Vegan Skate Shoes: Today’s Options Environmental Challenges

Vegan skate shoes are not your regular pair of sneakers. They’re specially made to cushion impact, withstand wear, and provide a great board feel. While you don’t really need them for skating per se, they will definitely help.

The idea that veganism goes beyond a plant-based diet is starting to become more commonplace. And in line with that, there’s been an increasing demand for cruelty-free and vegan options for skate shoes.

While suede has always been considered the superior material for skate shoes, other brands are starting to branch out and make animal and cruelty-free skates.

Looking for the best vegan skate shoes for you was a pretty tall order; we know. There’s a lot to consider, and finding a perfect pair is a long process of searching and trying.

Our feeling about the skate shoe industry today is that there is unfortunately quite a lot of work to do still regarding sustainability and ethical working conditions.

Compared to other slow fashion and beauty ambassadors in the underwear or makeup industries, we share mixed feelings about the efforts of the shoe brands below.

Even though most of them commit to better, more earth-friendly options, most lack transparency or community efforts. We can but only encourage them to continue their long-time endeavor.

Today, if you cannot find decent second-hand items, Vans is arguably the brand making the most efforts to produce a decent pair of vegan skate shoes.

Vans - USA

Even if you aren’t looking for skate shoes, you’ve probably already heard of Vans—who hasn’t? What started as a skate sneakers brand is now one of the most prominent casual shoe/sneaker brands.

Vans has now made a mark on the world and has carved out a good place for itself in the shoe community.

Our Pick

Vans has a pretty wide collection of vegan shoes. In addition, they use vegan-friendly glue in all their shoes, so any pair not made from leather should be vegan friendly.

Our personal favorite pair of vans shoes comes from the Era collection. It’s the original shoe made by skateboarders for skateboarders and has paved the way for so many classic sneakers since.

It was first introduced in the late 70s, and it remains a very popular shoe today. So even if you aren’t buying Vans specifically for skating, these are still a great pair to go for.

This pair of skates has padded collars for added cushion and flexibility, supporting your movements far better. It also has a vulcanized outsole and metal eyelets to prevent tearing.

This style is available in navy, black, and white. We personally love the black model. It’s such a classic, sleek look that you can wear with anything casual.

Vans is well known for the Old Skool. It’s a classic pair of skate shoes that have really set the stage for their brand identity. However, we should note that not all Old Skool model is vegan.

Materials & Durability

All vegan Vans are made of canvas, specifically cotton canvas. Cotton is a controversial plant-based textile because environmentally draining and takes up a lot of water and chemicals to produce. Not to mention the risk of labor abuse.

We were glad to see that Vans is actually taking positive strides in their materials, exhibited by their use of BCI cotton. The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) helps ensure that the cotton was made as ethically as possible and with minimal environmental impact.

Vans are made from a vulcanized carbon and rubber outsole. They have a signature waffle outsole that provides excellent grip and good traction.

This footwear brand takes durability in high regard. They recognize that getting a durable pair of skates is part of buying ethically and sustainably.

Most of their shoes are made in both canvas and leather, so they all go through the same construction process. Thus, even though these shoes are made from canvas, they are still pretty long-lasting.

Sustainability & Community

Vans actually has a page dedicated to their sustainability efforts, and while they recognize that there’s still a lot of room for improvement, they seem to be moving in the right direction.

They’re working on lowering their future carbon footprint by using 100% renewable energy in their facilities by 2025, reducing the impact of their key materials, and an aggregate reduction in their greenhouse emissions.

They also have plans regarding materials, and by 2030, their top materials will come from regenerative, responsibly sourced, renewable, or recycled sources. They’re also lessening their plastic impact and expanding their recycling program globally.

This may seem like a long way off, but every little contribution counts. And Vans is a major international brand, so committing to these changes is something we can appreciate. We hope to see them actually follow through with their plans.

Vans’ parent company has a publicly available Modern Slavery Statement that they also abide by. They also have workplace codes of conduct in place, and their facilities are regularly audited. You can read more about it here.

The company cultivates a culture of openness and diversity. They have projects relating to skateboarding, supporting art, and more. Read more about their community efforts here.

Etnies - USA

Etnies vegan skates
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Image by etnies.com

If you’ve ever bought vegan skate shoes before, then you’ve probably heard of Etnies. In the business for 35 years already, the brand has established itself in the skating community.

What’s more, the company is skateboarder-owned and continues to support snowboard, skateboard, and BMX communities.

Our Pick

One of Etnies’ most popular pair of skate shoes is the Jameson 2 Eco. It’s a cool and simple design that comes in 21 colorways, so you have plenty of choices there. The navy/grey/silver colorway caught our eye in particular.

It’s a low-top model with faux-vulc cupsoles, which offer additional protection. It might give you a little less board feel, but what you prioritize is up to you.

