Say No To Leather But Don't Give Up On Style
Leather has been the material of choice for shoes because of it's durability, flexibility and breathe-ability but now vegan materials have been developed that rival it's look and feel. You can enjoy animal friendly options for every shoe need for the whole family from dressy to casual from athletic to work.
If you ever bought a pair of shoes made with leather-like materials that were stiff, uncomfortable and hot you may have come away with a bad feeling about these types of shoes. It has taken awhile but new composite resins have been developed that have created vegan shoes with a softer feel, flexibility and comfort. So much so that that larger companies like Skechers, Life Stride, Birkenstock, Adidas and New Balance now offer non-leather or vegan shoes.
It also helps when designers like Stella McCartney include vegetarian shoes in their collections. With the rise of celebrities who are vegan and wanting great animal friendly shoes we are seeing a greater interest in designs to meet the need. Some of them like Natalie Portman and Jessica Simpson have created shoes using manmade materials.
Are Manmade Materials an Eco Friendly Choice?
Perhaps you've wondered how earth friendly synthetic leather could be after all manmade materials often are not eco friendly but there are some promising improvements being made. New processing of some synthetic materials is helping to make them a little more environmentally friendly and biodegradable.
Keep in mind that leather, although a natural material, is hardly eco friendly. Many toxic chemicals are used to preserve and dye it and once all these chemicals are added it is no longer biodegradable.
There is much debate about the environmental problems when working with either leather or vegan shoes. Perhaps you will find this blog article written for Ecoterre by Elizabeth Olsen owner of Olsenhaus (mentioned below) to be interesting.
Materials Used To Make Vegan Shoes
As you can see most of the leather like materials use a combination of fabric with plastic or polyurethane. Some companies like the last three mentioned above create their own materials.
Not all vegan shoes are made of synthetic leather. Other manmade and natural alternatives are available like cotton, hemp, cork, wood, faux fur, brocades, linen, vinyl and plastic. They help provide a little variety and fun.
Something Else To Think About When ShoppingIf you shop for shoes in discount or department stores you may not know that they according to the The Better World Shopping Guide discount and department store brands get a grade of F. According to the guide this grade means: "This category is reserved for companies that are actively participating in the rapid destruction of the planet and the exploitation of human beings. Avoid these products at all costs."
The concern here is that these companies manufacture products in countries where concern for human welfare and the environment are not a high priority. There are real issues with sweatshop conditions that men, women and even children must endure in order to manufacture shoes and not just vegan shoes but any shoes.
You can make a difference by seeking out shoes made by companies like olsenHaus, shown above and others mentioned below where concern for people and environment is as important as making money.
Vegan Ballet ShoesOne person making a difference in an area that seems to be have been overlooked is Cynthia King, a dancer and choreographer and the director of Cynthia King Dance Studio in Brooklyn, New York. She is also a dedicated animal welfare advocate and has created the only 100% vegan ballet slipper available worldwide.
Now, I don't know anything about ballet shoes but someone who is a dancer herself would have high expectations about fit and comfort. Her 100% Vegan Soft Canvas Shoes are receiving good reviews. Check out Cynthia King Ballet Shoes.
Places to Start Your Shoe SearchProbably the best selections for vegan shoes can be found on the Internet. Endless Shoes and Handbags carries a large selection of vegetarian shoes for the whole family.
Here you can find some shoes made by companies that are concerned with being sweatshop free and as eco friendly as possible. If you know in advance which shoe companies you would like to buy from it's simple to do a search to see what's available. Shopping for something like shoes in particular is so much easier with larger online store like Endless.com. They can offer so much more like free shipping both ways which is so helpful when it comes to finding the right size and fit, frequent sales and discounts and a price guarantee.
Also check out the vegan shoe collections from the companies below.
These companies have made a conscious choice to try and provide animal friendly and sweatshop free products.
I use the word try because unless a company personally inspects shoe factories they have to rely on the honesty of their suppliers and manufacturers to live up to their commitments to providing sweatshop free shoes.
This Brazilian company creates sexy designer shoes made from recyclable plastic. They received many positive reviews for comfort which I think would be a big concern and they addressed the problem of sweaty feet from the plastic with tiny air holes for ventilation. Socially and environmentally responsible this company pays above Fair Trade standards, uses recycled plastic in manufacturing and recycles most of the plastic and water used during production.
The flat shown has been flocked which gives a softer fabric look to the traditional plastic. Check out the selections available from tobi.
If you are thinking of switching to non leather shoes don't get rid of the leather shoes you already own. Don't waste them keep wearing them. If don't want them anymore and they are still wearable donate them. Phase the leather out little by little and the next pair of cute shoes you buy could be vegan shoes. Sounds like a plan.
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