Once a marginalised fringe movement ridiculed by the rest of society, veganism has absolutely exploded in popularity over the last few years. In fact, more than 2 million people in the UK have now ditched animal products in favour of a plant-based diet, and the numbers are only continuing to grow.
As the popularity of veganism has increased, it’s no surprise some of the biggest brands in the game have reserved a seat on the bandwagon to take a slice of the cake…. dairy-free of course! From Vans and adidas to Nike and New Balance, practically all of your favourite brands have managed to get in on the act by producing footwear aimed at the ethically-conscious consumer.
Without the usual help of non-vegan materials such as leather and animal-based glues, designers have been tasked with producing footwear that’s still as durable and attractive as ever. To achieve their goals, many have had to develop new and innovative materials, some of which have proven so successful that they could eventually alter our approach to production, pushing us closer to sustainability and further away from the often cruel and unsustainable world of animal products.
So, in celebration of all things cruelty-free, here are our top 3 vegan-friendly sneakers that have been released in recent years.
Vegan Stan Smith
As a lifelong vegetarian and vocal supporters of animal rights, adidas designer Stella McCartney could never have been accused of cashing in on the growing movement when she introduced the first iteration of the vegan Stan Smith in 2018. Since then, the clean white silhouette has received a number of animal-free updates, the most recent of which placing a bigger emphasis on going green with the shoe said to be 100 percent sustainable.
These are promising signs when one of the world’s biggest sportswear manufacturers is able to produce a shoe that’s completely sustainable, so hopefully this becomes a growing trend and not just a flash in the pan. The vegan Stan Smith also happens to look the part, too, which is always a bonus.
Kanye West is known to produce head-turning designs from time-to-time, and Ye and his team pulled out all the stops with the Yeezy RNNR, easily one of the most talked-about releases in recent memory.
Although the shoe’s off-the-wall design has attracted a tonne of attention online, some of you might be unaware that this style was actually Ye’s first foray into the world of vegan-friendly footwear, as none of the shoe’s materials are derived from animal products. Furthermore, with the shoe constructed using an algae-based foam and the brand’s signature colours made using an alternative, more-sustainable dye, Yeezy tried to go one better by pushing shoe design into a more environmentally-friendly direction.
Although some criticised the RNNR for its unorthodox aesthetic, slanderously referring to it as the “Yeezy Croc”, with its ethical approach to manufacture this is one style that certainly gets our vote.
Nike Vegan Air Max 90
Last year Nike decided to take things a step further by launching a vegan Air Max 90 collection made from sustainable materials only. Made in collaboration with apparel brand Maharishi – another designer with a forward-thinking approach to fashion – the new vegan sneakers were designed to demonstrate what we can achieve with seemingly useless waste products. The results were impressive, to say the least.
Constructed using materials such as recycled foam, upcycled sawdust and organic cotton, the shoe showed that when it comes to using recycled materials, the possibilities are endless. The project also highlighted how unnecessary it is to continue using the traditional materials that are both hazardous to the environment and cruel on animals, and hopefully Nike can help push us towards a fresh approach to manufacture in future.
By ripping up the rule book and constructing these designs using ethical, cruelty-free and 100 percent vegan materials, the designers of these shoes have shown that anything is possible. As the human race gears up to face some of the most challenging times in our history with climate change becoming an ever-greater threat, hopefully these trainers and their like will eventually pave the way for a more environmentally-friendly approach that will benefit both us and the planet we live on.
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