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Green Is The New Black

Taking Greener Steps: A Guide To Conscious & Sustainable Shoes

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sustainable shoes

Considering we never leave home without ‘em, shoes are one of the most important items in our wardrobe. We require them to work hard, live long, and feel good – on our tootsies and for our planet, which is no easy feat (or should we say feet…). Luckily, as we shift towards a higher level of awareness and conscious consumption, sustainable shoes abound.

Today, there are plenty of Earth-friendly options for every type of shoe, from beach slide to boot, and beyond. But if the thought of trawling through pages of Google to find the sustainable shoes of your dreams gives you a headache, fear not. We’ve compiled a guide to awesome footwear brands that are doing their part for the future and our feet.

 

Nisolo

Ethics: Fair labour, deforestation protection, Certified B corporation, transparent

Collections: Womens, mens

Origins: Made in Peru. Based in USA.

Nisolo makes leather shoes you’ve always wanted. Think sturdy woven mules and summery huarache sandals. They also care about the people they work with and the environment around them. They use Leather Working Group Certified Leather, meaning the material has completed an LWG environmental audit. They’ve also partnered with Ecosphere+ to offset their carbon emissions and protect the threatened areas of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest while creating sustainable livelihoods for its indigenous communities.

Shop here

Ahimsa

Ethics: Vegan, natural materials, transparent

Collections: Womens, mens, unisex

Origins: Made and based in Brazil

With the only 100% vegan shoe factory in the world (having refused to work with third parties who didn’t share their beliefs), Ahimsa is a leader in the animal-free footwear game. The brand offers a whole array of shoe types, from mules to trainers, many of them made from cotton and recycled PET. Ahimsa also has its own vegan leather, which is made from PU – a material that is becoming more and more sustainable and has recently been found to be biodegradable under the right conditions.

Shop here

 

Veja

Ethics: Fairtrade, recycled materials, vegan options, natural materials

Collections: Womens, mens, kids, vegan

Origins: Made in Peru and Brazil. Based in France.

Excitingly, it seems you can’t walk down the street these days without seeing a pair of Vejas. The French brand is everywhere – and for good reason. In refusing to choose between good design and social responsibility, it has been able to create timeless, modern trainers that respect the environment. The company purchases its organic cotton directly from farmer associations in Brazil and Peru (with a price agreed upon in advance with the farming families) and uses recycled materials such as PET and C.W.L, the latter of which is made from corn. It’s also super transparent – you can read about every area of its business on its website.

Shop here

 

Toms

Ethics: Natural materials, recycled materials, vegan options, fair labour, Certified B Corporation, grassroots funding, eco-friendly packaging, transparent

Collections: Womens, mens

Origins: Made in China, Argentina, and Kenya. Based in USA.

Super-brand Toms (known for its classic alpargata and its initial ‘one for one’ goal of providing a new pair to young Argentinians for every pair sold) is earth-friendly in myriad ways: it uses natural dyes and materials (from TENCEL to recycled rubber insoles), sources 100% of its packaging from sustainably managed forests (and ensures that a big chunk of packaging is made from recycled materials), invests a third of its profits into grassroots organisations, among many other things. It’s also super transparent about what it does and what it aims to do in terms of sustainability. Even better, Toms’ product line has evolved to now include wedges, trainers, flats, heels, boots, and dress shoes.

Shop here

 

Post Sole Studio

Ethics: Made to order, deadstock materials, vegan options, female-founded, repairs and circulation

Collections: Womens

Origins: Made and based in Australia

Post Sole Studio (P.S.S) is the queen of chill-with-a-twist sandals. While the Melbourne-based brand offers other types of footwear, it really shines in the sandal department; see exhibit A: smart leather slip-on mules with sporty black laces and a hand-carved wooden heel. The brand, run by two women, Breeze and Myra, also offers a black vegan option for every.single.shoe. P.S.S works on a made-to-order basis, sources materials locally (that includes materials from elsewhere that have ended up in Australia, headed for landfill), and offers repairs to prolong the life of its shoes. The brand also donates leather scraps to schools and craftspeople.

