Being completely oblivious to the latest trends and fashions has its benefits. I spend very little money on clothes, happily avoid horrifying changing room mirrors (or at least my reflection in them) and I rarely have to upgrade my clothes and shoes unless 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 venture out and kit myself out with some new garments. This has been true over the last couple of months as I’ve had to transition from flip flop tie dye wearing traveller hippy, to semi professional city dweller as I settle into my new life in Sydney.
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 highly bespoke, beautiful but deadly expensive clogs.
So what is the deal with footwear and vegans anyway? Whats ethical and whats 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 contain animal products. Ethical brownie points can be earned by choosing shoes which are made with more natural fibres, in fair working conditions and aren’t produced in carbon munching mass manufactured 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 – such as rabbits, foxes, cows, snakes, alligators, pigs, sheep, dogs and pretty much all remaining biodiversity of the environments they inhabit. 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. Leather is an especially fruitful side effect of the meat industry and they support each other in a nasty economic friendship.
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 always 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 thinking about buying vegan shoes are:
- Were they manufactured in the country you live in? Think about the miles and carbon footprint they have to travel to get to you.
- Are they made with natural, organic, recycled or synthetic fibres?
- 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. And, though they do still exist, there is far more choice out there now than the hard clunky DM style activist shoes thoughts of vegan shoes might conjure up! In fact, in a list of the 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 as I confessed in my post BOURGEOIS BOHEME: FROM SHOE APATHY TO SHOE PASSION, 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 you to choose the top shoe companies by what matters to you the most. 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
My most recent shoe purchase has been a pair of faux suede boots from Lulus Vegan Shoes and they were great value for money at less than $40. They probably wouldn’t pass all green tests, but for my current situation of being shoeless and poor, I at least felt better knowing they were completely cruelty free.
Where do you buy your shoes from? Can you recommend any great vegan shoe companies?