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The Best Sustainable and Ethically Made Women’s Shoe Brands

By February 15, 2021May 9th, 2021No Comments
The Best Sustainable and Ethically Made Women's Shoe Brands

More and more, women are looking for apparel and, in-particular, footwear brands that are eco-friendly, sustainable, and fair trade. All of these shoe brands have sustainability at the root of their mission statements. But beyond that, they also feature incredible products that you’d be remiss not to check out.

These sustainable women’s shoe brands have a minimal impact on our planet — meaning less pollution, waste, and resources used. These shoes are made of plant-based materials, have lower carbon footprints, use recycled material, or are manufactured in safe working conditions. Many of these brands have also committed to paying a living wage to their workers. That’s the type of ethical and sustainable commitment I can get behind.

These brands make it possible for consumers to make a personal statement about their values through their footwear. Sustainable shoes aren’t all made of hemp or itchy materials. They aren’t all gray, homely, or earthy-looking! Check out these modern brands that are redefining what sustainable and ethical fashion means.

BENDY BY ASHBURY SKIES

This shoe is simple, comfortable, stylish, and planet-friendly. The BENDY has less than eight components, versus the 25-30 parts in an average leather sneaker. This means that, comparatively, BENDY uses less labor and generates fewer emissions to produce their shoes. The shoes are also made in California, so there is less transportation, meaning it has a lower carbon footprint than other leather, Asian-made shoes. 

Additionally, unlike most shoes, BENDY is stitched together rather than glued, so workers aren’t exposed to toxic glue vapors.

BENDY also has a double-thick, cushioned insole that feels like you are stepping down onto a pillow. The footbed is made of slow recovery, breathable eco-foam. It’s similar to the kind you would find in a high-performance running shoe, and it will conform to your particular foot shape. Fodor’s Travel declared BENDY a top stylish travel shoe.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Leather Working Group Gold Certified 
  • Handcrafted in the USA

ALLBIRDS

Made of wool, these comfortable shoes are breathable, temperature-regulating, and moisture-wicking, making for a pretty comfy kick. Plus, the wool they use comes from producers with high standards for farming, land management, and animal welfare. The shoes’ laces are even made from recycled water bottles! 

The soles are partly made of sugar cane. This sugar cane compound comes from Brazil, where sugar cane grows freely. It’s a quick-growing, fully renewable resource that removes carbon from the atmosphere — meaning that the Allbirds’ sole is carbon neutral.

Time magazine declared Allbirds shoes the most comfortable shoes in the world, and their popularity soared. The founders are serious about sustainability, so this company is the real deal. You can read a review of the Allbirds Tree Runners here

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Carbon offsets
  • Certified B Corp

ROTHY’S

Rothy’s shoes are known for their signature style and comfort. This reinvented ballet flat is made from recycled water bottles. To date, they have used over 75 million bottles in their shoes. These shoes use 3D knitting technology, so there is very little waste. Plus, these comfortable flats are washable, so they clean up nicely. The brand is striving for a 100% zero-waste business model. 

Their sleek and simple style makes them very versatile. They are both office and weekend-friendly. With many color options, women tend to collect this brand. This shoe won the heart of Megan Markle, a woman who is often seen wearing her values on her feet.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • 100% vegan
  • Carbon offsets

NISOLO

This sustainably-minded brand makes timeless, versatile, comfortable leather boots and shoes. All are made in Peru, and the company pays living wages. This Certified B Corp is also committed to offering healthcare and a healthy, safe work environment for their workers. Thanks to Nisolo, shoemaking as an art form is alive and well and will be passed down to a new generation of Peruvians.

If buying better and higher-quality shoes for fair prices is important to you, give Nisolo a try. These simple, well-designed shoes will serve you for many years to come.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Leather Working Group Gold Certified 
  • Fairtrade
  • Carbon offsets
  • Certified B Corp

VEJA

This French sneaker company uses sustainability as their guide for their design. They use Fair Trade and organic raw materials as much as possible and invest in research and new technologies. Veja goes beyond fair labor practices and promotes the professional development of its workers. Besides fair wages, they offer career development for their workers. This transparent business also discloses where their shoes and their raw materials come from on their website.

Many A-list celebrities and fashion influencers covet the famous V on their upper.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Leather Working Group Gold Certified 
  • Fair Trade
  • Certified B Corp

CARIUMA

These sneakers are made from responsibly sourced materials and produced in Brazil’s ethical factories, with a strict code of conduct for workers’ fair treatment. This brand encourages their planet-conscious consumers to buy quality over quantity (the only true answer to sustainability). The soles are partially made of natural rubber instead of synthetic, oil-based compound.

This Instagram-friendly brand offers a range of fun, bright colors too. These shoes are highly rated for comfort by their customers.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Fairtrade

EVERLANE SNEAKERS

Everlane is committed to building a transparent and environmentally responsible supply chain. They vet all their suppliers for fair wages, reasonable working hours, and environmental practices. If you click on a product, a graph reveals the true costs behind each item, from materials to labor to transportation. They disclose their markup compared to a traditional retailer as well. You can even click through and see the name of the factory and images of their facility.

