Walk out in style with our round-up of bold and sassy vegan shoes. There’s something for every budget.
Many of us have struggled to find a fashionable, ethical shoe, faced with a limited choice of moccasin-style ‘sensible shoes’ that hardly even hinted at being fashion conscious. Vegan shoes were previously limited to a few small brands trying to make a difference. Well thanks to the perseverance of those small brands (like greenshoes.co.uk, which started in the 80s, and vegetarian-shoes.co.uk, which started in the 90s) many global shoe companies have taken notice and created their own ranges.
To pass as vegan, every part of the shoe from the sole unit, to the upper, lining, laces and even eyelets, must be made from alternatives to animal-based fabrics. So these shoes are mainly made from man-made cotton, canvas and pleather, as well as natural rubbers. What seemed impossible a few years ago is fast becoming a reality.
Featured regularly in the pages of Vogue, Elle and Grazia, Brighton-based Beyond Skin started out in E17 London. With a lucky break (Natalie Portman wore a pair of their shoes to the Oscars!), they were soon on their way to being the stylish gemstone in the world of vegan footwear.
Their subtle yet quirky use of colour, along with their signature use of prints and bespoke fabrics, has helped produced a striking 2018 collection, which offers “a wearable yet wholesomely dynamic offering of footwear, with retro 1970s silhouettes alongside delicate feminine styling”.
Prices from £75.00; available in select stores worldwide or at beyond-skin.com.
Dr. Martens Vegan Range
Since the first pair of boots rolled off the production line in 1960, everyone knew there was something special about Dr. Martens. Most people over the age of 30 have a nostalgic link and many rebellious young teens still dream of owning a pair.
Dr. Martens has delighted vegan fans by introducing a stylish vegan range of shoes and boots, including steel cap toe options for vegan workers. Included is one of the best sellers, the cherry red Cambridge doc. 100% vegan (signified by the special yellow heel-loop) it retains all the classic doc’s DNA, built on the iconic Dr. Martens air-cushioned sole.
Available on the high street and at drmartens.com.
A staple in the iconic casual shoe category is Vans. Creating an extensive range of vegan products including belts and hats (mostly available online), Vans has created most of its popular trainers in a cruelty-free range including the timeless Vans Old Skool. This trainer is the classic low-top in bright contrasting colours and interesting textures, with flexible rubber soles and padded cuffs to add all-day comfort to its high-fashion finishes.
Impressively, in an age of unprecedented technological innovation, Vans simply relied on its top five classic styles to drive their cultural relevance, which arguably has never been higher. It’s clear Vans are still the enduring, go-to trainer for Dalston hipsters and over 40s old school skaters alike.
Vans are quoted on The Vegan Society website stating that they “do use glue in our shoes, but they are not animal-based glues, they are synthetic. Most of our Classic Collection has styles and colourways that are vegan-friendly.”
Schuh’s Vegan Range
Schuh has more than 100 stores nationwide and has become a real staple of the British high street since its launch in Edinburgh in 1981.
Recognising the growth of the vegan shoe market, Schuh has created an extensive range of vegan footwear under its own label, as well as carrying Dr. Martens’ vegan range, Melissa and a large selection of vegan Vans. Schuh’s website boasts over 80 styles in men’s, women’s and kids’.
Check out the Melissa range for children, which is particularly colourful and cute. Melissa’s non-leather shoes are scented like candy and bubblegum! We kid you not!
Boutique style – Friendship Shoes
This independent store in Hackney was launched by partners Caroline Back and Steve Honest after struggling to find stylish and sustainable vegan shoes. They wanted to create fashionable shoes where no one was exploited in the process and their carbon footprint was as light as possible.
Friendship Shoes are hand finished in Italy but made in the UK using Goodyear welted (which is a traditional British process), ensuring shoe longevity and avoiding the problem of cheap, non biodegradable footwear ending up in landfill. So as well as being confident that you are buying vegan, you can be safe in the knowledge that they will last more than one season, there is minimal transportation involved in production and all the workers involved at each stage are properly looked after. (Look out for Friendship Shoes’ new bag range created by award-winning artist Iva Troj coming soon).
Friendship Shoes Price £180. Visit the store or online at friendship.shoes
Blow the budget – Stella McCartney
When Stella McCartney established in 2001, there were doubts in the industry that it would be possible to create a luxury fashion brand without using leather or fur. By choosing vegetarian leather, the label pioneered the way forward for luxury fashion brands to produce high-end items that were beautiful, sustainable and cruelty-free.
Since 2013, Stella McCartney has been using eco alter-nappa for all shoe and bag production. This breakthrough material is made from polyester and polyurethane and has a recycled polyester backing. This reduces the amount of petroleum used in their products and the alter-nappa coating is made with over 50% vegetable oil, a renewable, natural resource.
They also use water-borne and solvent-free polyurethanes. As well as being less energy and water intensive, they are made without solvents and therefore much safer for people to work with. The company says its decision not to use leather has enabled them to reduce their environmental impact. The label is working to reduce the impact of its alternative materials by using recycled and bio-based materials.
Stella McCartney Elyse Platforms, available at Harvey Nichols Price £630
Sarah is a freelance writer based in London with published features in Tatler magazine, The Times and The Independent newspapers and LondonCalling.com. Thanks to her keen interest in all things vegan, she’s now writing for Simply Vegan, asking questions and discovering new and exciting options and products for anyone vegan or just interested in the vegan lifestyle. Sara also owns an emerging vegan chocolate brand called London Maker, londonmaker.com.