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When I started following a vegan lifestyle, my main focus was diet. It was only when I became conscious of the cruel treatment of animals in the fashion industry that I realised it wasn’t quite so simple!

Interestingly, one of my trickiest finds – way more so than clothing or food – was footwear. This is because it’s an industry that is still so dominated by leather.

The thing is, you can go down to your local New Look and find Vegan Society-approved footwear, but this still supports an unsustainable fast fashion model. The term ‘Vegan’ can often be used as a greenwashing tactic, when the materials and manufacturing methods used are just as terrible (if not worse) for the environment, and ethical labour standards are woefully lacking.

I wasn’t prepared to unleash my inner barefoot hippie just yet. So instead, I took it upon myself to find animal-friendly alternatives that are still kind to people and planet… which was no mean feat! 🦶

My Top Picks

Will’s Vegan Store

Review Summary

Here are the best vegan shoes in the UK (that are also kind to people & planet)

Veganism has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, with consumers waking up to animal cruelty and the environmental impact of leather. A decade ago, it would have been nigh on impossible to find a stylish pair of vegan shoes. But fortunately today, it’s getting easier to identify ethical brands that align with your values.

For more on why you should make the switch to vegan footwear and commonly asked questions, feel free to skip ahead. But for now, let’s stride into guilt-free shopping with my pick of the best UK-based ethical footwear brands.

#1 Will's Vegan Store

  • Certification: Climate Neutral Certified & PETA-Approved Vegan
  • For: Men & Women
  • Categories: Boots, heels, pumps, sandals, shoes, trainers
  • Size Range: UK Men’s 7-13 & Women’s 3-8
  • Price: ££

For a huge selection of ethical vegan footwear, look no further than slow fashion pioneers Will’s Vegan Store. From the linings to the glues used, you can rest assured that anything you buy from this brand is 100% animal-friendly.

Crafted in Italy and Portugal, the brand adheres to European Union labour laws, ensuring fair employment, anti-discrimination, and robust health and safety standards. Notably, their collection features innovative bio-based vegan leather with 69% bio-oil content. They also make use of recycled materials like PU and rubber.

WVS have a plastic-free, carbon-neutral supply chain, offsetting their emissions with deforestation projects in Papua New Guinea and Columbia. In particular, I’m a big fan of their durable and high-quality collection of boots.

#2 LØCI

  • Certification: No official vegan certification as of yet
  • For: Men & Women
  • Categories: Trainers
  • Size Range: UK Men’s 6-12 & Women’s 3.5-8
  • Price: ££

If you’re after a new pair of ethical trainers, then LØCI is your go-to brand! Fighting a fast fashion system based on overproduction and unsustainable materials, they use a range of innovative textiles such as recycled ocean plastic, bio-based leather from non-food grade corn waste, and renewable elements like cork insoles and recycled rubber soles.

LØCI also support wildlife conservation projects through partnerships with Re:wild and SEE Turtles. In fact, for every pair of trainers bought, 20 plastic bottles are saved from entering oceans and landfills!

With a lovely range of mid, low and high tops, you’re bound to find the perfect pair.

#3 V.GAN

  • Certification: PETA-Approved Vegan
  • For: Men & Women
  • Categories: Boots, Sandals, Shoes, Slippers, Trainers
  • Size Range: UK Men’s 6-11.5 & Women’s 3-9
  • Price: £-££

Since 2018, V.GAN has emerged on the footwear scene as a leading force in cruelty-free living. Starting in London, their PETA-approved shoes are now shipped all around the world.

Their unconditionally vegan range is also kind to people and planet, complying with ethical standards protected by strict employment and safety laws. V.GAN are dedicated to minimising their environmental footprint, using low-impact materials like recycled ocean waste, eco-friendly packaging, and renewable energy in their supply chain.

From the softest slippers to sandals that mould to your feet, V.GAN make the comfiest shoes that will soon become your firm favourites!

#4 Ration.L

  • Certification: B-Corp, Global Recycled Standard, GOTS, FSC, ZDHC & Vegan Society certified
  • For: Gender Neutral
  • Categories: Trainers
  • Size Range: UK 4-11
  • Price: £-££

Tread lightly on the planet with B-Corp Ration.L! The R-Kind trainer is gender-neutral, made with non-toxic PU, and carries the Vegan Trademark stamp of approval.

Made from GOTS-certified organic cotton, all the little details have been thought about, right down to the eyelets made from recycled aluminium and the FSC-certified recyclable packaging.

What I love most about Ration. L (aside from their impressive roster of credentials) is that they are on a mission to keep things simple, timeless and ethical. Their flagship trainer comes in 11 versatile colours and will make a staple addition to your everyday capsule wardrobe.

#5 Collection & Co

  • Certification: PETA-Approved Vegan
  • For: Women
  • Categories: Boots, heels, lace-ups, sandals, trainers
  • Size Range: UK Women’s 3-9
  • Price: ££

Established in 2016, Collection & Co sell a small but perfectly formed collection of vegan shoes, proving the point that animal-friendly footwear can be just as stylish as its leather counterpart.

They take the time to source eco-friendly materials that have the same look, feel and texture as animal products (minus the cruelty). Their footwear is then manufactured in limited production runs in a small, family-run factory in Greece (you can even watch a video tour of the factory).

They have collaborated with Piñatex (a developer of pineapple leather) and reuse discarded materials from previous collections to reduce landfill. In particular, check out this brand if you’re looking for something a touch more formal.

Why Make the Switch to Ethical Vegan Footwear?

