12 amazing places to buy ethical shoes online
Save the Earth with each step
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I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a cleaning bug lately. I’ve been zooming from room to room tidying and opening windows for this fresh fall air. The urge to get rid of my wardrobe and replace everything is there too, even for shoes. I’d consider myself very average when it comes to shoes; I don’t have tons to match with every outfit, but I definitely have more than a few pairs.
As a conscious consumer, I try to do my research before I buy anything new. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “vote with your dollar,” and to me that means doing what I can to support brands that operate sustainably and ethically. However, finding ethically-sourced shoes can be difficult!
Thankfully, there are a number of brands that seem to check all the boxes on my Earth-friendly list without compromising style and comfort. Some brands have international certifications, some are cleaning plastic from the oceans, and some are creating jobs for women all across the globe. You're sure to find a style that matches your Pinterest boards and your values.
This isn’t the first time we’re including these bad boys. Allbirds are incredibly loved and well-reviewed, by us and thousands of fans. The company’s approach is threefold: measure, reduce, and offset. It's transparent about its practices and carbon footprint, which means it can be held accountable if it starts to slip. The Allbirds sneaker is already more sustainable than your average sneaker, but I admire the effort too get to 0 kg CO2e.
As reviewers say, Allbirds are the most comfortable shoe. Made from naturally-found wool, eucalyptus trees, castor oil, and recycled plastic and cardboard, the shoes are lightweight, sleek, and modern. Plus, there are selections for activities like running and hiking or everyday basics to get you from place to place. I’ve noticed more and more feet on the sidewalks of the Midwest sporting Allbirds, and when my current shoes wear through I’m hopping on this bandwagon too!
Nisolo is an ethical footwear brand specializing in leather boots, loafers, oxfords, and accessories. It's quite transparent about sharing its practices and wages for factory workers in Peru, its efforts to combat global climate change, and ways it supports independent artisans. Nisolo’s footwear collections are chic and durable. I love the look of leather, and for fall it’s my go-to type of shoe to keep feet warm while still being fashionable.
Though Nisolo’s footwear is expensive, you’re also paying for peace of mind that your shoes are crafted with the environment (and animals) in mind. Nisolo is also working on expanding its shoe reclamation program, Soles for Souls, that collected over 5,000 pairs of shoes to help boost other countries’ economies.
Rothy’s seems to have a large internet following, and its sustainable practices are worth following. It makes flats in several styles that are 100% recyclable and can be washed endlessly without fading or breaking apart. To date, Rothy's claims to have diverted over 66 million plastic water bottles from landfills. It also uses ethically sourced Merino wool and plastic from the ocean (marine plastics) to create its classic yet funky styles.
Rothy’s also ships in recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable materials, and it offsets its carbon emissions. It’s worth noting that Rothy’s shoes are expensive, but when you’re getting a product that can be worn over and over again, it’s easier to shell out. If you’re on the fence, read our review after wearing them to and from the office for weeks.
If you haven’t browsed Veja’s large sneaker and casual shoe collection, you’re welcome. It's a fair-trade sneaker company based in France. Veja upcycles common materials like plastic bottles, recycled textile scraps, and polyester to create its products. It's innovative too, creating B-mesh, which is an entirely-recycled material that is lightweight, waterproof, and durable. I keep coming back to the site because of the Vegan shoe section and their retro-inspired aesthetic. With a wide range of colors and styles, Veja makes it easy to find the right fit for anyone.
Also, huge thumbs up to Veja’s leadership because their website is incredibly detailed about the company’s transparency in sourcing, production, materials, and advertising ethics. I learned so much by scrolling through the infographics. I was shocked to see that they do zero advertising and—being a French brand—it explained why I hadn’t seen much about Veja before.
Toms was the OG one-for-one company, giving a pair of shoes away for each one purchased. Since it began 13 years ago, it's donated nearly 100 million pairs of shoes. Toms is also a B Corporation, so it has high sourcing and production standards. The signature, comfortable Toms shoes are made with sustainable cotton and ship in recyclable packaging. Plus, Toms is working to improve both its materials and packaging in the next few years to use 100% sustainable cotton and 80% recycled materials.
