If you love running outdoors and on the trails, you most likely love our planet, but you might also be aware that you’re perhaps not treading quite as lightly as you like. All those high-performing running tops and shoes that hold up to multiple washes and wick sweat away without getting soggy are often made using synthetic fabrics that are derived from plastics and never biodegrade. So can you keep your pace up without adding to the already overflowing landfills? If you shop smarter, you can definitely gear up for the elements and lessen your impact on the environment. Check out our top picks for eco-friendly running brands that are focusing on using recycled and natural materials and circular approaches to manufacturing to keep waste low, so you can run with a clear conscience.
VivoBarefoot was founded in 2012 by two seventh-generation cobblers with a mission to design running footwear that mimics a natural, barefoot feel as closely as possible. Its barefoot running shoes are made using natural, biosynthetic and recycled locally-sourced materials, and come in reusable or recycled packaging. The company offers repairs on most of its products so your old shoes don’t end up in a landfill, and its environmental policy even extends to the office, where it conducts meetings virtually as much as possible to reduce carbon emissions from travel.
- Tried and tested: We love the VivoBarefoot Primus Trail II FG trail running shoe for tackling rough terrain with great foot sensitivity.
Patagonia is well-known for being the gold standard for environmental responsibility, and its self-imposed Earth Tax deducts one percent of the company's profits to provide support to environmental non-profits working to defend air, land and water around the globe. When it comes to production, 89 percent of items such as trail running jackets and running shorts are made using 'preferred materials' like regenerative organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester and recycled nylon.
- Tried and tested: We gave the highly ventilated Patagonia Ridgeflow running T-shirt nearly full marks for summer running.
The story goes that BAM was conceived of when its founder decided, on an expedition of Greenland, that he wanted to start a sustainable business. When he discovered bamboo fabric, he decided what business would be and started BAM out of his garage in 2006. Bamboo absorbs five times more carbon than hardwood trees, needs half the land cotton needs to produce the same amount of fiber and it doesn’t need irrigation or pesticides. Today, BAM makes base layers, leggings, running jackets and headbands all using bamboo rayon that are great for fast-footed adventures.
- Tried and tested: We’ve run far in quite a few of BAM's pieces, from the Kennick Side Pocket leggings which offer heaps of support to the Standon Athletic Bamboo Shorts for warm, dry days.
If it’s smooth tarmac you prefer running on, check out Allbirds, which makes road running shoes from sustainable materials. It's working towards near zero carbon emissions by 2030, and making leaps and bounds along the way, helped by the fact that it makes its shoes with natural materials. It has even created their own fabric, called Trino, which is a blend of tree fibers and merino wool.
- Tried and tested: We spent some miles running in the Allbirds Tree Flyer, which boast a eucalyptus tree fiber upper, merino wool lining, and FSC-certified rubber outsole.
On was born in the Swiss Alps, so it makes sense that the company understands the value of clean air as much as it does gear that helps you travel the trails fast and light. Its road and trail running shoes are entirely fossil-free, and engineered for circularity, meaning that materials end up back in its lab and not in landfill.
- Tried and tested: We dig the On Running Cloudultra road to trail running shoes for long distances.
British brand Sundried was launched by a triathlete in 2016 with an aim to produce high-quality running, cycling and swim gear that doesn’t need to be replaced frequently, even with heavy use. EcoTech is its collection of activewear such as sports bras, running tops and jackets, all made from recycled coffee grounds and recycled plastic. It also has a range of technical fitness shirts made from pioneering biodegradable fabric.
- Tried and tested: The Sundried Women’s Recycled Quilted Vest layers waterproof warmth for cold, wet spring runs.
Asics is one of the better known running brands, creating high quality footwear, and it has a good sustainability record to boot. Its circular approach to addressing climate change includes producing items that use fewer resources and are easier to recycle, utilizing recycled, bio-based and more water-efficient options, sourcing renewable energy, improving quality for longer lasting products and taking items back for reuse.
- Tried and tested: Running shoes such as the GEL-Trabuco 10 are made using at least 50% recycled materials and plant-based midsoles.
Born and bred on the coast of Cornwall, with one foot forever in the Atlantic, Finisterre has always been an environmentally conscious company. Though it started as a brand for surfers, its base layers and leggings are great for running in. They are made from biodegradable fabrics like merino wool and bamboo using circular sourcing, which includes renewable and recyclable textiles and biodegradable natural fibers and finishes. Your goodies arrive in water-soluble, biodegradable leave no trace packaging, and the company will happily repair many of your well-worn items.
- Tried and tested: Check out their comfortable Finisterre Bora & Vela Bamboo base layers that you can wear on the trails year-round.
New Zealand-based Icebreaker was founded back in 1995 by a 24-year-old adventurer seeking gear for his expeditions that didn’t rely on petrochemicals. As a result, its sports bras, base layers, running leggings and shorts are all made using sustainably-sourced merino wool, and it has teamed up with like-minded brands such as Allbirds and Smartwool to ensure its materials are ethically produced. Icebreaker aims to be fully plastic-free this year.
- Tried and tested: The Icebreaker Women's Cool-Lite Amplify Short Sleeve Low Crewe T-Shirt is brilliant for wicking sweat on warm days and fends of a chill on winter runs.
- Sustainable hiking clothes: enjoy the outdoors responsibly
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.