Being vegan is a personal choice that goes beyond food habits. It also means extending veganism to daily goods, clothing, and footwear.
Let’s take the example of vegan sandals; today, there are countless options to choose from. However, opting for vegan sandals does not necessarily entail eco-conscious components or decent working conditions along the entire supply chain.
Because there are different ways to reduce your environmental footprint (and choosing a vegan lifestyle is one of them), we also took into account other planet-friendly features in our selection.
Thus, thanks to our growing experience in the matter, we’ll help you find the right fit by reviewing a couple of trustworthy brands. We’ll break them down into different sections: the fabrics they use, their business practices, and what makes these brands so unique (style, philosophy, community work, and much more).
- Gender Neutral Design
- Vegan Leather & Suede
- Extended Producer Responsibility
- 100% recycled vegan suede
- Vegan leather
- Reclaimed wood heels
- Use of recycled goods
- Vegan leather
- Own vegan factory
Indosole - United States, Singapore, Indonesia
Indosole‘s beginnings go back to 2004 when company CEO Kyle Parsons first went to Bali, Indonesia. Inspired by a pair of sandals made from tires, he wanted to help Indonesia’s pollution problem through innovative creations.
Five years later, Indosole was born. This brand is a B corporation and is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. The name Indosole is probably derived from the country of inspiration: Indonesia. They have shops in multiple countries, including the U.S, Singapore, and Indonesia.
The most popular Indosole items are flip-flops, not precisely what you would call a sandal. However, they do have some slides that fit more in the sandal category.
These shoes were made for function, but they also look great on your feet. Their products are great for rugged use. You can take it to the beach, on your errands days, or generally just when you have a lot of walking to do.
Their vegan sandals offer great ergonomic support, perfect for long stints of use. Their ESSNTLS collection is also waterproof to make it easy to clean and sanitize. These sandals are also great for any warm season.
Our pick from their collection is their Cross Sandals, which come in sizes for men and women. This style is available in Rust, Light Soil (Beige), and Black.
The design is your typical crossed sandal pair, but the colors give it a great touch. The rust color is adorable! It still isn’t anything you can wear to a formal function, but you can definitely dress them up if you get creative.
We love this style because of its duality. These slip-ons were made for casual use, but you don’t have to compromise on style with these.
The materials aspect is really where Indosole shines the most. The majority of the sandals we featured on this list are made from vegan leather, suede, and other common materials.
Indosole, however, is made from recycled tires. How cool is that? Sure, recycled tires might not sound glamorous or chic, but these sandals were built for function. That doesn’t mean they don’t look great, though!
Many of us don’t realize the worldwide issue of tires, but it exists. It’s great that a brand has taken notice of an under-recognized problem.
According to their site, 1.5 million tires end up in the landfill, rivers, and other places annually. These tires don’t decompose, so they just pile up continuously. Moreover, tires can be a hazard in tropical countries (like Indonesia) since they can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Indosole uses recycled tires for their soles and rubber for their footbed.
They source their rubber in Indonesia, making sure it is ethically-made. They don’t use any toxic chemicals in dyeing their rubber, only using natural dyes.
For some of their straps, they use ENVRO Fiber. They don’t specify its composition precisely, but they say that it’s made with little water and natural dyes. As water can be a significant resource in textile production, material that doesn’t use a lot of it is a great thing.
Overall, Indosole uses excellent materials. For a price tag of $45-$60, these are some of the best vegan sandals you can get.
Ethics and Sustainability
Indosole is a B-certified company, which means that they’ve passed the necessary requirements for ensuring that they manufacture is safe and humane working conditions.
The shoe brand is based in the U.S., but their flip-flops and sandals are made in Indonesia. That’s no surprise, as the founder was initially inspired by a trip to Bali.
Here’s a good read on the people who make Indosole shoes. They look happy, and it seems like a great working environment.
Indosole has a lot of community projects in Indonesia. They host beach clean-ups, community feeding programs, charity games, and a lot more! Plenty of their energy is focused on giving back to the community.
