Fashion

Tried & Tested: Sustainable Shoe Brands

By Julia O'Driscoll
15.08.19

Before investing in your first (second, or third) pair of sustainable shoes, read what our team has to say about a few of their favourite brands. 

We all love a sustainable footwear brand, but choosing a pair of trainers, pumps or an activewear option can take considerable time, weighing up the pros and cons before deciding which to invest in. Our team share their favourite tried and tested sustainable shoes to give you the insider knowledge.
 

Allbirds

Barack Obama and Emma Watson are fans and Leonardo DiCaprio is an investor - Allbirds has fast become one of the most popular sustainable shoewear brands since launching in 2016, with a great range of runners and loungers. Kelly's even been forest bathing with the team - but are they really "the world's most comfortable shoe"?

What do you like about them?

Kelly: The Allbirds Tree Breezers really are the most comfortable shoes in the world - the perfect ballet pump for taking you from the office to the bar, and everywhere in between. They feel like you’re wearing an old pair of slippers - but thankfully don’t look like you are. 

Lori: It says a lot about a shoe when you can’t stop raving about how comfortable they are! Allbirds tick all the boxes for me. Besides comfort, they are also really easy to style with a casual outfit. I’m always on the go so it’s important for me to have something on my feet that isn’t going to leave it’s mark after a full day of running around London and they are the BEST thing to change into after a work-out!

What’s not so great? 

Kelly: Not ideal in the rain - your feet will get wet. 

Lori: While it's merino wool that gives Allbirds shoes that effortless comfort, I’ve been caught out a few times with the rain. Waterproof they are not but I must say that it’s no problem to pop them in the wash. They’ll come out good as new.

Worth the hype?

Kelly: 100% - I have three pairs of Allbirds now and they are all so comfortable and easily washable. 

Lori: YES! They really are the world's most comfortable shoe. 

adidas Alphabounce+ Running shoes

Since 2017, adidas's Run For the Oceans (RFTO) initiative has helped to raise awareness around plastic pollution. Partnering with Parley for the Oceans, this collection of sports shoe design incoporates upcycled plastic waste. 

What do you like about them?

Lori: I recently gave in to the draw of the new Alphabounce+ Running shoes from adidas in collaboration with Parley Ocean Plastic™. My reason for buying these shoes (they are definitely an investment piece) was the fact that the yarn is sourced from recycled plastic from beaches and coastal communities, but they have the comfort factor too. The insole is superbly springy and keeps my feet supported during track runs. What’s more is that they’re super stylish, perfect for those ‘gym then brunch’ kind of days.

What’s not so great? 

Lori: I would recommend opting for a bigger size than you would expect - the top arch is a tad narrow.

Worth the hype?

Adidas are one of the MVPs of activewear globally, their collections are designed to impact and empower performance and the fact that this is now achievable while wearing recycled plastic - I’m all in! 

Any other comments?

Make sure to try on a pair before buying to make sure they fit OK and while you’re in store, check-out their activewear pieces that are made from recycled polyester.

Veja

French brand Veja was founded by Sébastien Kopp in 2004, and gained widespread attention from fashionistas across the globe when Meghan Markle stepped out in a pair in October 2018. As the high street has fast cottoned on to their popularity and copied their designs, our team tell us why the real deal are worth investing in.

What do you like about them?

Sophie: I love the chunkiness of them, without them being too big in the '90s ugly trainer style that seems to be everywhere at the moment. 

Kelly: I have the organic cotton Wata sneakers, which are super comfy and go with everything - I wear them ALL the time.

Julia: Inspired by sustainable style goddess Meghan Markle, I’ve been hankering after a pair of Veja’s for a while. The simple, classic design goes with everything. From office to after-work socialising, they’ve fast become my go-to shoe.

What’s not so great? 

Sophie: I find if I wear them over the course of an entire day, my feet feel a little pinched - especially on the instep. The tongue also slips down into the shoe, though I’ve recently looped the laces through and that seems to have solved that issue. 

