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Best Sustainable Running Shoes (2022): Review and Buyers’ Guide

Each year 300 million pairs of shoes get thrown into the landfills. And, they slowly release toxins and other harmful substances for the next 35 to 40 years!

Yes, this is how long it takes to completely decompose a regular running shoe.

The fashion industry, including sports fashion, has long been at the receiving end of criticism for poor social and environmental practices. 

But it seems like many years of pressure and a change in consumer preferences towards sustainable footwear have brought about some great new products. 

Compared to traditional running shoes, these new products don’t just aim to be carbon neutral but also offer a running shoe option made from recycled or organic materials. 

The big question is whether these sustainable running shoes will stand up to the pressure from athletes. 

So I tested 15 of the latest sustainable fashion shoes to see which ones to recommend. 

Each year 300 million pairs of shoes get thrown into the landfills. And, they slowly release toxins and other harmful substances for the next 35 to 40 years! 

My 3 Favorite Sustainable Running Shoes

allbirds tree dasher sustainable running shoes

Allbirds Tree Dasher 2 

Overall Rating: 5/5

  • Plant-based materials
  • Carbon negative manufacturing
  • Great ankle and arch support
  • Highly breathable mesh
merrell moab flight sustainable running shoes

Merrell Moab Flight

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

  • Sturdy trail running shoes
  • Removable insole included
  • Great grip in all weather conditions
  • Suitable for wider feet
adidas X parley sustainable running shoes

Adidas x Parley

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

  • Made using recycled Ocean plastic
  • Breathable and water-resistant mesh
  • Low energy and water production methods

5 Best Sustainable Running Shoes of 2022

Allbirds Tree Dasher 2

Highlights: Extremely lightweight running shoe made using merino wool, which makes them very comfortable and breathable for athletes. 

allbirds tree dasher 2

Top of our list of most sustainable running shoes is the latest version of the Allbirds Tree Dasher. I was a big fan of the original version and was delighted to see that the company hasn't stopped developing new ideas. 

These eco-friendly running shoes now have an official green EVA certificate to show that they are carbon negative. And by using natural rubber and plant-based raw materials, the impact on nature is minimal. 

The upper parts are made from a combination of sugar cane, eucalyptus tree, and merino wool, and these natural materials are sourced from highly sustainable farms.

Overall, they have been certified to only produce 9 kg (about 20 pounds) of CO2, and Allbirds offsets that carbon footprint to turn it into a negative number, 

Not only are they highly sustainable, but they also offer exceptionally good support for your feet and ankles

What I also like about these sustainable sneakers is the upgraded heel collar that provides much better ankle support. 

It's not quite enough to make them suitable as trail running shoes, but if you sometimes run on slightly uneven ground, then these minimalist running shoes are a great choice. 

Currently, the color options are a bit more limited than what you had available with the original version. But I imagine that will change as the manufacturing processes ramp up for higher demand. 

There are seven color choices, from bright yellow to classic gray, so you can make as much of a statement with them as you want. 

Plus, there are both men's and women's version available.

Key Benefits:
  • Uses highly sustainable materials, including eucalyptus tree and sugar cane
  • Certified carbon-negative product
  • The merino wool is comfortable and light and provides great breathability
  • Very comfortable and supportive sole for long runs
  • Provides good ankle support to reduce risks of injury

Merrell Moab Flight

Highlights: Excellent trail running shoes that have an amazing grip and water resistance using almost entirely recycled materials.

merrell moab flight

The Merrell Moab Flight running shoes are the first vegan running sneakers on this list. None of the materials is sourced from animal products, and the company has a cruelty-free certificate as well, which will be very important for any vegan athletes

The sustainable footwear company has pushed the boundaries for recycling with the laces made of 100% recycled materials, the upper mesh 70%, and the insole 50%. And the natural rubber sole also contains 30% recycled materials. 

One thing I found with many other trail running shoes made from sustainable materials is that they tend to be quite heavy. But Merrell has become a leader in the footwear industry by making these trail runners noticeably lighter than anything else you might find. 

I also like the higher-than-average heel support, which wraps nicely around the ankle joint as well. 

And then there's the grip. 

The sole design will give you plenty of grip, even on wet and slippery surfaces. It's great to see that the sustainable fashion industry still takes safety and practicality seriously and not only focuses on being carbon neutral. 

I've tried them on a few trail runs in warm and colder conditions. I love that my feet never feel cold or overly sweaty, which is always a difficult thing to achieve. The upper mesh doesn't saturate with water even when you step in puddles of water, which tends to happen a lot when trail running. 

