5 Best Sustainable Sneakers: Bounce Around in Environmentally-conscious Kicks

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by  Savarone Ammann | Last Updated: 

Shopping for quality kicks is headache-inducing. All you want is a clean, new, go-to pair of sneaks, but there’s a zillion options to pick from in every category and at every price point. 

Choose carelessly, and you’ll end up with a pair that falls apart and gets tossed out fast. To prevent this destructive cycle, cop a pair of sustainable sneakers. Why? Thoughtful, eco-friendly brands want to make shoes that last.

These are our top five picks.

Best Eco-friendly
  • The most versatile sustainable sneaker on the market with a recycled upper and shoelaces made from plastic bottles.
  • Elegant and timeless styling elevates any outfit and pairs with pants or shorts
  • Each pair purchased regenerates one full foot of coastal kelp forest through a partnership with nonprofit SeaTrees.
Best Recycled
  • Strikes a great balance between being cushy and supportive 
  • Made with recycled materials and carbon offsets 
  • Minimal but tasteful stitching gives the shoe a subtle, stylish edge
Most Stylish
  • The best sustainable solution for a hybrid work-play sneaker
  • Sustainably made at every step of the manufacturing journey
  • Offers a chic and elevated look for a sneaker
Best Carbon Neutral
  • The most lightweight, sustainable high-top you will find
  • Each pair purchased plants two trees in Brazil’s rainforest
  • Made from lightweight, regenerating bamboo material
Most Breathable
  • Reprove knit upper is breathable and airy
  • Offers a stylish look but maintains casual, summery materials
  • Made from 4 post-consumer plastic bottles

Finding stylish, cushy kicks isn’t hard anymore.

Finding stylish, cushy kicks that are sustainably produced? Not hard, either!

There’s wicked cool sneaker brands out there constructing footwear that will serve you, and the planet, for years to come. 

From all-around eco-friendly sneaks to stylish recycled and carbon neutral models, I’ve whittled down the five best sustainable sneaker options for you to pick (responsibly) from. 

Truth be told, you won’t be able to feel the difference between recycled or non-recycled materials, and you certainly won’t be able to pick out a shoe that was ethically produced over one that wasn’t. 

The difference is that instead of supporting harmful, generic goods that feed into the destructive effects consumerism has on our shared planet, you’ll be making one, conscious choice to make the world a better place with how you shop. 

5 Best Sustainable Sneakers for Men

Best Eco-friendly: SeaVees Legend Sneaker Seachange 

Model sitting in SeaVees Legend Sneaker

Born in 1964, SeaVees aimed to produce shoes that captured the original, sun-kissed California lifestyle. As is the case with their entire collection, SeaVees promises sleek, casual styles that are durably built and timeless in design.

However, with their Seachange collection, and specifically their iconic Legend Sneaker SeaChange, SeaVees is making another bolder promise: to serve up a worthy shoe that’s constructed with recycled materials and directly benefits the ocean.

The Legend Sneaker features a recycled, natural rubber outsole, recycled cotton, post-consumer recycled plastic laces, and all vegan materials. Yet, it looks and feels as quality as any sneaker in it’s category and comes in at a remarkably affordable price point for a sustainable shoe.

What’s even more impactful, is that for each pair purchased, SeaVees is regenerating one foot of coastal kelp forest through their partnership with SeaTrees, a non-profit organization that works to restore coastal ecosystems and global ocean health.

What I Like

  • The recycled rubber outer sole is substantial and won’t wear down on you.
  • These come in an array of versatile and neutral colors.
  • Features a low-top, casual design that’s stylish and timeless.
  • Built with lightweight but lasting materials.

What I Don’t Like

  • Recycled cotton upper may be prone to scuff marks.

What Other Reviewers Say

Boasting rock solid reviews, the Legend Sneaker Seachange was well-loved by guys who purchased them. Reviewers found that they fitted as well and they looked, could be worn just about anywhere, and were even easy to wash and keep clean.

The Verdict

Some guys might worry that a sustainable sneaker will look odd or be built with earth-friendly materials that fall apart on them. Of course, when you purchase a sneaker you should care what it’s made of and how it was made—but bottom line, you want it to be comfortable, lasting, and not a waste of money.

