Vegan shoes are the new vogue. To be considered vegan, the shoes must be made with no animal-derived products in any part of the process, including adhesives. That means leather, silk, wool and fur are out, replaced by innovative synthetic alternatives. Many brands make their uppers from high-grade polyurethane (PU), faux leather (Pleather) made from high quality plastic materials, is much cheaper than real animal leather. Originally PU was used for glossy upper of shoes. PU also uses less chemicals in the production processes than its more toxic non-leather predecessor, Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Other materials include Piñatex®, made from pineapple leaf fibres, cork and MuSkin, a “vegetable leather” made from mushrooms or other options made from recycled plastics.
Vegan brands attempt to minimise the energy used in their production processes and cut down on waste and pollution as the tanning and dying of leather usually requires toxic chemicals. Some companies are all-vegan brands, whilst others have a vegan range within a wider collection. The range of vegan footwear ranges from everyday trainers and practical boots and brogues, to red carpet-ready heels and sandals. Many established companies like Hugo Boss, include vegan alternatives or lab-grown leather, while consequently moving away from the conventional reliance on animal products.
For many years Matt & Nat (MAT(T)ERIAL and NATURE) has been been experimenting with different recycled materials such as recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber and cork, in their commitment to not include leather or any other animal-based materials in their designs. They use linings only made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles and recycled bicycle tires. Matt & Nat collections can now be found in boutiques across Canada, the United States, the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia.
Sydney Brown also prefers to use as little plastic as possible, and has been working biodegradable stilettos which he hopes to release later this summer.
Natalie Portman, demonstrated the sturdiness of the design when she wore a pair on a Saturday Night and was seen jumping up and down. Brown admits his biodegrable shoes will eventually break down, but degrading shoes would not be a concern of the wearer throughout its usable lifespan.
Toms has a large selection of vegan designs for adults and kids, including the Lenas with a cotton upper and rubber sole. Toms donate a new pair of shoes to children living in poverty for every pair of shoes purchased.
Ethically conscious , Will’s aces of London produce a range of vegan shoes and use processes which are whereever possible, carbon neutral.
Veja make retro-inspired trainers made from eco-friendly materials such as recycled polyester or its “B-mesh”, a fabric produced from 100 per cent recycled bottles and soles from wild rubber.
Friendship is run by two committed vegans who aim to be as kind to the environment as possible in their shoemaking process. Shoes are designed as gender neutral and come in sizes 3-11. They’re made from high-grade microfibre sourced from an eco-friendly producer in Italy and are crafted in the UK. The crepe soles are made using the Goodyear welting method.
Vans’ also do a range of vegan shoes.
A safeguard when buying vegan shoes is to look for the Peta or Vegan Society-approved logos. However, keep in mind accreditation can be costly for smaller brands so just because there is no logo, does not mean the product is non-vegan.