneaker.

Related on Ethos:

All products featured on Ethos have been independently selected by our editorial team.
When you buy something through our links, Ethos may earn an affiliate commission.


Get the Boho Chic Look With These Eco Style Essentials

From Blake Lively bringing it to the red carpet to the street style revival, boho chic is back and better than ever. Here's how to get the boho look.

Crew or Ankle, You Can Literally Reduce Your Environmental Footprint With These Eco Sock Brands

Keep your toes warm and the planet cool with these sustainable sock brands that use recycled, natural, and bio-based materials.

Patagonia Advances True Circularity for Wetsuits: ‘Breakthrough In Recycling’

Outdoor gear giant Patagonia introduces a pioneering circular solution for wetsuits in collaboration with Bolder Industries, transforming old Yulex wetsuits into new, eco-friendly surf and dive gear.

Swiss Footwear Giant On Taps AI to Green Its Supply Chain

Global sportswear brand, On, along with Verity, a leader in AI and robotics, have announced a strategic collaboration to revolutionize warehouse operations and optimize inventory management using artificial intelligence.

9 Clothing Labels Prioritizing Recycled Materials: ‘Making Fashion More Responsible’

Help reduce fashion waste by ditching fast fashion in favor of recycled clothing brands.