What are the Options for Ethical Footwear? Eco- Trainers & Veja

I needed* some new trainers recently and it presented quite an ethical dilemma. Generally if I want such a specific item I will have a look on eBay to see what’s going second-hand however, I wasn’t that keen on buying second-hand trainers. It’s strange because I don’t mind buying second-hand shoes although I know a lot of people are a bit funny about it, but trainers I did have a problem with. This was for two reasons; firstly hygiene – I felt that trainers can get pretty sweaty and not everyone has lovely feet; secondly – trainers are often well used and can become well-worn easily, the lining starts to come away etc. The hygiene thing is slightly silly because I could just put them through the washing machine, but still I decided to see what ethical alternatives were out there.

Sports brands regularly come under fire for producing their goods in unethical circumstances. This makes concerned consumers particularly uncomfortable I think, because the brands in question charge top dollar for their fancy footwear and instead of passing this profit onto the factory workers they pay huge sums to their executives and spend millions on shiny advertising campaigns. Research from the international campaign Playfair found workers in China who were employed by Adidas suppliers earned as little as £20 per month making sports shoes which cost up to £50 a pair. So if I wanted to avoid these companies and I didn’t want to source my trainers second-hand, what were my options?

VEJA immediately sprung to mind; a brand I had heard about but not seen up close. Veja is a French brand who produces ethical trainers, bags and purses for men, women and kids. They use organic cotton, wild Amazonian rubber and eco-tanned leather in their products, whilst keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum. I bought the Grama, a simple sneaker shoe in blue. I particularly liked the sound of wild Amazonian rubber. The Amazon is the only place on earth where rubber trees grow in the wild. Veja work with Amopreab, an association of Seringeiros – ‘the rubber tappers’ who live in the forest and harvest from the trees.

Veja Grama

They work better as fashion shoes rather than sports shoes. I won’t be running in them but I wanted them for fitness (toning) classes where I needed a less chunky shoe. What I REALLY wanted were these lovelies – the Greg Asner printed high tops. Greg Asner is a Stanford scientist who travels to the furthest corners of the Amazon rainforest and creates a novel way of mapping unknown species with photography, the shoes make use of one of his pictures.

Greg Asner VEJA Trainers

I bought mine direct from Veja but you can also get them on ASOS.


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Pretty Sweaty Betty

I’ve known about sportswear brand Sweaty Betty for a long time, but I had never bought anything from the brand until now. It was when I was doing some research on retail entrepreneurs that I came across Tamara Hill-Norton, the founder of Sweaty Betty and this led me to the website. Sweaty Betty sells comfortable, stylish clothing under the headings, ‘sweat’, ‘yoga’, ‘beach’ and ‘snow’ and works with the purpose to ‘inspire women to find empowerment through fitness’. It is refreshing to find performance active wear without the big labels and logos. Indeed it was the story behind Tamara Hill-Norton and Sweaty Betty which really enamoured me to the brand, a brand started in the UK by a woman who knows what women want. Hill-Norton opened the first Sweaty Betty shop in 1998 in West London on a small budget, and by 2008 they had 24 shops. The business is still run by Hill-Norton and her husband. On my visit to the site I bought this ski jacket and the customer service was great. I’m going snowboarding for the first time next year and thought buying a jacket in the sale would be a good plan. Sure I may hate the snow and never go again, but if we have a winter like last year I’ll be very glad of my purchase! It’s an investment. I’m also a regular (reasonably) at the gym and will be snapping up the cute gym outfits as soon as I save some more cash. I’d like to say it doesn’t matter what you look like at the gym, but if you look good and feel comfortable, it’s sure to affect your performance, right?

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