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As runners become more sophisticated with the materials used on their favorite running shoes, they have also become more conscious about the materials used on their products. For these runners, using animal products is no longer an acceptable material use for running shoes. In running shoes, much of the issue comes from the use of suede overlays to provide structural stability and leather pieces for fashion as well.
Shoe companies have largely taken notice by offering conscious products made without animal materials as well. Some companies offer shoes made completely of canvas materials while others such as the Adidas offer shoes in a number of different synthetic materials including recycled ocean plastic.
Aside from the moral benefit of choosing vegan running shoes, the materials used on synthetic uppers tend to be more breathable and performance ready as well. Companies have recognized this and have largely committed to using synthetic, animal-free products in most performance running shoes. Below we list our five favorite vegan running shoes.
1. Brooks Beast 17 (Men) / Brooks Ariel 17 (Women)
Aside from being an industry leader in motion control running shoes, Brooks also offers impressive footwear that also happens to be completely vegan. The Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17 is the latest model update from Brooks in their highly successful Beast and Ariel stability line. These shoes focus on providing the runner with extra support to prevent overpronation during landings.
The Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17 qualifies as a vegan offering by featuring a completely synthetic mesh upper without the use of suede or leather overlays. The completely mesh upper without suede overlays promotes supreme breathability allowing runners to maintain cool conditions on longer runs. The Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17 features a substantial heel counter and a traditional lacing system to provide a secure fit for runners all without the use of natural materials. As a result of non-reliance on leather materials, the durability and strength of the shoe’s structure remains intact for high mileage usage. The synthetic mesh upper also allowed Brooks to ornament the Beast/ Ariel 17 with brilliant colorways and designs. For instance, Brooks adorns the Beast/ Ariel 17 with the unmistakable Brooks logo aside from the shoe.
The midsole materials of the Brooks Beast/Ariel 17 are also completely synthetic and vegan-friendly as well. As a motion control shoe, the Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17 features a substantial medial post for overpronation protection and added stability. The midsole and medial post are both made from a soft and firm foam material compound. While the foam compound will be susceptible breakdown over long periods of time, the materials are completely vegan-friendly and we found that breakdown only occurs after substantial mileage.
The Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17 also features a full-length crash pad which is designed to be both a shock absorber and also provide a smoother transition. The segmented crash pad contributes to the shoe’s overall flexibility giving the Brooks Beast/Ariel 17 a more natural stride. Runners will feel as if the heel-to-toe transition is more natural. All of the sole materials are also synthetic as well which satisfies pro-vegan runners and those looking for durable runners. An added bonus is that we found that unlike the soles of other motion control and stability shoes, which are inherently rigid, the Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17 provided both substantial arch support and reasonable flexibility.
The only downside of the Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17 is that many commented that the sizing was inconsistent. We found most runners had success sizing up. However, being that the materials are all synthetic, we recommend runners get properly fitted before running in the Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17.
The other negative to the Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17 is that it can tend to be a bit cost prohibitive. But for those looking for vegan-friendly running shoes, the Brooks Beast/ Ariel 17’s cost is well-worth the reduced impact on using animal products.
2. Merrell Vapor Glove 3
Minimalist shoes that are vegan are often seen as triple-threats. First, they offer a good running experience for advanced runners. Secondly, they use synthetic materials instead of using animal-based products. Lastly, minimalist shoes reduce the overall environmental impact by using less synthetic materials and thus contributing less overall waste. One of our favorite minimalist companies is Merrell. With the introduction of the Vapor Glove, Merrell revolutionized the minimalist running industry. Building on that line, Merrell updated this highly successful line with the Vapor Glove 3. The Vapor Glove 3 is a vegan-friendly minimalist shoe with significant performance features.
The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 is vegan-friendly and features an entirely synthetic upper made up of a lightweight breathable mesh. The mesh is among the thinnest we’ve reviewed and we found that it is more breathable than comparable models in both minimalist and normal running shoes. The upper is extremely flexible and comfortable and we found that runners had no problem with the Merrell Vapor Glove retaining heat. We found that it felt thinner than traditional engineered mesh and more “airy” than even knit uppers. As a result, the Merrell Vapor Glove 2 is both extremely flexible and amazingly comfortable.
Despite the popularity of minimalist shoes, vegan shoes tend to suffer from blowouts or holes in high-use areas due to the thinner synthetic material. The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 added other synthetic materials such as TPU in certain places to ensure durability. These additional reinforcements still allow the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 to maintain its supreme breathability and small silhouette. Additionally, these reinforcements help with providing protection and performance.