Kelly:  Unfortunately, as is often the case with white plimsolls, they don’t stay white and I’ve found the canvas style to be difficult to clean - they’re now more of a murky grey colour.

Julia: I’ve gotten a little precious about these shoes and get a bit sad when I see them looking a little grey after a week’s walking in London - luckily, they’re quite easy to clean.

Worth the hype?

Sophie: They make me feel like a Danish influencer, so I’d say so. 

Kelly: Definitely worth it for the knowing smile as you clock a fellow Veja wearer on the Tube.

Julia: Absolutely. I’ve already convinced a few friends to invest...

Any other comments?

Sophie: I really appreciated the way the order came with a little booklet explaining the different sustainable components of the shoe, it made me feel like I’d invested my money in something truly worthwhile.

Vivobarefoot

Thisbrand put science and sustainability at the heart of their designs, by creating thin, wide and flexible shoes for a range of everyday and outdoor activities. 

What do you like about them?

Julia: Alot! I have to say, these shoes have really grown on me. After meeting Ben Le Vesconte at an event organised by Vivobarefoot, I was surprised to find out that the most common shoe designs are quite restrictive, forcing our feet into positions that are less than natural. I felt a little self-conscious leaving the house in my shoes for the first time but was soon converted. These shoes are so comfortable, and I can really feel my toes stretching out as I walk. I’ve been enjoying wearing them around the office, but have to say I switch to my old-faithful trainers if I’m heading out on the weekends or drinks after work.  

Lori: My Vivobarefoot Primus Lites are a dream! Having worked in the fitness and athletics industry for years I can be quite particular with what shoes I choose to work out in. For me it’s about support and ease of movement and Vivo amplifys that to the max. They are super lightweight which allows for ease of movement with a strong base that follows the natural spare of your foot. From a performance perspective they work wonders. 

What’s not so great?

Julia: Check the forecast before stepping out for the day! Although I love that these shoes are breathable, the holes are less than ideal on a wet weather day. Worth bearing in mind depending on your design of choice… 

Lori: I have been lucky enough to enjoy these shoes in the height of summer, I am concerned whether they will be suited to the British winter.

Worth the hype?

Julia: I’d say so! At first, it felt a little like wearing a pair of converse. Now I can really tell the difference when I wear my Vivo’s. They’re so comfortable I don’t even like taking them off at home!

Lori: Most definitely! Vivobarefoot have made me aware of my feet and the way that traditional shoes have affected their physicality. In terms of my performance and training I haven’t found a better shoe! 

Any comments?

Julia: One of my shoes feels a little tighter on the top of my foot compared to the other, so I’m considering visiting the team for a 1-2-1 session in London to see if they can help.

Toms

Since 2006, this American footwear brand has given 86 million pairs of shoes to children in need in more than 70 countries. Toms has a range of sunglasses and shoes for men, women and kids - so you can kit out all the family in these popular kicks.

What do you like about them?

Lori: Toms bring the cool factor to footwear. Whether it be cute sandals, easy slip ons or Star Wars themed sneakers you’re after, Toms will have you covered. I’ve owned a pair of classic Toms slip-ons for years and have recently invested in a new pair made from Vegan friendly materials. They are my go-to shoes for taking on holiday as they look good with everything.

What’s not so great? 

Lori: These shoes are lacking a bit on the comfort department for me. They are sturdy for sure but can leave my feet one the sore side after being on my feet all day.

Worth the hype?

Lori: Toms are affordable and stylish and as a brand they are working towards greater change. They’re a great shoe!

Any other comments?

Lori: If they could please do a Marvel-themed shoe I’d be over the moon.

Find all our recommended brands in our members' area (it's free to join!)

Read our interview with Veja's founder Sébastien Kopp and our Bringing Business to Life interview with Allbirds.

Check out the best ethical sandals, sneakers and 7 conscious vegan shoe brands.

Discover which vegan sausage roll came out top in our previous Tried & Tested challenge.

Tried & Tested: Sustainable Shoe Brands