Here are a few sobering facts about the footwear industry:

  • 23 billion pairs of shoes are made annually and 22 billion are thrown away
  • 90% of shoes produced each year will eventually end up in landfill
  • Shoes are generally made from non-biodegradable materials that can take up to 100 years to decompose
  • The footwear industry is responsible for 1.4% of global emissions (air travel is responsible for 2.5%)

The Problem With Leather Shoes

I’ve discussed the impact of popular animal-based materials in more depth, but here’s a quick breakdown of the problem with leather as a material.

The 'by-product' myth

Fast fashion shoes

The leather industry would like to have us believe that it’s an innocent by-product of the meat industry – that we’re simply using all of the animal which would otherwise go to waste. But the reality is very different.

Revenue from the skins of animals can often outweigh that of meat, making it a lucrative industry worth around 400 billion dollars in its own right. In fact, over one billion animals are killed for their skins each year. At best, it’s much fairer to call leather a co-product of the meat industry.

Animal suffering & slaughter

These days, there might be some raised eyebrows if someone walked into a room wearing a real fur coat, but it always amazes me how ‘real leather’ is still a phrase synonymous with ‘quality’ and ‘trust’. Of course, the less savoury reality is that an animal has lost their life for the new pair of leather boots in your wardrobe.

Moreover, much of the global leather industry is carried out in developing nations halfway across the world, like China and India. It’s important to note that these countries don’t have any animal welfare regulations.

Environmental impact

Environmental destruction caused by deforestation

Studies show that out of all fashion materials, leather has the worst impact on the environment – more than double that of PU.

This is because it contributes to deforestation and the loss of natural habitats, with huge amounts of land required for cattle grazing and growing feed.

The process of tanning animal skin so that it is fit for use is also a highly toxic process. Not only is it highly water intensive, but it is typically tanned using chromium. This is a heavily polluting metal that ends up running into rivers and devastating the world’s waterways.

Leather industry workers

All of these nasty chemicals are not just harsh on the environment – they are hazardous when people come into contact with them, too.

Leather workers in poor countries are routinely subject to unregulated conditions and daily exposure to toxic chemicals, which can lead to chronic health conditions and cancers. In other words, don’t be misled by the luxury ‘Italian leather’ stamp of approval. The leather is usually imported from China or India before being finished in Italy.

What's the Alternative to Leather? Does 'Vegan' Automatically Equal Ethical?

Plant-based alternatives to animal skins

It’s important to draw a distinction here. Just because shoes are marketed as vegan doesn’t automatically mean they’re ethical.

If the vegan shoes you’re eyeing up are predominantly made from oil-based PVC (I’m looking at you, Dr. Martens!), then this is generally a good sign that sustainability isn’t all that high on a brand’s priority list. ‘Vegan’ also tells you nothing about how a brand treats the people in its supply chain – an equally important consideration.

Admittedly, this rules out a lot of shoes at first glance. But that’s why I’ve written this article – so that you can choose to spend your money with the good guys who have a more holistic view of ethical manufacturing.

There has been plenty of development in recent years in high-quality, low-impact vegan leathers. Look out for fruit leathers like Piñatex or AppleSkin, as well as cork and recycled elements.

Vegan Footwear FAQs

What materials should be avoided when buying vegan shoes?

The obvious material to look out for is leather. But suede and fur linings/trims are also incredibly common.

If shoes aren't made from animal materials, does that guarantee they're vegan?

No. In truth, brands can become a bit unstuck when it comes to promising that their shoes are vegan – even when there’s no leather in sight. This is because a lot of the glues and dyes that are used in the footwear industry contain animal products.

It’s always best to check for vegan certification. Or, at the very least, clarify with the brand directly – never assume!

What certification should I look out for?

‘PETA-Approved Vegan’ is the best certification to look out for when it comes to vegan footwear. A stamp like ‘B-Corp’ also proves that a company is working to the highest ethical and environmental standards.

What materials are best for vegan shoes?

A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of plastic-based PVC. Whilst PU is also made from plastic, it is manufactured using much cleaner processes that are better regulated. There are also lots of fantastic renewable and sustainable alternatives becoming more widely available, such as fruit leathers, cork and recycled materials.

Are vegan shoes as durable as leather shoes?

Yes! Vegan shoes can be just as durable as traditional leather shoes. Advancements in synthetic materials mean they’re improving in quality all the time.

If you care for your vegan shoes properly and buy from brands that prioritise slow fashion, you should be wearing them for a long time to come!

Are vegan shoes more expensive?

As with anything, prices vary. But, if you’re looking for ethically made shoes, then I’m afraid to say that they will necessarily cost more than their fast fashion counterparts. This is because everyone in the supply chain has been compensated fairly for their contribution.

How do I care for vegan shoes?

Care guidance may differ slightly from traditional leather, so it’s always best to follow the specific instructions from the brand. This may include different cleaning products and techniques dependent on the main materials used.

Tread Lightly on the Planet With Ethical Footwear

On a final note, I should point out that the most ethical pair of shoes is the pair you already own. If you properly care for your shoes – periodically taking the time to clean, polish and reheel them – they will last for much, much longer.

However, when the majority of footwear that gets thrown into landfill is less than a year old, it’s clear that we also desperately need to readdress our relationship with stuff.

If you’re looking for more leather alternatives for your staple wardrobe pieces, then check out my posts on the best vegan leather handbags and faux leather jackets. I’ve also shared my favourite vegan fashion brands and my go-to online stores!

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