Keeping with other minimalist shoes, the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 maintains as little cushioning as possible to maintain its low profile and footprint. The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 utilizes a compression molded synthetic EVA midsole. The midsole along with the rest of the shoe keeps with being both vegan and minimalist as well.
The synthetic low-profile cushioning is extremely flexible and provides tremendous ground feel as well. However, the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 provides enough cushioning to keep the runner from jarring shocks during impact. We found that runners felt that the midsole on the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 did a good job of dispersing the impact upon landing while providing ample security and stability as well.
The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 utilizes an updated Vibram TC5 outsole, an improvement from previous versions of the Merrell Vapor Glove. TC5 is extremely tacky and will provide a secure grip on a number of different surfaces. The sole of the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 features a segmented traction pattern with low profile lugs to provide both traction and responsiveness. We found that many runners commented that the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 allowed them to quickly transition from foot to foot allowing for quicker turnover. The traction and sole also closely mimics the natural movement of the foot. Merrell takes great effort to make the most natural feeling minimalist experience and we feel the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 does a good job of demonstrating that commitment.
The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 is an extremely popular minimalist shoe that has numerous fans as well. Now in its third iteration, the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 represents the very best design elements of not only minimalist footwear but also vegan as well. The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 is brilliantly constructed from purely synthetic materials and as a result, reduces its environmental and animal impact as well.
3. Brooks Glycerin 15
The Brooks Glycerin 15 is one of the most consistent leaders in the neutral running category. It is consistently one of the highest rated running shoes with a dedicated fan base and numerous impressive technological improvements. On top of that, Brooks is committed to a vegan-friendly approach eschewing animal products and relying heavily on synthetic materials.
The Brooks Glycerin 15 uses a synthetic mesh upper across the entire shoe that is comfortable and flexible as well. Committed to using synthetic materials allows Brooks to invent innovative approaches to designing their shoes. For instance, their use of the synthetic 3D stretch print material highlights their ability to come up with vegan-friendly products that are also innovative. The 3D stretch print is essentially a midfoot cage that is completely synthetic without the need for additional structural overlays and added materials.
The Brooks Glycerin 15 also uses a completely synthetic midsole and cushioning system, which is also continuously one of the highlights of the shoe. The Brooks Glycerin 15 uses what Brooks calls Super DNA. Super DNA is a vegan-friendly synthetic foam midsole.
Super DNA is extremely plush and does not promote a sinking feeling during impact. It also provides enough responsiveness for runners should they seek faster runs. Super DNA also allows the Brooks Glycerin 15 to consistently provide an amazingly soft landing and impact protection. Even with the extra foam material in the midsole, the shoe is still completely synthetic and vegan-friendly as well.
For the sole, the Brooks Glycerin 15 uses a dual rubber compound to provide traction and grip throughout the shoe’s sole. The Brooks Glycerin 15 is strategic in how it uses the rubber sole as well. For instance, the Brooks Glycerin 15 features numerous flex grooves throughout the forefoot of the shoe to provide an extremely flexible sole and promotes easy heel-to-toe transition. Finally, Brooks uses an extremely tacky and grippy rubber compound on the shoe as well.
Unlike some dress shoes that still use leather soles for stickiness and grip, the Brooks Glycerin 15 uses a complete rubber outsole and still maintains amazing tackiness and grip. Additionally, the outsole is extremely soft and promotes a natural running motion as well. While many have noted that parts of the sole of the Brooks Glycerin 15 may suffer from wear over long periods of time, we found that this effect was largely marginal.
4. Asics Kayano 24
One of the best running shoe lines of all time also happens to be a vegan-friendly option as well. The Asics Gel Kayano series is Asics’ flagship model series and the benchmark for almost every running shoe company as well. Many other brands continue to offer their version of the Gel-Kayano in hopes of dethroning it.
The Asics Gel-Kayano is now in its 24 iteration and continues to push the brand forward as the leader in stability running shoes. On top of that, the Asics Gel-Kayano 24 is made with entirely synthetic materials making it vegan and reducing its overall footprint. These two factors make the Asics Gel-Kayano 24 one of the most popular and awarded shoes each year. In fact, most entry-level runners will normally seek out the Asics Gel-Kayano 24 as their entry into short and long distance running. It is also one of the first shoes runners with overpronation or stability issues will consider or seek out. Knowing this, Asics continues to push the envelope on the technology for the Asics Gel Kayano series while staying true to their core mission. They are also an example that vegan-friendly products can be commercially popular and wildly successful as well.
