When my kids were younger and playing in the neighborhood soccer league, I shared a frustration with so many other plant-based parents. We had a hard time finding vegan athletic shoes. Nearly all the cleats in the local stores were made of leather, and cruelty-free alternatives were usually special order. Lucky for animal-loving aspiring athletes of all ages, times have changed. Today, even the biggest retailers are offering vegan athletic shoes.
Classic Tennis Shoe
One of the newest brands on the market is THE ROGER Centre Court 0-Series, a shoe that tennis great Roger Federer created in partnership with the Zurich-based apparel brand On. The design has a classic tennis shoe look, but its makeup is anything but boring. Underneath the vegan leather, you will find a cozy sock construction and flexible CloudTec soles. Federer claims they are the lightest and most comfortable shoe he has ever played in. To me, this vegan athletic shoe will look great both on and off the court. THE ROGER was launched on July 6, 2020, exactly seventeen years since Federer won his first Wimbledon title.
Sustainability Meets Style
It is no surprise that the always fashionable Federer is making such a splash. In 2018, Federer split with his sponsor Nike, and he landed an endorsement from the Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo. Since Uniqlo is not in the sneaker market, he was open to the deal with On.
“The minimalist design and easy comfort of On’s shoes had me hooked years ago. I wanted to infuse the tennis sneaker with the same lightness, comfort and agility for every day,” Federer said. “I love working with the On team, using my knowledge of performance footwear and personal interest in fashion to contribute to product development.”
Both On and Federer call Switzerland home. “We love to explore and aspire to protect the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us; hence, this new generation of tennis-inspired sneakers has been created with sustainability in mind,” said David Allemann, co-founder of On. In addition to being cruelty-free, On’s vegan leather has 70% less resource footprint than animal leather. The mesh, lining, and the shoelaces are all made from 100% recycled polyester.
Another addition to the vegan athletic shoe industry is the NB for Jaden Smith Vision Racer, which singer/songwriter and environmentalist Jaden Smith created in partnership with New Balance. It boasts vegan leather made from polyurethane and recycled foam, yarn, rubber, and polyester. The shoe features a rubberized tip (useful for skateboarders like Smith), an exaggerated sole, and reflective details that make the shoe visible in the dark.
Fashion and Function
As many of us know, Smith is passionate about sustainability, as well as progressive fashion. He was eager to take a hands-on role in developing this vegan athletic shoe.
“Shared values of transforming the status quo; staying true to oneself; giving back to community; and, respecting heritage while co-authoring a distinct future, are the foundation of the relationship between New Balance and Jaden Smith,” explained Chris Davis, New Balance chief marketing officer and senior vice president of merchandising.
The NB for Jaden Smith Vision Racer launched on July 24, initially in Wavy Baby Blue. However, New Balance will offer other colors in the months ahead.
More Vegan Athletic Shoe Choices
As for my old concern about soccer cleats, the vegan alternative is no longer elusive. Today, Nike and Adidas are just two of the mainstream brands that now offer cruelty-free options. That is good news for all of us, no matter what sport we play. What are your favorite brands?
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Photo: Courtesy On and New Balance