With winter right around the corner, I realized that I needed a new pair of shoes. My feet were craving sexy new boots, but I wanted something comfortable, cute, affordable, and cruelty-free. Hundreds of shoes met my first three requirements—comfort, style, and reasonable price. Yet finding something that matched all four requirements did not come easily.
The problem is that most high-quality winter shoes for men and women are not vegan. We see the cruelty-free label plastered on skin- and hair-care products all the time, yet cruel practices also go into producing shoes. Many would agree that leather production supports the meat and dairy industry, and—like those industries—is bad for the environment. People shun fur coats, yet adore calf hair shoes.
On the other hand, many shoes made of synthetic materials are also bad for the environment. The process of creating some faux leather produces toxic by-products. Low-priced shoes usually come with a cost to the people in faraway places who work in unsafe conditions for low pay. It can seem as though there are two choices: support the leather industry or support sweatshops. Not a fun decision to make.
Who knew shoes were so complicated? There have been times when I just wanted to give up and buy the pair of non-vegan shoes that would be so, so perfect if it weren't for that leather! I totally understand the frustration and the reason why many people have chosen to ignore the inhumane practices that go into making shoes.
Thankfully there are now many eco-friendly and cruelty-free shoe companies that are avoiding unsavory practices while satisfying this shoe buyer’s four requirements. Below are a few of my favorite shoe companies that keep the vegan movement looking good.
1. Nicora Johns These fabulous shoes are handmade in the good ol' United States of America. Even the materials come from the States. This company is truly changing the way vegan shoes are perceived. Nicora Johns offers boots, flats, heels, and sandals–many of which are customizable. Goodbye hippie hemp sandals, hello fashion! nicorajohns.com
2. Cri de Coeur—whose name means “cry from the heart” in French—is a fabulous vegan shoe line that came on the scene in 2008. The company prides itself on its ethically made and sourced shoes. I’m crazy about their booties, and can’t wait until summer to rock their colorful Klimt-inspired line, designed in collaboration with vegan socialite Arden Wohl. They also produce gorgeous handbags! cri-de-coeur.com
3. Beyond Skin is a UK-based shoe company that sells to customers in the United States. Beyond Skin’s shoes are best described as fun and flirty. They donate 1% of all profits to “grass roots environmental and social projects,” use only the finest eco-friendly materials, and make their shoes in nearby Spain—all while maintaining affordable prices for their shoes. beyondskin.co.uk
Tips for buying cruelty-free shoes
* When shopping large retailers' websites, use search terms like 'faux leather' to narrow down results.
* If you're not sure if a shoe is vegan, email the company. My boyfriend does this often when looking for new shoes online, and he always receives a prompt response.