18 UK ethical trainer brands creating a greener footprint

18 UK ethical trainer brands creating a greener footprint

Girl in white ethical trainers and jeans UK

In recent years the sneaker market has become big business. Sneakers make up a significant chunk of the 23 billion shoes made each year. So, we’ve dived a little deeper into brands for ethical trainers in the UK that have a positive footprint. 

What makes an ethical trainer?

In a world of overconsumption, the most sustainable option is to not buy more products. However, if your old trainers are so worn out that you need to buy new, then opting for an ethical brand can help to lower your impact. Our guide on how to recycle your old pair can help you reduce your impact further.

Here are some core things to look out for when searching for sustainable footwear brands. 

Materials

Conventional trainers, often made from nylons, plastics and unsustainable rubbers, don’t score the best marks for sustainability. Ethical trainer brands are working to change this by using materials that are renewable, recycled, and that use a conscious production model.

Certified natural materials such as GOTS organic cotton, recycled rubber, recycled plastic bottles and even coffee grounds or fishing nets are the building blocks of sustainable trainers. They mean the use of less water, less virgin materials and a lower carbon footprint.

A growing number of brands are joining the movement to end plastic waste and reuse it in their shoes. The good news about this is that they´re not so commonly washed, so microplastic shedding is much less of a problem than for clothes.

People, animals and the planet

Truly ethical brands are kind to people, the planet and animals. When shopping for ethical trainers look for brands that have robust policies that ensure workers’ rights are upheld. It´s also great to find brands that are certified by organisations such as Fairtrade.

Vegan brands have the least risk of animal exploitation, but if buying from brands that use products such as wool or leather, make sure they are from managed sources certified by organisations such as the Leather Working Group.

Girl in white trainers on rocky beach UK
Photo by Vu Thu Giang on Unsplash

Waste

It takes the average pair of shoes thirty to forty years to decompose. When considering the monumental amount of shoes created each year, that´s a lot of footwear littering the world.

Sustainable brands work to change this, providing practical ways for consumers to dispose of their old shoes when they´re worn out. This could be an in-house recycling program or other practical sustainable disposal solutions.

And brands that use biomaterials such as sugar cane and corn waste are even working towards their trainers becoming fully biodegradable, reducing their environmental impact even further.

Sustainable brands also consider the waste generated in production. This means taking steps to reduce waste and responsibly handling any unavoidable waste created. This includes methods such as using closed-loop systems and avoiding dumping that adds to pollution levels.

For tips on how to recycle running shoes check out our article here

Brands creating ethical UK trainers

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This brings us to our guide to the best sustainable trainer brands making shoes with a minimal environmental footprint. If you are looking for running shoes specifically, then we have more great brands to be found in our running shoes article.

1.

Koi

Based: UK                     Ships to: UK, USA, Europe (Stockists in UK, USA, France and Spain)
Made in: China
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: £35 – £90
Sustainability creds: Recycled and recyclable packaging, vegan

Koi styles are quirky, bold and creative. A brand unafraid of bright colours, a chunky design, or shoes decorated with charms and studs, the shoes from Koi truly are unique in the marketplace.

The brand does still have a bit of work to do to be a 100% ethical brand and doesn’t use only strictly sustainable products. However, it does have impressive vegan credentials and has made concrete steps to embrace a more sustainable outlook. These steps have included introducing recycled and recyclable packaging boxes.

2.

NAE Vegan Shoes

Based: Portugal                       Ships to: Worldwide
Made in: Portugal
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: £60 – £115 (on sale for as low as £36)
Sustainability creds: Oeko-Tex Standard materials, use of natural and recycled materials, PeTA Cruelty-Free, Global Recycled Standard

With simple yet striking designs, NAE trainers are contemporary, comfortable and sustainable. NAE stands for no aminal exploitation so you can be sure that all of their footwear is vegan.

The label has men’s, women’s and unisex styles in a range of colours. With styles reinforced in pressure areas and designed with arch support, these trainers are made to be the comfortable go to shoes for everyday wear.

NAE has achieved a commendable ‘good’ rating on Good On You and creates styles that are breathable, versatile and cruelty-free.

3.

Cariuma

Based: Brazil                    Ships to: Worldwide
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: £60 – £105
Sustainability creds: Global Recycled Standard, GOTS certified materials, WRAP certified manufacturing partner, B-Corp certified, I’M GREEN certified sugarcane, tree planting initiatives

Cariuma believes that comfort and sustainability should go hand in hand. The Brazilian label has become the home of ethical trainers with a timeless appeal, designed to keep your feet happy all day long.

The brand takes a comprehensive approach to sustainability. It sources sustainable materials, promotes ethical production and has been certified by B Corporation.

Photo by Mojtaba Fahiminia on Unsplash

4.

Komodo

Based: UK                       Ships to: Internationally
Made in: China, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Vietnam
Range: Men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories
Price: £50 – £139
Sustainability creds: GOTS Certified Cotton, recycled materials, natural materials, use of natural rubber, no aminal products used in their shoes

Made from products like corn waste, cactus, cork and recycled plastic bottles, trainers from Komodo are trendy and sustainable. Simple, but with modern undertones, these ethical UK sneakers are innovative in their materials but embrace a classic style. 

The brand aims to inspire us all to make a positive difference through their ‘Activist Club’, as well as embracing sustainable materials.

5.

Matt & Nat

Based: Canada                    Ships to: Worldwide
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: £65 – £105
Sustainability creds: Cruelty-free, vegan, use of recycled material

With a name that stands for materials and nature, Matt & Nat create on-trend vegan trainers. The brand embraces recycled materials (including linings made from recycled water bottles) and innovative vegan leathers.

Matt & Nat trainers are minimalistic and modern in design, making them versatile and trans-seasonal.

6.

Ethletic

Based: Germany                       Ships to: UK, USA, Europe
Made in: Pakistan
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: €70 – €80
Sustainability creds: Fairtrade certified supply chain, use of organic cotton and FSC certified rubber, supports Workers Welfare Society in Siakolt, PETA Approved Vegan, supports Talon Workers Welfare Society

Embracing an ethical outlook and made with sustainable materials, Ethletic trainers are cool and casual for everyday wear. The brand offers both classic high-top and low-top canvas trainers in a variety of stylish colours.

A winner in the 2016 Fairtrade awards, Ethletic champions ethical manufacturing principles and supports a range of worker welfare organisations.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION

7.

Vegan Outfitters

Based: UK                       Ships to: Worldwide
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear and clothing
Price: £70
Sustainability creds: Vegan, certified organic cotton, use of recycled materials, donates to UK animal sanctuaries

Made for the plant-based generation, Vegan Outfitters have created ethical trainers that are cruelty-free and planet friendly. Boasting a classic style and made from recycled and vegan materials, these shoes are made to leave a positive impact.

While the brand could improve by sharing more comprehensive supply chain information, it is proving that stylish shoes don’t have to come at the cost of animals.

8.

Vivobarefoot

Based: UK                       Ships to: Worldwide (stockists in the UK, Europe and the Middle East)
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear and clothing
Price: £56 – £140
Sustainability creds: B Corp certified, uses natural and recycled materials, hosts a resale platform, Livebarefoot Fund

Founded by seventh-generation cobblers, Vivobarefoot is the home of minimalist footwear made to be good for the planet and good for your feet. Designed to bring us closer to nature, Vivobarefoot styles are flexible and wide to mimic barefoot walking.

The brand has achieved the commendable B Corp certification and uses a range of recycled and natural materials in its products.

9.

Will’s Vegan Store

Based: UK                       Ships to: Worldwide
Made in: Portugal, Italy
Range: Men’s, women’s and kids’ shoes and clothing
Price: £70 – £105
Sustainability creds: PeTA Cruelty-Free, use of sustainable and recycled materials, Carbon Neutral supply chain

Sporting timeless and sophisticated designs, Will’s Vegan Store has ethical UK trainers for the modern fashion scene. With features such as insoles designed for comfort, these shoes are a comfortable, vegan option for when you need new trainers.

The brand encourages recycling through its ‘return to recycle’ program and ensures a cruelty-free approach in producing all its stylish sneakers.

Photo courtesy of Good Guys Don´t Wear Leather

10.

Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather

Based: France                      Ships to: Worldwide (minimum order for UK buyers)
Made in: Italy
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: £90 – £125
Sustainability creds: Cruelty-free, Oekotex Standard materials, vegan, PeTA Cruelty-Free

The cruelty-free specialists Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather has designed a range of sneakers that embrace an edgy style, creating a modern and bold look. The label has high-top, low-top and running shoe styles, making it the one-stop trainer shop.

You’ll find innovative vegan leathers and materials incorporating everything from apple waste to microfibres made from corn glucose in the Good Guys range.

11.

Allbirds

Based: USA                       Ships to: Worldwide
Made in: South Korea, China, Vietnam
Range: Men’s and women’s shoes and apparel
Price: £100 – £125
Sustainability creds: ZQ Certified Merino wool, use of natural and recycled materials, carbon offsetting activities

Allbirds styles are casual enough for everyday wear while still maintaining a finished and elevated feel. Embracing a largely neutral colour palette, Allbirds have created a range that is classic and comfortable.

Overall, Allbirds takes an innovative and active approach to sustainability.  It does need to provide some more concrete information on its steps to reduce waste in its supply chain. However, Allbirds’ trainer range incorporates laces made from recycled plastic bottles and insole foam made from a castor bean oil base.