It has an STI Foam Lite 1 insole, a material made of PU (polyurethane). It helps dampen impact but doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of board feel.

The pair has a thinly padded collar and tongue for additional protection.

The Jameson 2 Eco is also part of their Buy a Shoe Plant a Tree project. Check out their shoes that have the BASPAT label since those are participating pairs. One pair sold = one tree planted, and they’ve planted over 2 million trees since the program began in 2011.

Materials & Durability

The uppers of these skate shoes are made from recycled materials, repurposed into a lightweight canvas-like fabric.

Canvas isn’t the top material for heavy-duty skating, especially if you want a pair that’ll last you a considerable time. But Etnies shoes have been known to hold up really well, and this pair should be no exception.

And if you’re looking for vegan skate shoes simply for casual wear, canvas is a great material! It’s breathable and super lightweight for the ultimate comfort factor.

The outsoles are made from recycled rubber. The rubber sole helps give you great traction and grip so you can perform better.

Sustainability & Community

We appreciate that Etnies takes it a step forward and uses recyclable materials in making their shoes. Though recycled plastic is still plastic, it’s so much better than starting the process from scratch and using up new virgin materials.

Other than BASPAT, Etnies does not have other sustainability-inclined initiatives.

We could not find any information about where their shoes are made, which is very unfortunate. But they do adhere to California state law on transparent supply chains.

They outsource third parties to perform regular audits of their supplies to ensure that they follow Etnies’ workplace code of conduct.

Converse - USA

Converse is another brand that nearly all of us have heard of—many of us probably associate white toe caps with a pair of Converse sneakers.

They were initially a rubber shoe company way back in the very early 1900s, and now they’re one of the most recognized sneaker brands worldwide.

Our Pick

Converse is very popular for their Chuck Taylors with the classic white rubber toe cap. But, while you can use the regular canvas sneakers for skating, they don’t have the best protection.

You wouldn’t want to injure yourself while skating, so it’s best to stick to specialized shoes. The footwear company does have a dedicated selection of skate shoes, but not all of them are vegan.

The CONS One Star CC Pro Slip is a slip-on shoe made from canvas. These shoes were specifically designed for skateboarding, and the rubber sole provides good traction.

If you’re a fan of edgy designs, this one is the next pair for you. With a white base and some cool spiderweb graphics, these shoes will help you take your skateboarding and style to the next level.

Plus, they’re effortlessly easy to wear, given the slip-on design. They’re incredibly comfortable, and you can wear them on casual days out.

Materials & Durability

The main material for these shoes is rubber-backed canvas. The material is made to withstand wear and tear and should last you a good while.

The rubber soles will give you good traction, and a great board feel. It also has a CX foam insole to help with cushioning and impact absorption, which is very important when skateboarding.

All the materials in the One Star Slip-on are vegan. However, do note that Converse does not maintain a list of vegan or animal-free products.

Most of their canvas shoes are vegan, but it isn’t a guarantee. For example, some canvas shoes may have a real leather ankle patch and not a synthetic one.

If you want to browse through the rest of Converse’s products, you will have to ask them if a particular product is vegan. Don’t assume that anything made of canvas is free of any animal products.

Sustainability & Community

Unfortunately, we could not find any information on this brand’s sustainability practices. They also have not indicated what type of textile their canvas is, other than that it’s rubber-backed.

As a subsidiary of Nike, Converse follows its parent company’s conduct on labor. The parent has a publicly available statement on forced labor and also has measures in place to ensure no human rights are violated in their partner facilities.

You can read the full statement here.

However, we would have liked to see a more Converse-centered body of information. Parent-subsidiary relationships can be complex, and we don’t think it’s fully fair to use the parent’s practices as a proxy for the subsidiaries.

In this case, though, it seems that the parent’s labor conduct applies to its whole group of companies.

eS - USA

eS is another prominent brand when it comes to skate shoes. The company has always been skateboarder owned and managed, so these shoes are made by skateboarders for skateboarders.

They actually have the same parent company as Etnies, since both are subsidiaries of Sole Technology. Because of that, some shoes share similar cushioning and impact designs.

Our Pick

You might have heard of eS because of their Event Vegan skate shoe, one out of the five vegan skate shoes they currently stock. This pair does not look like your classic sneakers, nor does it have a slim, streamlined design. But it does look super cool.

If you like retro-futuristic styles, then this pair of vegan shoes are right up your alley. They have this chunky shoe feel that has been really picking up again over the past few years.

Unfortunately, it’s only available in one colorway, which is a light grey. However, eS has said that they are working on putting out more vegan and animal-friendly styles in their collection.

It has a triple stitched toe cap and a durable rubber cup sole for optimum durability. It has protective lace loops, and the lace ends are hidden; you won’t have trouble with your laces continuously breaking.