Overall, Indosole is such a great brand to get vegan sandals from. You can get such a high-quality pair for a reasonable price—all without compromising your ethical beliefs.
Collection & Co. - United Kingdom
Established in 2016, Collection & Co. is a U.K.-based footwear company with a goal to eliminate the need for leather.
Their shoes are often made with the ambition to imitate the feel and experience of leather but without the high ethical costs.
Collection & Co. has a handful of designs to choose from. They have sandals that are great for a night out or a formal event, and they also have sandals that are perfect for casual use.
Their shoes’ heel height can go up to 7.5cm if you want a high heel on your sandals. They have flats too.
Our personal pick is their Chora Black Open Toe Mule. It’s such a timeless and versatile design that’s perfect for being a wardrobe staple. This design also comes in Blush for a softer look. It has just the right amount of classiness to make it great for formal use, but it’s also casual enough that you can use it on an errand day.
Most of the sandals on their site are mules, but they also have slip-on slides. Their sandals are perfect for a quick errand run or when you need to leave in a hurry.
Their sandals come at a price range of around $60-$90. But they list a few of their shoes on sale for as low as $35.
Overall, these sandals are of excellent quality for a great price. If you want to dip your toes into vegan sandals, this is definitely a good one to start with.
Collection & Co. is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. None of the products used to make their shoes, including glue, are derived from animals.
They usually use faux leather in their sandals. Unfortunately, they don’t explain further what type they use, so that’s a bit of a letdown. In most cases, faux leather is made up of PU (Polyurethane).
However, they did indicate on their site that they are doing projects that use Pinatex and discarded fishnets. Some sandals are made up of upcycled microsuede suede, upcycled plastic, and organic cotton. They use rubber for their soles.
They don’t elaborate on where they source their materials, so that’s also something you might want to consider when buying from them.
Ethics and Sustainability
Collection & Co.’s sandals are made in a small family-run factory in Greece. They assure that they only want to make their products under safe and ethical conditions. They manufacture limited quantities to ensure that they manufacture in the most responsible way possible.
They also actively try to reuse any leftover material from a particular batch, ensuring that little to nothing goes to waste.
A great aspect about them is that their packaging is 100% recyclable, and their mailing bag is compostable. Sustainability-wise, they are taking steps in the right direction.
However, they still have a lot of work to do on the materials they use. Our assumption is that their faux leather and microsuede are still made of plastic, and thus, not the most sustainable fabric.
But for their price point, more challenges arise when using plant-based leathers without increasing the cost significantly. It’s fair to recognize that the most sustainable leathers are still a bit expensive for many small fashion brands.
Good Guys Don't Wear Leather - France
Good Guys was launched back in 2011 and started out as a passion project. Its founder, Marion Hanania, wanted to curate clothes that were cruelty-free, and she channeled this into making vegan shoes.
Good Guys is woman-owned and is the first French vegan shoe-wear company. It stands by creating shoes that are not only cruelty-free but also made in fair trade and ethical environments.
Having experience in the industry for a decade now, Good Guys can offer a lot of sandal designs. They have vegan sandals for both men and women, and a handful of their designs are gender-neutral and can be styled in any way you like.
They have strapped sandals, slip-ons, platforms, and so much more. Hence, more chances for you to find your ideal sandal among the brand’s various collections. They even have 70s inspired sandals that you’ll love if you are into retro fashion.
Our personal pick is the Janet T-strap sandal. It comes in two shades: brown and baby blue. This sandal is great if you like retro. We personally like this one since it’s a bit different from the conventional sandal you’d see today.
Janet in baby blue is especially striking! It’s a really bright blue, so you’re sure to turn heads with this one. If you want to wear a monochrome outfit but want to add just a splash of brightness, this blue will do a great job.
Lastly, a good runner-up is Lola, which is also an at-strap sandal but is an open-toe heel instead.
As always, this brand’s materials are 100% vegan and cruelty-free. There are absolutely no animals involved in making these shoes.
