When my family and I decided it was time to go vegan two years ago, it didn’t just mean throwing out all the dairy, eggs, and meat in my fridge. It also meant researching the objects we used in our everyday lives—like running shoes. Luckily for us, most Nike trainers are vegan!
According to Peta, since broad advancements in the creation of synthetic glue, leather, and adhesives, companies like Nike have increased their stock of vegan trainers. But while searching Nike’s website for the materials list is a great way to see if the shoe you want to buy is one of their vegan options, the terminology can be confusing.
Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know to determine if the Nike trainers you’d like to buy are vegan.
Vegan and Non-vegan Shoe Materials
The easiest way to check if specific trainers are vegan is to research the materials used in the uppers. “Uppers” refers to the part of the shoe that covers your foot, and Nike usually constructs them using five different materials—four being sustainable.
The five different materials Nike uses in their uppers are:
While Flynit, Flyleather, and polyesters are synthetic fibers and cotton fibers are plant-based, leather is an animal product. So, if you come across a pair of Nike trainers with leather uppers, they are decidedly not vegan.
In addition to Flynit, Flywire, and plastic, vegan trainers also use materials such as canvas and cork. While these are less conventional options, they are still durable, affordable options when considering vegan trainers.
And the selection of materials with which companies can construct their vegan shoes is constantly expanding. So, if you find yourself bored with a pair of trainers made of cork, there are always those made from pineapple. You might be wondering can you put Nike trainers in the wash.
Unless a pair of shoes contains leather or wool, the component most likely containing animal products is the glue used to hold the shoe together.
Glue can either be natural or synthetic, but in this case, natural does not mean vegan, as many types of natural glue use the hides and bones of animals. Growing up, my parents told me every animal-product-based glue used horse hide. But the truth is that glue made from animal products also uses fish and other animals.
However, though glue has historically been made from animal products—and therefore not vegan—most of those we use today are synthetic. And—as stated by Peta—Nike switched to vegan glue in 2015, so you won’t have to check what type of glue is in those Nike trainers you’ve been eyeing when you go to the mall.
The Popularization of Vegan Trainers
The shoe industry’s progress towards more sustainable footwear is defined by more than just synthetic glue. In May, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, Billie Eilish, partnered with Nike to release an entirely plant-based line of sneakers that featured a creative take on the classic Nike AirForce 1s.
This is not Eilish’s first collaboration with Nike. In 2021, she released a line of vegan AirJordans. While those trainers were instantly recognizable due to their slime-green hue, Eilish’s custom AirForce 1s use a more neutral color palette and are made from 80 percent recycled materials—the main component being 100 percent recycled polyester.
Eilish’s commitment to reducing cruelty in the shoe industry through her collaborations with Nike is notable for two reasons. Not only does her celebrity add another reason for people to buy the shoes, but it also helps spread the message to more people.
However, it is essential to note that trainers do not have to be 100 percent plant-based to be vegan, and most trainers—Nike or otherwise—are not. The absence of materials such as leather and wool in your trainers is more than enough for you to feel good about your purchase.
Why Are Nike’s Vegan Trainers So Important?
In March, Statista reported that Nike was the leading active footwear company worldwide in 2021 by sales, meaning that they are uniquely positioned to spread vegan trainers worldwide.
And considering that most of their trainers are vegan, and some—like Eilish’s line of Airjordans and AirForce 1s—are entirely plant-based, as the consumption of Nike trainers rises, so will the consumption of Nike’s vegan trainers.
This is significant because the production of wool and leather, and the mass breeding of the livestock needed to provide these materials, contribute to climate change. Additionally, it also contributes to the mass slaughter of animals.
On the other hand, vegan trainers are much more environmentally friendly. They are a way for consumers to buy comfortable, durable shoes without worrying about their negative impact on the world around them. And with a company like Nike spearheading the charge for more sustainable footwear, the movement is in a great place.
Ready to start browsing? Check out the best looking Nike running shoes and see how the materials used match your preferences. And if you are not sure if you are ready for a new pair, you may like our article on how often should you get new running shoes.