We all throw away a lot of things, but surprisingly, sneakers are one of the items filling up our landfills the most. Americans throw away 300 million pairs of shoes per year, and combined with discarded clothes, shoes were responsible for about 17.6% of all trash in American landfills in 2017.
But there is some good news: Eco-friendly shoes are gaining popularity as a sustainable alternative to traditional shoes, which can stay in landfills for an average of 25 to 80 years. And one such pair by minimalism experts at Everlane checks all the boxes not only in terms of sustainability but also as a classic, easy-to-wear style.
The Everlane Forever Sneaker is made with responsibly sourced materials such as a recycled cotton-canvas upper and a partially natural rubber sole. The shoe is also fully recyclable, made with a 50% cotton and 50% canvas upper and a rubber outsole, metal eyelets, laces made from 100% recycled polyester and an insole made from recycled polyurethane. Once you’ve worn out your pair or want to make room for something new, you can simply drop it off at any Everlane store or contact the brand for a prepaid shipping label, and it won’t ever see a landfill.
Everlane is able to eliminate postconsumer waste created by its Forever Sneaker by partnering with Debrand, a California-based recycling company. The rubber sole gets mechanically ground into equestrian flooring and the upper is remade into mats. On top of all this, Everlane purchases carbon offsets for any carbon emissions it couldn’t eliminate from the process. Everlane calculated the carbon emission of the Forever Sneaker to be 7kg CO2E (or carbon dioxide equivalent, a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints), its lowest-impact shoe ever.
While this all sounds great for the planet, none of it would really matter if the shoe doesn’t look good. Luckily, Everlane’s sleek, sophisticated aesthetic translates perfectly into its new sneaker. The shoe has a classic yet casual design reminiscent of time-tested Vans or Keds, with a slim and narrow profile. The low-cut canvas comes in five different colors: white, black, sycamore, teak and India ink. Stylistically, it’s a versatile, everyday shoe that matches any outfit.
I loved the sound of a low-impact, fully recyclable sneaker (that also looks nice), so I tried out the Forever Sneaker for myself. Everlane sent a pair, and I wore them as my primary shoe for one whole month. While I didn’t make as many trips out of the house as I would have if there wasn’t an ongoing global pandemic, the sneakers were still put through its paces to see how comfortable, washable, durable and stylish they actually are.
The most striking feature of the sneaker is its beautiful colored canvas. I got a pair in teak (a buttery tan hue), and the subtle color added a nice pop to outfits. They paired well with jeans, shorts and basically anything I threw on. The fit is a smidge narrow, but not enough to have to size up or down unless you know you have wide feet.
In terms of comfort, the Forever Sneaker has a thin insole, and its flat design doesn’t lend too much to arch support. When I wore them to run errands for a full day, my feet felt tired after all the walking. But while they don’t offer cushiony support like some bulkier sneakers, they’re still comfy enough for day-to-day needs.
Everlane proclaims the Forever Sneaker is durable enough to last years. After a month of testing, the canvas still looks good as new and the tread is intact, but the bottom of the heel has begun to wear down. Some of the foam that makes up the insole crumbled off, but overall the shoe is decently sturdy.
One of the biggest draws of the Forever Sneaker is its washability; you can just throw the sneakers in the wash whenever they get dirty or smelly. To test how they held up, I stained them with some coffee and hot sauce and threw them in the washer. Everlane recommends removing the insoles, washing cold and air drying for best results, so that’s what I did. While the stains didn’t completely come out after one wash, the shoe held together perfectly. The Forever Sneaker is definitely built for the wash — but that doesn’t mean it’s stainproof. You’ll still have to be careful if you don’t want them to get dirty, but if they’re looking a little ragged or they’re starting to stink, a quick wash gives them a nice refresh.
The bottom line
The Everlane Forever Sneaker is a versatile, good-looking shoe, and thanks to Everlane’s transparent pricing model, the Forever Sneaker rings up at a modest $58. While its comfort and support left something to be desired, the main draw here is its low impact on the environment. Everlane has gone to immense lengths to ensure that the Forever Sneaker isn’t only created responsibly but can also be disposed of responsibly. With a simple trip to an Everlane store or the post office, your conscience will be guilt-free, and your shoes won’t be rotting in a landfill for the next 80 years. That’s more than enough reason for us to love the Forever Sneaker.
- Everlane Forever Sneaker ($58; everlane.com)