The global sustainable footwear market size was valued at USD 8.88 billion in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 14.13 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
Sustainable footwear is an emerging fashion industry trend driven by growing consumer awareness and environmental concerns. With increasing recognition of the negative impacts of traditional shoe production, such as carbon emissions, pollution, and resource depletion, there is a growing demand for stylish and sustainable footwear. One key aspect of sustainable footwear is the use of eco-friendly materials. Brands are turning to materials like organic cotton, hemp, and recycled plastics to reduce their environmental footprint. These materials are renewable, biodegradable, and impact ecosystems less than conventional materials.
Additionally, sustainable footwear often incorporates natural and recycled rubber for outsoles, reducing the reliance on synthetic materials derived from fossil fuels. Sustainable footwear combines style, comfort, and eco-consciousness. It encompasses eco-friendly materials, responsible manufacturing practices, and a focus on durability and repairability. The demand for eco-friendly footwear keeps rising as consumers become more aware of how their wardrobe decisions affect the environment. This trend benefits the planet and allows companies to stand out and meet the evolving needs of conscious consumers.
E-commerce shopping platforms play a big role in distributing sustainable shoes because they bring in a lot of money for the market. Online sales platforms make it easy for people to look at different kinds of trendy and designer shoes in one place without going to a shop. In 2018, Lyst, a fashion search engine, stated that more than 100 million shoppers used its site to look for ethical and sustainable goods. The increasing purchasing power of consumers, the expansion of the global middle class, and the expansion of Internet access all bode well for the future of online retail.
The rise of the online retail industry is also helped by the development of mobile shopping apps and the availability of safe and easy payment methods. Online shopping blogs written by independent writers and social media apps like Pinterest and Instagram greatly affect shoe industry trends. They should also have a positive impact on the market for sustainable shoes.
The increasing consciousness of consumers toward sustainability has spurred the demand for environment-friendly footwear across the globe. With a rise in efforts by renowned brands toward sustainability, other companies also opt for recycled and eco-friendly materials. Moreover, the detrimental effects of conventional footwear production have been noticed by consumers. Recycling is anticipated to continue being the key concept in the near future for the sustainable footwear sector. For instance, in April 2019, Adidas launched its fully recyclable Futurecraft Loop Sneaker line, featuring a carbon-neutral style. This innovation was targeted at Gen Z and Millennials, who are aware of sustainability and prioritize it more than the previous generations.
The sustainable footwear industry also constantly evolves and observes consumer patterns and activities. In this regard, the on-the-go lifestyle among millennials has been encouraging many newer manufacturers and startups to venture into the market to offer sustainable shoes with versatility, comfort, functionality, and performance in various settings using recycled materials. For instance, Rothy’s, a startup founded in 2016, offers shoes made of yarn from recycled plastic bottles for formal and casual occasions. In 2020, the company was valued at USD 700 million, signifying rising valuations for startups operating in the sustainability domain.
The rising prevalence of counterfeit shoes is expected to impede the growth of the footwear industry. Counterfeit or fake shoes are sold and advertised wrongly for a lower price. The Better Business Bureau stated that footwear products were one of the top categories of counterfeit goods seized by customs in the U.S. in 2017. According to the World Trademark Review, about 73% of Brazilian consumers brought counterfeit products, including footwear, in 2018. This footwear may not provide wearers with the appropriate comfort and protection, as these products are usually manufactured using low-quality materials.
The presence of counterfeit products also affects consumer perception of the brand. Counterfeit products and design copyright infringement issues have historically impeded the footwear market growth; this trend is expected to seep into the sustainable footwear domain as this product demand has increased drastically in the last few years. For instance, in 2019, Veja, a Paris-based company offering sustainable footwear, announced that it is planning to take legal action against Primark for copying the design of its bestselling product, Veja V 10 trainers.
The sustainable footwear market is expected to grow due to the rising need for environment-friendly products. This aligns with the increasing receptibility of sustainability in various industries, including fashion apparel and footwear. The footwear market is expected to benefit from the lucrative opportunities in the sustainable space. Sustainability is one of the numerous mainstream tools market players use to stay abreast of the competition, backed by a growing consumer base of responsible individuals concerned about animal rights and sustainable production methods.
Design and innovation are some of the lucrative spaces that manufacturers can target to achieve a stronger brand reputation. Companies are focusing on innovative strategies to uphold the idea of sustainability and attract new customers. For instance, in 2019, Thousand Fell, a brand involved in footwear, launched sustainable designer shoes with the concept of circularity. The company offers an opportunity to customers to return their shoes after use and refurbishes them or break them down into parts for recycling to produce new shoes. Therefore, there are attractive business opportunities when it comes to design innovation.
The global sustainable footwear market is bifurcated into type and end-user.
Based on types, the global sustainable footwear market is bifurcated into athletic and non-athletic.
