Many footwear brands are working to “reduce their footprint” by making more sustainable shoes and/or reducing waste in 2020. Not all sustainability initiatives are commercially successful, and Heeluxe’s test experience shows 3 features that top selling and top-rated sustainable shoes have in common. In this post we’ll give you the 3 tips followed by real world examples from our lab:

  1. Sustainability needs to be Brand DNA, not just 1 product or component.
  2. A Shoe is Sustainable only if it meets or exceeds the performance of it’s replacement. 
  3. Sustainability should not increase cost.

Sustainability in Brand DNA was spoken about at the Footwear Innovation Summit in 2019 by many great speakers. All agree that brands needed to share reasons for sustainable shoes and that this was easy to do if sustainability is a major goal. Current examples include Allbirds using more natural materials in all of their midsole foam, Adidias’ recycled product line with Parley, and Ecco using less water in their leather tanning process. In contrast, making a few select styles with a small amount of sustainable parts or something that is invisible to the customer will result in commercial failures.


Most brands swap out a current material with an Eco-friendly material without validating the performance. Customers HATE a sustainable product that is less comfortable, worse fitting, or less durable than what they’re currently used to. To avoid this mistake, perform side by side testing of the new material and your current standard (or top competitor). Heeluxe has a standardized testing protocol for swapping Eco-friendly materials if you need help.

It is important to improve sustainability without sacrificing another feature, including how affordable a product is. While it can be a challenge to make a sustainable product that costs the same as a current product, this is a vital step in helping customers commit to a purchase. A $10 price increase will dissuade a customer from purchasing Eco-friendly product. Both suppliers and brands must work together to make Eco-friendly product that costs the same or less than current footwear. For more information contact [email protected].