Ethical activewear is a category that has experienced a lot of growth in the past few years. I believe it’s so important to know where ALL of our clothes come from, including the ones we sweat in.
I have to admit that this was the last category in my wardrobe that I transitioned to ethical/sustainable. Not because it was less important, but because the things I already had were still in good shape, so what was the point of getting rid of them? Never forget that consuming less things and generating less waste is what really will make a difference. Nevertheless, I decided to put this blog post together for you to keep in mind for WHEN you need to replace anything you have in your closet.
Thank you in advance for wanting to make better decisions about the brands you support. You are already making a difference. A lot of the brands I’m about to recommend cost the same or less than the ones you are used to shop for and the quality is amazing too, if not better. You won’t regret giving any of these a try!
Ready to learn about ethical activewear? Let’s go!
In a hurry? Go straight to what you are looking for!
- Why support sustainable activewear brands?
- What is sustainable activewear?
- Is it worth it to wear sustainable workout clothes?
- Care instructions for ethical workout clothes
- Best affordable activewear brands ($35-$75)
- Mid range ethical activewear brands ($80-$95)
- Luxury ethical activewear ($100+)
- Sustainable workout shoes
- Final thoughts
- Related sustainability posts you may also like
Estimated reading time: 18 minutes
Why support sustainable clothing brands in general?
As consumers, we have an enormous power to change the world. Where we spend our money matters. If we stop supporting brands that don’t care about the environment, child labor and our health, we are forcing them to go one way of the other; out of business or making significant changes. It has happened already with the beauty industry, food and of course, the clothing industry.
This is great news! Not only for our beautiful world, but for us because we now live in a world where we have a ton of options and a lot of brands are actually competing to see who does things better, who recycles more, who has less waste, etc. How great is that?
I wrote a blog post about ethical clothing brands to support and I explain a lot in there about the industry and what exactly makes a brand ethical or sustainable. I organized them by category to make it easy for you to learn about brands for basic pieces, outerwear, shoes, intimates, swimwear, etc. Make sure to check it out. In that blog post I recommend these brands for ethical activewear: Outdoor voices, Athleta, Alternative Apparel and PACT. I wanted to include new brands I’ve discovered in this post, so even though I still do love and recommend those mentioned above, this is an updated and more detailed version for the best ethical activewear and I of course, offer more options for every budget.
So, for today I’m only focusing on ethical activewear. I will continue to create blog posts for each category so I can dig a little deeper because all these industries are kind of different from one another and I keep discovering new, incredible brands that deserve a mention.
What is sustainable activewear and what makes a brand sustainable/ethical?
Sustainable clothing and sustainable activewear take into consideration the full lifecycle of the final product. It starts with the fabrics they use, production processes and takes a deeper look at everyone affected by it. From the environment, to the workers, to us, who will end up wearing it. Ethical activewear brands (and ethical brands in general) focus on creating a final product that won’t be harmful to the consumer (yes, because the type of fabric and dyes can be really harmful to us), that was made by workers who have good working conditions (versus brands that use modern day slavery and child labor) and that has the lowest possible impact in the environment.
There are five main issues ethical/sustainable brands are trying to tackle: water usage, hazardous chemicals, short life cycle, waste and agriculture. The brands I’m about to mention even go above and beyond and donate part of their profits, plant trees, offer zero waste options and of course, one of the most important things; their final products were made by adults in good working conditions.
Is it worth it to wear sustainable workout clothes?
100%. Do I need to explain why? LOL
I just want to make clear, I’m not here to shame you for what you’ve bought in the past. I have too supported and even worse, promoted terrible brands. But now that I know better, I’m doing better. That’s all. No judgement or shame here. Once you know better, just do better and move forward. Lets not make this whole thing too complicated.
Also, I repeat this; don’t go out there and buy stuff you don’t need. If your workout clothes are in good shape (no matter the brand), just keep them. Keep this post in mind only for WHEN you need to replace a pair of leggings, workout tops or shoes.
