26 min read

The 8 Best Sustainable & Ethical Running Shoes (2022)


*When you buy a product through our links below, we may earn money from our affiliate partners to help support the site. This does not affect our evaluations of any product/company. You can learn more about our review process here and see our list of affiliate partners here.*


In this complete guide to the best sustainable and ethical running shoes, we’ll review the top available options on the market. 

We researched and analyzed these running shoes along the criteria of performance, impact on people, and impact on the environment. 

For more on how we assessed the most sustainable running shoes, read our section titled: “What Makes a Sustainable Running Shoe?” below

Our goal here (as well in every single one of our Buy Ensemble reviews or lists) is to help make purchasing and supporting planet and people-friendly products easier. Specifically here, we want you to feel good about how your running shoes help you perform and as well, how they (and the brands behind them) affect the planet and the people living on it. 

We’ll offer a quick list of the best sustainable options we’ve found before diving into more in-depth reviews.

Let’s make that next run more impactful.

Quick List: The Most Sustainable & Ethical Running Shoes

Below are our eight picks for the best sustainable running shoes you can buy. The corresponding star rating you’ll see is based on our assessment of the shoe’s performance, effects on people, and effects on the planet. You can see the full analysis behind each assigned rating down below.

Allbirds (⭐️3.5) — Best for Casual Runners ($135) – TOP PICK

Vivobarefoot (⭐️3.7) — Best Barefoot Trail Running Shoes ($190) – TOP PICK

Hylo (⭐️3.7) — Best Sustainable Running Shoes for the Gym and Casual Wear ($135) – TOP PICK

Veja (⭐️4) — All Vegan Running Shoe ($170) – TOP PICK

EcoAlf (⭐️2.8) — Most Affordable Sustainable Running Shoe ($129) 

IceBug (⭐️3) — Best Overall Trail Running Shoes ($169.95) 

Brooks (⭐️2.7) — Best for Heel Strikers ($140) 

On Running (⭐️2.7) — Most Comfortable Sustainable Running Shoe ($179.99)

Allbirds: Tree Dasher 2

Best for the Casual Runners


Price: $135

Made In: Vietnam

b corp logo






Heel Drop: 7mm | Weight: 10.3 oz

Pros & Cons

blog-pros-icon Great for shorter runs and casual wear-around use 

blog-pros-icon High level of transparency with materials and overall carbon footprint 

blog-pros-icon Machine washable

cons-icon Bulky, a bit on the heavier side

cons-icon Limited transparency into supply chain and labor conditions

cons-icon Potentially snug, awkward fit in the toe box.

Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown was inspired by merino wool in New Zealand as an alternative to synthetic materials. He teamed with renewables expert and engineer Joey Zwillinger to create wool fabric for shoes. 

Allbirds offers additional runners, but we’ll focus on the Allbirds Tree Dasher 2. If you’re interested in other styles of Allbirds shoes, check out our complete Allbirds Review, here.

In our experience, the Tree Dasher 2s are best made for short runs and active casual wear. 

We tested these on hikes, walks, and runs of varying distances. The traction on the Dasher 2s is excellent and performed well on hiking trails and making quick movements on pavement/courts. 

The fit on these Dashers is a little snug and can feel at times clunky. These are one of the heavier pairs of runners that we’ve listed here. With this fit, our testers came to prefer other runners for longer distances. In our opinion, these shoes are best made for those looking for an active casual shoe to wear around day-to-day on walks and hikes, or even to the tennis/pickleball court with friends. For those looking for a purer, higher mileage running shoe, we might recommend considering a different option on this list. 

Allbirds is cutting edge with their transparency and commitment to making the world’s most sustainable shoe line, the Tree Dasher 2s are no different. Allbirds lists in detail the materials used to make the shoe (eucalyptus tree fiber, sugarcane, natural rubber, merino wool, castor bean oil, among others).  As well, Allbirds has made the point to calculate the exact carbon footprint of the shoe and display that on the box (10.7 kg CO2e). Allbirds is also a Certified Climate Neutral company, meaning, they offset all emissions they have yet to reduce through certified carbon projects. 

We would however like that Allbirds incorporates a specific end-of-life plan for their products in the near future. 

In our view, Allbirds lacks some transparency into their supply chain. While we are made aware of where the shoes are produced (Vietnam), we aren’t given great detail as to what the working conditions are. 