You can shop the earthwise collection which includes its most sustainable and vegan shoes made from recycled and recyclable materials. And once you’ve worn them through, you can submit them to be recycled again into another product.
Everlane has a great collection of ethically sourced footwear. It's known for making quality items that are made to last, without harming the planet to do so. Everlane has committed to using certified organic cotton and not creating plastic: instead only using what already exists.
Its recent release of the Forever Sneaker combines its practices with a classic silhouette made for everyday wear. It’s made from 50% recycled cotton canvas, 50% cotton canvas upper, and a rubber outsole, making it fully recyclable. You can wear them until your heart’s desire and have the satisfaction that they’ll never end up in a landfill.
It's also important to note that while the company is known for its ethical shoewear, it has come under scrunity recently for its business ethics and lack of diversity after a complaint from multiple former employees. The company's president released a statement on Instagram apologizing to the employees and vowing to do better in the future.
Sézane is a French luxury brand for women, and its clothing and shoes are very, very stunning. I don’t dress up often, but scrolling through the site made me want to spend a day in the life of its models just for the shoes! I loved reading (and watching the videos) that detailed the company's close partnerships around the world to see how its products are made. In addition to using 70% environmentally friendly materials, it has multiple certifications (like GOTS and Oeke Tex) to ensure that its products aren’t made with harmful chemicals.
Sézane’s gorgeous pieces are made in factories that run on renewable energy, and it ships in 100% recycled material boxes or sustainable forests. And to top it off, it has a recycling program to divert used clothing and accessories from landfills. If you love fashion and ethically made goods, Sézane is certainly for you.
ABLE, also known as Live FashionABLE, is a Nashville-based ethical brand that creates affordable clothing and supports women around the globe. ABLE commits to sustainability by repurposing discarded byrpoducts of the meat industry into leather, and shipping in recycled cardboard boxes and cloth dust bags in the near future. It also recycles leftovers from jewelry making, utilizes recycled silver, and works with other vendors who recycle their water—in some cases to drinkable levels!—during garment production. ABLE's footwear line follows these same ethics and many items meet FSC certification, meaning they pass strict, international environmental protocols.
5028 (pronounced Fifty Twenty-Eight) is a small-batch footwear company that gives second life to textile waste. Its products are “Upcycled Shoes,” which utilize dead stock and leftover materials to produce limited edition styles. Even the footbeds are made from recycled scraps! Some materials are sourced from the finest tanneries in Portugal and Spain, and a selection of European craftsman assemble the shoes in this slow-fashion model. One of my favorite details is that it doesn't ship your shoes in a box in a box, because we all know how annoying that is!
Ecoalf is the company that made the saying “Because there is no planet B” popular. It uses as few materials as possible to create quality products, including sneakers and slides. It diverts plastic waterbottles, post-industrial waste, and post-consumer waste from landfills like polyester, nylon, cotton, wool, and tires. The way the company makes its flip flops from tire rubber and powder is super interesting too. In addition to recycling materials, it's working on an initiative to remove plastic from oceans in order to create quality yarn material—it's collected over 500 tons so far!
11. Nae Vegan Shoes
Nae (No Animal Exploitation) is a vegan footwear brand from Portugal. Its shoes are designed for all-day comfort and to make the most of quality materials. (Plus Portugal’s style is so warm and earthy!) It has several products, all in the RE-MOVE line, made from marine plastic in an effort to free the oceans. It also creates from natural and recycled materials like plastic bottles, cork, organic cotton, and even fibers from pineapple leaves. It's an awesome brand in terms of ethics, especially for animal lovers around the world.
Indosole is a cool company doing cool things. It turns tires into sandals and slides. How cool?! I didn’t know that it takes thousands of years for tires to decompose, and in many countries they’re burned instead of fuel, releasing harmful chemicals into the air. Indosole gives eight reasons why recycled tires make great footwear, like waterproof, grippy features and comfortable, supportive rubber footbeds. It's also a certified B corporation, which means it's met a series of standards to validate that its impact is environmentally responsible.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.