Sure, we all get a kick out of sustainable style... But, what about our actual kicks?

Above all other footwear genres, trainers have taken the environmental mission to heart, making leaps and bounds in the field of ethical production in its every incarnation.

Here are four of the pioneering brands to know now...

#1 Veja
Hell-bent on finding a sustainable alternative to leather – and mindful that traditional plastics have a makeup of 99% petroleum – Veja alighted upon CWL, an Italian-made biodegradable technology comprised of coated canvas and 50% corn waste and polyurethane to mimic the feel of traditional hide. Since 2013, a further innovation has been to utilise freshwater Tilapia fish leather, an otherwise-waste product that creates a unique finish with vegetable tanning.

Adding to its lesson in upmarket upcycling, Veja has since continued to expand its portfolio with B-mesh – a breathable textile originating in Brazil that’s made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles – and J-mesh, a thermoregulatory material that’s blended of jute, recycled cotton and recycled PET.

We know what you’re thinking... All of this cutting-edge technology sounds great on paper, but it’s going to cost us the earth. Right? Wrong!

In eliminating adverts and hefty marketing budgets – and side-stepping the heavy pay packets of multiple brand ambassadors – Veja counterbalances its expensive (read: ethical) production processes, and ensures that its customers needn’t pay the price.

Click here to discover Veja.

#2 Allbirds

“We can put a man on the moon – we should be able to find a way to make a pair of trainers more sustainably,” the co-founder of Allbirds, Tim Brown, once told us.

Inspired by the native materials of his homeland, New Zealand (most notably that of merino wool), Tim teamed up with Joey Zwillinger – an engineer and renewables expert – to create a revolutionarily comfortable fabric, crafted specifically for footwear. At 20% the diameter of human hair, the superfine material is both breathable and temperature regulating – which, when used in tandem with the brand’s signature SweetFoam™ sole (created out of the biomass of sugarcane), makes for one seriously sweet deal of ergonomic craft and guilt-free fashion.

In eschewing synthetic alternatives, Brown and Zwillinger have reduced Allbirds’ energy output by 60% in comparison to ‘traditional’ footwear brands – conclusively proving that it’s possible to make strides in both sustainability and style, simultaneously.

Click here to discover Allbirds.

#3 Good News
We’d stake money on the fact that, like us, many of you will have been hoping for some good news in the fast fashion-to-landfill crisis... Well, taking the plea to heart, philanthropically minded sneaker brand, Good News, aims to deliver precisely that. Launching into Dover Street Market and Selfridges, this up-and-coming label kicks its offering into a sustainable gear by using recycled rubber soles – from old tyre-derived pellets – organic cotton uppers and an eco-friendly footbed that uses bio oil from castor beans in place of polyurethane. And the good news doesn’t stop there...

A triple-pronged, altruistic approach is putting this company on the map for its mission to give back. With its Good Luck Shoes project (an initiative that has so far provided over 3000 pairs of functional shoes to migrants and refugees arriving in Italy), a crowd-funding campaign for The Dream Catchers (an organisation that homes children in Nigeria – and also teaches them to dance), and regular donations of residual stock to the United Shoe Recycle Company (then distributed in and among those in need), the brand is putting its best foot forward in practices that are sustainable – on both environmental and human levels.  

Click here to discover Good News.

Nature by name; nature by, well, nature. Deriving its moniker from South Africa’s butia yatay tree, Umberto de Marco’s YATAY is not only produced with 100% environmentally friendly materials ­– but it also puts its money where its mouth is by planting a tree (via One Tree Planted) for every pair of sneakers sold.

With a mission to “make sustainability cool” – applying this philosophy to everything, from his brand’s packaging that uses five recycled plastic bottles, to the signature raw laces that are made out of Italian hemp, and require far less water than conventional cotton – Umberto and his team are continuing to develop new processes and technologies to drive the brand and its cause forwards. Between classic low-line silhouettes and a minimalist hi-top, YATAY is the stylish way to make strides in sustainability...

Click here to discover YATAY.

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