All this considered together, we do believe that the Allbirds Tree Dasher 2s are one of the best options for sustainable runners out there now and hope to see the company make ground on those key labor/end-of-life components.

$135 – Allbirds.com or find an Allbirds store near you, here

Where to Buy

*This review here has been consolidated, as our full review of the Allbirds Tree Dasher 2s can be found below. 

Read Review: Allbirds Tree Dasher 2

Annie wearing Allbirds tree dasher 2

Vivobarefoot: Primus Trail Knit 

Best Barefoot Trail Running Shoes


Price: $190

Made In: Vietnam, China (in the process of moving to Vietnam)

b corp logo






Heel Drop: 0 | Weight: 8.82 oz

Pros & Cons

blog-pros-icon Great for hiking and working out

blog-pros-icon High level of transparency with sustainability progress

blog-pros-icon Offers repairs through their Revivo program to prolong shoe life

cons-icon Require an ‘adjustment period’ before use

cons-icon Limited transparency into supply chain, labor conditions, and materials

cons-icon Sizing options slightly limited

Vivobarefoot offers great options for trail running and road running. Their shoes mimic the shape of the foot, allowing you to feel more of the ground beneath you. Vivobarefoot also backs up its health claims with scientific research. The Primus Trails are a good alternative to Nike’s Free Run shoes. 


Best use:


Whether you’re hiking or working out, the Primus Trail Knit lives up to its name. With solid traction, these shoes are great for spending time on the trails.

As a bonus, being so close to the ground makes you walk a little taller, improving your posture and gait with comfort. (A study from the University of Liverpool found that wearing Vivobarefoot for six months increases foot strength by 58.7%). 


Users commonly report getting a good couple years out of their Vivos. Of course, that will depend on your frequency of use, etc

In the event that a repair is needed, Vivo offers a refresh, reconditioning, or revive option through its ReVivo repair service.


The Primus Trail Knit only goes down to a size 7 (40 EU) for men. Women’s sizes go to US 5.5.

Don’t expect to lace up and go for a 5-mile run off the bat. Running “barefoot” isn’t for beginners. Your ankles and feet need practice.

These shoes are really for the barefoot believers. If you think that barefoot shoes might be a lifestyle for you, then, yes, these are a great option.

But! You need to be committed to it. It’s a journey. You have to get comfortable with barefoot shoes first before expecting to buy runners and take off from the start.

If you do, you’ll be painfully sore at best, at worst cause injury.

But, if you’re up for sticking it out and follow the regimen recommended by the brand, then these shoes are extremely comfortable.



Vivobarefoot unfinished business
Vivobarefoot’s Impact Report | Source: Vivobarefoot

Vivobarefoot’s goal is to become a regenerative business. With a 99-page report, the company prides itself on radical transparency. Fully leaning into the idea that sustainability exists on a spectrum, they call their report “Unfinished Business.” 

The report includes a breakdown of how many products were revived through their Revivo program, a list of this year’s failures (including figuring out if selling on Amazon is right for the brand), and a map of its supply chain.

Labor Practices:

As of 2020, 85% of shoes were made by one supplier, who was not the owner of the factory, which limited communication on labor practices.

The good news: Vivobarefoot is shifting to a new vendor to open lines of communication and promote accountability. 


Vivobarefoot hopes to pioneer this concept of regeneration and sustainability far beyond their own company. Their Livebarefoot Fund invests in biomechanics research, indigenous shoemaking, regenerative innovation, education, and advocacy.



Primus Trail Knits are vegan/animal-free as defined by the company.

While the product description lists “recycled materials” and “natural materials,” it doesn’t provide a full breakdown or percentage like we’ve seen in other sustainable running shoes.

Shipping & Packaging:

Vivobarefoot prevents returns by allowing customers to take a photo of their foot to determine the right size prior to purchase. 

Whenever they can, Vivobarefoot tries to select resources that are close to factories to limit emissions. In their Unfinished Business report, they list greenhouse gas emission as a key area for improvement. As of their last report, they’re still in the process of collecting their emissions data.

End of Life:

Through Revivo, its shoe repair service, Vivobarefoot sets out to prevent shoes from ending up in the landfill. For now, as of spring 2022, the program is only available in the UK.

In 2019, Vivobarefoot created a product assessment, evaluating the product’s durability, materials, and end of life. The Primus score is 7/25 and they’re working to “build the most regenerative shoe that we can.”