Shop here

 

Wills Vegan Shoes

Ethics: Vegan, fair labour, natural materials

Collections: Womens, mens, kids

Origins: Made in Portugal and Italy. Based in UK.

British-born company Wills Vegan is the go-to place for a solid pair of vegan leather shoes. The PETA-approved brand offers just about every kind of shoe (as well as clothing), including heavy-duty dock boots. Its vegan leather is created with bio oil sourced from organic cereal crops, and it also uses Ecolabel vegan leathers and suedes that meet OEKO-TEX 100 and REACH regulations. Perhaps in a nod to British weather, all of their leathers and suedes can withstand rain and slush. All of their items are made in Italy and Portugal under EU employment, discrimination, and health and safety laws.

Shop here

 

 

CANO

Ethics: Natural materials, recycled materials, fair labour, transparent, eco-friendly packaging

Collections: Womens, mens

Origins: Made in Mexico. Based in Germany.

Combining ancient Mexican craftsmanship with environmentally-friendly production, CANO offers beautiful handmade huaraches and boots for everyday wear. The brand uses vegetable-tanned leather (which is a by-product of the meat industry, and Leather Working Group-certified), natural rubber, and upcycled tyre soles. Every item is made in small family-owned workshops and the artisans receive fair wages, a safe work environment, and an improved living standard. The brand, which is on its way to becoming Climate Neutral Certified, sends all leather scraps to a fashion university in Italy but aims to eliminate waste completely. Additionally, CANO allows customers to view the journey of their purchase from the raw material sourcing to the creation.

Shop here

 

Bhava

Ethics: Vegan, fair labour, natural materials, recycled materials

Collections: Womens

Origins: Made in Spain and Mumbai. Based in USA.

From winter boots to summer clogs and all feminine footwear in between (we’re talking boot uppers, for taking those chill ankle boots to sassy knee-highs), Bhava is all about vegan footwear for women. The company is big on finding natural materials that aren’t derived from animals, including cotton, wood, and cork. Each shoe is handcrafted by artisans in Spain and India and has a repairable sole.

Shop here

 

Indosole

Ethics: Recycled materials, vegan, zero waste, Certified B Corporation, fair labour, transparent

Collections: Womens, mens

Origins: Made in Indonesia. Based in USA.

For those of you who live in tropical climes or simply hate sweaty feet, there’s Indosole. Its slides are made from raw tyres, an idea inspired by the devastating fact that over one billion waste tyres end up in landfills each year – and it’s nearly impossible for tyres to decompose. For this reason, Indosole aims to use the whole tyre; the soles of its slides and flipflops are 100 per cent recycled tyre mixed with 40 per cent recycled EVA and calcium deposits, while the straps are re enviro fibre – a material made without water. They’re also waterproof and have arch support and sturdy, grip-tastic soles so can be worn beyond the beach.

Shop here

 

NAE

Ethics: Vegan, recycled materials, natural materials, fair labour

Collections: Womens, mens, unisex

Origins: Made and based in Portugal.

NAE, which stands for No Animal Exploitation, is on a mission to look after the environment and everything that lives in it. The brand manufactures its shoes in certified and ethical factories in Portugal, and all items are made using OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Certified microfibre, manufactured in a CO2-emission-free zone. NAE’s shoe range, which includes velvet boots (!) and sleek trainers, uses recycled, sustainable, and natural materials such as cork, recycled PET, Pinatex (fibre from pineapple leaves!), vegan leather, and organic cotton.

Shop here

 

Rothy’s

Ethics: Recycled materials, vegan, eco-friendly packaging, eco-friendly technology

Collections: Womens, kids

Origins: Made in China. Based in USA.

