Jun 25, 2024
by Karl Smith
The Best New Earth-Friendlier Footwear, June 2024
by Karl Smith
Jun 25, 2024

Coverage of sustainability is something of a balancing act – especially when it comes to footwear. The statistics on footwear production are beyond ridiculous – beyond the pale – and more or less the dictionary definition of unsustainable. With that in mind, it’s easy sometimes to be critical of brands and of the industry at large – not least of all because criticism is very much warranted.

It is, however, true that certain brands, designers, and innovators, are working toward something positive; toward resetting the status quo in terms of footwear, and in particular in terms of sneakers, in order that the industry might become a better version of itself.

We spoke to some of these people earlier in the month, putting together something like a How To and How Not To guide for building a sustainable sneaker brand, digging deep into their philosophy and the logistics of how they do what they do, but it’s also important to spotlight the products themselves.

The sneakers and various other footwear being put produced in an effort to move the needle are what consumers – and, at the end of the day, we’re all consumers – will see long before they come into contact with any kind of manifesto.

And so, to that end, we’ve rounded up some of the best from the last month – a list of new, forward-thinking footwear from brands who are not only challenging conventions but trying to reset them for the better.

From a marine waste sneaker that’s a precursor to the apocalypse – although, of course, hopefully not – to upcycled classics, a slow fashion footwear collaboration to a forward-thinking high-fashion linkup, this is what’s new and what you need to know.

Story mfg. x Keen Gentle Fullness Shanti Arts Sandal

Based in the UK seaside city of Brighton – the only city in the country to have elected a member of parliament from the Green Party – slow fashion pioneers Story mfg. are a firm favorite at FUTUREVVORLD.

This latest offering, a collaboration with Earth-friendlier outdoor footwear brand Keen is an extension of everything the label stands for. With an innovative material approach featuring recycled materials and natural polymers, the addition of offbeat design elements, and the customary mix of eccentric and earthy tones in terms of the colorway options, the collaboration – part of the “Gentle Fullness” line – reimagines Keen’s Shanti Arts Sandal for a slower pace of life.

Nicole McLaughlin x HOKA Mafate Three2

Upcycling enfant terrible Nicole McLaughlin has been busy of late. Collaborations with Vans, with PUMA, and now this second edition of her work on HOKA’s archive trail shoe.

There’s not a huge amount changed since the first iteration – which saw the deployment of deadstock materials to make upgrades like a dirt and water resistant gaiter system, which once again features here – but, regardless, two things do stand out.

First, there’s the colorway: the black and red of bygone times has been replaced with a more retro-futuristic silver and yellow combination. Then there’s the storage situation. Trailed as the headline element on this newest version of the McLaughlin x HOKA Mafate Three2, the shoe features a five-pocket solution for essentials – itself an essential upgrade for the trail-inclined among us.

Again, it’s not a major swerve from the last outing of this ongoing collaboration, but if McLaughlin wants to keep on proving just what you can do with deadstock then that’s fine by us.

Village PM 1PM Skate Shoe

Skate shoes are something of a sustainability nightmare; even though they’re regularly “vegan” – which, of course, in and of itself is neither a guaranteed mark of quality of of progress – and often come in a lower-impact canvas construction, the fact is they take a beating and they don’t last long. Parisian skate brand Village PM is out to change that.

Debuted at Paris Fashion Week as part of the brand’s SS25 collection, the 1PM sneaker features a game-changing replaceable side wall, designed for wear, tear, and most importantly for repair.

This, unfortunately, isn’t one of those vegan skate shoes we mentioned previously – and that does feel like something which could have been given a second thought here given other choices – but the modular aspect of the 1PM is genuinely innovative and more than worth a mention here.

Sky High Farms x Converse Chuck 70 & One Star

Another FVV regular, Sky High Farm’s workwear division continues its collaboration with Converse, with the upstate New York label utilizing upcycled materials on two of the sneaker brand’s most recognizable silhouettes.

Reworking the Chuck 70 and the One Star, the non-profit outfit has replaced the traditional Converse uppers with a material it knows well: workwear. Upcycling tan pants and overalls, no two pairs of the collaborative footwear effort are the same – which, for Converse fans, presents a rare chance at a one-of-a-kind sneaker from the brand – completed with a custom license plate, “Lolite” star print laces, and Sky High’s “Strawberry-Moon” embroidered logo.

And, of course, it also presents a chance to do some good and help fund Sky High Farm’s mission to feed fellow Hudson Valley locals and beyond.

HUGO x Flowers For Society GO-2 Sneaker

Luxury collaborations rarely prioritize progress, and – when it does figure – what we end up with often feels more like a cursory gesture than an attempt to actually make some kind of change.

That being said, this latest collaboration – between HUGO Red Label (the younger-indexing relation of the eponymous Hugo Boss label) and Earth-conscious foootwear brand Flowers For Society – manages to skirt that accusation.

As this shoe made its debut at Paris Fashion Week this month there are few concrete details to report on. Flowers For Society’s entire USP, however, is an insistence on “vegan and recycled materials only” – which means there’ll be no animal-derived or virgin fossil elements to the GO-2. Which, for a collaboration on this level, is still far too rare.

ER SOULIER, The Last Sneaker Before the Apocalypse

Waste is only waste when it’s wasted. This may seem like a tautology or a tongue twister, and it is kind of both, but it’s also a fact that if something is used it ceases to be waste. And that an only be a good thing.

Enter ER SOULIER, the forward-thinking French brand releasing its aptly-dubbed “Last Sneaker Before the Apocalypse.”

Fashioned from what founder Eugene Riconneaus describes as “marine litter,” the limited edition high-top sneakers are crafted from a mix of recycled materials and discarded oyster shells. And, while you can argue all day about the vegan ethics of aquatic detritus, the fact is that what we’re talking about here is waste. Until, of course, the point at which it isn’t.