Where to Buy

→ $190 – Vivobarefoot.comor shop them on Publiclands.com

Hylo: Run Two

Best for the Gym and Casual Wear

Hylo Runners Two buy ensemble top pick

Price: $135

Made In: Putian, China

Sustainable Apparel Coalition






Heel Drop: 9.5mm | Weight: 8.64 oz

Pros & Cons

blog-pros-icon Versatile and lightweight, great all-around active shoe

blog-pros-icon High level of transparency with supply chain, labor practices, and carbon footprint

blog-pros-icon Machine washable

cons-icon Laces are on the stiff side, no tongue padding

cons-icon Potentially not entirely recyclable

cons-icon Not as durable as some other running shoes

Founded by European football player Michael Doughty, Hylo’s goal is to provide high-performance and sustainable running shoes with a low impact on the planet. The vegan Corn Runners are made of corn fiber, organic cotton, and less than 1% polyester. Five of the ten materials are sourced within 100 miles, minimizing carbon emissions.


Best Use:

Comfy and versatile, Corn Runners work for everything from HIIT training to taking your dog for a walk on the beach. They’re lightweight, attractive, and great for everyday wear, going to the gym, and casual runs.

Because there’s no padding in the tongue of the shoe, they’re not as cushioned as some runners prefer.


Machine washable, Corn Runners are a great concept, but these shoes aren’t as durable as you’d hope for a “sustainable” running shoe.

They start breaking up after about 5 months of consistent use, making them less sustainable than some of the other running shoes.

Some positive news: the company is quick to help recycle or replace shoes and has potentially updated the product designs for greater durability.


The laces are on the stiffer side, making them less flexible to take on and off.

On the plus side, they’re pretty drafty and breathable. Perfect for a summer stroll.



Filtered by facility name or country, the supplier list includes three factories, their addresses, and the number of workers at each.

Hylo’s Supplier Map | Source: Hylo Athletics

Hylo shares an Impact Report each year to share what the company is doing to minimize harm and work to make a positive impact.

Labor Practices:

Hylo has an in-depth guide to its supply chain standards, which business partners/factory owners must sign and agree to meet.

The business partners must report compliance failures, which may leave room for gaps in communication. Hylo or a third party may audit unannounced, but it isn’t clear how often.

According to the first audit of suppliers, run by auditor Elevate, all workers are “paid correctly and above the regional average. The lowest take-home pay is 23% above the regional average.”


Hylo donates 1% of its net revenue to Common Goal, an organization focused on sustainability and equality.



Hylo prints their shoe materials right on the inside
of the box

Made with seven renewable materials, the corn runners are recyclable and vegan. (But it’s not clear whether 100% of the shoe is recyclable, or just pieces of it).

Its carbon footprint is 6.56KG CO₂e, a “52% reduction compared to the average running shoe’s 13.6kg CO2e.”

Shipping & Packaging;

Because shipping and returns have an impact, the company recommends customers check the sizing guide prior to purchase. They also include shipping and returns in their carbon offsets.

Five out of ten of the materials come from within 100 miles of the factory and all arrive by road, minimizing airplane transport and carbon emissions.

End of Life:

They do carbon offsets for their returns to bring them closer to carbon neutral.

Hylo also has a unique recycling program. When you send your shoes back, they give you a £10 Hylo Credit as a thank you.

Where to Buy

$135﹘Hylo.com, or shop them on Sneakinpeace.com

Veja: Condor 2

Best All Vegan Running Shoe


Price: $170

Made In: Brazil

b corp logo






Heel Drop: 10mm | Weight: 10.6 oz

Pros & Cons

blog-pros-icon Great for short daily runs and lower impact exercise

blog-pros-icon High level of transparency with materials, supply chain, labor practices, and carbon footprint

blog-pros-icon 100% Vegan

cons-icon Not great for longer sprints or high impact activity

cons-icon End of Life practices have room for improvement

cons-icon Not machine washable

In 2019, Veja shared its first ecological running shoe: the Condor. The Condor 2 is lightweight and perfect for your short daily run. Veja believes in being as transparent as possible, allowing a behind-the-scenes view into much of their business. They also make an effort to support the land and people producing their materials, paying upfront for organic cotton, and paying more than the market price for cotton and rubber.


