If you’re living a plant-based, health-conscious lifestyle, you may want to find the best sustainable shoe brands for your feet.
Maybe you’ve already thought about the materials your shoes are made of. For example, people often begin their sustainable shoe journey by asking questions like “Is all leather vegan?”
Now, you want to dive into wearing truly sustainable shoe brands.
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In general, finding the right sustainable shoes is about deciding on your priorities and finding what works for you. There are no perfect sustainable shoes, but there are brands working hard to improve the industry and are worth supporting.
Each brand takes their own approach towards creating sustainable shoes, and several have their own specific focuses. For example, there are vegan options, wholly natural and plastic-free shoes.
There are also differences in the way the shoes are made, as several brands use the most innovative production techniques and materials while others use traditional artisan materials and methods.
Why are some shoes bad for the environment?
One of the main reasons some shoes are bad for the environment is because they are made from materials that are harmful to product and don’t break down in landfills.
Many manufacturers build shoe soles from plastics and metals. This makes the shoes more shock absorbent and sturdier. However, it may take about 1000 years for some soles to a breakdown in landfills!
Fortunately, there are many forward-thinking shoe brands to combat these practices. Many small manufacturers have begun creating their shoes with more sustainable materials.
Even large, well-known brands like Timberland have begun thinking about sustainability.
To get involved, the company created their Second Chance Program. Once you are done wearing your Timberland footwear, you can send it back, and they will repurpose the materials.
The problem of shoes and fast fashion
Unsustainable footwear is often left out of discussions about fast fashion.
Usually, the focus is on the materials, manufacturing and disposal of garments. However, footwear follows many of these same processes.
Moreover, fashion lovers consume shoes as much as clothes. Like clothing, shoes are produced too cheap by using scarce resources, exploiting and underpaying workers, and applying toxic materials and substances.
Usually, low-quality shoes contain a considerable amount of non-recyclable and contaminating plastic. These are worn only a handful of times before one sends these to the landfill.
For all these reasons, many are now turning to sustainable shoes.
What makes a shoe brand sustainable?
Sustainable shoe brands are thoughtful and accountable for the shoes they create. This involves:
- less pollution and waste
- transparency in the supply chain
- no animal cruelty
- fair labor
Therefore, conscious, intentional, and responsible manufacturing matters a lot.
Additionally, many shoppers look for the company to share values including:
- support for human rights issues
- passion for the environment
- low carbon emissions
- cruelty-free and
- sustainably sourced ingredients
As a shopper for sustainable shoe brands, it’s your choice as to which of these features matters most to you.
Sustainable shoe materials
Several innovative and ethical companies are committed to creating world-class footwear and apparel products. These brands offer great community-based jobs while using sustainable materials.
These brands often manufacture using zero-carbon production methods.
Production waste is minimized by making innovative display units from scratch and other natural materials and reusing the waste in production to repurpose the waste materials into other inputs.
This brings them close to the goal of zero waste effect from shoe production.
Sustainable shoe shopping tips
It can be overwhelming to shop for ethical fashion. It can feel like there are so many different terms to learn. So many different companies to explore.
The following are a few tips:
- Do your own research: for example, you can use a cite like GoodOnYou, to search between thousands of sustainable shopping brands at once.
- Read the labels: When shopping in-person, look for terms like cruelty-free, sustainable and fair trade on the shoe labels.
- Choose high quality: Always try for the high-quality shoes that will last you a long time. This helps you reduce your carbon footprint. For those look to live a zero waste lifestyle, this is an important consideration.
- Choosing leather? Choose wisely: When you shop for leather items, be sure to look into how the animals are treated and how the leather is sourced.
- Go for secondhand: If you’re tight on time and money, you can always simply go for gently used shoe options on sites like Poshmark or Ebay. This way, you may not be getting the perfect sustainable shoe that you want, but you will be keeping shoes out of the garbage.
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Best sustainable shoe brands
Sustainable shoe brands tend to be evergreen, making them a worthwhile investment for anyone’s wallet.
More importantly, when we buy these brands, we are doing something good for our planet. The following are the best sustainable shoe brands that you should check out and feel good about splurging on for your next shoe.
- AllBirds – this company makes sustainable shoes and clothing. They describe themselves as “the most comfortable shoes in the world”
- Everlane – committed to using “no new plastic” and organic cotton in all of their shoes. Their factories also impressively send zero waste to the landfill.
- Nisolo – pays workers ethical wages, are committed to making the company carbon neutral.
- Rothys – repurposes plastic water bottles to create their materials. Uses waste-reducing production methods. Has a recycling program to keep their shoes out of landfills.
- Coclico – uses recycled materials, and makes shoes by hand to reduce carbon emissions. Ensures payment of living wages.
- Veja – uses “upcycling” to turn plastic bottles and other waste into shoe materials. Shoes are made by workers paid living wages in Brazil.
- Fortress of Inca – Ensures fair wages, gender equity, and good conditions for all workers. Handmade in Peru.
- Saucony – Offers vegan options, works to reduce use of new plastic, is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to works towards eco-friendly manufacturing.
Sustainable and/or vegan sneakers
Unfortunately, many sneakers are made from harmful materials like plastics and dyes.
However, there are several brands that are committed to a better way, offering sneakers that are not only fashionable and functional, but are ethically made from eco-friendly materials.
- Biankina – Made from canvas. PETA-approved vegan, cruelty free, glue free. With each purchase, Biankina plants two trees.
- Aldo Rpplclear1a Sustainable Lace-Up Sneaker – Foam insoles made from algae biomass. Upper knit materials made from 100% recycled plastic. Aldo claims their process these sneakers saves the equivalent of 5 plastic water bottles from being put into landfills.
- Sanuk – While not all Sanuk shoes are vegan, they do have a specific list of vegan shoes. Many of their sneakers are made without animal products or byproducts. Many of their shoes also use hemp instead of cotton, so farmers can save water and replant multiple times per year.
- Saucony Originals Men’s Jazz Low Pro Vegan – Made without any leather or other animal products.
The future of sustainable shoe brands
More people become aware of the importance and benefits of living an eco-friendly lifestyle everyday.
As consumers change preferences, shoe companies are gradually catching up to order fashionable and affordable sustainable shoes and vegan shoes.
As companies increase their offerings and consumers become more education, we will likely see even more great options for sustainable footwear in the coming years.