Top 8 Ethical Shoes for the Retail & Service Industries

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

If you’ve ever worked in a service job, you know that most “comfortable” shoe recommendations just don’t cut it. Sometimes you’re on your feet for 8 to 10 hours straight. Sometimes you’re literally standing in one place for an entire shift (that factory job was the worst job ever). It takes a toll on your whole body, and sneakers designed for walking or running aren’t designed to handle prolonged foot stress.

I’ve worked off and on in the service and retail industries for 8 years – at a Blockbuster (RIP), craft store, coffee shop, screenprinting company, and thrift store – so I know what it feels like to end a long, chaotic shift with aching feet.

Here are my recommendations for ethically produced women’s shoes suitable for this industry. I truly believe that these are some of your best bets even if you expand out your search to conventionally produced options; they’re that good.

Just a note: I’ve made my selection with dress codes in mind, so I’ve opted to feature simple, solid color options, but many of these shoes come in a variety of colors.


Elite in Jet Black, $160
Designed for work and recommended by local nurses and service industry folks. Made by and for women with cushy, 3-D printed soles and leather uppers.

La Vida Sneaker in Charcoal, $120
3-D printed soles and mesh uppers.

All Birds

Wool Runners in Black or Charcoal, $95
Designed for city walking, these are well suited for standing on hard, synthetic surfaces all day. I wore mine to the Women’s March and my feet didn’t even hurt the next day! Made with sustainably sourced wool and packaged minimally for low waste.

Wool Runners in Black or SF Gray, $95
A slip-on version of the runner.

*The main downside to these is that the upper is very soft and flexible. May not be suitable for a food service environment.


Professional Waterproof Clog, $89.95
These aren’t very eco-friendly, but Birkenstock’s footbed can’t be beat, and these would be suitable for lots of work environments. Birkenstocks have a Good rating on Good on You.

If you’re allowed to wear open toe shoes…
Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed, $109.95
I have a pair of Birkenstock Soft Footbed sandals and they’re my favorite work shoe in the summertime. Comfort all day long.


Ello V Black Pinatex (vegan), £90.00
Pineapple “leather” upper and soft cushioned footbed. Made sustainably and ethically.

Liv Boot in Black, £135.00
Chrome free leather and Po-zu’s signature coconut fiber “foot mattress,” which I can personally recommend as extremely comfortable.

Looking for more? Shop 100+ sustainable and ethical brands with my Sustainable Brand Directory.
If you found this post helpful, you can Buy Me a Coffee.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: