On the hunt for sustainable and ethical trainers? I’ve got nine of the best ethical trainer brands for 2021 here for you today.

Did you know that trainers have been rated the most popular shoe in Britain? It’s an odd popularity contest to win but behind this left-field statistic are some shocking facts. Namely, that people aged 25 to 34 own on average, nine pairs of trainers each.

It’s not just the 25 to 34 years old that are trainer hoarders. Global Action Plan says that UK teenagers collectively own a staggering 58 million trainers. Almost a third of these shoes – 19 million – were unworn in the last three months. 

Why are we so compelled to buy so many pairs of trainers? Are we a nation of fitness fanatics? Maybe. However, a more likely explanation is that the trainer industry has a massive advertising budget to encourage people to buy their trainers. In 2020, for example, Nike alone spent $3.59 billion USD on advertising. Meanwhile, over the past five years reports have been circulating that some trainers are a better investment than gold.

Needless to say, we’re clearly sitting on a trainer mountain, that comes with consequences. Global Action Plan says that the CO2 emissions produced to create 58 million trainers is over 409 Million kgs CO2e. This is the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe in a medium-sized car almost 50 thousand times. 

The Best Ethical Trainers for 2021

Whilst it’s undeniably clear that buying fewer trainers is the best for the planet, and for our pockets, buying ethically when we really need a new pair of trainers is also a good step forward. Thankfully, in 2021 there’s no shortage of ethical trainers or sneakers to suit all preferences and budgets.

The price range key for this guide is £ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+

This post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.

Allbirds

Allbirds shoes UK

Price range: ££ – £££

Allbirds* say that a standard pair of trainers emits 12.5 kg of carbon dioxide.  They also say that their average pair of trainers emit 7.6 kg of carbon dioxide, and they want to lower that further.

As such, Allbirds ethical trainers are made from natural materials, such as ZQ Merino accredited merino wool grown under strict sustainable farming practices. These include social responsibility, animal welfare, and traceability through the supply chain.

Other materials include recycled plastic bottles, which are used to make their shoelaces, and castor bean oil which is used to make the insoles.

Cariuma

cariuma eco friendly trainers

Price range: ££ – £££

Brazillian ethical shoe brand Cariuma makes timeless trainers transparently made from natural materials.  Their materials include cork, recycled PET, mamona oil, and leather and suede which is certified by Leather Working Group.  What’s more, to ensure worker safety, no hazardous chemicals are used in their manufacturing process.  Instead, they use Bluesign-certified chemicals (an independently verified scheme) to dye their materials.

Find them for sale in the UK at Selfridges & Co.

Ethletic

ethletic vegan trainers

Price range: ££ – £££

Ethletic footwear is proud to offer an ethical alternative to leather trainers. Their vegan trainers are made with organic and Fairtrade certified cotton, the rubber soles are FSC certified and sourced responsibly, and the rubber is fairly traded. Seeking to tick every ethical box for footwear, Ethletic is a fair-trade company, with the environment and sustainability at the core of what they do.

In addition, the pioneering Fairtrade rubber project pays a Fairtrade social premium for every kilo of rubber used in the production of these trainers. The rubber tappers then decide how to use their income to improve their living and working conditions.

Find them on sale in the UK at Ethical Superstore*, from £54.

Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather

vegan trainers uk

Price range: ££ – £££

Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather* is a cruelty-free and sweatshop-free ethical shoe brand.  The brand uses vegan ‘leather’ or vegan ‘suede’, and manufactures their shoes in Portugal in a fairtrade environment.

Good News Ethical Trainers

vegan trainers

Price range: ££ – £££

Good News* are a small footwear brand on a mission to improve the environmental and social sustainability of their products.  They aim to do this by decreasing their carbon, chemical, and water footprint whilst also caring about the people involved in the making of their shoes.

Their signature low-top ethical vegan trainers are sustainably made from organic and recycled materials.  The uppers are made from bio-degradable natural oatmeal organic cotton sourced. Meanwhile, the organic cotton laces are threaded through recycled metal eyelets. And what’s more, the soles are made from recycled material – a mix of car tyres and old rubber shoes!

Find them at Young British Designers* for £80. Use the exclusive discount code MORAL10 to take 10% off at Young British Designers. Please note this cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.

Novesta

novesta shoes uk

Price range: ££

Novesta’s ethical vegan trainers are made with a cotton upper and a natural rubber sole. What’s more, they are made in Slovakia, given them a lower carbon footprint. Find them on sale in the UK at Toast for £55.

TOMS

TOMS ethical trainers

Price range: £ – ££

As a certified BCorp, TOMS Shoes* invests one-third of its profits in grassroots efforts, like organizations creating change at the local level.  Their funding priorities are promoting mental health, ending gun violence, and increasing access to opportunity.

Check out their sneakers range* for their range of ethical trainers, including vegan trainers.  TOMS is also currently working towards more sustainable materials for its shoes, such as organic cotton, hemp, and recycled polyester.  They’re also exploring an end-of-life recycling programme for their shoes, definitely making them one to watch.

Wills Vegan Shoes

Wills Vegan Shoes ethical trainers brand

Price range: ££ – £££

Wills Vegan Shoes make ethically made eco-friendly vegan trainers and shoes, which are made in Italy & Portugal under European Union employment, discrimination, and health & safety laws.  These ensure, amongst others, that workers receive equal pay, maternity, and parental leave for example.  

The shoes themselves are made from vegan leather created with bio oil sourced from organic cereal crops grown in Northern Europe.  The rest of their products are manufactured from Ecolabel certified vegan leathers and suedes made in Italy and Spain that meet Oeko Tex 100 and REACH regulations.  Meanwhile, most of their outer soles are made from natural rubber, and their insoles are made in Spain from recycled rubber.

What’s more, their online store operates a plastic-free Carbon Neutral supply chain using sustainable materials.  It’s no surprise that Ethical Consumer has ranked Wills Vegan Shoes as one the most ethical shoe retailers out there.  

Veja

veja uk

Price range: ££ – £££

This organic, fairtrade, and ethical brand uses eco-conscious fabrics such as recycled and organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles, and sustainably harvested wild rubber to make their ethical trainers. What’s more, workers are paid a fair price. If you are vegan, then it’s important to note that not all of Veja’s trainers are vegan. However, they do have a huge range of vegan ethically made trainers. This means that if you are specifically looking for vegan trainers then you are well catered for.

Find them for sale in the UK at Working Class Heroes.

Looking for more ethical footwear ideas? Check out my post on stylish ethical shoes and my post on ethically made vegan shoes. I also have ideas on ethical wellies and ethical slippers for all your footwear needs!

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