New shoes are one of my favorite things in this world. As a fashion blogger, I’m faced with the unique challenge of encouraging people to purchase new accessories, which gives me a lot of power to influence behavior away from mass consumption and fast fashion to ethical brands and investment pieces. Style isn’t the ability to buy, but the privilege of choosing what you want. We all have the power to lessen our impact on the environment with every dollar we spend. Buying from sustainable brands is one of the most important tools you have as a consumer.
When it comes to new shoes, it’s important to shop carefully. From sweatshop scandals to carbon pollution, many mainstream consumer brands aren’t exactly ethical. Luckily, there is a growing number of brands that create fashion-forward designs that are good for your soul and your soles.
Image source: Everlane
What makes a brand sustainable or ethical?
Less waste and pollution, no animal cruelty, transparency in the supply chain, and fair labor. Ethical brands are thoughtful and accountability for the products they create. Conscious, intentional, and responsible manufacturing matters. When I’m shopping, I look for brands that have values that align with mine: passionate about the environment, human rights, low/no carbon emissions, cruelty-free, and sustainably sourced.
To learn more, Good On You has put together a helpful article explaining what makes a brand ethical.
Sustainable shopping tips
Shopping for ethical fashion can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips:
- Do your research! Good On You reports on the ethics of fashion brands and DoneGood is a search engine for ethical brands.
- Look for transparency in the supply chain.
- Look for labels that say sustainable, cruelty-free, or fair trade.
- Look for high-quality shoes that will last you a long time.
- When shopping for leather items, look for information about how the leather is sourced and how the animals are treated.
- Buy secondhand instead of new when possible.
The Best Ethical and Sustainable Shoe Brands
AllBirds claims to be the world’s most comfortable shoes, so I’m sold. Made with natural materials like merino wool, eucalyptus tree fiber, and sugar cane, AllBirds most popular shoes are their Runners. Joanna’s favorite travel shoes? Her lightweight AllBirds Runners. When she was in Italy over summer, she kept texting me how incredible it was that her feet didn’t smell.
Every item from Everlane is sustainably and ethically-made. Everlane believes you should know the factories and the true cost of the item you’re buying—so they provide 100% transparency with all of their products, including how much the product cost to make and exactly where they’re made. Everlane recently launched a line of 100% carbon neutral leather trainers called Tread that boast 54% less virgin plastic. Everlane’s tagline? “Designed to be worn every day—and actually made to last.” The hardest part is not buying their entire line of shoes.
Nisolo’s philosophy about fashion is refreshing; according to their founder, Patrick Woodyard, Nisolo aims to create products responsibly. The goal is for customers to know who makes their products and where. Fair-trade artisans in Peru or Mexico make Nisolo’s handmade leather goods. Their shoes are truly high quality, especially for the price. Nisolo’s Smoking Shoe is my go-to shoe for warmer days; made in Peru with the most comfortable cushioned leather insoles. I have their Chelsea Boots in my cart for our rainy winter.
Made from repurposed water bottles, carbon-free rubber, or sustainably-sourced wool in Rothys owned and operated sustainable workshop, Rothys are usually known as those shoes from Instagram. It takes one look at their reviews to know the price is worth it. I really love their pointed toe flats and look forward to adding them to my wardrobe. Rothys shoes are machine-washable to prolong wear.
Coclico materials are sourced near their small, family-run factory in Mallorca, Spain. Designed in their New York City headquarters, they strive for the highest standards of ethical and environmental responsibility. I’m currently eyeing their luxurious-looking Padu Flats.
Veja is one of the leading shoe brands in environmental and ethical production. Using raw materials sourced from organic farming and upcycled plastic bottles, their sneakers are stylish and ethical. Fashion sneakers are all the rage right now, so I’ll likely add their ultra-wearable low-top sneakers.
Fortress of Inca
Fortress of Inca partners with best leather shoemakers in the world to craft shoes using natural materials and responsible production practices. Part of their charm, along with fair-trade business practices, is to create shoes that are versatile with classic silhouettes so they stay in style forever.
And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out my list of the best ethical handbag brands to shop. You know, to go with your new shoes!