If you're on the hunt for the best gym trainers but are also keen to build a more sustainable wardrobe, you're in the right place. Adopting a more eco-friendly approach to fashion realistically can't happen overnight, but there are plenty of ethical fashion brands now designing sustainable trainers.
Trainers, and sportswear in general, have historically been the black sheep of the industry, with 95% of the 20 billion pairs of shoes produced globally each year ending up in landfill sites, according to Good News.
Luckily, a lot of trainer brands are looking into more ethical and sustainable ways to produce their shoes, and therefore reduce their carbon footprint and impact on the planet.
The likes of Veja, Superga, and Tretorn, beloved by Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, are focusing their efforts on eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton and hemp (more durable and better recyclable), as well as vegan leather, natural rubber, and recycled materials.
Keep scrolling for our edit of the best for both work and working out - and don't miss our guides to the best running trainers, best weightlifting shoes, and best crosstraining shoes, while you're here.
Best sustainable trainers for running
First things first - Veja is a certified B Corp, which means the brand is genuinely doing its bit for both people and planet. The Impala shoes are one of the first workout offerings from the brand, and they're great. Made from organic, agroecological, and fairtrade cotton, wild rubber from the Amazonian Forest, and innovative materials, such as recycled plastic bottles, you can't go far wrong. Read Health Editor Ally's full Veja Impala review, here.
Another B Corp trainer brand is Allbirds. One of their best selling trainers is the Tree Dasher 2, a carbon neutral shoe made from responsibly sourced eucalyptus tree fibre. Fun fact: even the shoe laces are sustainable, as they're made from recycled plastic bottles, as is the foam insole, crafted from castor beans. Some of their trainers use as much as 60% less energy than materials used in your typical synthetic shoes.
Another great sustainable trainer from Allbirds is the Tree Flyer, their latest edition to the family. They're the lowest CO2 shoe in the world at current, with a carbon footprint of 8.09 kg CO2e. We particularly like the merino wool heel lining and how springy they are to run in, but read our full Allbirds Tree Flyer review, here.
Best sustainable trainers for day-to-day
As part of adidas’ journey to End Plastic Waste and help reduce the use of virgin plastic, this next generation of more sustainable Stan Smith’s takes the iconic silhouette and propels the franchise firmly into the future. The sneaker features a white PRIMEGREEN upper, a series of high-performance recycled materials, matched with a recycled rubber outsole.
The Origin features an interesting and considered design that only uses five pieces to make up the final product, reducing its carbon footprint and using zero glue in the process. Clarks have incorporated mono-materials, recycled materials from production waste and recyclable materials throughout, even the laces are made from 100% recycled polyester.
Po-Zu uses organic cotton and natural linen in its shoes and only uses leather in small quantities and chromium-free. It uses solvent free leather alternatives, working with materials like Eco Micro Fibre, Frumat Appleskin and Piñatex, all great hard wearing and 100% vegan.
From recycling scrap material with a 0% wasted material policy, local production, 0% oil use, 100% use of renewable resources and 90% recycled water in the production process, Giesswein has a huge Green Strategy company policy. They also 100% support a no mulesing process and animal ethicacy standard - meaning happy and safe sheep. The brand also supports recycling and has made 100% recycled ocean plastic flats and jackets, to give plastic a second life. Their Flats also contain a biodegradable sole, utilising organic materials where they can.
Stella McCartney shoes have been made from recycled polyester since 2012. As a result of being made from plastic waste, they use up to 50% less energy than virgin polyester.
The upper composition of all the Organic shoes is a unique blend of 60% organic cotton and 40% natural hemp, while the eyelets and shoelaces are entirely made of organic cotton, sourced in Vietnam, according to the internationally recognised organic farming standards. The insole of all the shoes is composed by a layer of natural cork, which is light, durable, impermeable and hypoallergenic. Superga®’s sole rubber is natural and manually extracted from the rubber tree forests of Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.
What should you look for in a sustainable trainer?
As above, any brand focusing its efforts on eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp, vegan leather, natural rubber, and recycled materials is a good place to start. You also can't go wrong with a Certified B Corp - this means they've undergone rigorous testing to ensure they are actually sustainable.
Other brands are off-setting their footprint by taking back your old trainers to recycle them, and planting a tree for every pair sold. Ethical running shoe brand Allbirds are making their models carbon neutral by creating fabrics from Forest Stewardship Council-certified eucalyptus trees, and their trademarked SweetFoam used in midsoles is made with carbon-negative green EVA material.
While it doesn't seem as important, the packaging your trainers comes in is obviously key. Sending eco-friendly shoes in a plastic bag just isn't going to cut it, which is why some labels are also focusing on recycled cardboard packaging that is free of single-use plastic.
Marie Claire Newsletter
Celebrity news, beauty, fashion advice, and fascinating features, delivered straight to your inbox!
Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.
Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).
Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.
However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.
Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.
Be the star gift giver this Christmas with a personalised piece of jewellery to make loved ones smile
If your list of loved ones is long and you’re stumped for ideas, there’s one gift that always keeps on giving – and that’s the perfect piece of jewellery.
By Anna-Louise Dearden
How to get tickets to see Eurovision 2024 live
Scandinavia is calling!
By Lauren Hughes
Emily Ratajkowski faces backlash for 'fatphobic' and 'tone deaf' photoshoot
People are calling for the model to apologise for the image
By Iris Goldsztajn