Rothy’s brings something totally different to the sustainable shoe arena. The US brand makes 3D knit shoes using recycled plastic bottles (over 76 million so far!). The bottles are washed, sterilized, and fused into a fibre that is knitted into yarn, in their fully owned and operated factories in China. The 3D process knits to the exact size of each pair and doesn’t require cutting, meaning no waste and no hard edges to give you blisters. The cult flat shoes, which come in a variety of colours, patterns, and shapes, are also machine-washable and moisture-wicking and have recycled foam insoles, carbon-free rubber soles, and non-toxic, vegan adhesives. Even better, they come in biodegradable packaging made from recycled materials.

Shop here

 

Sylven New York

Ethics: Sustainable materials, recycled materials, vegan options, fair labour, fairtrade, repairs and circulation, eco-friendly packaging, female-founded

Collections: Womens, vegan

Origins: Made in Italy. Based in USA.

Did someone say ‘luxe sustainable footwear’? Sylven New York is for the chic sisters who want fancy footwear that doesn’t cost the earth. From vegan apple leather and barley lining to vegetable-tanned leather and metal hardware from fairtrade Kenyan artisans, the New York brand prides itself on seeking out innovative and responsible materials and processes for its shoes, which are made in ethically certified factories. Sylven New York is also hot on the longevity of its items, offering repairs and supporting re-use culture through its Reboot vault, which offers lightly-worn products. The company also works with TerraCycle to ensure that all un-reusable parts of the shoes are recycled properly.

Shop here

 

AVRE

Ethics: Recycled materials, eco-friendly technology, female-founded

Collections: Womens

Origins: Made and based in USA

A brand championing empowered women, AVRE has your everyday movement needs covered. The female-run brand utilises recycled plastic bottles and 3D knit technology to create low-waste, precisely sized trainers. Their kicks come in a variety of colours and styles, whether you’re a morning runner, a lunchtime stroller, or an any-day shopper. Thanks to the material and technology, the trainers are moisture wicking, flexible, durable, and washable. Oh, and the brand has received rave reviews about the comfort and support its trainers give.

Shop here

 

Wildling

Ethics: Natural materials

Collections: Womens, mens, kids

Origins: Made and based in Germany

Wildling want to help us care for our feet. Thanks to the lure of cheap, fashionable, ill-fitting shoes, many of us have relatively poor foot health (in fact, research shows that of the almost 100 per cent of babies born with healthy feet, only 20 per cent maintain their foot health into adulthood). Wildling shoes are lightweight, so you have close contact with the ground, and have a slim, split sole inspired by Japanese ninja boots, which protect feet as well as provide flexibility. The shoes are made using natural materials, such as hemp, cork, linen, washi, and organic cotton and are dyed using natural pigments. For those seeking extra warmth in their footwear, the brand uses wool from certified organic livestock and landscape conservation projects, as well as pre-treats the shoes with an eco-friendly spray.

Shop here

 

 

Christy Dawn

Ethics: Recycled materials, deadstock fabrics, carbon-neutral shipping, female-founded

Collections: Womens

Origins: Made in USA and India. Based in USA.

Ah, Christy Dawn, maker of sustainable countryside dresses perfect for wandering fields and living out our farmhouse dreams. But it’s not just clothing the brand creates; it also makes shoes. Its boots in particular are the perfect addition to its countryside aesthetic. We’re liking these lace-up numbers, which are made from untreated, deadstock leather. While the clothing is made in both India and USA, their boots are made at their home in Los Angeles. The brand has partners to help it redistribute the emissions it creates when shipping its wares, and offers customers the option of making their shipments carbon positive, meaning that a small donation goes towards renewable energy, clean water, or forestry project – all of which are certified greenhouse gas offsets.

Shop here

 

If you enjoyed this sustainable shoe guide, check out our vegan sneaker guide here

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Sarah is a British-Chinese journalist. She has been writing for magazines, newspapers, and websites for the last nine years, first in London and as of 2016, in Hong Kong. As well as working in journalism, Sarah also runs her own editing business, proofreading for academics, small businesses, and NGOs. An avid fan of the planet, she’s eager to champion brands doing their bit and be a part of the bigger conservation conversation. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, consuming very British quantities of tea and (vegan) biscuits, and befriending the local dogs on the small island she calls home.

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