Key Benefits:
  • Sturdy trail running shoes will stand up to tough environmental conditions
  • Contains no animal products and certified cruelty-free recycled materials
  • Available in different width options to make them more comfortable
  • Comes with a removable insole for better arch support

Adidas x Parley - Ultraboost 22

Highlights: This running shoe is made from recycled plastic bottles and Ocean plastic using manufacturing processes that minimize water and energy usage.

Adidas parley ultraboost 22

The whole idea behind the Adidas Parley range is to offer customers a wide range of style and design choices with the clear conscience of purchasing a running shoe that also cleans up the oceans

Adidas hasn't been known as one of the most sustainable brands, but the partnership with Parley to help remove and recycle plastic materials from the ocean is a great step in the right direction. 

What I found most surprising is that you can't actually tell the difference between these ethical running shoes and the regular ones using new synthetic materials. They look and feel exactly the same, which says a lot about how unnecessary all that plastic waste is that doesn't end up in the cycle economy. 

With the right processes, the company has recycled PET and managed to also create one of the best running shoes I've ever worn. 

The natural rubber soles are strong enough for pounding the hard surfaces while also providing the cushioning effect that Adidas is so famous for. 

I've used these now on a regular basis for a mix of long runs and also some interval training where I alternate between jogging and sprinting on a clay track. The comfort is excellent, and you'll also find plenty of grip on different types of surfaces. 

They are also water-repellent shoes with a breathable mesh. That means your feet will stay dry and comfortable even on tougher training days. 

Key Benefits:
  • Very comfortable recycled running shoes made from plastic bottles
  • Adidas has also focused on making them in low energy and water waste process
  • Great breathability to keep your feet from becoming uncomfortably sweaty
  • Available in lots of modern and retro style choices

Hylo Athletics Men's Hylo Run 2

Highlights: These running shoes are made using production methods and offsets that result in a carbon-negative product that has one of the most comfortable soles for running.

Hylo 2

Hylo Athletics has created these certified vegan running shoes with a clear focus on minimizing the impact on the environment. 

Each pair has a carbon footprint of less than 7 kg, which is half the industry average. But the company then takes it another step further by offsetting more carbon than it releases, making them effectively carbon-negative

And it heavily relies on plant-based raw materials for a more sustainable impact on the environment. And all that adds up to a running shoe that can be fully recycled when you've worn them out. 

The eco-friendly running shoes also come in fully recycled packaging, and you can send the box back to the company for further recycling. 

Equally impressive is the performance you get with these running shoes. 

First of all, you can hardly feel the weight of these, and that translates into a far better running performance. You'll also immediately notice that your feet stay cool even on long runs where you really don't want to experience extreme sweating. 

I also found that these running shoes were ideal for running on the road as the soles are perfectly cushioned to reduce the impact on your joints. If you've had aches and pains after running, then these should make a big difference. 

And finally, I love the great range of color choices. I actually bought one dark pair for running and a lighter color for casual wear and for going to work. 

Key Benefits:
  • Extremely lightweight mesh upper with a breathable cooling effect
  • Excellent recycled rubber and foam sole provides a great cushioning effect
  • Certified vegan option with only natural plant and limited synthetic materials
  • These running shoes come in recycled packaging that you can send back

Allbirds Women's Wool Dasher Mizzles

Highlights: These highly water-repellent running shoes are ideal if you exercise in all weather conditions and want to avoid wet and cold feet at the end of a run.

allbirds women dasher mizzles

These Allbirds are my wife's favorite running and walking shoes. The wool upper is made from sustainably sourced Merino wool and then sprayed with a water-repelling shield made from environmentally friendly and biodegradable materials

The result is a warm and breathable running shoe that will keep your feet dry even when you go running in the rain. And the natural wool material doesn't make you excessively sweat either. 

The shoelaces are also made from recycled plastic bottles, which further reduces the environmental impact. 

The overall result is carbon-neutral running shoes that you can wear and an everyday sneaker. 

Apart from making great use of recycled materials and sustainable practices, these are also extremely comfortable for walking and running. 

Your feet stay at an ideal temperature to avoid getting cold or overly sweaty. And you'll immediately notice the grip you get in all weather conditions. There's simply no slipping, and that will help you avoid injuries

The ankle and foot arch support is also excellent, which makes them a lot more comfortable, and you feel that your ankles are a lot more stable. And they also have reflective details that you can instantly see in poor light conditions for added running safety. 

The only downside is that these running sneakers are only available in three colors, which might be a bit limiting if you're particularly fashion conscious. 

However, if you're buying these to go running in the rain or generally wet conditions, then I wouldn't focus too much on the color and stick with the darker tones available that won't show every speck of dirt. 

