Treading lightly through life is easier said than done when you’re a responsible, conscious consumer.
In fact, finding casual sneakers that hit the quadruple mark of cool, comfortable, sustainable and ethical often feels like wading through an ill-fitting, badly made footwear swamp.
So, if you’d like to put your best foot forward every time rather than take an entirely avoidable shoe shopping misstep, read on for some of the best casual, ethical and sustainable sneakers around.
The fact they have a perfectly comfy, broken-in feel as standard (hello, memory foam) isn’t even the best thing about Cariuma sneakers – they’re also ethically made using fair trade cotton and natural rubber, and arrive in recycled, recyclable packaging.
If the brand’s trademark V hasn’t made its way onto your footwear radar by now, you’re either anti-shoe or you’re living under a rock. Channelling the striking contrast-colour aesthetic of the 70s – akin to styles like the Adidas Gazelle – this brand is a new-guard powerhouse to be reckoned with. Veja ain’t no slouch in the sustainability stakes either. From wild harvested rubber, leather and organic cotton all sourced responsibly in the jungles of Brazil plus a focus on transparency in production and marketing, there are plenty of reasons to keep loving this French label.
The preppy Italian brand (pronounced: su-PEAR-gah) has finally dipped its rubber-tipped toe into the sustainable sneaker world with a new collection of environmentally conscious styles including three unisex styles and one women’s platform. From the organic cotton, hemp and natural rubber outer to the sole-forgiving cork inner, these shoes are definitely made for walking (well) wherever life takes you.
Allbirds is hands (or feet?) down a Peppermint office fave and have been declared as “the comfiest shoes ever worn” on many occasions. Natural materials such as sustainably grown and harvested eucalyptus pulp (in the Allbirds Tree runners), responsible merino wool as seen in the new Wool Piper style and sugarcane soles made with the world’s first carbon negative EVA, this Kiwi-export has wooed the world with its take on sustainable footwear.
Need a conscious swap for your old favourite, the classic Converse? Etiko’s selection features go-with-anything kicks made from sustainable materials (think Certified Organic cotton, natural latex rubber, and hemp), in Fairtrade conditions. Known for their commitment to ethical and sustainable clothing and wares, Etiko has been leading the way when it comes to transparent, well-made fashion in Australia – achieving an A+ in the Australian Ethical Fashion Report for six years in a row.
New Zealand-made from natural and sustainably sourced materials, Collective Canvas’ simple sneakers use organic cotton, natural latex rubber and water-based glues. If you like your minimalist shoes with a side of transparency, then lace these unisex beauties up pronto!
Say an emphatic yes to cool and never-taking-off levels of comfort, thanks to Melbourne-based foot fanatics, Radical Yes. With a very explicitly stated dedication to only making flat shoes, the brand is also equally to its considered approach, in the form of small-scale, responsible production and natural materials (with the exception of the vegan range). Created by a yogi with a love for marrying form and function, these sneakers are a revolution of comfort and style that will radically liberate your feet.
Known for kickstarting the one-for-one business model, B-Corp-certified TOMS Shoes has donated more than a million shoes – along with sight-saving surgery and safe water through their give back initiatives. Taking a step in a new direction, TOMS are going to dedicate at least one-third of their annual profits to a giving fund for charity causes, social entrepreneur grants and community support. All for one, one for all!
Once a partner with Gorman for a sneaker collab, Berlin-based brand EKN is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to well-made, environmentally sensitive sneaks. Pairing mindful material sourcing with production by Portuguese shoe artisans, EKN aims to minimise their impact on the environment through less harmful chemicals and small quantity runs.
Forever is a long time, but US brand Everlane has tackled this lofty goal with its new Forever Sneaker. Made partially from recycled cotton with a natural rubber outsole and recycled laces, the machine-washable classically-styled sneak was designed with the post-consumer waste stream in mind; mail them back to Everlane to be recycled at the end of their life, when you’re ready to step into a new pair.
Formerly known as Wado, Saye’s sneakers are ethically produced in Portugal using leather and recycled and organic materials, including recycled thermoplastics and woodchips and each sale of these cool kicks funds the planting of two trees. Wahoo!