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Six brands nailing sustainable footwear

Six brands nailing sustainable footwear

Did you know that over 23 billion pairs of sneakers are produced each year? It’s a scary statistic that just gets scarier when you learn that one sneaker can take up to 40 years to decompose in landfill. But we’re not here to shock you into never buying another pair of shoes again. The barefoot life isn’t for us either, so we’re out here navigating the minefield that is sustainable shopping with you. 

The good news is, some brands are paving the way for the kinder and more considerate future of footwear, taking ethical and sustainable practises in their stride. To whittle the list down, we asked Thread stylist and footwear fan Toby Standing to share his top six brands that will have our feet both stylishly and sustainably covered for the new season.

Photographed: CAMPER Pix (£120)

Camper

Why they’re sustainable

Camper’s dedication to both sustainable and ethical practises starts with its factories and workers, through to its Spanish HQ that runs on green energy, to its commitment to make every collection with better and more sustainable materials than the last. The brand puts its sustainable processes and social responsibility front and centre, so you can rest assured that Camper shoes are made to last. What’s more, its Second Life campaign means every pair can be returned to be reused, reworn, or repurposed – it doesn’t get more sustainable than that.

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“Though they look chunky, Camper shoes are always super lightweight,” Toby says. They’re made from sustainable rubber so not only will they feel comfy and easy to wear, they’re also fully waterproof. So if you’re looking to update your smart leather shoes and want a more sustainable option, this is it. “Sometimes shoes made from recycled materials can look odd, or the brand goes over the top on the recycled aspect, but not Camper,” Toby says.

Photographed: Good News Palm (£119)

Good News

Why they’re sustainable

Good News aims to promote a healthy planet by giving back ‘one step at a time’. The brand strives to improve its environmental credentials and social sustainability by decreasing its carbon, chemical, and water footprint and prioritising the welfare of its workers, so that’s ethical manufacturing covered. And they’re fully sustainable too: all Good News sneakers are made with recycled rubber, organic cotton, and with a monitored supply chain that promotes fair trade and uses fewer processes to manufacture its products. It helps that its range of footwear is effortlessly cool too – what more could you ask for? 

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“These Good News sneakers are like Converse with an interesting twist,” Toby says. “The chunky sole and cool toe caps make them a great everyday sneaker.” The upper, made from recycled materials, doesn’t look like fake leather and proves that sustainable dressing can become part of your everyday routine without going over the top and looking too obvious. Good News fits sustainability effortlessly into its brand, and it’s been that way since day one so it’s fully integrated into the process of designing and producing stylish sneakers you can wear anywhere.

Photographed: Grenson Joseph (£325)

Grenson

Why they’re sustainable

Grenson shoes are designed to last you a lifetime, and with the introduction of its vegan range, they just became even more sustainable. Grenson is known for its Goodyear-welted soles that are designed to be easily repaired, and top craftsmanship meaning you probably won’t need to use that repair service very often. The leather collection secured the brand’s name as one of the best-quality footwear manufacturers in the UK, so bringing out a non-leather line that looks and feels just as great – and is guaranteed to last you just as long – deserves to be celebrated.

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“When you think of Grenson, you think of leather boots and smarter footwear,” Toby says. “So it’s great to see the brand apply the same classic styles and premium manufacturing to vegan leathers.” The best thing about these boots is how they maintain the same classic, hard-wearing shape Grenson is known for, but with a more sustainable and eco-friendly design. 

“Really, it’s the bare minimum that brands should be doing to keep up with the demands of customers who are prioritising sustainability more and more,” Toby says. It’s a step in the right direction for heritage brands known for non-vegan designs. Offering new, ethical options that are just like their classic styles is the best way to expand your range and stay up to date with the needs of your customers and the planet.

Photographed: Novesta Marathon Trail Vegan (£99)

Novesta

Why they’re sustainable

Novesta is dedicated to producing all its shoes to the highest possible environmental standards, prioritising quality not only in the timeless style of its designs but in its manufacturing methods, too. Novesta footwear is made by skilled craftsmen using certified materials including natural rubber and 100% cotton and linen to ensure the highest quality, fully ecological shoes.

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“If you like the classic silhouette of Reeboks and New Balance, this style by Novesta is the sustainable alternative for you,” Toby says. They come with a cool, retro-feeling tread and are super wearable – just pick any colourway to suit your wardrobe, from low-key black and white to punchy cobalt blue. But most importantly, you’ll know they’re made well, using vegan suede, glues, and rubbers that are sustainable and eco-friendly.

Timberland

Why they’re sustainable

Timberland is a great example of a big, well-known corporation taking social responsibility in its stride. A brand this big could release a box-ticking eco line and be done with it, but that’s not the case for Timberland. In a coincidental nod to its namesake, Timberland is dedicated to working with global charities to planting 50 million trees by 2025. It also aims to become net-positive by 2030 by improving biodiversity, water quality, and farmer wellbeing. 

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“If you like the classic low-top minimal trainer, you can guarantee that this pair comes with good manufacturing clout,” Toby says. Timberland is known for good quality shoes, so it’s great to see the same care applied to recycled and sustainable sneakers – they’re like your Stan Smiths, but better for the planet. The brand’s range of eco products is developed using regenerative and recycled leather, responsible rubber sourcing from plantations that don’t contribute to deforestation, and the development of renewable and natural materials – these methods are set to expand into its entire collections in the coming years.

Veja

Why they’re sustainable

Veja is one of the brands noted for paving the way in contemporary sustainable fashion. It rose to popularity as the brand with the iconic V logo, and discovering that all its shoes were made using recycled bottles, raw materials, and organic farming was taken as a happy coincidence. But for Veja, it’s all about transparency as well as designing some of the most sought-after footwear of the past decade. Its people are treated fairly, and its shoes are made without chemicals or polluting processes – win, win.

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“You just need to check Veja’s website to see how transparent the brand is about its supply chain and production methods,” Toby says. So whichever pair you pick, you can guarantee it was made to the highest possible sustainable standard. We love a pair with stand-out branding, and the best part is, the popularity of Veja trainers has spread by word of mouth with no advertising expense factored into the price of your trainers. So you know 100% of the proceeds are going to a sustainability dedicated brand.


Words: Ella White
Styling: Toby Standing