The brand’s choice of material is usually vegan leather and suede. They don’t explicitly say what these are made of, but there are indications that they are made of PU.
However, they also offer sandals that are made from apple leather, which is a much better alternative than PU. They have a menu for both men and women with only AppleSkin shoes. AppleSkin is not completely biodegradable as there is a PU component, but it’s definitely better than just regular PU.
They believe that using plant-based materials in the future, and they show this in how they’re slowly integrating better options into their shoes.
Ethics and Sustainability
All Good Guys shoes are ethically made in Spain. Since the brand’s focus is on making their products fair trade, they make their shoes in Europe under European fair trade laws.
The brand also has a wonderful initiative going on. If you return an old pair of Good Guys shoes to them, they’ll give you a 15% discount on your next pair. You also get a pair of socks as an added bonus!
(The site on the discount initiative is not in English, but you can easily translate it through your web browser.)
They are partners with Redonner on the project and it’s a really great way of closing the loop. It’s vital that, as a brand, Good Guys is taking the necessary steps to be responsible for their products.
In usual scenarios, the customer is responsible for disposing of their goods, ultimately passing on that responsibility to the municipality or even further. With the brand’s use of extended producer responsibility, they can help manage the waste they produce.
Mesa - United States
Made in small batches in California, Mesa is a woman-owned shoe company aiming to create luxury shoes without the high eco price tag.
Their shoes are completely animal-free and made fair trade under ethical working conditions. They work with artisans, most of which are in the industry due to legacy from the past generations.
As Mesa is a relatively small business at the moment, they only have a handful of designs. But their designs don’t miss. We love how timeless and versatile each sandal pair is. With such vibrant hues, these shoes can definitely elevate any basic outfit.
Our pick from the brand is Octavia. This sandal is an open-toe mule with a two-inch heel. But what we love the most about it is the hand-carved detailing on the heel. It really looks like a piece of art when you think about it.
The detailing isn’t much, but considering that other shoes usually don’t have this level of detail on the heel, it’s a pretty exciting pair to have! Octavia is available in Citron, Guava, and Light Blue. The shade names are also so cute!
The price is on the high side, though. Each pair will set you back at least $245, and that’s on sale. The luxury price tag may deter you from this brand, but it’s still an excellent choice if you can afford it.
Mesa’s shoes are made from vegan leather and suede. Of course, they use absolutely no animals in their products, and their shoes are cruelty-free.
Their vegan suede is 100% recycled. They use polyester and post-industrial materials such as PET bottles to make this microsuede. On the other hand, their vegan leather is made of eco-friendly PU attached to a cotton base sourced from Italy.
The heels on their shoes are made from reclaimed wood and hand-crafted to perfection.
In terms of materials, Mesa is doing a great job at using ones that are sustainable. Since they predominantly recycled items, it helps with clearing up the massive amounts of post-consumer waste we already have.
Ethics and Sustainability
Mesa shoes are made locally in California. The company believes in supporting their local artisan industry, so their shoes are made by a talented group of artisans.
It follows that they make sure their shoes are made fair trade, ensuring proper living wages for their employees and ethical business practices.
Aside from the use of PU, Mesa ticks off many sustainability boxes. They use recycled items, practice sustainable production, and are dedicated to creating beauty without sacrificing integrity.
Overall, a pretty solid company.
Ahimsa - Brazil
Ahimsa is a completely vegan shoe brand with a core manifesto rooted in love. It might seem like a cliche, but this philosophy has led them to be the only vegan shoe factory in the world.
When they could not find the best manufacturer that they could be partners with, they took a leap of faith and opened up their very own vegan factory.
Currently, Ahimsa only has sandals for women. Their sandal designs focus on neutral shades and earthy tones, and it’s great for people who aren’t too into bright colors and want to keep it simple.
These shoes are great for all-around use as you can pair many of them with multiple outfits.
Our personal favorite is the block-heel Tatiana. It comes in black and cognac brown, and it’s a great sandal to wear to any formal or casual occasion.
Lastly, Ahimsa’s sandal collection comes in at a range of $99-$159.
