Perhaps the most daunting task when veganizing your wardrobe is finding vegan shoes. With all of the ads for leather and suede shoes, it’s easy to assume that finding quality, eco-friendly, vegan alternatives would be challenging. Actually, with a little bit of research (don’t worry the extent of research required pretty much stops at Google), it’s pretty easy to find vegan shoes that look absolutely fabulous.
Take a Look at Your Shoe Collection
Odds are some of the shoes you already own are probably vegan. Those great Converse, those cute Melissa gel sandals and those edgy Madden Girl boots are all vegan. Some of the TOMS shoes are also vegan. It’s worth it to look inside your shoes to find out what they are made of. If it’s not written, you can find the legend fairly easily online.
Don’t Be Afraid to Enquire
Whether you’re shopping in a physical store or an online one, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Here’s a list of the questions you should have answers to before you buy a new pair of shoes.
- What is the shoe made of? Is the sole synthetic or leather? (This is particularly important as many lesser quality synthetic shoes often have leather soles)
- Which type of glue was used in the production of the shoe? Is it water-based?
- Where were they made? Were they produced by local artisans or in a EU country (which has fair labor laws)? If they were made in a country which promotes the exploitation of workers, you probably want to avoid buying them.
- What is the impact of the production of the shoes for the environment? Is the brand committed to being eco-friendly?
Avoid the Usual Suspects (and the Not so Usual Ones)
- Glues that either contain animal parts (such as horse hooves) or were tested on animals.
- Leather soles.
If there is no vegan shoe store in your area, fear not, most high street fashion stores offer vegan alternatives. Stores like Zara, H&M, and ASOS offer shoes that follow the latest trend and are made from synthetic materials. Since they also sell leather products, you might want to pay special attention to the labels. The brand Steve Madden, which has stores in most major cities, has a line called “Madden Girl” which is composed of shoes that are entirely man-made, some of this brand’s other lines also have man-made alternatives. Aldo is another major shoe retailer that offers man-made shoes. Again looking at the labels is a must.
Know the Top Brands
Lucky for us vegans and animal-lovers, more and more vegan shoe brands are emerging and creating shoes that very easily surpass their animal-made counterparts. Here is a
short not-so-short list of my personal favorites.
Novacas: Made in Portugal, Novacas (which mean no cow in Portuguese and Spanish) makes amazing shoes that are eco-friendly and PVC free. All the shoes fit well, last forever and the styles are classic with a contemporary twist, which means they won’t be out of style next season.
Cri de Coeur: This company makes luxury footwear at high street prices. Cri de Coeur’s designs always follow the latest fashion and are eco-friendly. What’s not to love?
Beyond Skin: Established in London in 2001, Beyond Skin was at the forefront of the creation of vegan shoes. The designs are chic and a little vintage (which I absolutely love). Natalie Portman is also a big fan of this brand.
Olsen Haus: For your absolutely fabulous vegan shoe needs. Olsen Haus creates glamorous designs that will have you exclaiming “They’re vegan!” when people stop you on the street to compliment your footwear.
Wills: A fairly new company from London, Wills offers quality vegan footwear at high street prices. This company also pays its workers according to the European Union standards, making it animal- and human-friendly.
Nicora Johns: This American company promotes the talent of American artisan shoe-makers. All the shoes are man-made, eco-friendly, socially-conscious, and vegan. They also make custom shoes (which is great if your looking for that one of a kind pair of shoes).
Krze Studio: Based in Los Angeles, Krze Studio offers classic footwear with an edge. If you’re looking for an edgy pair of stilettos, this is your go-to brand.
Bourgeois Boheme: Made of high quality Italian faux leathers and eco-friendly materials, Bourgeois Boheme’s shoes are stylish and comfortable. Their recently launched collection is trendy and mixes in the company’s logo, the lotus flower.
Stella McCartney: A vegan’s ultimate dream! Stella makes the most stylish shoes. Unfortunately, they tend to be high on the price scale, but they can always be an investment piece (which is exactly how I plan to justify this purchase).
Don’t be Afraid to Shop Online
Sure, it seems scary to order shoes online without trying them on first, but most companies actually have very flexible return policies. Size guides are also available from most brands and once you’ve purchased from a brand, you can be pretty sure that other shoes from the same company will fit the same way. Another option is to try on the shoes in a brick and mortar store and then order them online. If there is no vegan shoe store in your area, your best option might just be to order online. Here’s a list of online vegan shoe stores, you can also order online from the companies mentioned above.
Quality over Quantity
It’s very tempting to buy several pairs of inexpensive shoes, but down the line it might actually be more expensive than buying shoes of higher quality. If your inexpensive shoes are broken after only a few times wearing them and you need to buy new ones, it will be more expensive than spending a bit more on quality shoes that will last you a long time. My advice: buy good quality classic pieces that every woman needs in her closet, such as black pumps, knee-high boots, nude colored strappy sandals, and limit the inexpensive shoes to trends that will last only one season. That way, you have good quality classic shoes that you can wear everyday, and some that follow the seasonal trends and that you won’t regret having splurged on if they go out of style.
For more tips on how to veganize your wardrobe, check out my previous post here. You should also look at Vilda’s article “Creating the Ultimate Vegan Shoe Wardrobe” and their new piece “10 Chic Flats with a Comfy Twist” to get some inspiration for your shoe collection.