If you aren’t a fan of retro skate shoes, they also have several pairs of vegan options. The ACCEL slim is a mid-top skate shoe that looks stylish and is perfect for all-around use.

Materials & Durability

The Evant is made of a canvas upper and synthetic nubuck, which is better known as microfiber PU. In this case, it’s a microfiber suede, which adds to the shoe’s durability.

Though this shoe has a canvas upper, they are made to be very durable. Since they’re reinforced with synthetic suede, they have a little extra edge from other shoes made from canvas.

It has an EVA midsole. EVA assists with stability and helps with cushioning impact. It’s incredibly lightweight and flexible, so your feet will stay as comfortable as possible while doing tricks.

The insole is made from molded STI Energy Foam. It is lighter than EVA and provides a 200% energy return at a fixed load. This material allows you to just bound off the board and gives you the protection needed when you land.

Sustainability & Community

Admittedly, eS lacks a lot in terms of sustainability. They don’t have a dedicated page for the materials they use, nor do they further explain it in their product listings.

We would have expected to see more details on how the materials were sourced and how they lessen their environmental footprint considering they use real leather a lot.

eS does have a workplace code of conduct, but it isn’t publicly available. However, they do abide by California law indicating transparency in supply chains, ensuring that there’s no forced labor involved in the production process.

Still, we would have liked to see more initiative in this area. A guaranteed absence of forced labor is not synonymous with paying their workers fair wages, which we believe is what should be the norm today.

Overall, we still included these skate shoes in the list because of their durability. If you want vegan skate shoes that’ll last a considerable while, go for these ones.

DC - USA

DC Shoes is yet another prominent skate shoe brand. Founded in 1994, they have really made a place for themselves in the world of skateboarding.

Today, they’ve now expanded their collection to lifestyle shoes, apparel for women, men, and kids, snowboarding boots, and so much more.

Our Pick

This brand has a pretty good collection of vegan skates and other shoes. You can easily determine which shoes are vegan through the vegan-friendly label.

Their Manual Skate Shoes are low-top sneakers made specifically for skateboarding. It is available for both men and women, but it only comes in light pink for women. For men, there are eight colorways to choose from.

It does not have a toe cap, though the vulcanized construction does improve board feel and flexibility. It has a rubber sole done in a herringbone and pill pattern for the perfect grip. This pair is super breathable and incredibly comfortable to wear.

However, it does not seem to have a padded tongue nor a padded collar, some features that are important in cushioning. The absence of those does keep it a slim shoe, however.

One con is that they might not be the best for wide feet as they run a little small. If you don’t have problems with wide feet, then this won’t be an issue at all for you.

Materials & Durability

The canvas upper is made from cotton textile and is also lined with textile made from recycled materials. The mesh lining promotes sustainable breathability to make the shoes feel comfortable when you’re wearing them.

The shoes are made with an abrasion-resistant sticky rubber outsole. The pattern of the sole helps with grip and will help you perform your tricks better.

The Manual’s for men have an Ortholite® insole to protect you from intense impacts. The one for women has an EVA insole for all-day comfort and added protection.

Sustainability & Community

Regrettably, DC does not indicate further where they source their cotton and other materials. There is also no further information on the steps they’re taking to be more eco friendly.

They do have a supply chain notice that contains information on how they transact business with their suppliers.

In 2004, DC’s parent company Quiksilver Ethical Standards of Trade (QUEST), which is their global ethical program to ensure that no exploitative conditions throughout their supply chain.

They also do regular audits and monitor their partners for compliance with their standards.

Vegan Skate Shoe vs. Non-vegan Shoes

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One of the main issues surrounding vegan skate shoes is quality. The main material used for vegan skates is canvas, which isn’t the most durable material for skating.

Since skate shoes go through a lot of hard wear, it only makes sense to want a pair that performs well while also being durable.

Suede and leather are some of the most popular materials used in skate shoes, prized for their durability. But there are other material options as well, like cotton canvas or synthetic leathers.

Canvas is regarded as a less sturdy material compared to suede, and it will tear faster. And while it’s not the best option for intense skating and tricks, they’re completely fine for mild and casual use.

As more and more skate shoe brands venture into vegan skate shoes, we are starting to get way more vegan options that are just as high-quality as suede or leather skate shoes.

Of course, not all vegan skate shoes are made the same way. There will be ones that won’t work out for you (or us!) because they’re cheaply made or arent just the right fit—wide feet, in particular, may not work with some shoes.

So, are animal leather skates better than canvas skates?

In terms of durability, then yes, leather skate shoes do seem to last longer. But if we’re talking about performance, we don’t have a black and white answer. Some canvas shoes could perform better than other suede skates depending on the build and features of the shoes.