Ethical activewear – Care instructions
Here’s something I didn’t know about; microfibers. I mean I did know and kept hearing our oceans were filled with them, but honestly I had no idea it could come from our clothes and that I was actively part of the problem.
A lot of workout clothes are made out of microfibers and when we wash them, those little tiny microscopic things find their way into our oceans. It sounds harmless because they are so little, but the things is, there’s a lot of us! It’s a really big problem and I had no idea I was contributing to it. Recent research proves that we’re eating and drinking plastics. Microfibers are everywhere: in fish, plankton, chicken, beer, honey, and in the water we drink.
Thankfully, there’s a solution. Or 2 actually.
- The microfiber filter: A great solution if you have your own washing machine. You just install it in your washing machine. I have no idea how LOL, but here’s the link in case you want to check it out! (Costs $45). Here’s another option for a filter that costs $66. (this second one has better reviews)
- The Guppyfriend Washing Bag: It’s a great solution for those like myself who do not have a washing machine (or a home for that matter. I already shared that story here). It costs $34 and you can learn more about it here.
- Earth hero microfiber laundry ball: Just now doing research for this post, I found this other one just in case you want to check it out.
There you have 3 choices to deal with the microfiber issue.
Affordable Ethical Activewear Brands ($35-$75 per piece)
Brand: Girlfriend Collective
Their story: Being eco-friendly is #1 for them. From their recyclable packaging to making a huge portion of their clothing from recycled plastic water bottles, they surely prove how important our planet is for them. Girlfriend Collective is also mindful about their carbon footprint and having the best conditions for their workers. Best part? They are super transparent about EVERYTHING too. You can learn more here.
A huge plus for them too is that their website is diverse and beautiful and features women of all sizing and backgrounds. How it should be in my opinion. You can browse Girlfriend’s Collective website here.
What do they sell: Women’s only. Activewear, basics, underwear, socks, outerwear and swimwear.
Price range & review: Their workout bras are the comfiest ever and cost $38. Their leggings are $68-$78 and are so cute (I love the colors!). Their tank tops and sweatshirts are very cute too and cost between $32 and $68.
Sizing: 2XS-6XL (one of the most inclusive sizing out there!)
Their story: I love this brand because their mission is to become earth’s favorite clothing brand. They only use organic cotton which saves a huge amount of water and they don’t use any toxic chemicals which is rare to find. PACT also partners with Fair Trade Certified factories which focuses on providing safe working conditions, support local communities and protect their environment. On top of that they offer the option to offset the carbon footprint of your shipment, provide a box for you to donate your old clothes to non-profits and are mindful of how much material they use in their packaging. Browse PACT’s website here
I recommended this brand for basic pieces as well in my ‘Ethical clothing brands blog post’. If you are interested in checking out more ethical brands for other categories like dresses, bathing suits, shoes, accessories, etc. Make sure to check out this post.
What do they sell: Men, women and kids. Activewear, basics, underwear, socks, sleepwear and bedding.
Price range & review: Their leggings are amazing and cost between $35-$45. They come in multiple prints and colors. Their hoodies and sweatshirts are very soft and cozy and retail from $60-$70. They have very basic everyday tops too. I have their reversible tank top and it’s so useful and comfortable. Browse their tops here.
Their story: A relatively new brand founded in 2019, Nuin is committed to the environment by using a high proportion of eco-friendly materials. Their focus is to keep proving that you can create sustainable clothing that’s affordable. Nuin is very transparent about their whole processes and how they are committed in every possible way to have the least negative impact in our planet while offering high quality pieces that will last you a very long time. Learn more about the brand here.
What do they sell: Sustainable clothing for women only (although they also have unisex clothing), and they have amazing ethical activewear. Minimalistic and simple, but using very high quality fabrics. They have sport bras, workout tops and leggings. If you need to shop for dresses, shirts, jeans, etc. They also have a lot of clothing options.
