Choosing Eco-Friendly Athletic Shoes

January 26, 2012 View all articles in General

You are active in your commitment to leading a green lifestyle: you walk to work, you ride your bike on the weekends, you tend your community garden, you volunteer with tree care projects. So it may surprise you to discover that the shoes on your feet, the shoes that help you clean up and take care of the planet, were most likely made with ecologically incorrect, toxic manufacturing. 

Shoes made with "all-natural" cotton canvas are actually hard on nature since cotton accounts for some of the most prevalent chemical insecticide use on the planet. And the rubber soles are usually made from petroleum in sweatshops that use harsh chemical adhesives like smog-inducing toluene, which contributes to higher cancer rates among shoe workers. 

Since going barefoot (though it may be the kindest ecological, social, and political option) isn't a daily possibility, ChasingGreen has put together a run down of some of the most eco-friendly athletic shoe brands currently on the market. 


Blackspot: This open-source brand with its "affront to the consciousness of hyper capitalism" makes shoes out of hemp, recycled tires, and vegan leather in fair-trade, unionized factories that support worker rights. The fact that Blackspot is an open-source brand means it can be used by anyone, at no cost. And they only sell to independent retailers around the world so that profits can be cycled back into local economies. 

Jambu Bare Feet Designs: These partially recycled shoes are ultra light weight, non-marking, and flexible, with memory foam footbeds that comfort your active leg muscles and contour to the shape of your feet. Jambu shoes are made from eco-friendly Double Dice Rubber and materials that are recycled and sustainable. The company also features animal friendly styles in their vegan collection. And all Jambu shoes come in 100 percent recycled and recyclable packaging! 

New Balance: New Balance's newSKY line features shoes with reduced waste designs that are made from 95 percent recycled plastic bottles, or P.E.T. According to the newSKY website, it takes only about 12 bottles to produce one pound of fiber and only about 8 bottles to create an average pair of shoes. New Balance newSKY shoes are available in a variety of colors, in both male and female styles, and are moderately priced.

VIVOBAREFOOT: VIVOBAREFOOT footwear is produced sustainably with recycled, locally sourced materials in independently monitored, ethical factories that utilize efficient and eco-friendly production techniques. Most of their sneakers are stitched so the use of adhesives can be avoided. The VIVOBAREFOOT website has an Eco Matrix function that allows you to see how each shoe impacts the environment from raw material procurement, processing, manufacture, and use, to disposal. 

Brooks Sports, Inc.: The unisex Green Silence consists of over 75 percent post-consumer recycled material as well as a biodegradable BioMogo midsole and collar foams. The laces, gillies, and reinforced webbing are all 100 percent post-consumer recycled, as is the packaging. The biodegradability aspect of the Green Silence shoe was achieved when Brooks Sports, Inc. added a non-toxic, natural additive to their MoGo compound that encourage anaerobic microbes to eat away the material once it's in a landfill. This process enables the Green Silence shoes to degrade 50 times faster than normal midsoles, which will save 29.9 million pounds of landfill waste in roughly 20 to 25 years, according to the Brooks website. 


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