Being completely oblivious to the latest fashion trends has its benefits. I spend very little money on clothes, happily avoid changing-room mirrors and I only have to upgrade my clothes and shoes when they are literally falling apart. Win win!
I usually take the zero-waste approach to clothing and either do swapsies with my friends or buy in charity and second-hand stores, but every now and then I have to kit myself out with some new attire.
Shoes in particular have been on my mind of late and – as anyone who has ever tried to navigate the world of ethical clothing will know – there is usually the choice between stereotypical ugly clunky vegan footwear or bespoke, beautiful but deadly expensive clogs.
So what is the deal with footwear and vegans anyway? What’s ethical and what’s not? and more importantly, where on Earth can you get some decent vegan footwear at a reasonable cost?!! Fear not my lovelies, I may have a couple of answers…
Why Vegan Shoes?
For those new to vegan/vegetarian/ethical footwear, you basically want to avoid anything which contains animal products. Ethical brownie points for choosing shoes made with natural fibers, in fair working conditions that aren’t produced in carbon-munching mass production factories.
The use of leather, wool, silk, snake skin, feather, suede and fur in clothing is a brutal, cruel and unnecessary process, which painfully tortures innocent animals. Animals are caught in traps, caged in inhumane cramped cells, often skinned alive and treated as mere commodities to be stripped of their skin and fur and then discarded.
But it’s not all about the animals. According to PETA: “Animal skin is turned into finished leather through the use of dangerous mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, cyanide-based oils and dyes, chrome, and other toxins. People who have worked in and lived near tanneries are dying of cancer caused by exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye the leather. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a solvent used in tanning leather appears to be associated with an increased risk of testicular cancer.”
Vegan shoes don’t always mean ethical shoes
As one of my readers recently pointed out “vegan doesn’t mean green or ethical“. It’s true that in our haste to buy something which bears the word ‘vegan’, we often miss the bigger picture of it’s true green credentials. I am the first to admit that being green isn’t a straight forward process, it’s a delicate art of balancing ethics and ideals; there isn’t one clean cut answer to anything.
A few questions you can ask yourself when buying vegan shoes :
- Were they manufactured in the country you live in? Think about the carbon footprint they create when they travel to get to you.
- Are they made with natural, organic, recycled or synthetic fibers?
- What is the producer’s policy on waste reduction, Fairtrade, fair work conditions and carbon offsetting? Not every company will publish this but a quick call to their HQ might give you a few answers.
- Will they last? One way to avoid consumerism and waste is to spend a little more on something that will last for years to come. Don’t get too caught up with changing trends and fashion – it’ll pay in the long run for your wallet and the planet!
Where to buy Vegan Shoes
Buying vegan shoes isn’t as hard or as expensive as you might think. In fact, in a list of Vegan Approved Brands, you’ll find familiar names such as Adidas, Birkenstock, Converse, Sketchers and Dragonfly.
Of the brands who offer the best choice of Vegan footwear, my favs are:
But some of the most wonderful vegan shoes come with a hefty price tag for us thrifty green beans.
So to make it simple for you lovelies, I’ve created a little mini ‘Vegan Shoe Awards’ for the top shoe companies. By no means is this a comprehensive list. You’re talking to a unfashionable, apathetic shoe purchaser after all!
Vegan Shoe Awards
For Green Street Cred: Vegan Wares
For Affordability: Lulus Vegan Shoes
For Simplicity: Vegetarian Shoes
For Durability: Vegan Style
For Pure Beauty: Beyond Skin
Where do you buy your shoes from? Can you recommend any great vegan shoe companies?