Best Use:

These vegan running shoes aren’t for sprints or long sessions. Instead, the Condor is more for short daily runs, low-impact jogs, and quick recovery sessions. 


The shoes can be cleaned using warm soapy water with a brush (not machine-washable).

Insoles should hang to dry between uses.


With a 1-inch sole, the Condor is well-cushioned and has a nice squishy feel to it. But even with the added height and softness, the shoe doesn’t provide as much bounce on the pavement as you’d expect.  

Definitely be sure to break these in beforehand, as they run a little small.



Organic cotton Harvesting Veja
Veja’s Cotton Being Harvested in Peru | Source: Veja

Veja believes it’s better to share everything rather than keep consumers in the dark.

The company shares a cotton source map with the lifecycle of cotton—from production to spinning, weaving, and fashioning. 

It also includes a list of organic cotton and natural rubber suppliers, along with a copy of the contracts with the farmer families.

Labor Practices:

In 2019, Veja paid up to 50% in advance for organic cotton.

They offer twice the market price for organic cotton to provide a living wage for the farmers.

Rubber producers also get 220% the market price, with Veja paying R$8,00 per kg CVP (compared to R$2,50 market price).


Paying upfront covers the quality of the cotton and rubber, gives families income stability, and supports forest conservation.

Veja also partners with the NGO Esplar to support organic cotton producers and assist in adopting agro-ecology to enrich and protect soil.



The Condor’s canvas and laces are made with Brazilian and Peruvian organic cotton, eliminating the use of pesticides and protecting biodiversity.

Materials also include Amazonian rubber for the soles and recycled plastic bottles or recycled polyester.

Practicing upcycling, B-mesh fabric is entirely made from plastic bottles.  

Veja Upcycling Plastic
Veja Upcycling Plastic | Source: Veja

Shipping & Packaging:

When evaluating carbon emissions, Veja takes us from seed to store, sharing every piece of the supply chain and its impact. In 2019, 0.5% of emissions came from collecting and transporting raw materials and 18% came from sneaker transportation.  

Vejas packaging is made from 80% recycled plastic, with plans to use 100% plastic-free packaging in the future.

End of Life:

Shoes can be recycled in-store in Paris, Bordeaux, and New York.

Where to Buy

$170﹘Veja.com, or pick up a pair at REI

EcoAlf: Oregalf

Most Affordable Sustainable Running Shoes

ecoalf oregalf

Price: $129

Made In: China

b corp logo






Pros & Cons

blog-pros-icon Good for daily jogs

blog-pros-iconUses a sustainability tool to measure impact and improve transparency

blog-pros-icon Easy to clean

cons-icon May not be ideal for longer runs

cons-icon Limited transparency into supply chain and labor conditions

cons-icon Not much real user data is available for the shoe overall

The founder of Ecoalf set out to create a sustainable fashion brand and stop using natural resources carelessly. Oregalf sneakers are durable, sustainable vegan running shoes for your everyday jogs.


Best Use:

We weren’t able to gather good information on how these shoes stood up to higher-mileage runs.


From the information we gathered, the Oregalf is super easy to clean, even after walking in the muddy woods!


We were unable to pull sufficient user data on this shoe. Until we can get some first-hand experience, we’ll have to leave this a mystery.



People, planet, and traceability are graded through BCOME, a sustainability platform helping businesses improve their supply chains and transparency. The BCOME Evaluation System allows consumers to view an overview of each product’s environmental and social impact.

BCOME Sustainability Report for the Oregalf | Source: Ecoalf

The grades in the system are as follows:

  • HIGH 0-33%
  • ADVANCED 34-66%
  • HONORS 65-100%

Labor Practices:

Even with the BCOME grading system in place, transparency about farmers, manufacturers, and factory workers is lacking. Though they do list three of their third-party auditors that evaluate the supply chain.


The Ecoalf Foundation aims to “upcycle the oceans” by promoting waste recovery and collaborating with the fishing industry to clean the oceans.



Powered by BCOME, customers get to see a sustainability report for each shoe.

The Oregalf was graded C+ for planet, C+ for people, and B+ for traceability. It also saves 0.38 kg CO2 eq and 0.16 liters of water. (Though we’re not sure compared to what? Maybe a prior model?). 

Shipping & Packaging:

Ecoalf Recycled Shoe Box | Source: Ecoalf

To remove the need for shopping bags, Ecoalf shoe boxes are made from 100% recycled cardboard and include a 100% recycled polyester strap.