Price range & review: Most of their activewear pieces cost between $37 and $75, with leggings being at the higher end of the range.
Sizing: XS – XL. They offer extended sizes on separate area of their website for some of their products. Check it out here.
Sustainable workout clothes – Mid range budget ($80-$105 per piece)
Their story: Athleta is part of the GAP, Inc family and it’s the perfect example of bigger brands trying to do better. In my opinion, not because they want to (because they would have done it since day 1), but because of us, the consumers, are demanding better options. Nevertheless, and whatever their intentions might be, I think this is a good thing!
What do they sell: What don’t they sell!? They have so many activewear options. Easily the brand that has more to offer in terms of variety. They have everything organized by activity in their site and you can check it out by visiting this link. Their leggings and workout bras are very comfortable!
Sizing: XS-XXL. They have a separate tab for extended sizes up to 3X. Check it out here.
Brand: Outdoor Voices
Their story: They are all about encouraging people to move, have fun and enjoy the outdoors in style. Their products are high quality and are made to last. Outdoor Voices makes sure to put people first, so their values are primarily centered on human rights and environmentalism. You can check out their site here.
What do they sell: Men and women’s ethical activewear and basic pieces.
Prince range & review: They have beautiful, high quality leggings and they cost $78-$98. Very cute workout shorts and bike shorts from $48 to $68. And of course, workout tops and sport bras and cozy hoodies and sweatshirts. Basically anything you need to get moving, except for shoes, which I’ll share some options for below.
Sizing: XS to XL
Their story: Summersalt started with bathing suits and coverups, but since then they’ve expanded to loungewear, pajamas and of course ethical activewear. Summersalt pieces are created for traveling and since they care about the world so much, they use recycled materials and earth-friendly practices. They also focus on fit and for sure they do it right!
What do they sell: As I mentioned above they have bathing suits and coverups, but a couple of years ago they launched loungewear and pajamas and beautiful, made to last ethical activewear. I love this brand and their products are super high quality. Only for the ladies though. Sorry guys!
Price range: Their leggings and workout tops range between $65 and $95. If you are interested in PJ’s or loungewear they are around $95 and sometimes a little bit more expensive, but so worth it though! Here’s their website in case you want to check it out!
Sizing: 0 to 22.
Brand: Vuori Clothing
Their story: They focus on sustainable manufacturing, creating great quality pieces that will last you for a long time and building community by prioritizing great relationships with their staff, partners and the communities they operate in.
What do they sell: The softest and most comfortable activewear. My husband introduced me to this brand and even gave me a pair of sweatpants for Christmas and it was love at first sight. They are so soft!! Definitely an investment, but 100% worth it. They have a bunch of options for both men and women.
Price range: Vouri’s ethical activewear ranges from $58 to $94.
Sizing: XXS – XXL
Ethical Workout Clothes – Luxury Brands ($100+ per piece)
Their story: They claim to be working on making sustainability sexy LOL. I love them for that! Wolven focuses on creating durable fabrics, made out of recycled plastics and pay close attention to their carbon footprint. They keep their packaging minimal and use biodegradable and recycled materials when possible.
What do they sell: Men & women activewear. Everything you need to look ultra chic while you sweat. Seriously, they have so many beautiful prints and designs.
Price range: I wasn’t sure if I should put Wolven here, because their prices range from $68 to $100+, but their leggings are $98, so really up to you to decide if that’s luxury or not LOL. They have beautiful prints! You can check out their website and fun browsing. I feel like they always have something fun for every taste.
Sizing: XS to XXL.
Brand: Elle Evans
Their story: They are committed to our planet and make their clothes out of recycled plastic waste they collect from our oceans. Isn’t that so cool? I also love they show very diverse bodies on their website. Elle Evans is also very mindful of how they make their clothes and of course, pay close attention to waste and packaging.
