Skip to Content

The Best Vegan Shoes: 8 Brands Making Cruelty-Free Footwear 


Last Updated on April 30, 2024

Are you on the hunt for the perfect vegan shoes? There are many brands that are starting to create vegan footwear, but not all of them are created equal. 

For example, brands that use virgin plastic in their footwear can technically claim it’s “vegan.” The same goes for most faux leather that claims to be vegan – it’s typically just virgin plastic. 

The Best Vegan Shoes: 8 Brands Making Cruelty-Free Footwear 

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links; for more information please see my disclosure policy.

Virgin plastic may not be derived from animals, per say, but its manufacturing is directly linked to the climate crisis.  

To make virgin plastic, crude oil must be extracted from the earth via fracking. Then through an energy intensive process, usually done in a fossil fuel powered factory, it is transformed into virgin plastic. All of this emits carbon (CO2), which is a greenhouse gas that exacerbates climate change. 

So, what’s the solution? Looking into vegan shoes that have a low carbon footprint. That can mean they’re made with sustainable and recycled materials, built to last, and/or are designed in a low waste manner.  

Thankfully, many brands are starting to embrace ethical and sustainable shoemaking practices that also include vegan options. Here are the best brands making vegan shoes with a small carbon footprint.  

The Best Vegan Shoes: 8 Brands Making Cruelty-Free Footwear 

what is a vegan shoe? 

A vegan shoe is footwear that’s made without any animal-derived materials, like silk, leather, wool or suede. Essentially, no animals were harmed in the making of the shoe. 

Instead, vegan shoes can be made from: 

  • Bio-based materials like corn, bamboo, mushroom, apple or pineapple fibers
  • Synthetic materials like recycled plastics, rubber, canvas, microfibers 

Just be mindful that many companies will also use vegan leather, which is most often made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane. Both materials are made from fossil fuels and take many centuries to break down. 

However, there are many companies coming out with innovative vegan leather options made from pineapple, cactus, mushroom and apple skins too. These plant-based leathers are made from juice industry waste or waste from farming. Several of the brands listed below utilize these materials. 

You’ll also want to avoid brands trying to greenwash you by using the label “vegan” as a marketing tactic. This label alone does not make it sustainable.

Is the brand being transparent about their materials and production practices? Look into their eco-friendly initiatives and see what they’re pursuing, such as offering a take-back program or planting trees with every purchase.

Here’s a general overview of what to look for in vegan shoes to ensure they’re kind to planet + people: 

  • Made from sustainable, innovative materials (aka, not virgin plastic) 
  • Ethical manufacturing: Brands paying fair wages + providing safe working environments 
  • Thoughtful packaging that’s not excessively wasteful 
  • Timeless designs that can be paired with any of your wardrobe pieces 
  • Repairability + durability – can it easily be repaired by a shoe cobbler?  
  • Thoughtful craftsmanship: Every component of the shoe was carefully considered 
The Best Vegan Shoes: 8 Brands Making Cruelty-Free Footwear 

are vegan shoes better? 

It’s important to remember that “vegan shoes” are not more environmentally friendly by default, simply because they’re vegan. Rather, what matters is looking at the entire shoe as a whole. 

There is some debate on the environmental impact of synthetic leathers (like PVCs) versus leather production. Both have an impact on our environment. 

For example, the impact of real leather is driven by land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal agriculture. This impacts biodiversity, water usage and climate change. 

But the plastic industry also has a heavy carbon footprint. Plastic takes hundreds of years to biodegrade and during that time, they shed microplastics which have been found in human feces, blood and even placentas. 

So, which is better? Well, neither is ideal. Because vegan leather made from plants (like apples, cactus, and pineapple) certainly outranks both plastic leather and real leather combined. This kind of leather is made from a waste product, which lowers its impact even further. 

However, remember this: The shoe you already have is the most sustainable option, be it vegan or not. The materials and resources needed to make that shoe have already been expended, so you might as well put it to use.  

Another great option is to find vegan shoes secondhand at a local thrift store or vintage store. Here are the best online marketplaces for thrifted and vintage finds. You’ll give shoes a second chance at life and avoid sending them to the landfill.

The Best Vegan Shoes: 8 Brands Making Cruelty-Free Footwear 

how to tell if a shoe is vegan? 

You can tell if a shoe is vegan by looking at their materials, which are usually listed on their website or on the shoebox.  

Vegan materials can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Cotton 
  • Hemp 
  • Cactus, apple, pineapple + mushroom leather 
  • Cork 
  • Recycled plastic 

Just be mindful of labels like “vegan leather” or “pleather”, as this could just mean virgin plastic. Make sure to double check and see what their vegan leather is made of before committing.

Here are some non-vegan materials: 

  • Leather 
  • Wool 
  • Suede 
  • Fur 
  • Silk 

how long do vegan shoes last? 

How long vegan shoes last is variable: This depends on how high quality the shoe is, how often you wear it, and what conditions you wear it in. 

For example, if you wear your favorite vegan shoes every day, rain or shine, chances are they will diminish in quality a lot faster than saving them for special occasions.  

However, a good high quality pair of vegan shoes can last for several years, even with repeat use. If they are repairable, you may be able to extend their lifespan even further. 

gzw approved vegan shoe options

I’ve rounded up a list of brands that create vegan shoes: All of these get the Going Zero Waste seal of approval. Some of these brands are exclusively vegan, whereas others offer a varying array of vegan options. 

All the brands on this list utilize different strategies to ensure their materials are sustainable and ethical. There are several brands that also offer take-back programs, which help close the loop and ensure your shoes get recycled at the end of their life.  

I’ve gone ahead and highlighted some key features of each brand, but it isn’t an exhaustive list. Be sure to check out their websites for more information. 


1. cariuma

  • Women + men’s footwear 
  • 65% of products are 100% vegan 
  • Sustainable materials like organic cotton, recycled PET and natural rubber 
  • Support fair working hours + wages 
  • Focus on biodiverse reforestation: Plant 2 trees for every pair of shoes purchased 


2. rothy’s

  • Women + men’s footwear  
  • Vegan + cruelty-free 
  • Made from recycled water bottles with natural and renewable soles  
  • Offers a recycling program  


3. suavs

  • Women + men’s footwear 
  • Vegan 
  • Made from sustainable materials like 100% post-consumer recycled plastics  
  • Compact and reusable shoe boxes that double as shipping boxes 
  • Excess product is donated to organizations like Soles4Souls 


4. alohas

  • Women’s footwear 
  • Multiple vegan shoe options available 
  • Locally produced in Spain 
  • Carbon offset option 
  • On-demand shopping to avoid overproduction 


5. kengos

  • Women + men’s footwear 
  • Various vegan options 
  • Made from innovative materials like mushroom leather + cactus leather 
  • Created with only 6 components 
  • No petroleum-based adhesives used 
  • Recycled cardboard packaging 

nae shoes

6. nae shoes

  • Women, men + unisex footwear 
  • Vegan + cruelty-free 
  • Made from sustainable materials like Pinatex, apple skin, cork, organic cotton, etc. 
  • Pre-loved program allows you to send back your shoes to be recycled or resold 


7. clae

  • Women + men’s sneakers 
  • Vegan options available 
  • Made with cactus and apple leather, recycled materials, etc. 

ground cover

8. ground cover

  • Unisex shoes 
  • Vegan + cruelty-free 
  • Made with cactus + pineapple leather 
  • Non-virgin inputs for both the insole and sole: cork + coffee ground waste 
  • Packaged in a post-consumer cardboard shoebox 

So, which of these sustainable vegan shoes would you try? Let me know in the comments!

Join The Conversation

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *