Not long ago it was hard to find men’s shoes that were made sustainably or ethically. Those days are over now. Startup brands are pushing the sustainability envelope and traditional brands are introducing more ethical practices.
- Best for Travel: 8000 Kicks – Water resistant, durable, and light with all-day comfort.
- Best Budget: Toms – Many styles under $50.
- Best Style: Greats – From retro, to casual, to street, all of Greats styles look, well… great.
Of course, no shoe brand is 100% sustainable. But when you need a new pair, you can vote with your dollar and support the businesses that are making an effort to be good to people and our planet. So what makes a shoe brand sustainable?
- Materials: Eco-friendly options like hemp, organic cotton, merino wool, cork, recycled rubber and algae blooms
- Packaging: Plastic-free packaging and CO2 shipping offsets
- Labor: Transparency in manufacturing, employing fair labor practices and paying living wages to employees and supply chain vendors
- Social Responsibility: Supporting and partnering with nonprofits and communities as well as employee volunteerism and advocacy
Here are some of the best.
8000 Kicks is here to disrupt the footwear industry by making the most sustainable shoes possible. The goal is to make the best shoe the planet has ever seen. To do that, 8000 Kicks produces sustainable shoes from durable hemp.
The company also creates insoles from hemp and the outsoles from recycled algae blooms. And while hemp and algae may sound more hippie than a pair of Birkenstocks, these kicks are both stylish and functional. The sustainable shoes are splash proof, dust proof, highly breathable, lightweight, and flexible.
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Ekin produces shoes in small numbers to provide maximum quality and minimal ecological footprint. Based in Portugal, the company makes sustainable and ethical shoes using practices like eliminating chrome from leather tanning and using recycled waste products for soles.
The Oak Low shoe in Carmel Vegan for example is a stylish, minimalist sneaker featuring vegan synthetic leather and an organic cotton liner.
Nothing New was built on the belief that if sustainable shoes could look better than what’s already out there, more people will choose the sustainable option. Well played Nothing New.
It’s hard to argue with their classic style. Add in luxury quality and recycled post-consumer plastic, and you’ve got a recipe for some really awesome sneakers.
A unique reason Veja can invest so heavily in quality, eco-friendly materials for its sustainable shoes is that the company does not spend on marketing. Veja estimates 70% of the cost of a big brand sneaker is advertising. This enables Veja to ethically produce awesome-looking sustainable shoes using ecological materials like organic cotton, wild rubber, chrome-free leather, and recycled plastic bottles.
No list of sustainable and ethical shoes would be complete without Allbirds. The brand is a great example of how an ethically-motivated challenger brand can change an industry. Originally started with a Kickstarter campaign, Allbirds is currently valued at $1.7 Billion.
The Certified B Corporation makes sustainable shoes from merino wool, eucalyptus trees, and sugarcane. And Allbirds partners with SOLES4SOULS to donate lightly used Allbirds to those in need. They also ship in 90% post-consumer cardboard and they publish a carbon footprint score for every shoe.
What sets Hey Dude shoes apart is the company’s commitment to affordability. The shoe brand does not have a single pair of men’s shoes on their website that costs over $100. Most of their shoes are right around $60. That said, the style and more importantly comfort have made this brand wildly popular.
Hey Dude has some very interesting sustainable shoe styles. The eco-friendly vegan Wally Chambray features a cork insole and is free from animal byproducts. The Wally Recycled Leather features pieces of hide that would typically be discarded during the leather making process. And the Eco-Knit Collection is made from PET using plastic waste recovered from our oceans.
Cariuma was founded in Brazil to take a stand against the wasteful practices inherent in fast fashion. The sustainable shoe company makes “classic-cool” sneakers that look great, are extremely comfortable and are consciously made.
Cariuma boasts the certifications to back up it’s commitment to sustainability: Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Global Recycled Standard, Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) International OEKO-TEX, and several more. Cariuma has also started a reforestation program, planting 2 trees in the Brazilian Rainforest for every purchase.
Thousand Fell is looking to go beyond just creating eco-friendly shoes. The company strives to be a part of the circular economy by recycling its old shoes. They only use materials that can either be biodegraded, recycled to make new shoes, or upcycled into materials for new projects.
The sustainable shoe brand also offers $20 cash back towards a new pair when you send back your old ones (for free, of course). Odds are though, you may not want to send them back too quickly since they’re pretty sweet kicks. Thousand Fell’s shoes are breathable and resistant to stains and odor. And these sustainable shoes look great, featuring simple and classic lace-up and slip-on designs.
Greats make some of the most stylish sustainable men’s shoes you’ll find. What else would you expect from a Brooklyn-based sneaker brand? But of course, to be on this list, they’ve got to deliver not just on style, but on substance too. And they do.
Greats pride themselves on being a responsible brand from the beginning. They never use single use plastics and instead offer 100% recyclable cardboard packaging. The company partners with factories that use less water and energy and demonstrate fair employment practices. Greats also launched the Royale Knit, which is made from 100% plastic bottles. And of course, they are 100% stylish.
The original one-for-one company, Toms started by donating a pair of shoes for every shoe sold. As a result, the company brought massive awareness to impact businesses worldwide. Toms has now evolved its model to donating at least one-third of all annual profits to partner organizations making an impact, primarily focusing on physical safety, mental health and equality.
Toms is now also committing to further its sustainability efforts by expanding use of organic cotton, reducing its carbon footprint, and continuing to use recycled packaging. The company has introduced Earthwise, a line of sustainable shoes including vegan options made with materials like organic cotton, hemp and recycled rubber.
Images via brands. Pricing accurate at time of publication.