They also use dye-free, recycled paper that is 100% biodegradable. 

End of Life:

Instead of merely offering a standard return policy, Ecoalf takes the opportunity to educate its customers.

The company encourages customers to think twice before purchasing, as repacking and re-delivering means more carbon emissions and less sustainability. 

Where to Buy

$129﹘Ecoalf.com, or shop them at Campsaver.com

Icebug: Arcus

Best Overall Trail Running Shoe


Price: $169.95

Made In: Vietnam, China







Heel Drop: 6mm | Weight: 8.82oz

Pros & Cons

blog-pros-icon Great for trail running

blog-pros-icon High level of transparency with carbon footprint

blog-pros-icon Waterproof and durable

cons-icon Require breaking in before use

cons-icon Limited transparency with supply chain and labor practices

cons-icon May not be ideal for pavement runs

Icebug encourages more people to get outside and enjoy nature. Their Arcus running shoe is your ideal companion for long runs on the trail. 


Best Use:

Great for all temperatures, the Arcus keeps your feet dry and has a solid tread for trail running.

Purchase studs if you’re planning to run in slippery or freezing conditions.


Waterproof and sturdy, the Arcus can withstand tough weather conditions and last through multiple seasons tracking through mud, gravel, clay, and everything in between.


These are a little stiff on the first go. Wear these around your house or while you’re grabbing groceries to break these in before you lace up for a run. 

Avoid running on the road, if you can. They’re great on trails but not as comfortable on pavement.



Icebug is in the process of pulling all of its supply chain data through the TrusTrace platform

Customers can see the product’s journey or “Follow the Footprints” with a list of factories involved in production.

Icebug doesn’t mention farmers or factory workers on their sustainability page.

Labor Practices:

According to their Sustainability Report, Icebug planned to follow up on codes of conduct and evaluate worker conditions in their supply chain, but travel restrictions due to Covid prevented further investigation.


Icebug is a 1% for the Planet member, donating 1% of total sales to environmental nonprofit organizations.



Arcus Carbon Footprint & Materials | Source: Icebug

Icebug does a great job showing its carbon footprint, sharing the amount of CO2 emissions produced per shoe.

The Arcus produces 9,1 kg CO2 eqv. per pair and is made of 27% recycled materials, including 15% recycled rubber in the outsole and 100% recycled PET polyester.  

Shipping & Packaging:

Beginning in 2020, Icebug committed to compensating for 200% of its carbon emissions.

For most final products, Icebug chooses sea freight over air transportation to minimize carbon emissions.

End of Life:

While Icebug doesn’t have a recycling program in place, it does work to prevent running shoe waste in two ways:

  • Explaining how to care for shoes, and offering tailored solutions depending on the wear and tear.
  • Providing replacement parts (ex: laces, studs, hooks, and zipper pulls). Stud replacements are provided without charge.

Where to Buy

$169.95﹘Icebug.com or Outlandusa.com, and Backcountry.com

Brooks: Ghost 14

Best for Heel Strikers 


Price: $140

Made In: China, Vietnam






Midsole Drop: 12mm | Weight: 9.9oz

Pros & Cons

blog-pros-icon Great for easy, everyday runs and heel strikers

blog-pros-icon Some transparency with carbon footprint of shoes

blog-pros-icon Offer a 90-day test run return period

cons-icon Not the best for cold weather

cons-icon Limited transparency with materials, labor practices, and supply chain

cons-icon On the heavier side, not ideal for sprints

Brooks recently announced its new sustainability strategy, with the goal of being carbon neutral by 2040. Ghost 14 is the company’s first carbon-neutral shoe. The company’s goal is to move to 100% recycled polyester in footwear by 2023 and share a circular performance shoe by 2030.


Best Use:

Ghost 14 is perfect for every day, easy and long runs on the road.

They’re not ideal for sprints. The heavyweight of the shoe makes it feel less responsive in high-speed workouts


From our research, with a dense outsole and midsole, the Brooks Ghost can last 350-400 miles.


If you need a soft landing and tend to strike on your heels, Brooks has you covered. Ghost 14 is extra roomy in the toe box, giving you some leeway coming down hills or making quick turns.

Source: Brooks Running

Avoid running in cold weather as the shoe stiffens in freezing temperatures.

For most runners, the shoe runs true to size or slightly larger.



