Say No To Leather But Don't Give Up On Style
Try Vegan Shoes

Vegan shoes have come a long way. Today you might see non-leather shoes designed by well known designers in your favorite fashion magazines. New manmade materials are being used to create styles we all can love.

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.

vegan shoes sun image

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

  • Naugahyde, a brand name of pleather, combine textiles and polyurethane to create a leather like material which after years of improvement are found to be lighter, warmer, less restrictive, water resistant and easy to clean and according to their website it can be produced with an environmentally friendly top coat. They also do not use solvent or ozone depleting chemicals

  • Lorica also uses a fabric coated with polyurethane.

  • Faux suede or suedette are synthetic suede cloth that is soft and breathable.

  • Microfibers are a lightweight woven polyester and polyurethane that are water repellent

  • Ultrasuede combines a plastic polymer with micro fibers to create a durable, washable, breathable, lightweight fabric.

  • Birkiflor is a synthetic shoe upper created by Brikenstock. It is a combination of acrylic and polymer felt fibers that create a smooth leather like finish that is waterproof and breathable.

  • Vegetarian Shoes uses a product called Vegetan. Available as Vegetan Active, Bucky and Micro, it is a combination of polyurethane and cotton that is tough, hard wearing, lightweight and breathable material.

  • MELISSA has developed a recyclable plastic called Melflex that has flexibility for comfort.

  • 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.

    Some women complain that synthetic leather shoes are hot and the material doesn't breathe. Personally, I have not had a problem with this. I have found that when I buy well made, good quality shoes that I have fewer problems all around.

    Something Else To Think About When Shopping

    olsenHaus flat If 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 Shoes

    vegan ballet shoes One 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 Search

    Madden Girl Boot Probably 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 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.

  • Alternative Outfitters
  • Alternative Outfitters One of the best resources for all things vegan. They offer a very large selection of fashionable vegan shoes for men and women at affordable prices. Some styles are made from eco friendly materials and they work with their suppliers to try and assure fair labor standards are followed.

  • Vegetarian Shoes
  • Vegetarian Shoes This British site is a favorite with vegan shoppers. Here you will find styles for men and women from current fashions to the harder to find vegan work boots. Their shoes are made to order specifically for them according to their specifications using the most environmentally friendly materials as possible and following fair labor standards.

  • MELISSA 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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