Thousand Fell Sneaker Review: A Stylish Step in the Right Direction

Is the first fully recyclable sneaker any good? We found out.

September 11, 2023 12:48 pm
A Thousand Fell Lace Up Sneaker on a green background
Thousand Fell's zero-waste initiative is impressive. But are the sneakers any good?
Thousand Fell/Getty Images

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It’s a big wide world of sneakers out there. Gone are the days of checks versus stripes (sorry, Drake). From tiny independent designers making thoughtful kicks to runway designers dabbling in the hype vehicle, the lowly tennis shoe is bigger than ever.

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All of this is to point out that it’s hard to stand out above the sneaker noise. Which is exactly what Thousand Fell, the brand behind the latest pair of kicks to cross my desk, is doing: something monumental, and something new. The DTC-sneaker company, headquartered in NYC with production in Brazil, is promising a first-of-its-kind product, one I can’t claim to have seen before: a small circle of fully-recyclable, zero-waste sneakers with their own recycling program. And, better yet, one that actually looks good, too.

Of course, “the world’s first zero-waste sneaker” is a bold claim to make, and given my healthy skepticism in a time of greenwashing, I took it upon myself to put a pair of Thousand Fell sneakers through their paces.

Thousand Fell Sneakers: At a Glance

Materials: 100% recycled | Sizes: 8-13 | Colors: 10 | Fit: True to size



  • Part of the first zero-waste, fully recyclable sneaker program
  • Plush and comfy insole meets market standards
  • Weather-, water- and stain-resistant coating ensures crisp white sneakers
  • Looks like a designer leather sneaker
  • Occasional durability and breathability questions
  • Squeaks during break-in period
  • Slightly more expensive than competitors

Thousand Fell’s Sustainability Efforts

While a high-quality and wearable product is critical to the success of any sustainable fashion (and these most certainly are, but we’ll get to that), it would be impossible to write a Thousand Fell sneaker review without first acknowledging the sustainability efforts that have gone into this shoe.

Since 2018, Thousands Fell founders Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum have worked to create a 360-degree sustainable company, from family-run factory production in Brazil to zero-waste products to a convenient reprocessing system that refunds you a $20 recycling credit to return your used sneakers — and not just Thousand Fell sneakers, as the DTC brand accepts a variety of competitor labels — and reintroduces the material back into the product cycle.

The brand’s efforts as a closed-loop sneaker marketplace haven’t gone unnoticed: Thousand Fell is an official member of groups like the 1% for the Planet and Textile Exchange. In a fashion industry that produces nearly 92 million tons of textile waste a year, we’re always on the lookout for companies that strive for a cleaner, more sustainable production method, and Thousand Fell is the real deal.

Thousand Fell Lace Up Sneaker on a model
The Thousand Fell Lace Up Sneaker certainly looks the part.
Thousand Fell

The Good: Giant Sustainability Steps, Cushioned Comfort and an Everything-Repellant Finish

To the on-foot Thousand Fell sneaker review. I took the shoes in my standard size 10 and found them a true-to-size fit. Fresh out of the box, the sneaker’s recycled rubber insole, crafted from yoga mats, is noticeably cushy and a touch bouncy, a factor I found quite enjoyable.

The vegan leather upper, which is affixed with similarly compostable coconut, sugarcane and palm detailing, broke in beautifully, with minimal creasing and no blisters. I’ve seen other reviews suggest a total lack of break-in time — this is, in my admittedly limited experience, totally untrue. Expect one to two days of slight discomfort as the shoe shapes to your foot.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Thousand Fell’s Lace Up is actually the resistant coating — made from a bio-based combo of aloe vera and quartz — across the entirety of the shoe. The Lace Up survived a handful of soggy NYC days, a badge of honor not all sneakers can claim, and, despite a disastrous coffee spill, has returned to a crispy white shade after not much more than a paper-towel rubdown.

It’s worth pointing out that Thousand Fell’s Lace Up Sneaker bears a striking resemblance to a certain best-selling style. (One named after a tennis player, perhaps?) Not that I’m mad about that — classics are classics for a reason, and as far as sneaker designs, Thousand Fell is far from the first to reproduce a sleek white leather tennis shoe — and a variety of smaller details, like an embossed tongue logo, matte finish and slightly shorter 21mm outsole, help the sneaker improve on an already solid design. The white tonal matches with virtually everything you could have in your closet. But I’m likewise intrigued by the idea of rocking the all-black pair in a more formal setting.

The Not so Good: Longevity Questions and an Occasional Squeak

I admittedly ran into very few problems in my own wear-testing of Thousand Fell’s sneakers, but I’ll note that, in my research, I clocked a few of the reviews on the website that pointed out issues with durability and breathability after extended use. This sounds like a natural course of wearing shoes (everything breaks down over time), but until I’ve rocked with my pair for a couple more months, I’m hesitant to speak on their shelf life. This issue is semi-mitigated by the aforementioned recycling program, but hey, you should have all the info.

My only other complaint is that, in the Thousand Fell Lace Up’s brief break-in period, the shoes inexplicably squeaked. Audibly. Not the sole, either, but the actual vegan leather upper of the shoe. It was no more than a minor annoyance and has since disappeared, but misophoniacs beware.

The Verdict: Are Thousand Fell Sneakers Worth It?

Despite a slightly elevated price tag and the odd squeaking issue, the Thousand Fell Lace Up sneaker is a serious sustainable alternative to traditional leather sneakers and one that environmentalists and stylists alike can get behind. With a genuinely impressive zero-waste system and a clean look, it’s hard to go wrong with a pair. Try them for yourself below or at Thousand Fell’s webstore.

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