A Guide to Sustainable Footwear Brands

Ensuring sustainability in footwear is so hard as it is made up of so many different materials and components. Footwear is often left out of fast fashion debates, despite the shoe industry being a key and powerful offender for contributing to climate change.  In this guide to sustainable footwear there will be a round-up of the most ethical brands you can buy from. Sustainable footwear incorporates environmentally friendly resource procurement, fair labour wage/conditions and transparent supply chains.

First of all, I want to explain why I enjoy writing about this topic. I have chosen my undergraduate dissertation topic on how supply chains can become more transparent and who is responsible for ensuring this…the companies? Governmental regulations? Or the consumer themselves? I have done extensive reading on lots of different sustainable brands. I have developed an insight into which brands are actually sustainable. Many brands try to target niche audiences through greenwash marketing (tool of exaggerating their sustainability efforts to please consumers). Therefore, you have to dig a little deeper into the companies, look at the core values, their resource procurement methods, their labour conditions and their environmental practices. Such practices include the management of their discarded material, toxic chemicals from production and water consumption.

 

Why are shoes bad for the environment?

To make shoes sturdier, shock absorbent and solid, manufacturers build their soles from a combination of different plastics. When shoes reach the end of their life their soles can take as long as 1,000 years to decompose in landfill. It is estimated that 300 million pairs of shoes end up in landfills each year.

To combat the issues associated with waste produced in the footwear industry an organisation called Soles 4 Souls take unwanted shoes (and clothing) and turn it into positive opportunities and prevent them ending up in landfills. For example, they redistribute shoes to people across the world in need, enabling empowerment and fighting poverty such as starting small reselling businesses. 

Buying sustainable shoes is a simple and easy way to fight fast fashion. Sustainable and vegan shoes are becoming more commonly available and affordable. So here is my guide to the best sustainable footwear brands…

Veja

With sustainably sourced cotton, rubber for the soles, fair trade and a transparent supply chain, they are scoring top marks. With a wide range of styles and colours Veja shoes are comfy, fashionable and scream responsible. The French brand, although transparently sourced and manufactured in Brazil have also set up repair shops to reduce waste, encourage recycling and promote a circular economy. In my experience they last longer than any Adidas Stan Smith or Nike Air Force and automatically brighten up any outfit. The website supplies a detailed picture of just how ethical the shoes are. Only coming into market in 2005, with a no advising policy, they are seen absolutely everywhere and I’m all for it! 

 

All Birds

Based in San Francisco, All Birds are on the rise globally! They have become a trusty favourite for ethical-trainer lovers. They are made from superfine merino wool which uses 60% less energy to make (the average trainer emits 12.5kg of CO2, whereas All Birds only emit 7.6kg and planning to reduce this further).  The laces are made from post-consumer recycled plastic and arrive in recycled cardboard packaging. The diverse range of fashion and exercise shoes are extremely comfy and hit every marker for sustainable criteria. Oh, and they have also just released a gorgeously sustainable apparel line too!

Adidas x Parley

The teaming up of Parley and Adidas to create a sustainable edit that aims to combat the issue that 8 million tons of plastic has end up in the ocean every year. Adidas’ infamous shoes are given a Parley twist manufactured from recycled waste intercepted from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean. The comfiest of high-performance trainers, I use the Ultraboosts for walks, runs and gym excursions (when Boris allows it). A wide variety of collections by Adidas made even better by knowing they are doing good for the communities and ocean life. With an Adidas price tag on them, they are on the expensive side, but they are definitely worth it and last for a long time.

A Day’s March

This one is for the men (unfortunately no ladies collection). The Swedish brand is all about sustainability in a minimalist manner that stand the test of time. The classic colours and stylish shoes are produced in ethically certified factories in Portugal. While they are not vegan, they shoes are made responsibly and have longevity in mind.

Nae

The sustainable shoes for all occasions. Their collection involves heals, biker boots, work shoes, trainers, sandals and more…they have everything! Their beautifully designed shoes are a true testament to vegan, ethical and responsible footwear. They show everyone how it can be done. The Portuguese brand offers stylish alternatives to Highstreet brands. If you are looking for any type of shoes, they will certainly have it, and even better, produce it sustainably.

Everlane

Everlane is setting the perfect example for transparent supply chains. Each item has a detailed description about the manufacturing factory, the process and all the materials. They provide honest real costs and how they price their items, whilst comparing it to other highstreets brands. With strong ethical values Everlane sells fashionable, timeless boots, flats, trainers and heels. From farm to factory, care and empowerment is fundamental and leaves you excited to wear your durable Everlane shoes.

 

Remember the most sustainable item you can own is the one already in your wardrobe, so only buy new shoes when you NEED to and research where you are buying them from. Always look on reselling websites before automatically going to buy them brand new from the brand themselves. Depop is a great way to reduce fashion waste and encourage a circular economy. You can also take your shoes to be repaired at The Restory, a company where you send, drop in or they collect your worn down or broken shoes to be fixed, to get that ‘brand new’ feeling that you would otherwise get through buying a new pair.

Written By Lauren Keller

Comment any sustainable shoe brands you are passionate about.

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