5 sustainable sneaker brands to watch out for


Today more and more consumers are fed up with trendy, expensive and unnecessary sneakers – in short: overhyped. They want something that’s gentle on the eyes, feet, the environment, and their wallet. An added bonus is, if the sneakers don’t end up in the hazardous waste bin at the end of their life. Is it possible to do all of this? FashionUnited has found five young sneaker brands that promise a brighter future.


Image: Ethletic

Sustainable sneaker brand Ethletic proves that fashion and environmental and social awareness are not mutually exclusive: they make vegan sneakers from Fairtrade certified organic cotton and natural rubber (FSC) and donate one dollar American pair sold to workers’ protection associations. Those who are particularly happy with their sneakers can also tip workers in Pakistan.

“The people who work for Ethletic are not just a number on the balance sheet or a cost factor for us. We got to know these people. We value them and their skills, their commitment, their history, ”explains Ethletic CEO Mark Solterbeck, who travels several times a year to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan to maintain personal contact with manufacturers.

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Image: Genesis

German sneaker brand Genesis has been sustainable and environmentally friendly from the start. It brings together just about everything that makes a consumer’s heart beat when it comes to consuming without a bad conscience: upcycled materials, textile innovations made from oyster shells, banana leaves, pineapple leaves and others, fair working conditions, donations to environmental associations and, of course, good design and quality.

“It’s in my nature to do nothing reluctantly. If it is a durable shoe, then everything must be durable: all the materials used for the shoe, but also the packaging, transport, POS material, etc., up to the adhesive tape that we use to seal the boxes, ”says Genesis founder Jens Huesken.

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Finnish sneaker brand Rens released the world’s first sneaker made from coffee grounds and recycled plastic in 2019 and won the Reddot Award 2021 for Outstanding Product Design. Each shoe uses coffee grounds from 21 cups of coffee, which is carbonated and mixed with recycled PET from six water bottles.

The community is important for the brand, which is already preparing its second model of sneakers: “There has been constant encouragement from the start and also very good feedback from the community. We have now incorporated many wishes and comments into our next model of performance sneakers Nomad, which will be launched by mid-July with a Kickstarter campaign, ”announces the brand.

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Image: Enabled

The Swiss sports shoe brand On has taken away the possession of a pair of sneakers: Produce, use, reuse – with its Cyclon running shoe, We close the product cycle. The high performance shoe is something you can never really own. When the running shoe reaches the end of its life, it is exchanged at the manufacturer for a new pair. It sounds crazy, but that’s exactly how we hope to make the textile industry a little greener.

And Cyclon is just the “beginning of the future” for the brand founded in Zurich in 2010: “We are on the way to designing and producing all of our products in a circular fashion and Cyclon is the first step in this direction,” , said Viviane Gut, head of sustainability at On, at the Sustainable Fashion Summit 2021. The brand also makes sure to source ethically, is transparent in its supply chain and reduces packaging to a minimum.

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Image: Woden

Danish sneaker brand Woden – which stands for “Works of Denmark” – has been committed to giving their shoes a greener imprint from the start. The brand has replaced as much synthetic material as possible with materials such as fish leather, a minimum of 10% recycled rubber in the outsoles, and eco-cork insoles in all shoes. It took two years to make the Natural Soft dual-density polyurethane midsole and offers a more cushioned, shock-absorbing sole for added comfort. Parents will be happy to know that Woden also offers sustainable children’s sneakers.

“It is slowly becoming fashionable to be sustainable. But there are no 100% sustainable sneakers. Everything that is produced has an environmental and social price and we still have a long way to go. But at Woden, we’re proud to be part of the change. This is how we are raising the bar for a greener footprint – one step at a time, ”says Woden founder and CEO Carsten Holm.

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While Holm is certainly right, at the moment there are no 100% sustainable sneakers – but brands continue to innovate and research to go further in that direction. What we liked about the five sustainable sneaker brands featured here is that they are young brands that have been geared towards sustainability from the start. They also know their customers well and make sure they incorporate their wishes for environmental awareness, comfort and transparency without making the resulting sneaker unaffordable: all of the sustainable sneakers featured here are in the low to mid price range.

This article was originally written in German for FashionUnited.de before being translated into English.

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