It’s no secret that the need for environmental change is rapidly intensifying. Protests are erupting in various forms and many are taking the necessary steps to decrease their carbon footprint.
In a time where personal responsibility is being emphasised, ‘vegan’ has become an important buzzword. What was once a niche lifestyle and subculture is now being taken a lot more seriously.
A recent survey by YouGov, commissioned by the Veganuary organisation, surveyed over 2,000 adults in the UK and found more than a third of the country believe eating a plant-based diet is “an admirable thing to do”. These results were reflected in the US, where the figure stood at 32%.
While these surveys aim at diet, harm to animals doesn’t stop there — the clothes and shoes we buy are another culprit. A recent Quantis survey reported the clothing and footwear industries generated between five and 10 percent of global pollution impact in 2016.
If you’re looking to take things into your own hands, there is some good news. There are lots of vegan alternatives on the market right now, with many manufacturers completely removing animal products from their running shoes.
Our top picks are listed below, including shoes from well-recognised running brands such as Hoka, On and Saucony.
Best vegan running shoes
Hoka Clifton 9
Best for your daily mileage
The Hoka Clifton 9s are part of the brand’s range of vegan shoes. They are among their latest all-rounders designed for daily use, featuring a compression-moulded EVA midsole that is claimed to offer stability and comfort.
The midsole’s geometry aims to provide a low heel-to-toe drop (5mm), encouraging a smooth heel-to-toe transition.
The upper is constructed using a mesh material that aims to allow a constant stream of air, keeping your feet cool during intense running sessions.
The Clifton 9 also includes a flared heel collar and an Achilles pull tab, designed to prevent chafing.
There’s an internal heel counter that ensures a secure fit and extra padding for added comfort.
The outsole has a wide base, which is said to provide increased stability, with high abrasion rubber zones that offer enhanced durability.
Read our full Hoka Clifton 9 review for more.
Brooks Levitate 6
Best for road running
- Buy now from Brooks (£150.00)
Brooks states that the majority of its shoes, including the dyes and adhesive used in their construction, are vegan-friendly. The brand has also discontinued many of its non-vegan shoe models.
The Levitate 6s are one of the latest additions to Brooks’ running line, featuring the DNA AMP v2 foam, which is claimed to provide a good energy return and a springy feel.
Brooks also includes a stretch upper, incorporating a circular knit material designed to be flexible and mould to your foot.
The brand claims the knit also provides breathability and the wider midfoot allows for smooth heel-to-toe transitions.
Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280
Best road-to-trail hybrid
Inov-8 says that its shoes that do not utilise leather or suede are vegan. As such, the Parkclaw G 280s are a vegan running shoe designed for use on trails.
The Inov-8s are equipped with an open mesh forefoot and midfoot, intended to improve breathability and comfort. As expected for a trail runner, the shoe is also fitted with a toe bumper to protect your toes.
The midsole of the shoe has an 8mm drop and features a footbed made from Inov-8’s “Boomerang” material, which the brand claims can provide increased energy return and enhanced cushioning.
The shoe is said to boast a graphene-enhanced rubber outsole with aggressive trail grip, aiming to deliver a smooth and grippy running experience.
Read our full Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 review for more.
On Running Cloudflash Sensa
Best for short distances and workouts
- Buy now from On Running (£180.00)
On’s newly released Cloudflash Sensas are a lightweight vegan running shoe specifically designed for shorter distances and speed.
They feature minimal cushioning and their sole is constructed with carbon-fibre material designed to enhance responsiveness.
The upper of the Cloudflash Sensa is said to feature a lightweight and breathable mesh, while the non-linear lacing system is designed to improve pressure distribution and stability by securely locking the foot in place.
On claims the traction pattern of the outsole ensures grip on various terrains and in a range of weather conditions.
Heel-to-toe drop: 5mm
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
Best for barefoot running
If you’re intrigued by the barefoot running trend, Vivobarefoot has been a prominent player in the industry since 1997. While some of the brand’s models use leather, there’s also a range of vegan shoes.
The Primus Lite IIIs are specifically designed to provide a barefoot experience for those seeking an environmentally conscious alternative.
They feature Vivobarefoot’s Primus outsole, aiming to keep your foot as close to the ground as possible.
The insole of the Primus Lite IIIs incorporate Vivobarefoot’s Ortholite material, a 98% recycled PU foam which helps reduce waste and the use of primary plastics.
The shoes are equipped with the brand’s Pro5 Puncture Resistant finish, which adds a 0.8mm layer to the sole, which Vivobarefoot claims ensures the shoes are fully resistant to punctures.
On Running Cloudneo
Best for reusability
- Buy now from On Running (£25.00)
On’s Cloudneo running shoes go beyond simply being vegan; they’re specifically designed to be cyclically recyclable – supplied to runners through a subscription service.
Runners subscribe to the service and use the shoe until it’s worn out. They then return the worn-out shoe to On, who recycles it and provides a new shoe in exchange.
In essence, the shoes are ever-changing, as they are continually recycled and replaced.
The Cloudneo shoes feature a rocker design, which is claimed to help propel a runner’s stride forward. The sole is equipped with On’s Speedboard, a plate made entirely from bio-based material.
The foam used is a double layer of the brand’s CloudTec material, which is described as soft yet responsive. On also claims the upper of the shoe is made entirely from recyclable bio-based yarn.
Saucony Peregrine 13
Best for trails
- Buy now from Saucony (£130.00)
Saucony says that its adult running shoes are made from vegan-friendly materials and are increasingly incorporating recycled uppers.
Among the brand’s offerings, the Peregrine 13s stand out as trail shoes specifically designed for off-road terrain.
The sole of the Peregrine 13s showcases Saucony’s PWRRUN foam, known for providing a responsive feel. It’s equipped with a rock plate to offer protection when running on hilly terrain, whether uphill or downhill.
Saucony emphasises that the sole is engineered for aggressive grip, featuring 5mm lugs and the brand’s signature rubber lines that dig into the ground to provide optimal traction.
They come with a 4mm drop.
Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
Best for race day
- Buy now from Saucony (£165.00)
Another addition from Saucony, the Endorphin Speed 3s target speed on the road rather than off-road running.
Weighing a mere 229g, they incorporate a curved nylon plate, which Saucony claims helps propel your stride and enhance performance. The aggressive heel-to-toe drop is designed to facilitate a rolling forward motion.
Saucony also includes a mesh upper in the design, aimed at keeping the foot cool and well-ventilated during runs.
The rubber outsole is equipped with a specialised pattern, intended to improve grip and traction on road surfaces.
What should you look for when buying vegan running shoes?
Look for running trainers made from synthetic materials rather than animal-derived materials like leather or suede.
Common vegan-friendly materials include synthetic leather, mesh, nylon, polyester and various synthetic fabrics.
Confirm that the adhesives used in the shoe construction are also vegan. Some adhesives may contain animal-based ingredients, so it’s essential to choose shoes with vegan-friendly adhesives.
Check for any animal-based components in the shoe, such as animal-based glues, dyes or finishes.
Look for certification logos or statements indicating that the shoes are vegan. Some organisations provide vegan certifications or labels to help consumers identify cruelty-free products.
Explore brands that utilise innovative and sustainable materials like recycled plastics, plant-based materials, or bio-based synthetics.
Durability and performance
While prioritising vegan materials, don’t compromise on quality, durability and performance.
Ensure they provide the necessary support, cushioning and traction for running. Added durability will only make them more sustainable long-term.