SeaVees has considered all of these when making their Legend Sneaker Seachange. It’s low-cut timeless design won’t be going out of style anytime soon and the recycled rubber outsole is the perfect thickness and weight.

I’d lace these up for nearly every casual outing, especially ones where I’d be wearing shorts or pants with a cuff at the bottom.

On the sustainability front, SeaVees has gone the extra mile, assuring that not only are the materials of this shoe recycled, but that for each pair purchased, one whole foot of kelp forest is regenerated in the ocean, which sequesters carbon along the coast.

SeaVees The Legend

This is the original sneaker that kicked off the canvas sneaker craze in Southern California.

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Best Recycled: Everlane Court Sneaker

Everlane Court Sneaker

Made with 93% recycled plastic and rubber and excellent quality leather from one of the worlds most sustainable tanneries in Vietnam, this sleek sneaker doesn't just look good. It is good.

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Everlane makes basic, essential apparel and shoes for men and women alike. In their Court Sneaker, they placed sustainability at the forefront of the shoe’s creation.

The sole is a blend of natural and recycled rubber that’s 94% free of virgin plastic. The lining inside is 100% recycled, and the carbon footprint generated by making each pair is 100% offset through Everlane’s partnership with NativeEnergy.

In creating this sneaker, Everlane aimed to use less water, less plastic, and less energy and waste at every touchpoint. Then, they simply offset any emissions they couldn’t fully get rid of. On their site, they even provide a link where you can see the factory in Thai Bin, Vietnam.

The result is a sleek leather shoe that you’d feel confident bopping around in. 

What I Like

  • The mid-top construction offers support and cushion.
  • The upper is made from quality, full-grain leather.
  • Minimal but tasteful stitching gives the shoe a subtle and stylish edge.

What I Don’t Like

  • Only comes in three, off-white color schemes that are prone to attract dirt and scuffs.
  • Soft leather upper is bulkier than other sneaker materials.

What Other Reviewers Say

Guys who were shopping for sleek, logoless, sustainable kicks found the Court Sneaker to be a worthy option. Some guys reported that the shoes were a bit wide when they purchased true to size. Most guys appreciated how simple and versatile these were and loved that they were ethically and sustainably produced.

The Verdict

The Everlane Court Sneaker was constructed around sustainability which is apparent in the conscious use of less waste and energy, offset emissions, and materials such as virgin free plastic and recycled polyester.

The transparency involved in showing pictures of their factory and where it’s located is an impressive aspect from the Everlane team. While I’d like to learn more details about their NativeEnergy partnership and how exactly they are offsetting emissions, the Court Sneaker is a great selection for a sustainable, walkaround shoe.

Everlane Court Sneaker

Made with 93% recycled plastic and rubber and excellent quality leather from one of the worlds most sustainable tanneries in Vietnam, this sleek sneaker doesn't just look good. It is good.

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Most Stylish: Nisolo Everyday Low Top Sneaker

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Started in Peru in 2016, Nisolo is an ethically made footwear brand with a wide selection of styles and models.

Like all the shoes in their repertoire, the Everyday Low Top Sneaker is the end result of a thoughtful and carefully considered supply chain and production line that highlights fair and sustainable practices at every step from raw materials to finished product.

Made with Leather Working Group Certified Leather, 100% living wages, and 0% net carbon, the Everyday Low Tops are something you can feel good about sliding your feet into. They offer an elevated design that doubles both as a work shoe and a walkaround kick.

What I Like

  • Offers the perfect balance between a hybrid work-play sneaker.

  • Waterproof leather gives you the freedom to wear them in different types of weather.

  • Antimicrobial insoles will help to minimize foot odor.  

What I Don’t Like

  • At $150, these shoes remind you that sustainability isn’t always cheap.

  • Smooth leather upper may be prone to creases and wear and tear.

What Other Reviewers Say

Most guys were not only drawn to the ethically made practices Nisolo has built their brand around, but also the comfort and durability of these shoes. In general, guys who own these agree they look and feel great on their feet and feel good to purchase as well.

The Verdict

If you’re willing to pay a sizable chunk more than for other sustainable shoes, Nisolo’s Everyday Low Top Sneaker should be smack in the middle of your radar.

