For most people, a good, trusty pair of shoes or sandals is non-negotiable. Our footwear takes us everywhere, and it is only logical to want the best for ourselves—and best also means a pair that is animal-friendly and eco-friendly.
The problem is that many conventional footwear materials are made from animal-based sources. Leather is the perfect example.
Fortunately for us, although leather has long been considered the gold standard for many types of shoes, innovation and technology have led us to a point where viable alternatives now exist.
And with that, we present you with some types of vegan and eco-friendly footwear that are slowly (but surely) climbing the popularity ranks.
Who doesn’t love a good pair of sneakers?
They are easy to put on, super comfortable and stylish with streetwear. For many of us, sneakers are the go-to pair of shoes for everyday errands or quick runs to the store.
Sneakers can be made from various materials, and the most common ones are leather, plastic, synthetics, rubber and canvas. But many of the common materials used to make today’s sneakers are either not vegan-friendly or not that great for the environment.
The good news is that vegan options are cropping up more and more. Even big-name brands are noticing that customers are looking for more eco-friendly shoes and are beginning to release better versions of their products.
You can now buy sneakers made from vegan leather, organic cotton and natural rubber from sustainably sourced trees.
The materials used by manufacturers are getting more creative as well. From coconut husks to recycled polyester, these eco-friendly and sustainable brands are pulling out all the stops to make sure the shoes you wear have as little impact as possible.
Clogs are yet another type of shoe known for their comfort. Traditionally made from wood, modern clogs are now made from suede, leather, rubber, polymers and a handful of other materials.
Previously popular some decades ago in the ’70s, clogs are starting to make a comeback in the world of footwear.
But just like with sneakers, many of the materials used to make clogs today are not vegan or don’t have a good environmental impact. But that doesn’t at all mean you can’t find better options.
Some brands choose to produce completely vegan clogs, opting for materials like vegan leather or suede, microfiber, cork and even recycled felt.
If you’re looking to buy vegan clogs, make sure to also verify that the outers (the lower part of the shoe) are made from sustainably sourced materials (e.g., wood, cork, natural rubber).
Here’s a quick guide on vegan clogs to get you started on your search.
Sandals cover a wide range of possibilities for use. They can be worn for formal events, business functions and even for heavy errand days.
Part of the beauty of multifunctional pieces is that they can be made from so many different materials. And indeed, sandals can be made from a variety of things.
There is no shortage of vegan and eco-friendly sandals on the market; you only need to find suitable materials made by the right sustainable and ethical brands.
Some materials to look out for are vegan leather or suede (plant-based is better), cork and recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate). As always, make sure to buy only from brands that make shoes in the most ethical way possible.
Vegan Dress Shoes
Dress shoes encompass any type of shoe worn to formal or black-tie events. And you probably guessed it: most of them are made from leather.
Dress shoes may not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking of vegan footwear, as dress shoes are very closely associated with leather.
But vegan brands such as Brave Gentleman, which specialize in menswear, are branching out towards more eco-friendly alternatives for conventionally made dress shoes.
The most common material for this type of shoe is vegan leather in its many forms. We would recommend avoiding those made from PVC or cheap PU (polyurethane) as these aren’t eco-friendly at all. Your best choices are plant-based leather (e.g., mushroom, apple, pineapple leather).
If you cannot find those, however, then high-quality PU leather will also do.
Now that we’ve covered comfort and formality, let’s go to shoes for more rugged terrain.
Unsurprisingly, boots are also typically associated with leather. Whether it’s suede or more traditional leather, animal skin has always been the primary material used in boots.
But no longer.
As more consumers realize the disastrous effects of leather production on animals and the environment, they are also looking towards better options.
Today you can find vegan leather boots in reasonable price ranges with quality that does not disappoint.
Understandably, one of the most important aspects of any footwear is durability. Boots made from high-quality vegan leather definitely don’t disappoint when it comes to longevity and holding up to the elements.
Why Conventional Shoes Aren’t Good for the Environment
Now that we’ve talked about some of the more popular vegan shoe types today, we need to understand the importance of choosing eco-friendly shoes in the first place.
To begin, we know that anything we consume has an impact. Whether it’s food, water, clothes, gadgets, cloud storage, etc., all of the things we use in daily life have an environmental consequence.
Leather’s impact on the environment, workers and animals is greater than most.
One of the major points of contention is that leather is an animal product. Unfortunately, most of the animals in the agriculture industry go through plenty of abuse, experiencing terrible living conditions (among many other issues).
But that’s not all. The process of transforming animal skin into leather is also a resource-intensive and environmentally damaging process that could never be called eco-friendly—not to mention all the waste generated during dyeing and tanning!
Tips for Shopping Vegan Shoes
Contrary to what most believe, the primary material isn’t the only consideration when it comes to shopping for vegan and eco-friendly footwear. While the main material may not be animal-based at all, there’s something you might be overlooking: the glue.
Although most companies today use synthetic adhesives, not all of them do, and animal glue certainly isn’t phased out by any means.
For absolute certainty, make sure the pair is labeled vegan. If lacking the appropriate markers, you can try to contact the brand personally.
And as always, wherever you decide to buy, make sure the company operates ethically and takes steps towards being kinder to the environment.
In a world that’s dominated by overconsumption and retail therapy, we know it can be easy to get lost in it all.
Ultimately, even a single pair of shoes can make a difference. And at the end of the day, the goal is to start wearing footwear that has the least impact on our environment and on the people who make our shoes.