The Complete Guide to Sustainable and Stylish Vegan Shoes

The Complete Guide to Sustainable and Stylish Vegan Shoes

On the hunt for sustainable, stylish vegan shoes? Look no further because we’ve got some of the best ethical fashion brands that are rethinking design and putting some vegan sole into modern shoes.

Sustainable Footwear

As awareness of our own impact upon the planet increases, so does the understanding that living kindly extends far beyond the pantry. Ethical purchasing also has a bearing upon what cleaning brands we use, what cosmetics we slather on, and of course, what we wear. In particular, what we wear on our feet.

Although more people have been exploring synthetic wool sweaters and seeking silken alternatives, it is shoes that dominate the vegan fashion industry. According to a 2019 study published by retail technology and data company Edited, shoes account for 73 percent of vegan fashion buys.

Humans started slipping shoes on around 40,000 years ago, according to research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Over the centuries, shoes have featured a variety of materials, from woven papyrus in ancient Egypt to wooden clogs in Holland. But animal leather has been the primary material of choice for feet due to its hard wearing and waterproof qualities. Until now.

The Complete Guide to Sustainable and Stylish Vegan Shoes
In addition to vegan leather, brands are using sustainable materials like bamboo and organic cotton. | Cariuma

The Rise of Vegan Leather

In much the same way that food companies like Beyond Meat have developed plant-based versions of edible animal-products, fashion companies like Veerah, Stella McCartney, and Marks and Spencers are all flying the flag for plant-based leather.

In 2017, business firm Grand View Research predicted that the global faux leather market will hit $85 billion by 2025.  

The number of materials that can be used to replace cowhide is mind-blowing. German brand ZVNDER creates its suede-like leather out of mushrooms. Cruelty-free company Ananas Anam has created its own signature leather, Piñatex, from pineapple leaf fiber. Innovative company Malai crafts its flexible vegan leather out of coconut waste.

Sustainable Materials

These new developments in plant-based leather all rely upon abundant and sustainable raw ingredients. In the case of both Malai and Piñatex, the new industry actually reduces pollution by utilizing products that would otherwise be discarded.

This is in stark contrast to traditional cow leather. According to a 2017 study that looked at the fourteen most common textiles used in fashion, it has the greatest cradle to gate environmental impact. The study showed that cow leather production is especially harmful in terms of eutrophication and water scarcity.

Until these pioneering textile developments, designers almost exclusively made vegan leather from Polyurethane (PU) or Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Both of these rely upon fossil fuels for their polymer coatings. The move towards plant-based fabrics is truly a whole new chapter in vegan clothing. An added bonus is that in the hackneyed desert island scenario, some of these shoes sound delicious.  

23 Eco-Friendly Vegan Shoes

Of course, different shoes suit different occasions. Thanks to new innovations within the fashion world, there is always a vegan shoe that fits. Here are 23 vegan-friendly shoe brands that are as sustainable as they are stylish.

1. Cariuma

The Brasil-based company specialized in “making things in a way that’s better for people and the planet.” In addition to being plant-based and oh-so-comfortable, Cariuma’s vegan shoe collection is sustainably made with materials like bamboo, natural rubber, organic cotton, and sugarcane.

Check it out here.

2. The PANGAIA Sneaker

Lightweight, breathable, and ultra-comfortable, PANGAIA’s vegan sneakers are made from grape leather and industry waste. They feature a recycled rubber sole, natural cotton laces, and are held together by a bio-based water glue.

Check it out here.

3. Vegetarian Shoes 

Established in the 1990s, long before the term “vegan” was being widely used, this company sells an impressive assortment of plant-based boots. From hiking to caribou, combat to action. Most of the company’s products contain PU, but Vegetarian Shoes also uses hemp, Piñatex, and a 70 to 80 percent biodegradable material called Vegetan.

Check it out here.

4. Nae

In addition to being vegan, Nae Vegan Shoes makes its shoes from a number of eco-friendly materials. These include Piñatex, organic cotton, 100 percent sustainable cork, recycled plastic, and vegan leather.

Check it out here.

5. Nike

In February, Nike released a new vegan shoe collection made from recycled trash—including recycled plastic bottles and factory waste. According to Nike, the new “Space Hippie” vegan sneakers have the lowest carbon footprint scores of any shoe created by the brand so far.

Check it out here.

6. Nat-2

Munich-based company Nat-2 offers the latest innovation in plant-based shoes from a sixth-generation shoe designer, Sebastian Thies. Since its launch in 2007, Nat-2 has been making vegan sneakers out of ecologically sourced materials such as coffee grounds and mushrooms. Along with its Funghi and Coffee lines, the company uses recycled cardboard and paper in all its packaging.

Check it out here.

7. Veja

Earlier this year, this luxury shoe brand launched the vegan CAMPO sneaker range, made from corn leather. The company took five years to develop the new leather, which is up to 63 percent biodegradable. In July, the company revealed the launch of new vegan sneakers, called Urca, made from food waste.  

Check it out here.

8. Adidas

Europe’s largest sportswear manufacturer, Adidas, took environmental fashion to the next level last year when it crafted a sports shoe from ocean-salvaged plastic. Each pair of the simple yet stylish sport shoes, complete with woven overlay, contains the equivalent of 12 plastic bottles worth of waste. Adidas created the trendsetting shoe in collaboration with non-profit organization Parley for the Oceans and released 7,000 pairs of the limited-edition sneaker.