In the transparency statement, Brooks includes a link to the supplier code of conduct and details new supplier onboarding.

Suppliers are assessed by third-party auditors to confirm Brooks’ standards are met.  

Labor Practices:

At onboarding, suppliers must agree to be transparent about working hours and payroll. Like many other brands, Brooks doesn’t appear to publish the pay or working hours of suppliers/factory workers.

It’s important to note that product assembly factories are required to complete a social compliance assessment, but we’re not sure if it’s a third-party or self-assessment.

The good news: one factory didn’t pass the audit in 2020, so they parted ways.


In 2020, Brooks donated over 35,000 shoes to healthcare workers.

On its recycle page, Brooks also links to Soles4Souls as an option for donating used shoes. 


Source: Brooks Running


The carbon emissions of the Ghost 14 are 10.34 kg CO₂e. Brooks partners with ClimateCare to offset Ghost 14’s carbon emissions.  

About 20% of the upper materials are recycled.

There is no listing of what materials are used or where the raw materials are sourced from.

Shipping & Packaging:

One perk for consumers is the ability to take Brooks shoes for a 90-day test run.

However, what does this policy mean for the planet? What does returning in 90-days look like in terms of extra plastic/paper/packaging, and carbon emissions? Something to consider. 

End of Life:

For now, recycling is the closest we can get to biodegradable running shoes. Thankfully, most Brooks stores provide the option to recycle your shoes.

Where to Buy

$140﹘Brooksrunning.com or pick up a pair at REI

On: Cloudultra

Most Comfortable Sustainable Running Shoes


Price: $179.99

Made In: Vietnam






Heel-Toe Drop: 8mm | Weight: 8.64oz

Pros & Cons

blog-pros-icon Versatile, great all-around running shoe

blog-pros-icon Uses some vegan and recycled fabrics

blog-pros-icon Breathable and cushiony

cons-icon Not waterproof

cons-icon Efforts are being made, but sustainable, ethical practices and transparency are limited

cons-icon May need to size up

Based in Switzerland, On offers a collection of performance running shoes. With a bouncy superfoam and a snug fit, the Cloudultra shoe brings soft landings perfect for long-distance runners. 

In summer 2022, they have plans to launch the Cyclon Cloudneo. A fully recyclable, circular shoe.


Best Use:

The Cloudultra is a versatile running shoe perfect for trail running, rolling hills, and hiking.

If you’re looking to regulate your temperature and stay dry, the Cloud Ultra has breathable and ventilated mesh, making it ideal for those warm summer runs.


One downside to the Cloudultra is it’s not waterproof. Whether it’s misting outside or you’re running the day after a storm, you need to be careful with these.


If you want some extra cushion, the Cloudultra is a great option. 

But, it is a tighter fit, so we’d recommend buying a half size up to ensure appropriate sizing.



With a list of locations and number of workers at each spot, On Running is on its way to transparency.

However, the only mention of the people behind the product is a mention of “team spirit.”

Labor Practices:

There are no specific details about wage or factory safety, save for a link to their supplier code of conduct.

On Running does an initial assessment of factories, followed by visiting the production site several times a year. It’s not clear if visits are by On staff or a third party.

On does acknowledge an overtime problem in the fashion industry, and commits to forecast in advance to “prevent excessive overtime.” 


On sponsors the Athlete Refugee Team.



The total recycled content is about 5%, including 20% recycled polyester.

With inorganic cotton and rubber, we wonder what the full environmental impact is of using these materials. 

The company is working to integrate 100% certified organic cotton and 100% mulesing-free wool.

For now, it meets an important sustainability goal: using vegan fabrics.

Shipping & Packaging:

Designing the new Sustainable Packaging |
Source: On Running

On Running rebranded to protect the planet. It moved away from all-black ink packages, saving at least 7 tonnes of black ink each year (a substance that can lead to soil and water pollution). The company also switched to 100% recycled shoe boxes, saving:

  • 18 tonnes of paper
  • 15 tonnes of plastic
  • 160 tonnes of CO2

End of Life:

From our research, we couldn’t find any consideration for the end of life of Cloudultra. However, the upcoming Cyclon Cloudneo subscription will allow customers to return shoes for recycling.

Where to Buy

$179.99﹘On-running.com or shop them at BackcountryBSTN, and END

FAQ: What Makes a Sustainable Running Shoe?