What do they sell: Swimwear and ethical activewear for women. They have very beautiful designs and unique prints and most of their pieces are reversible.
Price range: This is luxury brand, so their prices are much higher than the ones I mentioned above. Would I spend over $200 on a pair of leggings? (not all are $200+) I don’t know. It’s hard to wrap my head around that because there are so many other great options with similar values and quality, so I would have to try them and compare them to see if it’s worth it. But I still decided to share because everyone’s different! If you do give it a try, let me know how you liked it :)
Sizing: XXS – XXXL
How about the shoes? My favorite Eco-friendly shoes
I know this post is long enough as it is, but I couldn’t leave out sustainable athletic shoes right!?
Believe or not there are many options out there. I haven’t tried all of these, but after reading a million reviews and websites so you don’t have to, here are my top 3:
- All birds: These shoes are amazing and probably the most well known brand of sustainable sneakers. They have beautiful, chic and simple designs and these shoes are great for traveling! Not only because they are comfortable but because they can lay flat in your suitcase. How cool is that!? Check out their sustainable shoes here. They have styles for men and women.
- Adidas x Parley: I’ve had items from this collection and yet again, this is a great example of how big, well-known brands are trying to do better, even if it is with partnerships. It is 100% a step forward. Check out all of their eco-friendly sneakers here.
- Outdoor Voices: I mentioned them above as one of the ethical activewear brands who are doing things right and they also make sustainable shoes. At the time of writing this post, they only had 3 sneaker options, but worth checking out because all 3 options are very stylish and it might just be exactly what you are looking for.
I decided to keep the list short and sweet and only with relatively affordable options (sneakers can be expensive!), because I know it can be a little bit overwhelming. Also keep in mind that I’m not a runner and that’s why I can’t really recommend running shoes. But, even though I know the 3 brands above for their sneakers and gym shoes, they also have a few running shoes options that are worth checking out if you are a runner!
Please consider any of these 3 brands before buying Nikes again! This was a hard change for us because we used to love them, but honestly after trying other brands we don’t miss them at all.
Final thoughts on sustainable sportswear:
First of all, thank you! Thank you so much for making it all the way down here. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, your interest already makes a huge difference.
I hope you learned a little bit about sustainability and ethical activewear. I hope that you’ve found this post useful and save it for when you need to replace any of your workout clothes in the future. Remember you don’t have to go out there and get rid of what you already have and replace it for sustainable options. That’s actually not the smartest choice if you have things that are still in good shape. What’s better for the planet is for us to consume less things (that’s why I have a whole category on capsule wardrobes here on the blog). However, when you do need to buy something, we all can make better choices and not do what I call ‘shop by default’, which is just going straight to the brands you are used to shop at without doing any research. Research is a good thing, and I’m so happy you decided to read this blog post.
If you have any questions, I’m here! Leave a comment or send me a DM via Instagram. I’m always happy to help and reply to any questions you may have. We are all here learning together and trying to be better, so if you have any suggestions I’m all ears! This blog is a two-way street.
I also want to recommend a Netflix documentary, called Seaspiracy. It’s very eye-opening and it inspired us to eliminate seafood from our daily diets (unless it’s caught by us, which never happens LOL). I definitely recommend it, but just know that it’s hard to watch, so brace yourself (But it’s worth it. Education is everything).
Anyways… that was a long goodbye…
Have a great day ahead and thanks again so much for stopping by!!
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Related sustainability blog posts you may also like:
- Ethical clothing brands shopping guide for 2021 (for every budget) – Why support sustainable brands?
- Sustainable living ideas – How to be more eco-friendly every day
- Non-toxic deodorant reviews – I tried and tested these options for months!
- My beauty routine – Favorite ethical skincare brands
- How to create a minimalist wardrobe
- How to build a Summer capsule wardrobe
*I’m working really hard to create a capsule wardrobe for each season, so stay tuned for that too!