The Asics Gel Kayano 24 is Asics’ top of the line, premium stability model targeted toward those need support for overpronation or neutral runners looking for more support to guard against rolls. Asics achieves this through a number of impressive technologies, all of which is featured on the Asics Gel Kayano 24. For instance, the Asics Kayano 24 features Asics’ Impact Guidance system and the Guidance Trusstic System. Both of these ensure that the runner maintains a true gait throughout their stride and minimizes the likelihood that the runner will roll. The Asics Gel Kayano 24 also features a synthetic rigid heel structure and synthetic strategic overlays to prevent lateral movement along with an ample midsole to prevent overpronation. More impressively all of these materials are vegan-friendly as well.
The midsole of the Asics Gel Kayano 24 is equally synthetic and vegan friendly while providing game-changing performance as well. The Asics Gel Kayano 24 features a triple-density midsole featuring a propriety technology called Flytefoam. Flytefoam is a game-changing synthetic material that separated the Asics Gel Kayano line from comparable stability models in the industry. Many stability models opt for heavier dense materials that are both antiquated or not vegan friendly. Asics instead opted to develop a hybrid cushioning system made completely of synthetic materials. The resulting product was Flytefoam which is lighter, synthetic, and equally durable as well.
Flytefoam is a synthetic foam-based fiber that is organic and resistant to long-term compression. Asics does not use any animal products in the construction of Flytefoam and still manages to provide amazing comfort and performance combined. Flytefoam is less dense and lighter than traditional foam systems. On top of that, Flytefoam also provides amazing responsiveness as well.
Flytefoam is constantly one of the highlights of the Asics Gel Kayano 24. We found that numerous runners commented that the unique combination of cushioning and responsiveness is a joy to run in and makes for a very good running experience. It is also lighter than most stability shoes as well as demonstrating how Asics was able to manipulate the use of synthetic materials to impressive ends. Without the use of animal products the Gel Kayano 24 is both fast and cushioned as well.
Finally, animal products are normally employed to provide some extra fashion to running shoes. However, Asics continues to design the Gel Kayano 24 in a variety of aesthetically pleasing colorways, designs, and options. While many motion control and stability shoes are usually bulky and ordinary, the Asics Gel Kayano 24 is a great looking shoe without the use of suede or leather. Instead, Asics offers the Gel Kayano 24 in a number of unique colorways such as their annual NYC and Lite-show editions. Due to this, the Asics Gel Kayano line continues to gain a fashion following as well.
5. Mizuno Wave Rider 21
Among the leaders in the running industry, one company that continues to show up thanks in large part to their commitment to running is Mizuno. Mizuno is a leader in the running shoe market largely thanks to their highly successful Wave Rider line such as the Mizuno Wave Rider 21. Not only is the Mizuno Wave Rider 21 a highly reviewed and successful shoe, it is also completely vegan and made of environmentally friendly synthetic materials.
The Mizuno Wave Rider 21 features a synthetic, vegan friendly mesh upper that is engineered to provide the runner with nearly seamless comfort. We found that runners easily wore the Mizuno Wave Rider 21 with or without socks and found both running experiences to be highly enjoyable. Much of this due to Mizuno’s ample amount of stretch they weaved into the upper of the Mizuno Wave Rider 21. As a result, runners were able to have plenty of room to move within the shoe without constriction or problems. Additionally, even without the use of leather or suede overlays, the Mizuno Wave Rider 21 did not suffer from instability in the upper due to too much movement. We found that the stretch on the Mizuno Wave Rider 21 was well executed.
The Mizuno Wave Rider 21 features a completely synthetic dual-density midsole that seeks to provide a unique balance between responsiveness and cushioning. The entire midsole, like the rest of the shoe is vegan and does not use any animal products in the construction of the shoe. The Mizuno Wave Rider 21 also features Mizuno’s “cloudwave” technology within the heel of the shoe. Cloudwave features multiple layers providing the runner with a soft landing and quicker transition. We found that runners commented that the responsive, yet cushioned midsole combined with the Cloudwave allowed for quick transitions and speed.
The Mizuno Wave Rider 21 also features a synthetic sole unit with a well designed traction pattern. The traction does a good job of keeping the runner from getting stuck, while still allowing for a secure grip and faster transitions. Many runners feel that the combination of security and speed is due to Mizuno’s innovative rubber compound that they have consistently used in the Wave Rider series. Like other models on this list, this is yet further evidence that synthetic materials can be performance capable.