Ethically made at every step of the way, buying these shoes is practically guaranteeing you’re supporting a more conscious, forward-thinking form of consumerism.

The shoes themselves exude an elevated style that makes these more of a hybrid work-play shoe. If you gravitate toward stylish sneakers but still want to be comfortable, these are a tremendous option for you.

Nisolo Everyday Low Top

Made with Leather Working Group Certified Leather, 100% living wages, and 0% net carbon, the Diego Low Tops are something you can feel good about sliding your feet into. They offer an elevated design that doubles both as a work shoe and a walkaround kick.

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Best Carbon Neutral: Cariuma OCA High

Cariuma OCA High Top

Cariuma blends sustainability and style. The OCA High Top’s distinctive toe cap adds some unique flair to this casual sneaker, but make sure you check out all the bright colors the brand offers before making your decision.

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Cariuma was founded in 2018 by a couple of guys who bonded over a shared love of surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and their beloved home country of Brazil.

They ditched the corporate world and set out to make casual shoes with an emphasis on sustainable materials, ethical factory operations, and a strict code of conduct. Cariuma’s OCA High is one of the best high-top sneakers in the game that will do as much for the environment as they will for you.

Made from self-generating bamboo and recycled plastics from heel to toe, this kick will give you comfort and style without negatively impacting the planet. For each pair purchased, Cariuma is committed to planting two trees.

What I Like

  • Offers flexibility and breathability which are rare in a high-top.
  • Every material in the shoe is sustainable or recycled.
  • Offers a casual look that’s great for everyday occasions.

What I Don’t Like

  • There’s no choice of bold colors.
  • Lightweight bamboo knit upper might not be as durable as other materials.
  • High price point could be a deterrent for some guys.

What Other Reviewers Say

While the OCA Highs didn’t have as many reviews as some of Cariuma’s other models, most guys found these to be well-crafted high-tops that offered cushy support without hurting their ankles.

Verdict

From the outset, Cariuma has placed an emphasis on supporting the environment and using sustainable materials. In the IBI High, you’re getting a casual, bounce-around sneaker made from lightweight bamboo knit and other recycled materials.

Having launched their own Reforestation Program in their home country of Brazil, Cariuma has decided to plant two trees in the rainforest for every pair of sneakers purchased. That’s something you won’t ever feel bad about supporting.

The IBI Highs are a fun and casual shoe that will carry you anywhere around town with lightweight and breathability. In terms of sustainable high-top sneakers, these are the best you’ll find.

Cariuma OCA High Top

Cariuma blends sustainability and style. The OCA High Top’s distinctive toe cap adds some unique flair to this casual sneaker, but make sure you check out all the bright colors the brand offers before making your decision.

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Most Breathable: Soludos Ashore Sneaker

Soludos Ashore Sneaker

The Ashore feels a lot like if a Cole Haan sneaker studied abroad in Spain and came back with all the culture and none of the snooty pretentiousness.

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Soludos is an NYC-based espadrille and sandal brand that’s expanded into casual sneakers. 

The Ashore Sneaker is Soludos’ eco-friendly and casual men’s option that’s perfect for spring and summer. Featuring a recycled outsole and recycled Reprove knit upper, each pair is made from 4 post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.

These are the type of casual kicks you glide around in, keeping your feet cool and comfortable all along the way. The Ashore has a subdued, low-top look and the mesh upper itself adds to the casual aesthetic.

What I Like

  • The Reprove knit upper is exceptionally breathable and airy.
  • The minimal styling is sleek and elegant with pants or shorts.
  • Achieves the look of a dressier sneaker with the materials of a performance sneaker.

What I Don’t Like

  • The recycled rubber sole wears down over time.
  • The knit upper will attract dirt easily.

What Other Reviewers Say

The Ashore doesn’t have too many reviews. However, guys who purchased these mentioned how nice they were to wear without socks and favored them as their go-to summer kick. Generally, guys liked how nice these looked and how much breezy comfort they provided.

Verdict

While Soludos is known for making espadrilles and sandals, they’ve broken into the casual sneaker market with airy options like the Ashore Sneaker that are excellent for warm-weather hangouts. 