The athletic segment dominates the global market and is projected to exhibit a CAGR of 6.07% over the forecast period. Athletic shoes are generally worn by those involved in outdoor activities such as running, walking, gym training, basketball, volleyball, cricket, hockey, golf, and jogging. These shoes provide comfort, flexibility, and traction on outdoor platforms such as roads and trails and provide benefits such as torsional stability, superior cushioning, and better consumer protection. Big players in athletic shoes, such as Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Puma, Reebok, Allbirds, and Converse, have been venturing into sustainable manufacturing, considering environment-conscious consumers and brands.
For instance, in 2018, Nike was recognized by the Textile Exchange for using the most recycled polyester in manufacturing processes for the sixth year. In 2018, it also launched Sneakers made from fly leather, a new material made from recycled leather. Manufacturers collaborate with environmental organizations and innovators for effective, sustainable manufacturing processes. In collaboration with Parley, Adidas has been manufacturing sustainable athletic footwear for the Oceans; the product line is called Adidas X Parley. The fabric is produced from recycled plastic bottles and is called PrimeBlue. In 2018, the company sold five million pairs of footwear in the Adidas X Parley collection.
Based on end-user, the global sustainable footwear market is bifurcated into men, women, and children.
The men's segment dominates the global market and is predicted to exhibit a CAGR of 5.1% over the forecast period. The inclination of men towards outdoor activities has been a driving factor for this segment. Sports such as golf, cricket, hockey, and hiking have always been popular among men. Hence, product launches catering to specific sports categories will help boost the market growth. For instance, Lakefront, a footwear company, launched its first line of golf shoes for men in 2019 called Terra-1. It offers shoes made from recycled cork, nylon, organic cotton, organic leather, and recycled plastic bottles.
Celebrity endorsements, as well as promotions and campaigns led by famous personalities, tend to impact consumers. For instance, in April 2020, Ben Affleck was seen wearing Allbirds' carbon-neutral and sustainable sneakers made of ethically sourced merino wool, with sugarcane midsole and laces made from recycled polyester. This trend by celebrities is expected to boost segment growth. Social media marketing, influencer programs, and online campaigns by cult brands such as Adidas and Nike have become necessary to gain traction among consumers because more and more market players are getting to be online.
Based on region, the global sustainable footwear market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Central and South America, and the Middle East and Africa.
North America Dominates the Global Market
North America is the most significant global sustainable footwear market shareholder and is estimated to exhibit a CAGR of 5.2% over the forecast period. In North America, particularly the U.S., the concentration of footwear manufacturers and industry giants is a big reason for market growth in the sustainable footwear segment. Renowned companies like Nike, VF Corporation, Under Armour, New Balance, and Skechers USA, Inc. are headquartered in the U.S., where they drive product innovations, invest in research and development, and consistently introduce new sustainable footwear products to the market. In addition, the U.S. market is a hub for sustainable footwear innovations, with a range of groundbreaking products being developed and launched yearly. These innovations span various categories, from hay-based sneakers to vegan heels and boots, showcasing the commitment of American footwear companies to sustainable practices and materials.
Similarly, in April 2019, American retailer Everlane introduced a new sustainable footwear brand called Tread by Everlane. Tread is a men's shoe company that specializes in eco-friendly footwear. These sneakers feature natural and recycled rubber soles, uppers made using recycled leather, and laces and linings made from recycled plastic bottles. Such initiatives highlight the efforts of U.S. companies to incorporate eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes into their footwear offerings.
Europe is predicted to exhibit a CAGR of 5.4% over the forecast period. The rise in the number of money people have to spend in countries such as Germany, the U.K., and France, as well as the expansion of e-commerce, social media, and advertising sectors in Europe, are some things that have helped the market for shoes that are good for the environment. The push from consumers for more sustainable products is fueling market growth. Eco-friendly shops are growing rapidly. Eco-shoes, sustainable, and ethical fashion are popular concepts, especially in North and West Europe. Sustainable footwear is all about clean and responsible production methods and using materials such as recycled plastic, leather, nylon, and organic cotton. In addition, some manufacturers make outsoles and insoles of footwear using recycled tires, corks, and wood. For instance, El Naturalista, a Europe-based sustainable footwear manufacturer, uses recycled fabrics such as leather plastics and cork.
The Asia-Pacific area has a lot of room for growth in the sustainable footwear market. The increasing number of fashion-conscious consumers, the growth of e-commerce platforms, the influence of social media, and the demand for various types of footwear are key factors contributing to the market expansion in this region. The region also demonstrates high demand for various footwear types, from sneakers to lace-ups, court shoes, ankle heels, and stilettos. This diverse demand for different styles and types of footwear further drives the overall demand for sustainable footwear in the Asia Pacific market.
The Central and South America region presents opportunities for the sustainable footwear market due to increasing consumer awareness, supportive initiatives, and growing demand for various types of footwear. The market is expected to grow steadily over the coming years as consumers prioritize regional sustainability.
The Middle East and Africa region is witnessing an increasing demand for sustainable footwear, driven by rising awareness about environmental protection and the influence of Western cultures and trends. Consumers in the region seek sustainable fashion alternatives that reflect their culture and values. As a result, the sustainable footwear market is expected to grow steadily in the Middle East and Africa over the forecast period.
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