Brief History of sustainable shoes: Evolution and current trends

by David Teitelbaum on Apr 18, 2023

Brief History of sustainable shoes: Evolution and current trends

Sustainable shoes are on the rise, and they're not going anywhere anytime soon. Let's dive into the history of sustainable shoes, how they've evolved, and current trends.

First off, what does sustainable mean? Sustainable is a term used to describe products that have minimal impact on the environment throughout their entire lifecycle. This includes the materials used, manufacturing processes, and disposal methods.

The concept of sustainability in shoes dates back to the 1800s, where shoemakers used natural materials such as leather, cotton, and rubber. Fast forward to the 20th century, and the introduction of synthetic materials like plastic, PVC, and nylon caused harmful effects on the environment. It wasn't until the 1990s that sustainable shoes began to make a comeback.

Eco-friendly materials such as bamboo, organic cotton, and recycled rubber started to be used in shoe production. Brands such as Patagonia, Timberland, and Adidas were pioneers in sustainable shoe manufacturing. They implemented sustainable practices in their production methods, such as using water-based adhesives, reducing waste, and recycling materials.

As the demand for sustainable shoes grew, new brands emerged, such as Allbirds, Rothy's, Rose In Good Faith, and Veja. These brands prioritize eco-friendly materials and sustainable production methods in their shoe designs.

Allbirds, for example, uses merino wool and eucalyptus treefiber to create their shoes, reducing the carbon footprint of production. Rothy's creates their shoes from recycled plastic bottles, and Veja uses materials like organic cotton, wild rubber, and recycled plastic.

Current trends in sustainable shoes include the use of innovative materials such as mushroom leather, apple leather, and even recycled ocean plastic. Brands are also incorporating sustainable practices beyond just materials, such as using renewable energy sources and reducing water usage in production.

In conclusion, sustainable shoes have come a long way since the 1800s, evolving from natural materials to synthetic and back to eco-friendly options. As consumers become more aware of the impact their purchases have on the environment, the demand for sustainable shoes will only continue to grow. So, next time you're in the market for a new pair of shoes, consider going sustainable and making a positive impact on the planet.