12.

Po-Zu

Based: UK                       Ships to: Worldwide
Made in: Portugal, Sri Lanka
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: £110 (on sale for as low as £45)
Sustainability creds: Good Shopping Guide Ethical Company, Fair Rubber Association certified, GOTS certified materials, Solvent Free Policy

The home of shoes created with love for people and the planet, Po- Zu makes ethical UK sneakers that don’t skimp on style. Available in monochromatic shades, these sleek shoes are chic and trans-seasonal.

The label has impressively been ranked as the number one shoe brand by the Good Shopping Guide.

Girl in black outfit and white ethical trainers UK
Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

13.

Veja

Based: France                     Ships to: Worldwide
Made in: Brazil, Peru
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: £75 – £265
Sustainability creds: Implements fairtrade principles, B Corp certified, GOTS certified materials, recycled packaging, Leather Working Group certified tanneries

Veja’s range of trainers has a creativity and playfulness without losing its minimalistic undertone. These cool shoes exude an undeniably fashionable style without looking like they’re trying too hard.

Holding an impressive B Corp certification and working with certified organic materials, Veja has the credentials to back up its sustainability claims. 

14.

Rens Original

Based: Finland                       Ships to: Worldwide
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear and hoodies
Price: £99 – £159 (on sale for as low as £81)
Sustainability creds: Use of innovative and sustainable materials, use of natural materials and recycled plastic, sustainable packaging

Rens Original´s pursuit to create an ever-evolving sustainable brand has resulted in some impressive and innovative fashion creations. With trainers incorporating everything from recycled plastic and coffee, the brand is tackling food waste and plastic pollution problems to make seriously cool footwear.

Rens shoes are flexible, comfortable, durable and definitely original.

15.

Loci

Based: UK                      Ships to: Worldwide
Made in: Portugal
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear
Price: £135 – £150
Sustainability creds: Supports conservation organisations, use of recycled and natural materials, vegan styles available

With a simplified charm that embraces casual elegance, ethical trainers from UK brand Loci offer some great sneaker styles. The brand hosts a range of vegan styles and goes the extra mile to support conservation organisations.

Committed to sustainability, Loci uses recycled ocean plastic to create its classic shoe styles, with one pair removing 20 plastic bottles from the ocean.

White trainers on red background
Photo by Christian Chen on Unsplash

16.

Saint + Sofia

Based: UK                       Ships to: UK, USA, Europe
Made in: Portugal, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria
Range: Men’s and women’s footwear and clothing
Price: £99 – £219
Sustainability creds: GOTS certified materials, eco-friendly packaging, funds research by the Natural History Museum, supports tree planting programs, use of sustainable fabrics

British brand Saint + Sofia is the creator of trainers that exude a modern, sophisticated charm. Find trainers featuring monochromatic shades, epic leopard print sneakers or trendy silver styles in the Saint + Sofia range.

While reduced consumption is the best way to tackle fashion’s sustainable problem, Saint + Sofia does help with supporting sustainable projects. The brand supports organisations including Trees for Cities and the London Natural History Museum to promote sustainable development.

17.

Noah

Based: Germany                       Ships to: Worldwide
Made in: Italy
Range: Men’s, women’s and kid’s shoes
Price: €85 – €315
Sustainability creds: PeTA Approved Vegan, PeTA Business Friends, PeTA UK Vegan Fashion Awards Winner

Comfortable to wear and with a sporty vibe, Noah creates trainers with a casual look. Made from vegan materials, these ethical trainers are free from toxins and breathable as well as featuring a cork innersole, making them comfortable to wear all day.

Sustainable and cruelty-free Noah is the real-life example showing that trendy trainers can be kind to people and animals.

18.

Vestiaire Collective

Based: France                       Ships to: Worldwide
Range: Men’s, women’s and children’s pre-loved fashion
Price: £8 – £80,000+
Sustainability creds: Pre-loved platform, B-Corp certified

Believing in the concept that the fashion that is best for the planet is the fashion that already exists, Vestiaire Collective has become the ultimate place to find high-quality pre-loved styles. When it comes to finding epic trainers, Vestiaire’s preloved nature means the variety on hand is almost endless.

Everything from Balenciaga to Louis Vuitton can be found in the Vestiaire trainer range. Making these trainers even better, when buying pre-loved styles you are helping to keep good shoes out of landfill.

Creating a greener footprint

Whether you are looking for minimalistic appeal, innovative materials or unique designs, there are some great brands creating ethical trainers for the UK market. While we encourage conscious and reduced consumption as the most eco-friendly solutions, these brands are helping to create a more sustainable fashion future.

Embracing sustainable principles and ethical policies, these organisations are helping us all to create a kinder and greener footprint.

If you’re searching for ethical activewear as well as ethical trainers then check out our handy activewear guide

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