In today’s ecologically troubled times, choosing the best eco-friendly running shoes over standard sneakers isn’t just a good idea – it’s a must. Runners who care about the environment can and should pay attention to the carbon footprint of their equipment. By choosing your next pair of sneakers from the eco-friendly lot below, you can guarantee that you won’t contribute to the end of the planet, or at the very least, your impact will be less severe.
It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to start running, but a good pair of running shoes is an absolute must. Unfortunately, they don’t last forever – particularly if you’re riding a lot of miles – and due to foam degradation, shoes will need to be replaced once you hit the 3-400 mile mark. And that’s just the foam; other parts of the shoes, such as the upper or sole, can wear out even earlier.
This could mean you wear the shoes quickly if you’re running most days, so it makes sense to look for a pair with minimal environmental effects – but it’s not a simple choice. There are many factors to consider, including the raw materials the shoes are made from and the processing required to turn them into something useful. Then there’s the treatment of workers – are they paid a fair wage for their work and treated well? Finally, what happens to the shoe at the end of its life? Can it be recycled in some way or is it destined for landfills?
Here we’ve rounded up our pick of the best eco-friendly running shoes available today. None are perfectly green, but if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint and make your run more ethical, they’re an excellent place to start. We take into account our own experience when testing the shoes and the manufacturer’s rating on good on you (opens in new tab)which ranks companies based on how they treat people and the environment.
The best eco-friendly running shoes
The Reebok Floatride Energy Grow is made with at least 50% plant-based materials, reducing the use of virgin plastic – but you wouldn’t know that just by looking at it. Unlike some ‘green’ running shoes, this one doesn’t scream about its credentials; instead, Reebok opted for a refreshing retro design that pairs with both denim and Lycra.
There’s a moderate amount of (castor-based) cushioning, and in our tests we found it easy to forget about during training runs. It is not overly padded and is quite flexible around the toe (particularly medially), which is not suitable for those prone to overpronation, but is quite responsive if your foot is neutral.
There’s a lot to like about this shoe, which is also surprisingly light, leaving the Allbirds Tree Dasher just as green, but much heavier, in the dust. We have some reservations about the durability of the gusset that secures the tongue to the interior, but the Floatride Energy Grow fared well after many miles.
Good On You praises Reebok (opens in new tab) for their efforts to audit their suppliers’ working conditions, use sustainable materials, reduce their carbon emissions and conduct research on the effect of microplastics.
Read our full Reebok Floatride Energy Grow review
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly running shoe that you can also wear around town, the Allbirds Tree Dashers are well worth your consideration. The mesh upper is made from breathable eucalyptus fibers, and the midsole foam is made from sugarcane instead of the usual plastic. It takes a lot of processing to turn raw materials into usable materials, but Allbirds works to keep carbon emissions as low as possible and offset the rest.
The Tree Dashers are heavier than most other neutral road shoes we’ve reviewed, but we found they provided plenty of support, particularly under the arch of the foot. The sugar-based midsole gave good stability, and its shape (tapping towards the toe) provided plenty of spring for take-off.
Our only complaint about the fit was that the sock lining slightly rubbed the back of the heel, but your experience might be different; We recommend trying a pair to see how you get along with them.
Good On You Praise Allbirds (opens in new tab) for the use of sustainable materials and its efforts to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is criticized for failing to show a code of conduct for its suppliers or for ensuring that workers in its supply chain receive a living wage.
Read our full Allbirds Tree Dasher review
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly running shoe, the On Cloudboom Echo might be the ticket. It’s built for speed, with an extremely lightweight and breathable upper made from recycled polyester, a double layer of ‘CloudTec’ cushioning in the midsole, and a carbon fiber-infused plate for extra spring.
Some runners may find the Cloudboom Echo a little too firm and is better suited for narrow feet. We recommend saving it for race days and track sessions rather than daily workouts.
On is a small company and has not yet been evaluated by Good On You, but it is transparent about its work and its suppliers. Recently published a sustainability report (opens in new tab) outlining its efforts to use more sustainable materials, reduce carbon emissions and water use, recycle used shoes and support workers’ rights (including a Code of conduct (opens in new tab) that all suppliers must sign that sets out rules regarding a minimum subsistence wage).
Read our full In the Cloudboom Echo review
The Brooks Ghost 14 is a reliable workhorse for your regular workouts. It’s not the most exciting eco-shoe to look at, but it’s pretty good at what it does: eating miles. It’s durable and well-padded, but still offers some pressure at faster paces. We found the Ghost 14’s toe cap particularly roomy, making it suitable for runners with wider feet, although the stretchy upper material accommodates all shapes and sizes well.
This upper contains a minimum of 13% recycled polyester, and Brooks says it has created a carbon-neutral production process by analyzing its supply chain, reducing carbon as much as possible and offsetting the rest.
good on you grades (opens in new tab) that a moderate proportion of the fabrics used by Brooks are BlueSign certified, although there is no evidence of policies to reduce carbon emissions or water use. There isn’t much transparency about their supply chain either, although some of their suppliers are also BlueSign certified.
Read our full Brooks Ghost 14 review
All Salomon Index.01 is recyclable and when you drop it on the ground you can return it to Salomon to be made into other clothes.
Of course, this would be of little use if the Salomon Index.01 wasn’t a good quality, high-performance shoe – but luckily it is. It feels firmer than most everyday runners, making it a better choice if you’re looking for support, with a curved sole and unusual rear overhang that we’ve found gives a welcome propulsion jolt.
The upper is pleasantly breathable and its low-profile design means you can easily switch between training sessions and running tasks. We found that the upper started to show dirt quickly and the starting price is quite high, so the Reebok Floatride Energy Grow is worth considering as a more affordable alternative.
good on you grades (opens in new tab) that Salomon publishes little information on other efforts to reduce textile waste, even though 45% of its fabrics are Blue Sign (opens in new tab) certificate. The company audits part of its supply chain during the final stage of production, but according to Good On You, there is no sign that it guarantees a living wage or supports workers’ rights such as collective bargaining.
Read our full Salomon Index.01 review
How we test the best eco-friendly running shoes
Testing the best eco-friendly running shoes is a very similar process to how we test the best running shoes. Of course, there’s a lot of racing involved, but in the case of eco-friendly shoes, we also do thorough research on the company to see if they meet the eco-standards they communicate in their ads. ‘Greenwashing’ is everywhere these days, and it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between genuine efforts and pretense without looking at the details.
Is Nike an eco-brand?
Good on You rates Nike’s overall green efforts as It’s a Start, meaning there is room for improvement both in terms of greening manufacturing processes and, especially, paying all of its employees a living wage. Nike is trying to introduce greener fabrics like Nike Forward into its portfolio, but what it really needs is to scale up green efforts to the company level so it can have a real (positive) impact on the environment.