They offer a recycling service for their sneakers, so at the end of your sneakers’ life, you can send them back for recycling to keep them out of the landfill. These sneakers are stylish and classic, like a more modern version of Vans. They work dressed up with trousers, or even a flowy dress.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Recyclable
  • Carbon offsets

VIVO BAREFOOT

This sustainably-minded company uses the thinnest possible sole, with no heel. It sounds odd, but this allows your feet to move as they were originally meant to move. This shoe feels like you are walking barefoot, and that’s exactly the point.  

Vivo Barefoot focuses on efficiency in the supply chain and technological innovation to conserve energy during their production process. They use natural, sustainable, and recycled materials as much as possible. Vivo Barefoot also offers repair service, so if your shoes wear out over time, they will re-sole them and bring them back to life. Some high-performance runners swear by these shoes. The style is simple and clean. The brand has lots of loyal fans who wear them to kick around the home office. Vivo Barefoot also makes a vegan collection of shoes.

Key Features

  • Certified B Corp
  • Sustainable material choices
  • 100% vegan option

MATT + NAT

Vegan brand Matt & Nat uses no animal products in their shoe production. In addition to being vegan, this sustainably-minded brand uses cork and natural rubber in their lining and soles. 

They only work with trustworthy factories, and this tenet is fundamental to the brand. Regular visits and relationships with these factories are integral to ensure that working conditions meet company standards.

Their modern, minimalist designs have captured the attention of celebs like Charlize Theron, Nathalie Portman, Fearne Cotton, and Olivia Wilde.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • 100% vegan 

PO-ZU

Po-Zu is a Japanese word for pause. This brand’s mission is to provide your feet with unique respite from the frantic pace of modern life and halt the damage that modern footwear manufacturing causes to people and the planet.

What is unique about Po-Zu is that they pride themselves on exploring cutting-edge materials and an ethical production process. They avoid natural leather and also steer away from chemical-based synthetic leathers. Instead, they use solvent-free, breathable leather-like uppers like organic canvas or natural cork. The shoes’ memory foam foot-mattress adds comfort and bounce underfoot. It’s removable, allowing for orthotics placement.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • 100% vegan

FORTRESS OF INCA

This family-owned and operated business is known for quality and craftsmanship. The company always ensures that the working conditions of the people who create their shoes are safe and paid fair wages. All shoes are made in Peru, a country that has a rich history of creating quality, handcrafted footwear.

The brand’s fair trade practices ensure fair wages, gender equity, and good working conditions for all their shoemakers. The designs are simple, refined, and versatile, with classic silhouettes that will stand the test of time. These are shoes you’ll wear year after year.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Fair Trade

OESH

Developed by a Harvard physician, these Made in the USA shoes are uniquely designed to enhance strength, movement, and function, promoting total body health and wellness. 

These flats have a zero-waste knitted upper and a 3D-printed sole. They use a unique knitting process, so no fabric trimming is needed — resulting in no waste. Their 3D-printed sole can be shredded at the end of the shoe’s life cycle and reused to make new soles.

This brand believes that the best way to reduce carbon emissions and waste is to simplify the manufacturing process and keep components and materials minimum. That’s because 97% of the carbon footprint of a typical pair of shoes comes from the multi-stage manufacturing process (68%) and the processing of the used materials (29%).

Key Features

  • Zero waste
  • Handcrafted in the USA
  • Recyclable sole

BAABUK

Inspired by the felted boot Russians wear in Siberia, this family-owned Swiss brand founded its very own ethical workshop. Even though they were new to shoemaking, they jumped right in. They created their own tools and machinery, which gives Baabuk more control over their entire manufacturing and distribution process to more easily conduct business with high ethical standards. They use wool from happy sheep who graze nearby.

These 100% felted wool shoes are naturally breathable, antibacterial, and the felted wool is water-repellent.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Fair Trade
  • Certified B Corp

CAMPER

With a long heritage of shoemaking, this unique brand is known for creating modern, comfortable classics. They focus on quality, integrity, and design, and innovative ways to minimize their environmental footprint.

Based in Spain, this brand has committed to increasing the use of recycled materials, and they consistently balance them with materials that are durable and long-lasting. They choose factories that uphold their core principles to ensure high standards regarding human rights and environmental practices.

Camper has been investing in green energy projects within Spain since 2010, with the commitment to offset the energy they use to operate their business. 

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Leather Working Group Gold Certified 
  • Carbon offsets

VAGABOND SHOEMAKERS

Known for their well-made, simple designs that last, this Swedish shoe company puts sustainability at the core of their shoemaking. This brand believes that fashion brands need to think and act sustainably on all levels. 

In all their efforts, they consider their impact on materials, production, and transportation. This 360-degree approach includes 100% sustainable fabrics, efficient chemical controls and replacements, and recycling programs.

Key Features

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Leather Working Group Gold Certified 
Sebastian Arciszewski

Sebastian Arciszewski

An enthusiast of all things minimalist. I love the simple design and always look for an aesthetic that complements how an item works. Because after all, a design is how a thing works. You can find me on twitter: @sebastian_a