Sustainability exists on a spectrum. Here are the three main categories we assessed to define what makes a running shoe sustainable.

1. Performance (Product)

For shoes (or any product) to be sustainable, they must serve their purpose. Is it a good running shoe?

Of course, “good” is in the eye of the beholder. We look at three main categories to evaluate a sustainable running shoe’s performance: comfort, best use, and durability. 


Comfort depends on what you’re looking for. Do you want extra cushion? Bounce? Are you hoping for extra room in the toe box? 

Do your best to know your running shoe preferences before making a purchase. Check your foot type (ex: arch vs. flat) so you can make the right choice depending on your needs. It’ll limit your need to return or exchange, and, in turn, minimize your carbon footprint. 

Best Use 

Does the shoe work best on paved roads or bumpy trails? Does it provide stability and motion control, depending on the terrain? We provide a variety of options so you can select the running shoe that works with your own running routine.


The easiest way to make a product more sustainable is to make sure it has the longest useful life possible. Are the shoes washable? Will they break down in a few months or will they last for years?

Running is a high-impact activity, so we’re all too aware no running shoe will last forever. What’s important is that your shoe can travel the distance with you.

2. People (Ethics)

We evaluate each company based on its transparency, labor practices, and give-back programs (or community contribution).


How easy is it for us to gather information on the where/how/who of production?

Is the company open about its sourcing, production, and labor practices? Or is information super hard to find? 


How are the workers behind the products treated? 

We want to know: 

  • What wages are they paid? 
  • Are working conditions safe? 
  • Is the information verified by someone other than the brand themselves? 


Does the company have a charitable giving program? 

It’s important to approach companies’ claims with skepticism. While there isn’t tight regulation on sustainability claims or the global labor supply chain, it’s our job to do our due diligence. 

Sustainable running shoe companies should:

  • Share the people behind the product 
  • Disclose its farm and factory locations
  • Acknowledge where there are gaps or areas of growth 

Again, if the information is missing, it should give you pause. 

Company “codes of conduct” are a good start, but they don’t tell us the full story. We also want to go beyond pictures and stories of workers and factories. Are working conditions safe? Are farmers and factory workers provided a living wage?

3. Planet (Sustainability)

We’re constantly working to define what sustainability means. We’re especially curious about circularity—does the company consider the land and materials required for production? Does a product’s end of use lead to a landfill or are there ways to repair, recycle, or rewear?  

When evaluating running shoes, we look at materials, shipping and packaging, and end of life.


What raw materials do they use? Do they limit their use of plastic (ex: polyester or other synthetic fibers)? 

We also look at how production impacts the environment. Do they protect biodiversity by using organic materials? Does the company offset its carbon emissions from production/transportation? 

Shipping and Packaging 

Does the company use recyclable packaging? Limit its use of dyes and inks? 

What about transportation? Do they lean fully on air transportation, or opt for a more sustainable option (like ship freights or keeping farms and factories local to each other)?

End of Life/Circularity 

Does the company take responsibility for a product’s end of life? Do they offer a recycling program?  

In searching for the most sustainable running shoe, look for products with: 

  • Carbon offsets or carbon neutrality   
  • Recyclable and/or circular materials 
  • Organic and/or vegan materials
  • Minimal/no use of plastic in shipping and packaging

How We Assess Products & Companies

Sustainability is a journey. Year after year, companies we regard as leaders in their respective categories are still finding ways to reduce, offset, and reverse their negative impacts.

We see sustainability on a spectrum. No companies or singular products are completely “sustainable,” but some are more sustainable than others. Our Buy Ensemble content exists to make finding sustainable and better-for-the-world products easier for you.

In evaluating brands and products, we look at three categories: 

  • Performance 
  • People (Ethics)
  • Planet (Sustainability)

Our priority is to share honest and objective evaluations of sustainable products. Learn more about our review process here

We do want to stress (and we communicate this with any/all brands), the exchange of products does not and cannot influence our reviews.

Have you had experience with any of these products or companies? 

Is there something we missed? Send us a message or leave a comment below. We want our reviews to evolve as we learn more information from our own experience, your experience, and further research.


Written by

Karonica Paige

Karonica is a content writer focused on helping purpose-driven and sustainable businesses connect with more people.


Karonica has written blogs and scripts for everyone from food startups to nonprofits, to SAAS and e-commerce companies.

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