Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes, as far as possible all forms of exploitation and cruelty towards animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. This vegan lifestyle is now fast becoming a choice by most athletes. Most of these athletes are runners, and they believe that being on a vegan diet can help more effectively in improving their training and at the same time with the managing of their weight, stress, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels compared to that of the lifestyle practices of non-vegan athletes. One, in particular, is Ultrarunner Scott Jurek who commends his plant-based diet for his running success.
And what is a runner’s main tool? Their running shoes. With this answer comes another question for vegan runners, “which brands produce running shoes which are not made using any animal-derived materials?”.
Vegan running shoes have the same properties as non-vegan running shoes but with just one huge difference - vegan running shoes have not been tested on animals and does not contain any animal products. With how modern and advanced our world has become now, most popular athletic brands now have active lifestyle footwear lines that meet vegan standards.
We here at RunRepeat know how daunting it is to find the best vegan running shoes for men and women, so we have compiled the best vegan running shoes and some more details to maintain a vegan lifestyle as a runner.
Choosing the right vegan running shoe
Vegan running shoes should not contain any animal-derived materials and ingredients, but besides this, there are other factors to consider when choosing the proper vegan running shoe.
Pronation. Pronation is how the foot rolls inwards, outwards or if it stays straight upon impact with the ground when running. There are three major types of pronation: neutral, supination, and overpronation. Neutral pronation is when the foot rolls inward at about 15% after landing, and the best shoe type for neutral pronators are neutral running shoes with good stability. Supination or underpronation is when the foot rolls inwards at less than 15% requiring the shoe type to promote a natural movement of the foot and should provide excellent cushioning. Overpronation, on the other hand, is when the foot rolls inward more than 15% and the best shoe type for this is reliable stability running shoe to help with the foot ’s motion control.
Size. If the right shoe size is worn, this guarantees an enjoyable run without the possibilities of any injuries or blisters. Generally, the feet swell and spread after rigorous training and throughout the day, so it is better to get a running shoe at least a half size larger than one’s standard shoe size. If in doubt about the best fitting running shoe, it is always best to visit a specialized running shop where staff can help assess your gait and determine the best running shoe.
Durability. Vegan running shoes are not less durable than their non-vegan counterparts. In fact, animal-friendly materials used in vegan shoes tend to be more durable than one would think. Synthetic microfibers, EVA, PU, recycled and virgin rubbers, canvas, fabrics, faux leather, and TPU, are vegan products which make the shoe durable. In choosing your running shoe pay close attention to the materials and look at the labels on the shoe to be aware of the materials used.
Cushioning. Running shoe cushioning comes in minimum, medium, and maximum cushioning. If the foot arch is medium height, then a combination of medium cushioning and stability is the best way to go. If the foot arch is high, it is maximum cushioning that one needs to provide better comfort each step while protecting the foot.
Weight. Vegan running shoes use vegan materials and products that are very much lightweight, comfortable and provides great cushioning. Choosing a lightweight shoe always help in one’s level of performance
Protection. Whether for intense runs or slow paced trainings, the running shoe should always offer great protection. This means the toe box should have TPU overlays should be able to provide midfoot support and protection. The shoe’s insole should also be cushy to protect the foot from slipping. Lastly, it should have an outsole with flex grooves and lugs to ensure that it has a good grip.
Traction. It is based on research that vegan materials provide as much traction and grip as non-vegan materials. Running shoes with aggressive patterns are always reliable on any surface. Also if the shoe is used for seasoned runs, it is smart to look for shoes with spaced lugs for better traction.
Type of Terrain. When choosing vegan running shoes, always keep in mind the type of terrain that one wishes to run on. For trail runners, the shoe should be a vegan trail running shoe that durability, is water resistant, a responsive and well-cushioned midsole, and the outsole must have lugs for traction, and flex grooves for a more natural stride. For vegan running shoes intended for road or indoor gyms, choose a lower profile vegan running shoe which is lightweight, enough cushioning and has ample arch support for a more comfortable feel.
10 Best vegan running shoes for men and women
Practicing a vegan lifestyle helps one feel healthier and stronger, and that vegans are able to achieve their running without compromising the things that are important to them. Great news as there are now plenty of running shoes that vegans can wear guilt-free.