There are no specifics on what material Ahimsa uses for each particular sandal, but they do indicate on their site that they use PU as their vegan leather.
It’s worth noting that PU is not the best alternative. Yes, it is vegan. But it isn’t environmentally-friendly. As a petroleum-dependent product, PU isn’t exactly the picture of environmental sustainability.
Ahimsa addresses this issue in their vegan leather menu. But it seems like they are passing the blame and responsibility onto the consumer. This is partly true, but producers should also be proactive about the waste their products are contributing.
As a company with a mission of manufacturing sustainably, we can only encourage Ahimsa to start looking towards more sustainable options. It isn’t an easy process, but acknowledging that both the customers and the brands have a role to play is a crucial first step.
Ethics and Sustainability
As Ahimsa has its very own vegan shoe factory, we can safely assume that they don’t operate under inhumane conditions. Part of Ahimsa’s mission is to do no harm. This also extends to their workers who make their shoes.
The company’s view of sustainability isn’t the best. Though they are making the right steps in using recycled goods in some of their shoes, they’re also adamant about using PU.
Hopefully, we’ll see more progress from them as they grow further.
RAFA - United States
RAFA is a Los Angeles-based luxury footwear brand with a heart for sustainability and ethics in their production process.
Hand-crafted by artisans, RAFA wants to make timelessly beautiful luxury shoes that are accessible and environmentally-friendly.
RAFA only has a couple of sandal designs available, most of them strapped sandals with a square-toe. Even so, these styles are timeless and elegant. They’re also incredibly versatile, and you can use them in many different scenarios.
Their sandals have a heel, the smallest being 1.5 inches and the highest being 4 inches. Nothing too crazy. This makes their footwear great for many occasions.
They have platform sandals, strapped sandals, lace sandals, and wedges. We think it’s a pretty decent selection.
Our personal favorite from them is their Bungee Wedge Sandal in Femme. With a two-inch heel, this sandal is just the right amount of fun. It’s not anything too flashy, but it also looks colorful and unique.
This lace wedge really offers a fresh perspective. The plum shade gives it a unique personality that will elevate your outfit.
If you are into retro designs and like a pop of color to go with your outfit, this sandal is a great option. If you don’t want a wedge, they also have a lace sandal with a 1.5 chunky heel.
Their price tag is a bit high, though. The average price of a Collection & Co. sandal is around $250. It’s definitely a purchase worth thinking about first.
Most of their sandals are made from an ultra-suede textile. This material is made up of 80% recycled goods such as PET bottles. Their use of this material is excellent since it promotes the reuse of post-consumer items.
Their heels are made from reclaimed wood, which is already previously made into a consumer good and then found a new purpose in another. This is a good sign that the brand takes its use of sustainable materials seriously.
Unfortunately, one of their sandal designs is made of vinyl textile. While it’s not always the case, vinyl is usually made of PVC. And PVC is among the worst materials to opt for. People generally regard PVC as the worst commercial plastic because of the chemicals used in making it and its life cycle.
It isn’t certain if this material is actually made of PVC since they don’t provide further information, but the fact that it is vinyl is not a good sign.
Hopefully, the brand takes the right steps to avoid the use of PVC in its shoes. Since sustainability is part of their core values, using PVC in their shoes appears counterintuitive to their mission.
Ethics and Sustainability
RAFA’s shoes are made by a small manufacturer in Los Angeles. The brand wants to focus on using local craftsmanship to create their shoes, so they chose to operate in their home city.
You can check out this video to get a better look at how the brand treats its workers and how involved the workers are in production. It’s nice that the founder views them as artisans making a work of art since it recognizes that what they’re doing is skilled labor and should be paid accordingly.
Moreover, many of their workers are second or third-generation artisans, which means the brand supports the local industry.
Sustainability-wise, the brand is doing good in its use of recycled materials. But there’s an issue with their use of vinyl. Other than that, there is, unfortunately, no further information on what steps the brand is taking towards becoming more sustainable.