What to consider when buying vegan skate shoes

If you didn’t see anything you like from the brands above and want to look for some, but you’re unsure what to look for yet, here are some pointers.

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1. Durability

The very first thing to consider when buying vegan skate shoes is durability, especially if you’re doing a lot of tricks and skate often.

Looking for durable vegan skate shoes can be a bit challenging. Suede is what most consider to be the most durable material for skate shoes, but it is a far cry from being vegan. You can read about alternatives to leather here.

On the flip side, the most common vegan option is canvas. As we’ve mentioned, canvas tears quicker than suede and other leathers, especially if it isn’t well-made. Of course, suede shoes will tear eventually—skating will do that to your shoes, and no pair is immune to the wear and tear of regular skating.

But despite that, you shouldn’t discount canvas completely. Nearly every vegan skate shoe is made of canvas, and though some skaters don’t go for canvas, it is still good vegan material.

Note that canvas can be made of different textiles. It can be made from synthetic materials like nylon or polyester, and it can also be made from plant-based materials like cotton or hemp. Read up on which vegan fabrics are the most sustainable here.

Last note, canvas is far more breathable and lightweight. You’ll be far more comfortable, and you can wear them all day as casual shoes. You can read more about casual shoes in our article on vegan sneakers.

2. Protection/Padding

When you skate, you’re subjecting your body to a lot of stress, especially your feet and ankles. And just like with any other physical activity, you can get injured.

Skate shoes are often padded for additional protection. When you’re looking to buy new skate shoes, make sure they have proper padding for your intended level of skating intensity.

Moreover, padding increases the comfort factor of your shoes. You should look for padding on the collar, the sidewalls, the tongue, and the heel areas in particular.

3. Fit

Comfort is a major part of what makes the best vegan skate shoes. Different skate shoes fit differently, and that’s completely normal.

For example, some shoes may come a little wide to accommodate wide feet. Skaters with slimmer feet might not suit these shoes well, even though the shoes are generally high quality. When you’re skating, you need to prioritize shoes that fit you well. Otherwise, you’ll be more susceptible to injuries.

4. Sustainability

It’s perfectly normal for your skate shoes to tear after some point of wear. Indeed, when used for actual skateboarding, skate shoes are replaced pretty frequently.

As you can imagine, that means you’re using up shoes a lot. A tangential part of being vegan is living a sustainable life and being conscious about your consumption habits.

That doesn’t mean giving up what you love doing, though! When buying a new pair, never forget to consider the impact of each skate shoe, both on the environment and the people making your shoes.

We know that it can be tough, all factors considered. After all, you want your shoes to be durable, comfortable, flexible, and have a great board feel. Like for any other clothing purchase, take time to decipher the brand in question. Remember that buying from a sustainable vegan brand cast a vote, one that demands eco-conscious business practices.

What we think needs to change

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Making this list of the best vegan skate shoes was actually a challenge in terms of the sustainability and ethics departments. Skate shoes need to perform well for them to be actually good, but good, to us, also means an ethical and sustainable production process.

And many skate shoe brands still have a long way to go to be truly sustainable and ethical. We couldn’t even find a good skate shoe brand that was completely vegan!

However, we do see why there’s a bit of a gap material-wise. Skate shoes should be long-lasting and made of high-quality materials since they go through a lot of wear. There’s also the added issue of some vegan products often being high maintenance and requiring special care.

For instance, many of the plant-based leathers available today probably wouldn’t be suitable for such heavy-duty activities as skating. This doesn’t mean they’re not good; they’re just not intended for that purpose.

Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no hope—not by any means! More and more sustainable materials are being developed, and we’re seeing increased eco-consciousness across many niches. Just remember to filter out those who are just greenwashing their customer base (or not disclosing sufficiently about where and how they produce their collections).

At Puratium, we often feature relatively small to medium brands. Not because they’re inherently better, but because those brands often have a more manageable supply chain and are much more transparent about their practices.

Despite the supply chain complexity of multinational companies, we truly hope to see more transparency and better practices from the companies that currently make good quality skate shoes.

Final Thoughts

Skating can be intense. And just like any other physically demanding activity, you need the right equipment; to protect you from injury and optimize performance.

Vegan skate shoes come made with many different materials to ensure durability as well as performance. Faux leather, recycled rubber soles, rubber toe caps, or a padded tongue are just some examples.

But if we’re honest, looking for the perfect environmentally sound pair is a bit of a tall order—one that most brands have not yet been able to reach. And by perfect, we mean skate shoes that are high-quality, durable, and made ethically with sustainable materials.

Though you might not have a very wide selection of vegan skates to choose from today, this list intended to decipher the reality behind these bigger companies. It is our hope that the skate shoe niche improves in the nearest future.

Vans vegan skate shoes
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