Brooks Beast 18
The shoe is designed for moderate and severe overpronators. The Beast 18 gives excellent stability and cushioning. The shoe’s best feature is its BioMoGo technology which is not only good for the environment, but it also adapts to the wearer’s every move providing the needed stability and cushioning. The Beast 18 was also constructed with the Extended Progressive Diagonal Rollbar (PDRB®) that helps prevent overpronation and offers a smooth transition during the gait cycle. The shoe has a no-sew upper that offers a glove-like fit because it is stretchy enough and adjusts to the natural size of the foot. The shoe’s tongue and collar are padded to provide excellent comfort and help in avoiding irritation and discomfort. The Beast 18’s outsole was also constructed from HPR rubber which is both durable and has a good grip.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19
The shoe is a good all terrain type running shoe that also works as good used indoor for CrossFit as it does on the pavement. The Adrenaline GTS 19 has a DNA LOFT midsole made from EVA, air, and rubber. This makes the shoe lightweight and durable with great cushioning. A shoe mostly preferred by runners who need more support with overpronation. The shoe is also known to have been made to adapt comfortably to the wearer’s foot shape.
Brooks Transcend 6
The shoe that is known to be the most cushioned shoe that Brooks has to offer. The Transcend 6 offers a lot of support and cushion for overpronators. The shoe was also built with a Guide Rail into the side of the shoe that both gently guides the foot as needed upon landing, and at the same time, it allows the foot to land naturally.
Mizuno Wave Rider 22
A shoe designed for neutral runners and underpronators. The Wave Rider 22 was developed with Flex Controllers which are strategically-placed in the flex-prone areas of the outsole. The Flex Controllers are placed in the shoe to act as miniature wave plates that disperse shock absorption throughout the sole while also providing great cushioning and better stability. It also has a U4ic midsole which is 30% lighter than its predecessors and provides great cushioning. The shoe also features X10 carbon rubber which is both durable and grippy, while the Smooth Ride flex grooves on the outsole enhance flexibility.
Mizuno Wave Prophecy 8
The Wave Prophecy 8 is a great shoe for running and high impact exercises. The shoe is made for runners who are both neutral pronators and under pronators. Made with a breathable mesh upper and featuring a full length Infinity Wave platform that provides support in the underfoot area guarantees a great running experience.
Asics GEL Kayano 25
A vegan running shoe coming from one of the big brands in the running world. The shoe is designed for overpronators giving them durability and comfort provided by the Asics Gel® technology. The GEL Kayano 25 has a flight foam sole that helps add stability to the shoe and is made from eco-friendly organic fibers.
Merrell Pace Glove 3
The Pace Glove 3 is a minimalist barefoot running shoe that has the needed structure and support. The shoe’s cushioning is much less than an average running shoe, and this model has a low arch which is best for minimalist trail runners. The Pace Glove 3 also allows the wearer to feel the ground during the run, resembling barefoot running while providing breathability and flexibility.
Merrell Vapor Glove 3
The shoe which is the third update for the Merrell Vapor Glove line has now been developed to provide additional protection in the underfoot area. Same as the Merrell Pace Glove 3, the Vapor Glove 3 is also great for runners who like the experience of barefoot running. The shoe’s upper which is made of mesh and TPU combination makes the shoe sturdy, comfortable and very well ventilated. A TrailProtect pad rock plate is found in the midfoot area which protects the foot from rough and hazardous trails.
Newton Motion 7
The Motion 7 offers great stability features with its EVA foam midsole working together with a full-length layer of Newtonium foam. It does offer not only stability but also exceptional flexibility. The shoe also helps in correcting overpronation during the run. The Motion 7 is a reliable everyday training shoe as it is both lightweight and comfortable.
Newton Kismet 4
A good training shoe for runners who look for structure and stability with a slight drop on their vegan running shoe. The Kismet 4 has been upgraded from its predecessors and is now able to handle better daily running especially for runners who tend to overpronate. The shoe is designed to have the right balance of comfortableness and stability. The responsive Newtonium foam found on the shoe’s midsole area provides cushioning and comfort. It also has a sturdy outsole shielded by the s.h.a.r.c compound which offers great traction and resistance to abrasion.
Non-vegan vs. Vegan shoe materials
Even though a running shoe may be labeled as non-leather, the chances of it containing animal-derived ingredients are still high. Here are some of the basics to make sure that if you are a vegan, you are not wearing a running shoe that may have hurt an animal in any way.
Non-synthetic materials vs. Vegan post-consumer material. Most running shoes are constructed from exclusively synthetic materials to ensure that it is lightweight and breathable, but also some are made from synthetics blended with various leathers that could come from a cow, dog or other animal’s skin. On the other hand, a lot of eco-friendly companies now use vegan post-consumer materials such as recycled plastic bottles or recycled rubber. This then creates a shoe that is more than just vegan, but it is also better for the planet.
Glues vs. Synthetic glues. The said synthetic materials of a running shoe are put together using sturdy glues which in some brands, the glue is collected from animal bones. Meanwhile, synthetic glue holds better, lasts longer and is cheaper to produce, and most running shoe companies prefer to use the latter.