The Price Of Your Shoes
Okay, now that we’ve got those brands covered, what is it with vegan sandals anyway? Are there any benefits to using vegan sandals? Are vegan sandals better than their non-vegan alternative?
Those are questions that come up, especially to those who are new to living a vegan lifestyle or those who are not vegans. After all, it’s difficult to understand the actual cost of your consumption habits when the ads in your emails all convincing you that this shiny new object is perfect for you.
The biggest issue with non-vegan sandals is that they use animal products, mainly leather. While it’s not the only thing to look out for, it is pretty prevalent in the sandals we wear.
Leather sandals are popular because they are very durable and they age well. It still depends on how the sandal was made, but it generally lasts for a long time. This makes buying them worth the money.
Nonetheless, that does not account for the external market factors linked with the fabric’s production as such. From the animals that die in the process to the workers who suffer under unethical conditions, the process of making leather is often wracked with cruelty. Not to mention the potential impact on your feet, if that’s part of the reason you are considering switching to vegan sandals, then take a look at this great post from Anya on exercises to transition to barefoot shoes
Let’s detail the questionable practices behind conventional leather goods, whether for the animals, the workers, or the planet.
First, of course, is all of the animals that die in the process. It isn’t fair to consider leather as just a by-product of the animal farming industry. It’s a massive part of it, and to deny that just doesn’t sound right.
Aside from the unjust treatment of animals, the animal farming industry is also a massive contributor to greenhouse gases. The animal sector produces about the same amount of greenhouse pollution as the transportation industry. An appalling number that is unfortunately true.
But the trouble doesn’t end there. Tanning also releases plenty of toxic chemicals into our water systems and the environment. The communities surrounding tanneries are especially susceptible to these injustices.
Not to mention all of the workers who suffer from the chemicals used. Chrome is a known carcinogen and also happens to be the most-used substance in tanning.
In the last ten years alone, there have been multiple deaths directly related to chrome tanning. Some happening due to some form of poisoning in the waste tanks  . These deaths don’t even account for cancer-related deaths due to chrome exposure.
As consumers, we don’t get to see all of this happen. All we know is that it ends up on the shelf for us to purchase. In the past, it was rather common to hide these true costs from us. As responsible consumers, we have to take steps in the right direction and demand transparency.
Even if it’s just with your sandals, you can already make a considerable difference in your life. We need to account for the minor details for us to create a major impact.
If this topic stirs up your curiosity, we have a separate article on vegan leather.
The Best Materials for Vegan Sandals
One of the main contentions that people have with vegan stuff is that it doesn’t last as long. Vegan sandals are no exception.
The problem is that until recently, most vegan options for sandals were made out of PVC or PU. These two are plastic alternatives to leather and are not suitable for the environment at all. These plastics also wear down fairly quickly and don’t have the lasting effect animal leather does.
The most common vegan options you’ll see are made of PU.
Today, more and more companies are welcoming sustainable vegan material options. Many companies have done it using pineapple leaves, apple pulp, cork, and so much more. Not only vegan leather but also other textiles like hemp or recycled fabrics.
As it stands, though, many, but not all, of these plant-based materials are still using some form of PU or synthetic material in making their textiles. Meaning, not all of them are fully biodegradable. We cover the topic regarding clean and slow fashion in other articles like this one on sustainable sneakers.
While plant-based vegan leather is durable, shoes go through a lot of wear and tear. To provide a more durable option, PU or polyester is usually integrated into the bio-material to strengthen it. This doesn’t mean we can’t shift away from PU, though!
Hopefully, we will be able to transition into fully biodegradable materials in the future.
The ambition of this article was to provide you with an overview of what lies behind vegan sandals today. In particular, that non-animal-based footwear is not necessarily a proof of quality or sustainability.
As eco-conscious customers, it is crucial to be curious and to educate ourselves on the topic. Remember that choosing a brand means casting a vote — a vote for a safer, eco friendly, and transparent footwear industry.
- https://internationalleathermaker.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/4945/Three_workers_killed_i n_Ranipet_tannery_accident.html