The word “vegan” isn’t anything new. It can be used as a noun (a person who doesn’t eat animal products) or an adjective (containing no animal products). While a meatless, dairy-free, plant-based vegan diet is relatively straightforward, implementing veganism into your overall lifestyle is a little more ambiguous.
Take footwear and apparel, for example. As sustainability gains momentum in the fashion industry, more retailers are beginning to offer vegan clothing and shoes. At Vionic, we’re passionate about the planet, and we’re here for the sustainable footwear movement.
But what are vegan shoes, exactly? Simply put, a vegan shoe is made without any animal products—just like vegan food. This means no leather, suede (animal skin), animal fur, wool, shearling, silk, and certain types of animal-sourced shoe glue. Vegan and cruelty-free products are also not tested on animals, but this isn’t usually a concern with footwear.
Are you interested in exploring animal-free footwear? Read on to learn what are vegan shoes made of, how sustainability factors in, and where to find cruelty-free kicks.
What Are Vegan Shoes Made Of?
Now that you know what vegan footwear isn’t made of, you’re probably wondering how a vegan shoe brand approaches manufacturing. So, what are vegan shoes made of, and how are they produced? Cruelty-free shoes can be made of a variety of materials.
Vegan shoes can be made of:
- Synthetic fabrics, like nylon, elastane, polyester, and acrylic
- Polyurethane vegan leather (sometimes called faux leather or synthetic leather)
- Microfiber (vegan suede)
- Ethically sourced cotton
- Renewable materials, like cork, jute, and bamboo
- Resin derived from plants or a synthetic material
- EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) foam
- Artisan-loomed fabrics
- Natural, synthetic, or recycled rubber
- Other recycled materials, like cardboard and plastic
As with non-vegan shoes, most vegan styles are constructed with a combination of materials. For instance, you might find a pair of dress shoes with faux leather uppers, natural rubber footbeds wrapped in polyester, and resin soles. Vegan sandals and vegan flats can be made out of recycled plastic bottles. You might also find vegan leather shoes with organic cotton insoles or vegan boots with faux fur lining and outsoles made of recycled rubber tires.
Vionic incorporates vegan and sustainable materials into our orthotic footwear designs. We’re proud to carry espadrilles that use mostly vegan materials with jute-wrapped soles, cork wedges. We also carry vegan-certified sneakers with eco-friendly cotton uppers.
Are Vegan Shoes Sustainable?
Vegan footwear is manufactured without any animal materials or byproducts, but many wonder what role, if any, sustainability plays. Are vegan shoes sustainable? That depends.
Sustainable manufacturing generally means that sourcing materials and producing products doesn’t deplete or permanently damage any natural resources. Many view it as fulfilling current needs without impeding on the ability of future generations to fulfill their needs.
So, what does this mean for vegan shoes? A cruelty-free shoe brand might use synthetic materials instead of real leather or animal skin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the manufacturing process is better for the planet. Let us explain.
Natural vs. Synthetic
Most faux leathers on the market are made of petroleum-based polyurethane. This means they’re linked to oil and coal production, which has a notable environmental impact. On the other hand, traditional leather involves livestock farming. Of course, this type of agriculture is natural, but it also contributes to pollution. That being said, polyurethane is considered more environmentally friendly than other types of plastic, as it doesn’t change the pH of water or soil.
Using recycled rubber, cardboard, and plastic in vegan shoes can reduce waste and limit the carbon footprint of producing footwear. Also, most rubbers produced in the U.S are synthetic and sourced from petroleum byproducts. However, natural rubbers are made of latex, which is derived from plants. Similarly, natural resin can be found in plants, but there’s also synthetic resin, which is a lot like plastic.
Renewable Materials and Economic Sustainability
As we mentioned, vegan shoes can be made out of renewable materials, including plants like cork, jute, cotton, and bamboo. This means that the natural resources can quickly replenish themselves without any intervention from humans. In other words, using these vegan materials doesn’t negatively impact the environment or affect the future availability of resources.
Another component of sustainability is the economy. That’s why some vegan shoe brands use fair trade fabrics loomed by artisans, which helps ensure producers in developing countries are paid fairly for materials and labor.
The truth is that creating a 100% sustainable shoe is nearly impossible, and buying vegan shoes doesn’t guarantee you’re making the best possible choice for the environment. The best thing you can do as a consumer is educate yourself about the manufacturing process and base your purchasing decisions on your personal priorities and judgment.
When you have a solid idea of the various materials that go into a pair of shoes, you can evaluate which you’d like to incorporate into your wardrobe and those you want to avoid. We also recommend checking out brands’ sustainability incentives and mission statements to see if they align with your values.
Vionic cares about the environment, the future of the planet, and the opinions of our customers. We’re embracing eco-friendly fashion and are excited to see what’s next in sustainable innovation.
Stylish Vegan Shoes for Women from Vionic
Sneakers are arguably the coolest shoe style. They look good on everyone, they go with almost everything, and you can wear them in all four seasons. Vionic carries effortlessly versatile vegan-certified styles for women—as if sneakers couldn’t get any cooler. If you’re feeling inspired and want to take your vegan lifestyle up a notch, we encourage you to check out the Malibu and Pismo tennis shoes from Vionic.
The Malibu Slip-On is a laceless women’s sneaker with seriously laid-back vibes. We crafted the super-soft, stretchy uppers from ethically produced and eco-conscious cotton. With contoured TPR rubber soles and twill-covered footbeds, they’re as comfortable as they are flattering. At Vionic, we believe white sneakers are a fashion staple, and this comfortable vegan pair has a place in every woman’s wardrobe. When you rock the Malibu, you’ll make strides for both your foot health and the environment.
Pismo Casual Sneaker
If you’re partial to classic lace-up tennis shoes, you might consider the Pismo Casual Sneaker. The uppers of these women’s casual sneakers are made of eco-conscious canvas sourced from ethically produced cotton. With flexible TPR outsoles, a removable EVA footbed, and stretchy cotton laces, this lightweight vegan sneaker doesn’t sacrifice comfort. Choose from dusty rose or cream uppers to complement the white laces and rose gold eyelets.
Shoes for Everyone
Eco-friendly and vegan fashion are on the rise, and the team at Vionic is here for it. We’re dedicated to creating comfortable, supportive shoes everyone will love. That’s why we incorporate a broad range of natural and synthetic materials into our shoe designs for men and women. The includes sustainable, ethically sourced, and vegan materials, like cotton, jute, and cork.
Whether you’re in the market for eco-friendly canvas shoes, vegan sneakers, non-leather shoes, flats with synthetic uppers, wedges with a cork heel, or jute-wrapped espadrilles, we’re confident you’ll find a style you love when you browse our collection. Shop now!
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