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10 best sustainable sports brands: From running shoes to leggings and sports bras

Be kind to Mother Earth and look great doing it

Lydia Willgress
Tuesday 28 September 2021 00:00
<p>How do you find sportswear that supports your running as well as the environment?</p>

How do you find sportswear that supports your running as well as the environment?

The world is getting warmer – and it’s becoming increasingly important to make sustainable choices in our daily lives.

Thinking about the clothes you wear is one of the ways you can do this – including what you wear while you’re exercising. So, how do you find sportswear that supports your running as well as the environment?

You’ll be pleased to know there are now plenty of choices for the sustainability-conscious runner.

To help you find the best products, we’ve tested items from across the market – from socks to shorts, tops to trainers – during our long runs, sprint sessions and gym visits.

How we tested

We approached this review like any other, measuring products on performance, comfort and style. But we also considered what they were made from, with a focus on long-lasting fabric created from a sustainable source, and how they were made. We also looked at price, as sustainability shouldn’t have to cost the world.

Read more:

The best sustainable running shoes and clothes for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Zouma duo motion singlet: £32,
  • Best sustainable 2-in-1 running shorts – Sundried legacy women’s running shorts: £30,
  • Best sustainable running leggings – Kit Change 7/8 Run leggings: £55,
  • Best bamboo running kit – BAM Tregarrick bamboo base layer: £44,
  • Best sustainable compression shorts – Tala hosta logo seamless shorts: £30,
  • Best sustainable cropped top – Hummel seamless sports top: £24,
  • Best sustainable base layer – Icebreaker women’s merino 200 oasis long sleeve half zip thermal top: £85,
  • Best sustainable trail running shoes – Vivobarefoot primus trail FG II: £120,
  • Best sustainable road running shoes – Asics gel-nimbus 23: £155,
  • Best value sustainable shoes – Hylo women’s corn runners: £100,

Zouma duo motion singlet

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

If you haven’t heard of Zouma, you need to get it on your go-to brand list immediately. The brand specialises in sustainable and ethical running products – with a range of sportswear, from socks to tops, that’s not only better for the planet but also specifically tailored for runners’ needs.

We tested Zouma’s striking duo motion singlet and found it ticked all our boxes. Made from up to six plastic bottles, the manufacturing process sees these plastics crushed, melted, and turned into a high-performing fabric. The brand says this uses 70 per cent less energy and results in 54 per cent lower carbon emissions than traditional sportswear manufacturing.

We loved the unique design and fit, finding it performed well on long runs and sprint sessions thanks to its ability to wick sweat away from the body. It is also super lightweight and has flatlock seams, so you can be sure there won’t be any chafing.

Available in five sizes, this top washes well at a low temperature. Plus Zouma’s packaging is 100 per cent recycled and recyclable, and the company plants a tree for every item bought. So, what are you waiting for?

Sundried legacy women’s running shorts

Best: Sustainable 2-in-1 running shorts

Rating: 8/10

Sundried is an activewear brand with a strong focus on operating in eco-friendly and sustainable ways. The brand offers two collections made from 100 per cent recycled materials, as well as high-performance products made from eco-friendly biodegradable material.

We tested the brand’s Legacy women’s running shorts, which are made from 95 per cent recycled polyester, and they ticked all the boxes when it came to performance and comfort. Available in five sizes, the two-in-one design means runners benefit from a protective inner lining and a split side so you still get the full range of movement. We found they were true to size and loved the attractive 80s-style blue and white piping. Plus, they’ve got a useful side pocket for storing essentials like keys. At £30, we think these are a great value choice for runners looking to make a sustainable step.

Kit Change 7/8 run leggings

Best: Sustainable running leggings

Rating: 9/10

Launched in November 2020, Kit Change’s sustainability credentials are impressive. The brand says it has repurposed over 49,000 PET bottles since launch, as well as helping to save water and energy via a carefully thought through production process.

One of our favourite products from Kit Change’s range is its 7/8 run leggings. The high-waisted design is comfortable and flattering, with a drawstring to ensure the perfect fit and an attractive five-tone stripe that runs down the side of the leg. We found they were lightweight and breathable, staying in place during runs. And if you also like to go to the gym, they are squat-proof, too.

Each pair is made from 16 recycled plastic bottles, which are ground down into pellets and spun into high-quality recycled polyester. In fact, even the zip on the handy back pocket is recycled. Plus, if you are concerned about microplastics and microfibres in your wash, the brand also has plenty of handy tips on how best to care for your new leggings.

BAM Tregarrick bamboo base layer

Best: Bamboo running kit

Rating: 9/10

If you haven’t tried bamboo clothing before, there are three main reasons why you should: it’s super soft and comfortable, it naturally manages moisture, and it’s super sustainable, with bamboo grass absorbing five times more CO2 from the air than its equivalent in hardwood trees.

BAM is one of our favourite suppliers of bamboo clothing. Every piece is climate positive, with the brand going one step further than carbon neutral by offsetting carbon emissions not just from the business but also for a customer washing each item 50 times.

There’s plenty to choose from – but as we head into autumn our pick has to be the brand’s super soft, long-sleeved Tregarrick base layer. We found it was great as a long-sleeved running top as the mornings and evenings turned colder. It naturally helped to regulate temperature and wick sweat away from the body, ensuring we stayed warm and dry. The mid-neck design is highly flattering (and the design is based on Strava-style tracking maps, so it’s perfect for Instagram too).

