Living a truly vegan lifestyle involves more than just changing the way you eat. You’ll also have to change what you wear and where you shop. If you truly wish to stop consuming animal products, you need to replace your animal leather with plant leather and your wool with cotton.
By switching to a 100% vegan lifestyle, both dietarily and as a consumer, each of us can save over a hundred animals per year.
Thankfully, vegans are no longer on the fringe of society. This means that major brands are hearing our demands for more vegan-friendly clothing and shoes. Although vegan shoes can be a little bit harder to find than non-vegan shoes, there are more vegan shoes on the market than ever before!
I understand the struggle of trying to find the perfect vegan shoes. So, I decided to create a simple, no-nonsense guide to finding the best vegan shoes in 2022. Isn’t it time you got some new kicks?
Key Differences Between Vegan & Non-Vegan Shoes
At this point, you’re probably wondering what some of the key differences between vegan and non-vegan shoes are. So, let’s start with some of the obvious culprits. The following are the most common materials to find used in non-vegan shoes:
- Animal-derived leather
- Sheep’s wool
- Animal-derived fabric dye
- Animal fur
Thankfully, animal-derived materials are easily substituted with cruelty-free vegan materials to create durable, high-quality vegan shoes that are just as good as their non-vegan counterparts!
For more information about what sets vegan shoes apart, check out the table below:
|Vegan Shoes||Non-Vegan Shoes|
|Are typically made using vegan leather alternatives, such as synthetic leather or plant leather.||Typically made using leather made from cow skin.|
|Instead of wool or fur, vegan shoes use high-quality cotton or a polyester-based material as an insulator.||Often use wool or fur to insulate the shoes and make them warmer.|
|Vegan shoe companies often give back to charities and humanitarian organizations. They cater to the smaller niche market of vegans, which means they may not be as “big” as the shoe companies you’re used to.||Companies that manufacture non-vegan shoes tend to be profit-driven, catering to the majority consumer.|
|Vegan shoe companies are known for their ethical treatment of workers. Often, the shoes are made right here in the USA. When labor is outsourced, many vegan shoe companies ensure that factory laborers are treated well and paid a fair wage.||Large name-brand shoe companies have often been at the center of lawsuits due to poor conditions at their out-of-country factories. Some manufacturers are known for employing “sweatshops” where workers are overworked and underpaid.|
Faux Leather vs. Plant-Based Leather: What’s Better?
Above you may have noticed that I mentioned two types of vegan leather:
- Faux leather (otherwise known as “synthetic leather”)
- Plant leather (which is made from hardened plant matter)
If you’re new to either of these, then you’re probably wondering which type of vegan leather is the better of the two options.
But first, “What the heck is plant leather?”
Plant leather is an incredibly new innovation in the vegan market. To make plant-based leather, manufacturers start with a base made from pulverized fruits or vegetables.
Then, they add chemical hardening agents along with cooling and baking steps. The resulting product is a solid strip of vegan “leather.”
After this, the plant leather is cleaned, treated, protected with sealant, dyed, and printed with a design. Plant leather can be stamped to give it the same iconic appearance of alligator or snakeskin, so it won’t look any different from the real thing!
The only disadvantage of plant-based leather is that it’s a relatively new innovation. Since the process to create plant leather is rather involved and performed by small companies, plant leather is often regarded as an expensive, luxury good.
To learn more, watch this great video of how one company is turning cactus husks into plant leather:
Synthetic leather, on the other hand, is made using a plastic base. Plastic is a very versatile material that can be modified to create a durable leather-like fabric.
Faux leather has two major advantages over plant leather:
- Since it’s made out of plastic, faux leather is more durable and lasts longer.
- Faux leather is cheap to manufacture, so faux leather shoes are more affordable.
The main downside of faux leather is that it’s pretty much the opposite of eco-friendly. The chemical treatments and processes that the faux leather goes through produces harmful greenhouse gasses and toxic waste.
That’s not where it stops, though. Since faux leather is made out of plastic, it doesn’t decay. When it ends up in the landfill, it’s just as bad and toxic for the earth as any other plastic is. And since faux leather is cheaper, there’s less of a chance that it will be recycled or reused.
Between synthetic faux leather and plant leather, I’d have to say that plant leather is far more aligned with the vegan ethos of “do no harm.”
At the same time, though, plant leather can be hard to find and is out of some people’s price range. So, if you can’t find or afford plant leather shoes, don’t feel bad about opting for plant leather instead.
The Best Vegan Shoes For Women 2022
I hope you enjoyed your crash course on vegan shoes… Now, it’s time to get down to business! In this section, I’m going to show you some of the best vegan shoes for women that are currently on the market in 2022.
