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The shoe industry is not known for being a very ethical or sustainable one. The environmental impact of producing just one pair of conventional sneakers is appalling (a typical pair of running shoes generates 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions).

Consider that the industry produces more than 20 billion pairs of shoes annually, plus the fact that the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing every year, and you’ll start to see the problem.


Fortunately, there are lots of up-and-coming footwear companies working on changing the game - taking a thoughtful, sustainable approach to shoe production and encouraging consumers to make more ethical investments in their wardrobe.


Here are some of my favorites:


Every style in Ahimsa’s versatile shoe line is made from eco-friendly, vegan materials like reclaimed wood, natural cork and recycled cotton fibers. And every last bit of material leftover after production is recycled. On top of this, all workers in Ahimsa’s Brazilian factory earn above average wages and get a stipend for groceries. This is how things should be! 



Portuguese footwear brand, Nae, has one goal: to create shoes completely free from animal exploitation. And they’re doing a great job! Nae puts to use all sorts of innovative materials, from pineapple leaf fiber to recycled thermoplastic, and has been able to recreate all the latest trends in vegan form.



While we hesitate to say awards are everything…awards are kind of everything. For a small Australian apparel company, Etiko has won quite a few for its commitment to use of fair trade, organic and sustainable materials. Check out their ethical hi-top and low-cut sneakers here.



Working on claiming the title “world’s most comfortable shoe,” Allbirds uses natural and eco-friendly materials like merino wool, sustainably harvested sugar cane and recycled bottles to create its sneakers. Oh, and not to name drop, but the startup counts Leonardo DiCaprio as an investor, so…



In a world that is already drowning in garbage, certified B corporation Indosole represents hope! All of Indosole’s sandals are made from recycled tires, preventing toxic off-gassing in landfills which pollutes the environment. Indosole shoes are also 100% vegan, which is great news for animal lovers!



One of the most thoughtful of the bunch, eco-conscious brand Verdura collects abandoned fish nets, dyes them naturally, then cuts the material into a variety of fashion-forward styles. The insoles are made from cork and the outsoles constructed from recycled rubber or recycled, vegetable tanned leather. Check them out!



Surprise! Back in the 90s when sportswear became synonymous with sweatshops, Adidas stepped up to make corporate social responsibility a priority. Adidas is working on putting its money where its mouth is and has recently teamed up with environmental group Parley for the Oceans to create shoes made from recycled ocean plastics. We’re all for that!

The eco-conscious footwear industry is strong, isn’t it? Support these brands and their missions by shopping ethical and encouraging others to get involved. It’s a great way to stand up for what you believe in.