Available in a size 8 to a size 16, it doesn’t need any special care so you can easily wash it with other items – plus it arrives in packaging that’s either compostable or recyclable. We were seriously impressed and will be wearing plenty more bamboo in the future.

Tala hosta logo seamless shorts

Best: Sustainable compression shorts

Rating: 9/10

Hit the treadmill or track with Tala, makers of these high-performing, sustainable compression shorts. We are always a tad nervous about such a close-fit design, but these cycle-style shorts are flattering with a contouring waistband and attractive tape design. Not only that but they performed really well, staying in place throughout training runs and preventing any chafing.

Made from recycled polyamide in Portugal, the brand says the fabrics and production methods are accredited by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which ensures organic fibres are used, some chemicals are banned, and working conditions are checked. These are available in black or blue and in five sizes, but the brand recommends sizing up with this design.

Hummel seamless sports top

Best: Sustainable cropped top

Rating: 7/10

If you haven’t heard of Hummel, you need to get up to speed. According to the Sustainable Brand Index, Hummel has been Denmark’s most sustainable clothing brand for two years in a row, mixing attractive Scandi design with high-performance sportswear.

There is certainly plenty to choose from in its range – but we went for the seamless sports top. For bigger-breasted women, we’d recommend wearing a sports bra underneath this one. To check the support, we tested it during our midweek runs and during cross-training, finding it comfortable and chafe-free. Even with a double layer, the mesh chevrons on the back helped to keep us cool even on the hottest days.

These are made from 65 per cent recycled polyester that is created from waste, starting life as old fishing nets and carpets. According to the brand, this helps reduce dependence on petroleum resources, as well as helping reduce landfill and lower carbon dioxide emissions. Plus, it has been designed to prevent odours – meaning you can wash it less often, too.

Icebreaker women’s merino 200 oasis long sleeve half zip thermal top

Best: Sustainable base layer

Rating: 9/10

Icebreaker boasts of producing the “world’s best base layer” – which is a pretty bold statement if you ask us. We’re pleased to say that we weren’t disappointed, finding this one of the most comfortable products we tested.

As the name suggests, this long-sleeved layer is made from merino wool, which is known for being not only super comfortable, but lightweight and breathable. Our natural reaction was that it would be too hot, but we were pleasantly surprised and found it regulated temperature well. It also naturally resists odour, so you can wear it more times between washes, meaning it adds less microfibre to our oceans. And there are the usual flatlock seams to ensure you don’t get any chafing.

As a brand, Icebreaker currently uses 91 per cent natural fibres within their range. However, it has the ambition to become plastic-free by 2023 – which is a target we can certainly commend. This base layer is going straight into our running bag – and will be keeping us company all winter.

Vivobarefoot primus trail FG II

Best: Sustainable running shoes

Rating: 8/10

With a name literally meaning “with life”, Vivobarefoot’s trainers are a natural choice for any runner who wants to feel connected to the world and do their bit for the planet.

These trainers are different in two ways: firstly, they are “foot-shaped” rather than “trainer-shaped”. Their wide design and thin material enable runners to take advantage of their natural stability and senses so they can feel more (in a good way). We found they took a bit of getting used to – but we grew to love the flexibility, especially around our local trails.

The second difference is that these are made with lightweight recycled materials, helping to reduce what goes into landfill. This includes an insole made from an alternative material that is created by removing harmful algae blooms from waterways. Cool, right?

If you’re interested, we recommend trying out the trail shoe collection as we found these were also great for road running. And while there’s a 100-day trial for all orders, we’re sure you won’t be sending these back.

Asics gel-nimbus 23

Best: Sustainable road running shoes

Rating: 8/10

Part of Asics’ Earth Day Pack, these shoes are not just friendly to the environment but also friendly to your feet. We tested these over long runs and sprint sessions, finding they were super comfortable, with a bit of extra bounce that kept us going even when we were tired. We think this is down to the brand’s bespoke cushioning technology and clever design, which means the trainer hugs the foot and helps to keep you stable.

Asics says each pair includes recycled polyester in the upper layer and reports that carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 45 per cent in the insole dyeing process (when compared to the conventional method). Available in sizes 3-11, we recommend sizing up if you choose to buy a pair.

Hylo women’s corn runners

Best: Value sustainable shoes

Rating: 8/10

Hylo’s goal is twofold: to use sport to inspire positive change and to use developing thinking around materials to build better products that are nicer to the planet. We’re pleased to say we think the brand has achieved both with its women’s corn trainers.

Designed for everyday running and training, we found these trainers were lightweight and breathable – as well as offering great grip when we needed it most. Our only niggle was that these were slightly stiffer than some of the other products we tested, so you’d need to wear them in. Even so, these performed well throughout long runs and sprint sessions.

If that’s not enough, they are made from natural materials including corn spring, corn fibre, natural rubber and even a bit of castor bean oil. Plus, the brand says they are carbon negative, which means the manufacturing process removes more carbon dioxide from the environment than is emitted. They are available in six colours, and from a UK size 3-9.

The verdict: Sustainable running shoes and clothes

If you want to make more environment-conscious choices but don’t know where to start, there are some great options above to boost your running kit in a sustainable way.

We love Zouma’s range, including its bright and bold singlet, but there are also some great options from BAM – our go-to brand for bamboo goods – and sustainable specialist Kit Change. But when it comes to trainers, Hylo and Vivobarefoot really stand out from their competitors.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on activewear offers, try the links below:

Want new ways to amp up your fitness routine? Read our guide to the best skipping ropes for stamina and speed

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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