I recently updated my shoe rack, and these are some of my favorite new pairs.
1) Best Vegan Sneaker For Women: Veja Women’s Nova Vegan Sneakers (link)
Style Rating: 10/10
Dressing up is always fun, but sometimes I just want to throw on a comfortable pair of sneakers and walk down the street. When I’m feeling laid-back Veja’s Nova Vegan Sneakers are hands-down my new favorite vegan sneakers.
They’re comfy, lightweight, look cute, and are incredibly durable.
Unlike traditional sneakers that are made from calfskin leather, Veja’s Nova Sneakers are made with a heavy-duty canvas upper. If you’ve ever worn a pair of Converse All-Stars before, then you’ll find that these feel similar.
However, I’d say that these Vejas not only look better than a pair of All-Stars but they’re also more durable. Most of the converses I’ve had in the past have ripped, but since the canvas on the Nova sneakers is heavy-duty, it’s almost as durable as leather!
The sole is made from durable rubber and features a high-grip outsole, so you don’t have to worry about slipping every time you step into a puddle.
The Veja Novas are available in two different styles and colors:
- Low-top white shoe with a black “V” logo
- Mid-rise black shoe with a white sole and white “V” logo
The only downside is that these are sized based on European sizing. This means that you may need to order a size below what you usually order. They also run a little bit narrow, so they may not be a good choice if you have extra-wide feet.
Why I Like Them:
- They’re incredibly comfortable.
- They look cute and athletic.
- They’re made from durable, high-quality canvas.
- They’re 100% vegan.
- They’re lightweight and multi-functional.
- Since they’re designed in Europe, the sizes may run one size larger if you’re used to American sizing.
- The low-tops aren’t available in black and the mid-tops aren’t available in white.
2) Best Vegan Boots For Women: Dr. Martens Women’s Jadon FL 8 Eye Boots (link)
Style Rating: 9/10
Dr. Martens (or “Doc Martens”) is, by far, one of the most iconic boots in America. Today, Doc Marten boots are commonly associated with punk rock and alternative scenes, due to their retro-punk design.
However, the brand actually started off by making affordable, high-quality boots for factory workers and the military in 1947.
Although Dr. Martens built their reputation on their iconic leather boots, they were one of the first mainstream boot manufacturers to embrace vegan leather. Today, they’re known for making some of the highest quality vegan leather shoes on the market.
Dr. Martens Jadon 8-Eye Boots are badass, incredibly comfortable, and one of the most durable pairs of boots I’ve ever owned.
In the few short months, I’ve had them, I’ve hiked mountain trails, trudged in inches-deep mud and water, and handled snow and ice. Despite the few scuffs on the outside, they’ve held up well and look almost as good as they did on day one.
They’re made with premium heavy-duty synthetic leather and feature a rubber sole. Other than these small details, the design is the same as it’s always been, featuring yellow stitching, grooved sole edges, and an extra-large boot loop to make it easy to hang your boots at the end of the day.
What impresses me the most about these vegan boots is that they’re made with Dr. Martens patented AirWair sole technology. It feels very similar to the Nike Air sole, which is very unexpected coming from a boot. The AirWair soles give you a real “pep in your step,” and will literally have you bouncing from one step to the next.
Why I Like Them:
- They’re made with durable synthetic vegan leather.
- They’re feature Dr. Martens iconic design.
- The patented AirWair soles are comfortable and bouncy.
- They feature a platform that adds an inch to your height.
- I would have preferred if Dr. Martens offered a plant leather boot.
- They’re very expensive.
3) Best Vegan Sandals For Women: Nomadic State of Mind Lounger Sandals (link)
Style Rating: 8/10
Once beach season comes around, the sandals come out. Whether I’m lounging around the house, enjoying my day off at the pool, or kicking back on a sunny beach, Nomadic State of Mind’s Lounger Sandals is some of the most comfortable sandals I’ve ever had.
These aren’t your average run-of-the-mill synthetic leather and rubber sandals, though. Instead, they’re made in the style and tradition of the stone age – with braided rope. That’s right, the entire shoe is made from strands of rope, including the sole.
At first, this may sound a bit strange. However, the organic, knotty feeling of the sole is incredibly comfortable on the bottom of your feet. The experience is very similar to walking barefoot (just without the pain).
I also find that the knots in the ropes offer a kind of “foot massage” as I walk that relieves tension and keeps my feet loose.
The rope upper is cleverly knotted, which allows the straps to be adjusted to fit for comfort.
Why I Like Them:
- The rope soles feel incredibly comfortable on the soles of your feet.
- They’re super-lightweight, so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing shoes.
