Aug 11, 2023
by Karl Smith
The Best New Vegan & Sustainable Footwear For August 2023
by Karl Smith
Aug 11, 2023

While the debate continues over whether any new product can be classified as a positive against the backdrop of the climate crisis, there are questions more easily answered.

Questions like, “If there’s no inherently good production or consumption, shouldn’t we at least be paying attention to the people who are doing it better?”. To which, of course, the answer is an emphatic yes.

And it’s with all of that in mind that we’ve put together this list of the latest in more Earth-minded footwear endeavors: a short round-up of products with a sense of purpose.

Some are recycled, some are designed specifically to be recycled; some are 3D-printed others are hand-sewn; some are a positive sign of things to come and others are very much that thing in their own right.

All of which is to say that “purpose” means different things to different people. But it’s progress nonetheless. And that’s what we’re here for.

The Shoe: Nike ISPA Mindbody “Total Orange”
The RRP: $180 USD
Where to get it:

Released earlier this year, Nike ISPA’s modular Mindbody sneaker made for another noteworthy progressive move from the innovation-led sub-brand. Crafted from recycled Flyknit, designed to be disassembled and – as a result – easily recycled, the ISPA Mindbody is a showcase for what’s possible in terms of footwear’s sustainable future.

Of course, for that to work, these shoes need to reach a wider audience. And, while the Mindbody’s aesthetic is part of the appeal – the design itself, with its ropes and raw hems, is unlike much else out there – the ISPA team, having never really been about compromise, hasn’t ever taken the easy route of a “Triple White” or straight-up “Black” colorway to go for mass appeal.

While the appearance of “Light Cream” and “White/Black” iterations back in May came close, this latest “Total Orange” version is a return to visually-arresting form.

A mix of neon orange and monochromatic marbling, this sneaker probably isn’t for everyone. But, in theory, each iteration will appeal to someone and the better this sneaker performs and the more colorways make their way into the world, the further the message gets. Slow and steady wins the race.

The Shoe: BALENCIAGA Triple S “Denim”
The RRP: $1,100 USD
Where to get it: (upcoming)

A reason to praise high fashion brands for their planet-friendlier efforts doesn’t come along all that often. And – despite the release of a mycellium-based jacket earlier this year – it’s not like Paris-based BALENCIAGA is an exception to that rule. That being said, the label’s flagship footwear offering, the eternally-divisive Triple S sneaker, has been leather free for a while – or, at least, has a whole swathe of leather-free options available.

This latest version though is probably the most overt: where previous options mimicked suede and leather with synthetics, the “Denim” Triple S – which, yes, is exactly what it sounds like – wears its 100% cotton heart on its sleeve.

Funnily enough, this probably isn’t likely to make the Triple S any less divisive, but honesty is the best policy.

The Shoe: Ethics lgTWO “Royalty”
The RRP: $120 USD
Where to get it:

Having launched the Ethics lgONE – his first vegan basketball sneaker – back at the start of 2022, NBA player Langston Galloway has ramped up the brand’s offering slowly but surely over the last year-and-a-half. Those eponymous ethics, though, also extend to production: the label are still only offering a total of two silhouettes and this latest version makes the eighth colorway option across the lgONE and lgTWO sneakers.

Aesthetically, this newest “Royalty” colorway comes in a regal mix of blue and purple tones and, in terms of materials, the shoe’s upper is crafted from a high-strength nylon base, reenforced by digital stitching, with a hand-stitched overlay of animal-free suede adding much-needed support from the performance side.

The Shoe: KEEN Zionic Waterproof Hiking Collection
The RRP: $145 USD – $170 USD
Where to get it:

Portland-based footwear specialist KEEN hasn’t necessarily been on our radar much. And maybe that’s our mistake. Because, if this latest collection is anything to go by, the brand is doing some impressive things when it comes to outdoor performance and Earth-friendlier material choices.

This latest collection is a mix of hiking shoes and boots – outfitted with lightweight, high-traction outsoles, a KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane and the benefit of a contoured fit – crafted with comfort and stability in mind. What’s most interesting, though, is that the Zionic range uses Recycled P.E.T. Plastic, has PFAS-Free Water Repellency, and something called Eco Anti-Odor – which, like it or not, is pretty vital when it comes to a hiking shoe.

The Shoe: Jordan Luka 2 “Lake Bled”
The RRP: $130 USD
Where to get it: (Upcoming)

If you’ve ever googled “most beautiful places in Europe,” you’ll probably have seen a photograph of Slovenia’s Lake Bled.

Even so, you might not know that – as well as incredible scenery – Slovenia also has pretty strong commitments to protecting the planet. In that way, Luka Dončić’s latest shoe for Jordan Brand makes perfect sense.

While the recent rollout of the NBA star’s latest basketball shoes wasn’t particularly inspiring on the whole, the “Lake Bled” iteration stands out for its use of recycled materials – at least 20% – in an extra effort in honor of Dončić’s homeland. Naturally, it would be good to see this applied to all five colorways – but, as we say, it’s a question of progress over perfection.

The Shoe: ON Running Cloudstratus 3
The RRP: $179.99 USD
Where to get it:

When it comes to mixing performance running technology with sustainable credentials, very few brands can compete on a level with Swiss footwear label ON.

Having gone from fairly niche concern to regularly appearing on the feet of athletes and aesthetes across the globe, ON’s latest effort takes both aspects of the brand’s split personality and ramps both up another notch.

Boasting a Swiss-engineered 100% recycled base material and 23% overall recycled content, the Cloudstratus 3 also features a Helion™ superfoam midsole and nylon Speedboard® for cushioning and energy return.

Proof, if you needed it, that it never has to be a choice of planet or performance.

The Shoe: Nike Scorpion “Have a Nike Day” &
The RRP: $250 USD
Where to get it: (Upcoming)

Ah, the Nike Scorpion – the sneaker that looks like an ISPA model, in many ways behaves like an ISPA model but which enjoys the distinction of being a mainline Nike shoe.

What does that mean? Well, first of all it means that the Scorpion looks like a kind of sneaker cyborg – something cooked up in a lab, rather than a marketing meeting. Second, it means that the shoe is made from at least 20% recycled materials by weight.

In terms of these two newest colorways, one’s a little less ISPA-esque but both have their charms: the “Have a Nike Day” version is a kind of Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk situation, while the Barbie-themed model is, well, exactly that. Both of which are fine by us.

The Shoe: adidas TERREX Shoes with Carbon Captured Ink
Where to get it: (Upcoming)

Now, this is something of a bonus feature – not a specific shoe or even a specific colorway, but a new development that’s worthy of your time.

Coming to 400,000 pairs of shoes on the outdoor-focused adidas TERREX line, the brand with the Three Stripes is partnering with the Calgary-based carbon capture startup Oco to deliver an evolved version of its current footwear offering – made using ink from captured carbon.

In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, Oco claims its inks to be just as hardy – if not, perhaps, even more durable – than those made through more traditional (and traditionally harmful) means. Outdoor gear that stands up to what the planet has to give and gives something bag in return? That’s a win/win.

The RRP: $80 USD
Where to get it:

When we put together our list of the best vegan and sustainable slides earlier this summer, we included the ASICS ACTIBREEZE – even though it had sold out indefinitely. Now, though, it seems like we don’t need to feel bad about that anymore as the Japanese sportswear brand has delivered on a second version of its post-run sandal.

Still vegan and made with the benefit of over 1,000,000 foot scans to deliver ideal comfort, this 3D-printed model is ideal if you’re looking for a little luxury in your cooldown period. Or just, you know, around the house. Whatever.