The Vegan Sneaker Buyer’s Guide: 2021 Edition
The organic cost of a sneaker hobby can be astonishingly high. This is where the concept of conscious consumption comes in: buying, selling, and buying sneakers will always be a fact of life, but it’s possible to engage with the hobby in a less harmful way. One way to do that is to buy animal friendly, or better yet, completely vegan sneakers. As an added bonus, many sneakerhead favourites are already inherently vegan without many even knowing! Here is Sneaker Freaker’s guide to which brands are rocking the vegan scene right now.
If there’s one way to make vegan sneakers cool, then it’s to turn one of the hottest silhouettes around into a mean, green and clean vegan version. Enter the Nike SB Dunk High ‘Baroque Brown’, which features a leather-like upper but is completely vegan!
Classics like Janoskis (in canvas, of course) are already animal-free too! And the man himself has said on record that he consumes a vegan diet.
Reebok have actively gone vegan for some of their highest profile releases in recent months. The underrated STORY mfg. x Beatnik collaboration was marketed as 100 per cent vegan, thanks to its linen blend upper and foam rubber soles. Find your size at your local secondary marketplace...
Meanwhile, the Forever Floatride GROW performance runner is the company’s first ever entirely plant-based sneaker, proving there's plenty of green power! The upper is sourced from eucalyptus trees and is lined with BLOOM algae foam. While the midsole has been built using sustainably grown castor beans, paired to a natural rubber outsole. And there's plenty more on the way...
Some of adidas’ most classic offerings are now available in vegan alternatives, with little to no discernible difference to the animal-based version. For example, the Samba Vegan perfectly replicates the OG white/black and black/white colourways by using synthetic leathers and suedes that are just as supple as the regular version!
Renowned for their love of leather, New Balance have been relative new-comers to the vegan footwear movement. While you probably won’t see any vegan-friendly options from their famed Made in USA and Made in England lineups, you will be able to find plenty of performance options made without animal product, most notably the popular Fresh Foam and FuelCell lines.
Perhaps a sign of things to come, the brand linked up with Jaden Smith to design a vegan leather sneaker in 2020, eventually unveiling the jaw-dropping Jaden Smith Vision Racer. Made from recycled and sustainable vegan materials, the sneaker challenges the status quo of the New Balance supply chain.
The Big Cat’s vegan sneaker credentials have been handed a huge boost in recent times, thanks in large part to animal rights organisation PETA. In 2020, PETA Germany awarded their annual Vegan Fashion Award for the eighth time, bestowing the honour on PUMA’s Nitefox Dystopia runner. The award honours designers and fashion companies for their fashion-forward animal-friendly offerings and innovative products.
Based on the PUMA trail shoes from the early 2000s, the Nitefox Dystopia’s material consists of a mix of mesh with synthetic overlays, making it a perfect vegan-friendly choice.
The California skate stalwarts take pride in keeping their classics clean – in more ways than one. In fact, most sneakers in the Vans Classic Collection are available in vegan-friendly constructions. To ensure your pair is animal-free, start by choosing to shop their options made from canvas rather than leather. From the brand:
‘Protecting the planet is one of the ways we’re leading by example and showing our commitment to the next generation. As well as continuing to sell vegan skate shoes, we’re also mindful of the impact we have on the environment, and the quality of the materials we use in our shoes.’
The Other Players
When it comes to vegan-friendly footwear, there’s no obligation to stick to the big brands. In fact, there’s a new legion of companies out there championing the animal-free approach.
True sustainability savants, French label VEJA are arguably the most recognised eco-friendly sneaker brand going around. Since 2003, they’ve championed their ‘one foot in design, and the other in social responsibility’ mantra, cooperating with organic cotton farms in Brazil to ensure the most responsibly sourced materials are used on their stylish, fashion-forward silhouettes.
Meanwhile, Yatay and Tread by Everlane are two of the freshest faces on the vegan footwear scene. The former is known for their classy low-tops packed with Italian styling – 100 per cent vegan, of course. And while their approach may not be entirely ground-breaking, it’s their promise to plant a tree for every pair sold that’s been the seed for their rapid come-up.
Safe to say, there’s now more options than ever!
Want to know more about how to equally love sneakers and animals? Read our in-depth guide to vegan footwear here.