- They’re made from recycled polypro rope that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
- They’re machine washable, so you can always keep them clean.
- The all-rope look may be off-putting to some.
4) Best Vegan Lounge Shoes For Women: TOMS Women’s Alpargata Recycled Cotton Canvas Loafer (link)
Style Rating: 7/10
Okay, so TOMS shoes may not be the most stylish shoe on the market. But people don’t buy TOMS as a “going out” type of shoe; they buy TOMS because of their comfort.
TOMS Alpargata Vegan Lounge Shoes are some of the most comfortable, lightweight shoes in my closet. Whether you’re lounging around the house or out running errands, these simplistic, well-built shoes will serve you well.
Another reason I support TOMS shoes is that they’re one of the most ethical shoe companies on the market. TOMS is committed to ethical business practices and ensures that all of its workers are treated well.
All of their shoes are made right here in the U.S. and the company only sources materials from other ethically-based manufacturers.
These shoes feature a lightweight rubber sole that allows your feet to really feel the ground (similar to the rope sandals I mentioned above). The upper is made from 50% recycled cotton fabric that would otherwise end up taking up space in a landfill.
Despite how thin it is, the insole is supportive and comfortable. Like the recycled upper, the insole is also made from eco-friendly materials, including recycled PU foam, bio-oil, and recycled rubber.
Why I Like Them:
- They’re lightweight and comfortable.
- TOMS is committed to ethical manufacturing processes.
- TOMS are made in the U.S.
- The cotton upper is made using 50% recycled cotton.
- The insole is made with 50% recycled materials.
- They’re not the most stylish shoes.
- They run a bit narrow, so they’re not well-suited for wide feet.
The Best Vegan Shoes For Men 2022
Although my feminine expertise lends itself better to women’s vegan shoes, I still know a thing or two about what to look for in men’s shoes. That being said, here are the best vegan shoes for men on the market in 2022!
5) Best Vegan Boots: Dr. Martens Men’s Vegan 1460 Fashion Boot (link)
Style Rating: 9/10
Surprise, surprise, Dr. Martens makes it on the list twice (and for good reason). These Doc Martens look almost identical to the women’s vegan Dr. Martens that I reviewed above.
The only difference is that they’re sized for men and have a slightly wider sole and upper to accommodate men’s larger feet.
They’re made with premium synthetic vegan leather that’s stitched and heat pressed to the sole for an extra-tight seal. This means you’ll never have to worry about the sole separating from the upper like you would with a cheap pair of vegan boots.
Their heavy-duty rubber platform sole is made with Dr. Martens patented AirWair air-filled technology as well. Although they look utilitarian, I assure you that they’re some of the most comfortable boots you’ll ever wear.
Why I Like Them:
- They’re stylish and are iconic in the alternative fashion scene.
- They’re incredibly well made.
- Dr. Martens AirWair soles are comfortable and extremely durable.
- Since they’re a designer brand, they’re pretty expensive.
6) Best Vegan Athletic Shoes For Men: Nike Space Hippie 04’s (link)
Style Rating: 10/10
There’s nothing like a reliable, good-looking pair of boots. But what about when you’re trying to get active? Whether you’re hitting the gym or you just want a fresh pair of kicks to match your streetwear, Nike’s Space Hippie 04’s are the way to go.
They’re an experimental pair of shoes made with the planet in mind (or rather, another planet). According to Nike designers, the artistic design of these shoes is designed to represent life on Mars and how a shoe made with recycled, repurposed materials would look like.
I’d say they did a pretty good job.
The textile upper is made from 90% recycled polyester yarn, which makes them both soft, lightweight, and breathable. The yarn is made from scraps of polyester waste, plastic bottles, and even old t-shirts!
The soles are made with a combination of 12% rubber and 88% foam that lends itself to an incredibly comfortable walking shoe.
These shoes truly represent Nike’s journey to becoming a truly sustainable company.
Why I Like Them:
- I love their futuristic design.
- They’re made with mostly recycled materials.
- They’re lightweight and super comfortable.
- Since they’re a limited release shoe, they’re on the more expensive side.
In Conclusion – Where Is The Best Place To Buy Vegan Shoes?
So far, I’ve found that Amazon is a great resource for finding the best vegan shoes. Unfortunately, most of the shoe retailers I’ve visited have no idea what their shoes are made of, so it’s hard to tell which shoes are truly vegan-friendly or not.
With Amazon, I can see all of the materials used to make the shoe and read real-life reviews.
All of these vegan shoes are perfect for most of the year. However, when the snow and ice come around you’re going to need something a little bit more “heavy-duty.”
Whether you’re looking for a good winter boot or have an upcoming ski trip planned, check out my list of the best vegan winter boots next!