Recycled shoes used to be hard to find. But now both new and established brands are coming out with styles that are made from recycled materials. One notable material is le is PET plastic, which is the plastic that’s used to make disposable plastic bottles. It can be melted down and then spun into fibers, which can then be woven into flexible materials used in shoes, as clothing, and other products.
Plastic Pollution Crisis
The plastic pollution problem is now a global crisis. According to the nonprofit Surfers Against Sewage, in 1950, there were 2.5 billion people in the world consuming 1.5 million tons of plastic annually. Fast-forward to today and the world’s 7+ billion people are consuming well over 320 million tons of plastic. And yet another horrifying statistic: We’re set to use twice that number by 2034.
The best thing we can do is avoid using virgin plastic as much as possible. In addition, purchasing goods that are made from recycled plastic helps to keep at least some of that plastic out of the ocean and landfills. Making the decision to buy from brands that are actively trying to solve the plastic waste problem helps to create a market for recycled plastic over virgin plastic.
Here are some innovative brands that are making cool shoes from recycled materials. And as always on UniGuide, the shoes you see here are also vegan. if you’re looking for sandals, check out my post on Recycled and Vegan Flip Flops.
1. Converse Renew Recycled Chuck Taylors
Converse has gotten into the recycling game with a new twist on their classic Chuck Taylors as well as some other styles. Dubbed Converse Renew, the line is made with 30-40% recycled manufacturing waste, including scraps from Converse’s own factory. Plus, the soles of the shoes are made with recycled rubber. There are tons of color combos, including custom multi-color styles to choose from.
2. Astral Recycled Shoes
A socially- and environmentally-conscious footwear company, Astral was started in 2002 by farmer/entrepreneur Philip Curry. After he sold his first outdoor gear company to Patagonia in 1999, he did some traveling and then became a full-time organic farmer.
While working on his farm, Philip thought again about the outdoor gear industry. He thought about how he might create shoes that would let outdoorsy folks experience nature with the lowest environmental impact possible.
So, Philip started his next company, Astral, with this in mind. To begin, he eliminated PVC foam from Astral’s supply chain, Next, he incorporated recycled materials, like recycled polyester. In addition, he made the choice to makes only 100% vegan shoes. The results are beautifully designed, rugged, and eco-friendly shoes.
With a focus on sustainability, Cariuma founders David and Fernando source eco-friendly materials for their shoes, such as natural rubber, bamboo, cork, and organic cotton. Plus, they incorporate recycled PET plastic into their shoes and ship them in recycled packaging. (Just a note for my vegan visitors, they do use leather in some styles, so be sure to check the product details before you buy.)
In recent years, Reebok has really upped their game when it comes to sustainability. The company is now coming out with a wide variety of styles made with natural and eco-friendly materials, such as eucalyptus bark, algae, and natural rubber. Plus, they’re working with more recycled synthetic materials, like recycled polyester.
5. adidas Parley Recycled Plastic Sneakers
adidas and Parley for the Oceans have a successful collaboration that’s helping to keep plastic out of the ocean. About 80% of the debris that pollutes our oceans is plastic, which kills marine life.
Parley intercepts coastal plastic waste before it gets into the ocean. Next, they convert the reclaimed plastic into threads. That’s where adidas comes in: They spin the threads into fabrics, which they use in their recycled shoes and active wear.
6. Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney has been instrumental in bringing a higher level of consciousness to the high fashion industry. And her range of styles, from haute couture to street fashion to athletic wear, offers something for everyone. Via her partnership with adidas and Parley, she also offers great-looking athletic shoes that are made with recycled materials.
7. Indosole Recycled Tire Shoes
Started by surfer Kyle Parsons, San Francisco and Bali-based Indosole repurposes discarded tires and uses them in the soles of their vegan footwear line. Billions of used tires are discarded every year, which pollute waterways and other natural habitats.
Indosole is a certified B Corporation, which means it’s a for-profit company that’s certified by the nonprofit B Lab for maintaining rigorous social and environmental standards.
Here’s a video about Indosole’s production process in Bali:
You can see flip flops by Indosole in my recycled flip flops guide.
8. Nike Flyknit Recycled Running Shoes
Nike’s Flyknit material reduces production waste and helps to keep plastic bottles out of the ocean and landfill. The team at Nike developed their innovative flexible Flyknit material at the request of runners who wanted a shoe that fit like a sock.
9. Saolo Recycled and Vegan Shoes
Saolo makes cool streetwear-style shoes out of recycled materials, organic cotton, and – get this – harvested algae. The company designs their recycled shoes to be comfortable and lightweight. Plus, they add extra cushioning with sustainable cork insoles. Every pair of their shoes keeps 3-4 plastic bottles out of the landfill and ocean. Saolo’s shoes are also 100% vegan.
10. The North Face Recycled Shoes
The North Face is another major brand that is now incorporating recycled PET plastic into their shoes and clothing. Their booties and puffy camp slippers are lightweight and comfortable. They’re perfect for camping trips, after a day of snowboarding, and just hanging out. (For my vegan friends, the North Face does use leather in some of their styles, so be sure to check the product details.) Price: ~$35.99 – $195.00
11. MOVMT Recycled and Organic Cotton Shoes
MOVMT makes their cool shoes with recycled plastic and other eco-friendly materials like organic cotton canvas. The result: stylish shoes that are casual and comfortable.
Here’s CEO Kevin Flanagan talking about the mission behind the People’s Movement:
12. Vivobarefoot Shoes
Vivobarefoot is all about going barefoot while still wearing shoes. The footwear maker creates their shoes with a flexible, eco-friendly canvas that’s made from 40% recycled PET plastic.
Etnies creates classic skate shoes with an eco-friendly twist. The skate wear company makes their shoes with recycled rubber outsoles. Plus, Etnies makes their padded insoles with recycled materials. Taking it a step further, they make the canvas uppers with recycled plastic.
14. Rothy’s Recycled Plastic Bottle Shoes
To date, Rothy’s has already repurposed 20 million plastic water bottles and recycled them into their popular and stylish flats. With some heavy hitter investors and fans like Meghan Markle, Rothy’s promises to bring recycled and sustainable footwear to the masses. A truly circular company, Rothy’s will recycle old shoes into new styles if you send them back to them.
Vivaia is a new sustainable women’s footwear brand that converts recycled plastic bottles into chic and comfortable flats and other styles. The company even ships their shoes in 90% recycled cardboard boxes.
Price: ~$79.00 – $89.00
16. Nothing New Recycled Shoes
Nothing New is a new brand on the scene that makes classic tennis shoes with recycled materials, including fishing nets, bottles, recycled cotton, and recycled rubber. Taking things “a step” further, Nothing New even makes the laces with recycled materials!
Price: ~$95.00 – $108.00