Whether you work in retail, the food industry, a factory, a hospital, or an industrial warehouse, one thing’s for certain – you need a great pair of shoes. The only problem is that many of the recommended work shoes are made with leather, which makes them non-vegan.
Luckily, there are plenty of good vegan-friendly options as well. You just have to know what to look for.
So, to make your life easier, I decided to put together a brief guide outlining some of the best vegan work shoes on the market! No matter what your profession is, I guarantee you’ll find the right fit below.
- Restaurant Work, Custodial Work
- Construction, Factory, Industrial Workers
- Restaurant Workers, Retail
Vegan Work Shoes: What’s Different About Them
So, what exactly makes vegan work shoes different from non-vegan work shoes? What are the key differences that separate a vegan-friendly shoe from a non-vegan shoe?
Here’s a quick table outlining some of the key differences, so you can see for yourself:
|Vegan Work Shoes||Non-Vegan Work Shoes|
|Often made with synthetic polyurethane (PU) leather. This leather comes from a thick piece of plastic that’s layered in wax and dyed to look and feel like leather.||Typically made with real leather that comes from animal hides. These hides are obtained from slaughterhouses that kill cows and pigs for meat.|
|Made with synthetic fibers or organic cloth, such as cotton or canvas.||May feature wool inner lining, which comes from sheep’s wool (which isn’t vegan).|
For the most part, vegan work shoes don’t look or feel all that different from non-vegan work shoes. It all comes down to the materials that are used.
Today’s top-rated synthetic materials are actually just as durable and comfortable as non-vegan materials like cowhide leather and wool, so you’re not sacrificing quality either.
Is Rubber Vegan?
Almost all work shoes are made with a rubber sole. Rubber is a thick, durable, yet soft material that can absorb impact from walking and stands up to the abrasive nature of concrete flooring and asphalt.
Rubber is 100% vegan. It starts off as a type of sap that comes from rubber trees. This sap is later processed and turned into rubber, which is used for shoes all around the world. Not only is rubber vegan but it’s also environmentally friendly and can be recycled endlessly!
The Best Vegan Work Shoes For 2023
No matter what industry you work in, you’re going to need a solid, comfortable, and reliable pair of work shoes.
Not only can the right pair of work shoes keep you safe at work (anti-slip, toe protection, etc.) but the right pair of shoes can also save your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back from work-related strain and pain as well!
So, without further ado, here are the best vegan work shoes to check out!
1) Shoes for Crews Men’s Freestyle Slip-Resistant Food Service Work Sneaker (link)
- Best For: Restaurant Work, Custodial Work
They aren’t called Shoes for Crews for nothing! These slip-resistant shoes are made specifically with food and beverage workers in mind.
Whether you’re back of the house or front of the house, these shoes will stand up to the daily grind, protect your feet, and meet all DHEC regulations regarding closed-toe and non-slip policies.
I’ll be honest – they’re not the “best-looking” work shoe. However, they are one of the most reliable shoes. The first time I wore these was when I had a part-time waiting job in college. In fact, the entire staff at the restaurant wore these shoes, as they were part of the required uniform!
The main reason why they’re marketed as restaurant shoes is thanks to the tight waffle pattern on the bottom of the outsole. This pattern traps oil in the tiny grooves, allowing the rubber sole to grip the floor and prevent you from slipping.
When I worked in that restaurant, there were oil stains and water puddles everywhere. If it wasn’t for these shoes, I’d probably have busted mine behind far more than I did!
As far as comfort goes, these shoes are actually a lot more comfortable than they look. They have added support designed for people who are on their feet all day, so you don’t have to worry about your knees and ankles giving out.
- Non-slip outsole
- Perfect for restaurant workers
- Lightweight and flexible
- Comfortable to stand-in
- They’re not very good-looking
2) Dr. Martens Unisex Vegan 1460 Boot (link)
- Best For: Construction, Factory, Industrial Workers
Today, Dr. Martens is mostly known for being a fashion-forward shoe. They’re often associated with punk culture and rock-and-roll. They’re also incredibly popular among vegans for the mere fact that they’re one of the few good-looking, high-quality vegan leather boots on the market.
However, the Dr. Martens Unisex Vegan 1460 Boot isn’t just a fashion statement. It’s an incredibly well-rounded and versatile work boot as well. I especially recommend these boots to anybody who works in a factory, on construction sites, or has a job that requires a high-top boot.
You see, Dr. Martens actually started as a work boot. They were made for factory workers and were later even adopted by military personnel for their high-quality construction and supreme comfort.
