Ethical and Sustainable Shoe Brands Worth the Investment

ethical and sustainable shoe brands
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Ethical and Sustainable Shoe Brands Worth the Investment

While I always try to prioritize ethical and sustainable business practices, this has proved especially useful when it comes to shoes.

Before I started considering the ethics of what I consume, I was someone who would buy a half a dozen cheap shoes every season. They were a trend item for me. Comfort and longevity didn’t really matter. But after college, when I started working in the service industry full-time, my feet started to feel the effects of long hours standing at coffee counters or restocking merchandise. I needed a better quality shoe.

Luckily, this roughly coincided with my interest in sustainable fashion. I was ready to pay a higher price for a better item, and many of the offerings in the ethical and sustainable shoe market are made using time-tested shoe-making techniques that ensure both better performance and quality.

Just a note: especially for those of us who work on our feet, shoes are an incredibly important piece of equipment, more of a medical item than a fashion statement. So I always recommend buying what works best for you and your feet, regardless of the maker.

But if you’re looking for something with a focus on labor ethics and sustainability, the ethical and sustainable shoe brands listed here are a great choice.

My Picks for Ethical and Sustainable Shoes

1. Nisolo

  • WHAT THEY SELL: supple leather, minimalist shoes for men and women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: building infrastructure in Peru | transparent business model | classic, timeless styles | leather sourced from small scale industry
  • LEARN MORE HERE. 20% off sitewide through 12/29/20 with code, GIFTME

2. Fortress of Inca

  • WHAT THEY SELL: modern leather shoes and boots for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: fair trade | builds infrastructure | locally sourced materials | fair pricing
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

3. Bhava

  • WHAT THEY SELL: vegan shoes and boots for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: vegan | ethical wages | sustainable and eco-friendly materials | woman-owned
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

4. Frye

  • WHAT THEY SELL: leather shoes and boots for women and men
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: made in USA products are ethically produced| traditional practices make them repairable
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

5. Allbirds

  • WHAT THEY SELL: sneakers, flats, and boat shoes for women and men
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: traceable wool and tree-fiber | biodegradable | ethical production | purchases carbon offsets
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

6. TOMS

  • WHAT THEY SELL: shoes, sandals, boots, and dress shoes for women, men, & kids
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: (no longer a one-for-one) | 33% of profit given to charitable initiatives | sustainable and ethical production
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

7. Rothy’s

  • WHAT THEY SELL: shoes and sneakers for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: recycled materials | washable | owned factory | low-waste production
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

8. ABLE

  • WHAT THEY SELL: flats, boots, and dressy shoes for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: transparent wages | sustainable business practices | investment in artisan communities
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

9. Alice & Whittles

  • WHAT THEY SELL: rain boots, winter & hiking boot, and sneakers for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: natural materials | 90% traceable materials | WOC-led | ethical production
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

10. Darzah

  • WHAT THE SELL: flats and boots for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: locally-sourced textiles | women’s empowerment | traditional artisanship | fair wages
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

11. VEJA

  • WHAT THEY SELL: a small selection of super cool sneakers (they run about a half-size small)
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: organic cotton purchased from a small scale farmers’ coop | sustainably harvested rubber | leather from cows that aren’t farmed on deforested rainforest land | does not advertise | produces on demand to reduce waste |  CO2 reduction | works with marginalized communities
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

12. Oliberte

  • WHAT THEY SELL: casual suede flats, shoes, and boots for men and women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: fair trade certified | certified b corp | lifetime warranty | leather sourced from small scale industry | local rubber | limited packaging
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

13. Root Collective

  • WHAT THEY SELL: women’s flats and boots made with embroidered textiles and other fabric
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: fair pay | works with marginalized communities | local textile sourcing
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

14. Sseko Designs

  • WHAT THEY SELL: leather loafers, boots, and sandals for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: locally sourced textiles | leather sourced from local industry | fair trade | builds infrastructure | woman owned, woman run
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

15. Etiko

  • WHAT THEY SELL: Converse look-a-like low and high top sneakers for men and women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: fair trade | works with marginalized communities | fair trade premiums for infrastructure development | sustainable cotton and rubber sourcing
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

16. Po-Zu

  • WHAT THEY SELL: a wide variety of shoes and boots for men and women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: sustainable | renewable materials | use renewable energy | small scale | ship items for lower carbon emissions | fair wages | eco-friendly, nontoxic work environment | organic and innovative materials
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

17. Sole Rebels

  • WHAT THEY SELL: flats and sandals
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: 4 times minimum wage pay | medical coverage | free transportation for employees | wages not quota dependent | sustainable production | locally sourced materials | builds infrastructure | cultural preservation | organic and recycled materials
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

18. OESH

  • WHAT THEY SELL: 3-D printed and injection molded sandals and sneakers for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: low to no waste | locally sourced materials | 3-D printed | woman owned, woman run | made in Charlottesville, VA | biodegradable materials
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

19. Deux Mains

  • WHAT THEY SELL: simple, modern sandals for women
  • WHY THEY’RE ETHICAL: builds infrastructure | employee owned and operated | works with marginalized communities | locally sourced materials | fair wages
  • LEARN MORE HERE.

More Shopping Guides here.

Looking for more? Shop 100+ sustainable and ethical brands with my Sustainable Brand Directory.
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1 Comment

  1. Laura
    January 21, 2021 / 4:47 am

    Very interesting article, thanks also for having explained in detail the company choices and the sustainability that each of them represents. But I am surprised not to see a brand: ACBC. I have been wearing their shoes for a long time, as well as being comfortable they are also sustainable. I chose them precisely because by recycling plastic bottles and vegetable waste they can make shoes emitting less carbon dioxide.

    That said, congratulations on the article, some companies I didn’t know about them, so know more 🙂

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