Dyes and Animal Testing. The synthetic dyes used by some brands to color their shoes with are also derived from animals, and synthetic materials also need testing, and some brands test their materials on animals. The only way to confirm this is to ask the manufacturers directly as to where they source their adhesives and dyes.
Vegan running shoe materials that are more eco-friendly than leather, lightweight, and offers better flexibility. These properties allow for the vegan running shoe to come in more diverse options for design.
Cotton. It is a fabric which can be found naturally which offers great breathability and durability. Shoes made with preshrunk cotton, are known to be better and keep their shape longer.
Canvas. Another eco-friendly and durable fabric which is made from hemp, cotton or linen. It is a popular choice for materials used in casual shoes and also. Waxed canvas are great materials to create a shoe resistant to water.
Jute. A biodegradable fabric which is both natural and cheap. Jute material makes the shoe durable, comfortable and well-ventilated.
Hemp. Industrial hemp is made from natural fiber and has antibacterial properties. Raw hemp easily absorbs natural dyes, giving shoe manufacturers lots of colorful options to work with. Industrial hemp is also very sturdy and comfortable.
Cork. Cork is easily collected from trees by tapping on it. The process of collection cork from trees does not pose any threats of destroying the habitat. Also since the cork material is breathable, lightweight, fire resistant and anti-bacterial, it makes it a great material option in making shoes.
Bamboo. Shoes that are made with bamboo are unique and beautiful items. Bamboo is biodegradable, can make soft fabric, and it is also naturally antibacterial.
Rubber. Since rubber is naturally hard yet flexible, it is most often used in the shoe's outsole. Rubber can also be recycled to be made into rubber boots or utilized once again in outsoles of other newly constructed shoes.
Pinatex. A faux leather fabric derived from pineapple fibers and other known biodegradable plants. The Pinatex is a lightweight material that is also breathable, soft, and durable.
Pleather. Pleather is what most people call vegan leather. It is made of Polyurethane (PU) or Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). Pleather is not only a versatile shoe material but also very eco-friendly and durable.
Micro Suede. It is a synthetic, knit blend fabric that has a brushed finish which resembles suede. Soft faux suede or microsuede is better in being stain proof and liquid resistant compared to the regular suede.
Microfiber. A light and water resistant fabric that is made from polyester threads and fine nylon. To make the microfiber waterproof, it is often treated and is an excellent material option for an all-terrain running shoe.
Faux satin and artificial silk. This material is a great vegan substitute for regular satin and silk. It is a delicate fabric made from nylon, rayon, or polyester.
Faux wool and felt. Faux felt is a non-woven shoe fabric that is made from synthetic fibers instead of sheep's wool. It is a vegan alternative to regular wool, and it is comparable to the original thing when it comes breathability.
Gore-Tex™. Often used in outdoor shoes is the Gore-Tex material. It is a synthetic membrane which is known for being windproof and waterproof.
Recycled materials. Materials such as rubber tires, inner tubes, and PET bottles are often recycled and reused in vegan shoes. The finished recycled materials are sturdy, soft, and eco-friendly.
Upcycled materials. Raw materials like old tires are made into a sturdy, water repellent, innovatively designed vegan running shoes.
How to properly identify Vegan Running Shoes
If in-store, check the shoe physically to guarantee that there are no animal materials used in the shoe. But if trying to purchase the running shoe online, make sure that a 360° view of the shoe is available for closer visual and inspection. Below are some of the ways to help in accurately identifying a 100% vegan running shoe:
Check tabs or labels. Inspect the sticker label on the outer sole of the running shoe. This helps to identify vegan and animal products used. The label should say 100% or All Man Made. But if the label mentions “other materials” were used for the outer sole without any further details, it would be wise to check with the company manufacturer first or just give it a pass.
Know the symbols. Shoes are often labeled with a diagram that shows what materials were used in its upper, inner lining and outsole. When looking for vegan shoes, be aware that leather is shown as an image of an animal hide. A woven pattern image indicates the use of natural or synthetic fibers on the shoe, while a diamond shape reveals that other materials have been used especially on the outer sole of the shoe.
Validate with the shoe company website. One sure way to know that the materials used in the running shoe are entirely vegan is to ask the source. Send an email to the running shoe company’s customer service and be specific about the clarifications that you want to know about. This is the best way to get answers for sometimes even in-store salesperson may not fully understand what makes the shoe vegan.
Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.
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CoreScore A score from 1 to 100 that summarizes opinions from users and experts. The average CoreScore is 78.