These boots are made with ultra-durable vegan faux leather. So even though it may look like a cow was killed to make your boots, they’re 100% cruelty-free.
The insole and fit are immaculate as well. The insole features Dr. Martens’ patented “AirWare” technology, which is very similar to Nike Air.
This means that the sole is injected with small air bubbles, giving the boot increased impact resistance and giving you a more comfortable walking experience.
The outsole is made with durable slip-resistant rubber as well, making them a good fit for a rainy day or wet job sites alike.
- High-quality vegan leather boots
- Great for industrial or factory work
- Ultra-durable, anti-slip outsole
- Comfortable “AirWare” insole
- They’re a bit expensive (but they last forever)
3) Converse High-Top Sneaker (link)
- Best For: Restaurant Workers, Retail
If you’ve ever been to Starbucks, then you may have realized that many of the employees are wearing Converse sneakers. That’s because Starbucks recommends these shoes to all of their new employees.
Not only do they fit the black dress code requirements but they’re also durable, lightweight, and non-slip. This ticks off every box that you need for a reliable pair of restaurant shoes.
Plus, they look great! You can style them a bunch of different ways, depending on your workplace uniform:
Converse, as a company, is mostly vegan as well. Although they do offer a few select pairs of leather shoes, the majority of their shoes are made out of the canvas, which is a cotton product.
These shoes feature a durable, slip-resistant, shock-resistant rubber outsole capable of gripping even the oiliest floors.
I also like how the toe is covered with rubber as well, which provides a bit of added protection from stubbing your toes (or your coworkers stepping on you in a tight workspace).
The upper is made from pure cotton-based canvas. It’s tear-resistant, lightweight, and most importantly – breathable. This means that your feet won’t smell as bad when you get off your work shift.
Although they don’t look like they offer much foot support, they actually feature an Ortholite insole that feels remarkably comfortable and soft. You’ll have no problem standing (or walking) through long shifts with these shoes.
- Classic look
- High-quality non-slip rubber outers
- Comfortable Ortholite insole
- Rubber toe guard
- Lightweight and breathable
- The upper isn’t waterproof
4) Vans Unisex Low-Top Sneaker (link)
- Best For: Restaurant, Retail Workers
The Vans Unisex Low-Top Sneaker is probably the closest competitor to the Converse Sneakers I just mentioned. Both of these shoes feature a non-slip rubber outsole and a canvas upper.
The upper is a dark black color, so it won’t show any stains or scuffs (which are a frequent occurrence in the restaurant industry).
The one key difference that I appreciate about these Vans, compared to the Converse Sneakers, is that the Low-Top Vans feature a vulcanized rubber sole. This is harder, firmer, and more slip-resistant than traditional rubber soles.
These shoes are also incredibly lightweight. So, if you’re somebody who’s on their feet often for work or spends long hours standing up, you’ll really enjoy not having the extra weight of a heavier vegan work shoe.
- Extra-durable vulcanized rubber outsole
- Gum rubber sole for extra grip
- They look a bit “basic”
5) Skechers Women’s Flex Appeal 2.0 Sneaker (link)
- Best For: Retail Workers, Nurses, Medical Workers
If you work in fast-paced retail or medical facility, then you’ll really appreciate the Skechers Women’s Flex Appeal 2.0 Sneakers. These walking shoes are designed to cradle your foot, support your ankle, and absorb heavy impacts, so you don’t feel it in your knees.
They feature a built-in arch, which gives you a bit of “pep in your step,” lending itself to a more bouncy walking experience.
The outsole is made from durable, high-quality rubber, which grips the floor well and provides moderate slip resistance.
The upper is made from lightweight, breathable knit, which is 100% vegan. This helps with air circulation and helps your foot breath, no matter how hard you’re working or how much you’re sweating.
Plus, the insole is made from air-cooled memory foam, which keeps the bottom of your foot cool as well!
- Great for medical workers
- Excellent arch support
- Good ankle, knee, and joint support
- Breathable knit upper
- Air-cooled memory foam insole
- They’re a bit expensive
The Verdict – What Are The Best Vegan Work Shoes?
When it comes to picking the right pair of vegan work shoes, you should always try to pick something that can stand up to the job you’re working on every day. While all of these shoes are great, I’d have to say that the Converse High-Top Sneakers are the best vegan work shoes all-around.
They’re non-slip, comfortable, lightweight, durable, and dark enough to hide any stains that might drip on them. Plus, you can even machine wash them.
Work shoes are great for most jobs. However, if you’re working a more industrial job and need better protection, then you may need something a bit tougher. Check out my post on the best vegan work boots next!