I wish Soludos provided a bit more information about where they source their sustainable materials and why sustainability matters to them as a brand. Still, with a recycled bottom and upper and constructed from 4 post-consumer plastic bottles, the Ashore Sneaker is a sustainable kick that guys can feel good adding to their shopping carts. 

And while the lightweight materials may not hold up nearly as well as other casual kicks, Soludos takes the cake when it comes to breathability.

Soludos Ashore Sneaker

The Ashore feels a lot like if a Cole Haan sneaker studied abroad in Spain and came back with all the culture and none of the snooty pretentiousness.

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What Makes a Sneaker Sustainable?

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The sneaker sustainability police aren’t busting down doors, flashing badges, and halting the production of sneakers at factories (but could you imagine how epic that would be?).

So, what exactly makes a sneaker sustainable, and what should you be looking for while shopping for eco-friendly kicks?

Why should I go sustainable in the first place?

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Monstrous landfills, plastic piles floating across beautiful oceans, and a thinning atmosphere are all indicators of the grueling toll consumerism imposes on our shared planet. Some climate experts feel that we’re on the brink of boundless catastrophe if changes in human behavior aren’t immediately implemented.

Reversing the effects of climate change should be reason enough to buy sustainable goods like shoes, but the human impact is yet another factor. 

Often, sustainably-created products ensure that people are paid living wages and treated ethically along the production line from sourcing to final delivery.  

What are good indicators for truly sustainable sneakers?

The word sustainable defines something that can be maintained or upheld at a certain level or quality. Buying goods that keep people properly employed without adding stress to the climate is something to get behind.

Good footwear brands are getting thoughtful and creative in the materials they’re sourcing, in the ethical processes they’re adopting, and in the partnerships they’re forming with impactful, eco-friendly causes.

SeaVees’ partnership with SeaTrees is an excellent example of this. Located in sunny Santa Barbara on the central California coast, SeaVees decided to team up with a non-profit that’s working to save the very ocean in their backyard.

SeaTrees’ motto is “the ocean has the power to reverse climate change”, and their work lies in restoring coastal ecosystems. 

This collaboration shows that, as a brand, SeaVees isn’t merely aiming to make sustainable shoes, but to also engage thoughtfully in fighting climate change directly where they’re located. 

Lookout for words and phrases like “recycled”, “upcycled”, “sourced responsibly”, “made ethically”, and “100% living wages”. Then, read further to see what a brand is actually doing to attain sustainable materials and take care of the people making their shoes.

SeaVees

SeaVees delivers laid back California sneakers that bridge the gap between comfort, durability, and style.

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Make Your At-home Footwear Sustainable Too

Model in SeaVees SeaChange Slide

After bouncing around town in sustainable sneakers, why not come home and slip your feet into cozy sustainable slides? It only makes sense, right?

As part of the SeaChange collection, SeaVees released an insanely soft and fuzzy fleece slide called the SeaChange Slide that provides unmatched comfort and, of course, recycled materials.

SeaVees SeaChange Slide

As part of the SeaChange collection, SeaVees released an insanely soft and fuzzy fleece slide called the SeaChange Slide that provides unmatched comfort and, of course, recycled materials.

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Same with the other models in the SeaChange collection, for every pair of slides sold, SeaVees is sequestering carbon on the coast by regenerating one full foot of coastal kelp forest.

If you want at-home footwear that’s cozy and cushy and signals to your brain that the workday is over, these fleece slides will provide that feeling. Yet, because they are made with a recycled natural rubber outsole, they offer better grip than any slides I’ve felt too.

Slip on Something Sustainable

Did you find a few options for sneakers that are as sustainable as they are cushy or stylish or casual? I hope you did. 

You really don’t need to sacrifice style, comfort, or durability by shopping sustainably and you’re going to feel a whole lot better about your purchase.

Keep looking crispy and keep taking care of the planet when you can, gents. 

FAQs

Which sneaker brand is the most sustainable?

There are countless sneaker brands creating sustainable footwear. To find cool, casual kicks that are sustainably produced, check out SeaVees, Cariuma, and Everlane.

What shoe brands are eco-friendly?

The best eco-friendly shoe brands to look into are SeaVees, Cariuma, and Everlane.