Check it out here.

9. Stella McCartney

In 2019, this luxury veggie fashion brand—founded by sustainable designer Stella McCartney, a pioneer of ethical fashion—launched a Beatles-inspired clothing collection featuring vegan sneakers. The brand offers gorgeous evening shoes made from plant-based leather and recyclable materials.

Check it out here.

The Complete Guide to Sustainable and Stylish Vegan Shoes
This sustainable fashion brand launched its own apple-based, vegan leather. | Veerah

10. Veerah

Founded by Stacey Chang in 2016, this sustainable fashion brand specializes in luxury vegan shoes. Adding to the incredible plant-based leathers on the market, Veerah launched its own fabric named Veerah Appeel made of apple skins in 2017.

Check it out here.

11. Sydney Brown

Sydney Brown’s vegan shoes are kind to humans, the animals, and the environment, according to its website. It aims to make sustainable, eco-friendly shoes with a wide range of materials including cork, wood, and rubber. Its website notes, “each component of the shoe is carefully developed to fit with the brand’s ethos, utilizing recycled and sustainable materials. Every season we strive to improve and develop these further.”

Check it out here.

12. Rothys

All of Rothys shoes are made with recycled single-use plastic. According to the brand’s website, since it started three years ago, it has recycled more than 20 million plastic bottles and turned them into sustainable footwear. Styles include The Loafer, The Flat, The Point, and The Sneaker.

Check it out here.

13. Ballūta

Founded by longtime vegan Catarina Pedroso, Ballūta makes shoes out of recycled polyamide in a family-run factory in Portugal. Ballūta believes the future of fashion is “circular.” It is dedicated to developing “trans-seasonal timeless footwear” to combat fast fashion.

Check it out here.

14. Converse

Made with canvas and rubber, many of Converse’s sneakers are vegan-friendly. In 2018, it partnered with vegan musician Miley Cyrus who created a series of collections for the brand. Cyrus launched the Pride Converse collection, donating all net proceeds to organizations that help vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth. In December, the company also partnered with faux fur brand Shrimps, incorporating the vegan material onto the back of each design from the collection.

Check it out here.

15. Von D Shoes

Last year, vegan activist, beauty entrepreneur, and tattoo artist Kat Von D announced the launch of a vegan line of shoes. In addition to being plant-based, some of the collection is made with eco-friendly materials, including mushrooms and apples.

Check it out here.

16. Call It Spring

Quebec-based shoe brand Call It Spring went vegan in March 2019 in response to consumer demand. “[We] noticed a growing demand for vegan footwear, particularly over the last few years as veganism has become increasingly adopted,” states the website. All future collections will be free from animal products going forward. The company also uses sustainable materials like recycled plastic bottles and renewable algae.

Check it out here.

17. Pīferi

After making a name for himself as a lead designer at top fashion brands like Jimmy Choo and Burberry, Alfredo Pīferi is launching his own namesake vegan luxury shoe collection, called Pīferi. The brand features sustainable materials like recycled nylon, polyester, and plastic bottles. The line will be out in October 2020.

Check it out here.

18. Aera

Last year, Dolce & Gabbana North America’s former president Tina Bhojwani launched a new vegan, “110% sustainable” shoe brand called Aera. Together with investor Alvertos Revach and Jean-Michel Cazabat—label-owner and the former head of luxury shoe brands Stephan Kélian and Charles Jourdan—Bhojwani created a “timeless” line of vegan shoes. The company designed its shoes to help shape a new ethical future of fashion.

Check it out here.

19. Elliott Footwear

Last year, Danish footwear brand Elliott Footwear launched the “first-ever climate-friendly sneaker.” The sustainable footwear brand features eco-friendly materials, including recycled canvas, vegan suede, and vegan leather. The company says each pair of its sneakers saves one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Check it out here.

The Complete Guide to Sustainable and Stylish Vegan Shoes
Popular shoe brand Reebok is launching its first-ever plant-based sneaking. | Reebok

20. Reebok

Popular shoe brand Reebok just debuted its first plant-based sneaker: Forever Floatride GROW. Out on October 1, the new shoes are made from BLOOM algae, castor beans, eucalyptus trees, and real rubber trees.

Check it out here.

21. Virón

One of the newest vegan sustainable footwear brands on the market, Paris-based Virón was founded this year by sustainable experts Mats Rombaut and Julian Romer. The company makes its shoes from PETA-certified vegan or upcycled materials. In lieu of petrol-based PVC materials, Virón creates its leathers from apple and corn waste.

Check it out here.

22. Insecta

Brazilian-based brand Insecta creates handcrafted eco-friendly, vegan footwear out of recycled materials. These include plastic bottles, cotton, reclaimed rubber, and leftover materials from the fashion industry.

Check it out here.

23. On

Swiss brand On’s running shoes make you feel like you’re “running on clouds.” The brand is working to phase out virgin materials. Instead, it will use 100 percent recycled polyester and polyamide to make its sneakers. Tennis pro Roger Federer, an investor, recently launched a collaboration with the company. Together, Federer and On created a sleek, white unisex vegan leather design called “The Roger.”

Check it out here.

LIVEKINDLY is here to help you navigate the growing marketplace of sustainable products that promote a kinder planet. All of our selections are curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, LIVEKINDLY may earn a commission.