Key Benefits:
  • Ideal for running in the rain while keeping your feet dry and cool
  • Made using sustainable materials, including Merino wool
  • The shoelaces are made from recycled materials, including plastic bottles
  • Extremely grippy sole will help you avoid slipping in wet conditions

Comparison Summary Table of The Sustainable Running Shoes

Header

Use

Weight

Water

proof

Vegan

Certified B-Corp

Eco-friendly Material

Rating

Allbirds Tree Dasher 2

Running

10.3 oz

X

X

Merrell Moab Flight

Trail Running

17 oz

X

X

Adidas

x

 Parley 

Running

8.1 oz

X

X

X

Hylo Athletics Men's Hylo Run 2

Running

8.46 oz

X

Allbirds Women's Wool Dasher Mizzles

Running

11.08 oz

X

What To Look For When Buying a Sustainable Running Shoe 

When it comes to choosing sustainable running shoes, there are a couple of things that you need to focus on. And it's not just whether the company used recycled materials and low-energy production processes. 

Eco-Friendly Materials

When people think of eco-friendly materials, things generally lead to recycled plastic, recycled polyester, and even plant-based products that have a significantly lower environmental impact. 

But there are a few different innovative angles that companies have chosen. 

For example, Adidas has partnered with Parley to use recycled materials from Ocean clean-up operations. These are plastics that have been causing havoc for the marine ecosystem that can now be used to make the synthetic components of running shoes. 

From recycled polyester to bottles, this is a great way to support not only Ocean clean-up but also what happens to that waste after. 

Then there is the approach of making every single part of the running shoe fully recyclable. Many companies still choose materials that are difficult or impossible to recycle, and that means more waste than is necessary. 

And then there's the sourcing of eco-friendly materials. Whether it's animal-based materials like wool, organic cotton, or algae foam, it's important that the production techniques of these materials are sustainable. 

Many companies have now partnered with farming organizations that certify eco-friendly features to reduce the eco-impact of the supply chain. 

Company Ethics

Eco-friendly running shoes also need to come from companies that have made significant improvements in their overall ethical standards

It's not enough to release a few pairs of sustainable running shoes only for hundreds of other products not to follow sustainable practices. The ethics of a company should be set up for continuous improvements and strict target dates for sustainable and ethical manufacturing of the entire product range. 

Company ethics should also extend to workers' rights for all direct employees and ideally impose certain standards on all suppliers as well. The more this is officially stated in company policies, the more peace of mind you have when buying new running shoes. 

Supply Chain And Labor Practices

I briefly mentioned under the ethics section that companies also have a responsibility when it comes to sourcing their input materials in a sustainable and ethical way. 

There's no point in using sustainable materials if they come from countries or companies that are known for exploiting local workers. It's one thing having a positive impact on your own workforce, but the fashion industry has a lot of sway when it comes to influencing suppliers. 

Then there's the impact of transporting input materials to factories and the finished running shoes to consumers. 

Setting carbon-neutral goals for the supply and delivery chain is just as important as making use of recycled polyester and plastic. 

Certifications

More and more companies are seeing the benefits of becoming certified B-corp. These are companies that have proven that they put the environment, sustainable production, and workers' rights ahead of making large profits. 

Another thing to look out for is any Fair Trade certifications. This would identify companies that have chosen to source natural materials through suppliers that reward farmers and small producers in developing countries in a fair and equitable way. 

It means that your running shoe choice will have a positive impact on reducing poverty in these countries. 

Recyclability 

Sustainable running shoes for a long time only involved using recycled plastic and recycled polyester. And while that has a positive impact on making good use of the circular economy and avoiding the use of virgin plastic, it's also important to look at the end-of-life phase of a running shoe. 

That means choosing materials that can enter the cycle economy when you've worn down the shoes. In the past, sports fashion companies have used a wide mix of different materials, including those that can't be recycled. 

The result is a mixed-material product that often can't be recycled at all. 

Vegan Suitable

And finally, you should also look out for certified vegan running shoes. These generally have some of the highest standards of sustainability and mean that none of the materials came from an animal or was tested on an animal. 

While I'm not vegan, I tend to prefer such running shoes that are animal-free as I really don't think there's a need to harm living beings for me to have decent footwear. 

Final Thoughts

My favorite pair of running shoes is the Allbirds Tree Dasher 2. Not only is this one of the most sustainable running shoe brands I have been able to find, but these new running shoes are extremely comfortable and lightweight. 

You can hardly feel them on your feet, and the soles provide a great cushioning effect. 

Made with all-natural materials and creating a carbon-negative product, you have the full peace of mind that these shoes won't have a negative impact on the environment. 

Order your new pair today and find out how great they are for your running performance. 

Chris is one of GreenCitizen’s writers who has been a long-time advocate of individual responsibility when it comes to the environment. He shares GreenCitizen's passion for making the world a better place every day of the year.


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