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Fashion, Life & Style

Stylish Sustainable and Ethical Shoes for 2022

inkkas ethical shoes

Looking for stylish eco-friendly, sustainable, and ethical shoes from UK retailers?  I got you!  Read on for my top recommendations – from the best vegan trainers to recycled flip-flops!

The footwear industry doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to being ethical or sustainable.  And for good reason:

In short, the shoes we wear tread incredibly heavily on the environment.

What Can You Do?

The cheapest and most ethical thing to do when it comes to shoes is to continue to wear the shoes you have.  The most ethical shoes are the shoes you already own, after all.  Getting your shoes repaired when they wear out, and keeping them in active service for as long as possible is the most environmentally friendly thing you can do. 

However, no matter how much you look after your shoes, and repair them, eventually, shoes do wear out.  

Secondhand is one approach when it comes to buying ethical shoes.  Do check out my guide to sustainable secondhand shopping online for some inspiration on where to shop.  However, secondhand shoes may not be for everyone, or certainly practical for every situation. This is where this guide comes in.

Guide to Ethical Shoes

Ethical shoes get a bad rap.  A lot of people think of someone who is fond of the environment, and immediately conjure up an image of someone wearing socks and sandals.  Unflattering sandals at that.  But who says ethical shoes have to be frumpy?

I’ve found some seriously stylish ethical shoes from UK-based sustainable shoe brands (or brands that can be shipped from UK-based retailers).  I hope this guide proves that your feet can be as sustainably stylish as the rest of your ethical wardrobe!

The price range key for this guide is:

 £ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+

In order to help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.

A word before we jump in. Sustainability is a complex and nuanced subject, meaning many different things to many different people. I’m therefore mindful that everyone has different ethics when it comes to clothing and footwear. As such, this guide has been designed to be a starting-off point for you to research the most sustainable option for you, rather than a definitive “this is ethical” list.

Allbirds

Allbirds shoes UK

Price range: ££ – £££

Allbirds* say that a standard pair of trainers emits 12.5 kg of carbon dioxide.  They also say that their average pair of shoes emit 7.6 kg of carbon dioxide, and they want to lower that further.

As such, Allbirds shoes are made from natural materials, such as ZQ Merino accredited merino wool grown under strict sustainable farming practices. These include social responsibility, animal welfare, and traceability through the supply chain.

Other materials include recycled plastic bottles, which are used to make their shoelaces, and castor bean oil which is used to make the insoles.

Beyond Skin

beyond skin bumble bee vegan shoes

Price range: £££

Beyond Skin is a luxury ethical shoe brand specialising in stylish vegan shoes which are handmade in Spain.  Their focus is on creating luxurious trans-seasonal faux leather vegan women’s shoes, boots, and trainers.  If you’re looking for something stylish and fancy, this is the place to go.

Bhava

bhava repairable boots

Price range: £££

Bhava boots* are ethically handcrafted in Spain with longevity in mind.  As well as being designed timelessly, they’re designed with a repairable sole in mind so that you can repair your boots.

What’s more, every pair of Bhava’s boots is made with premium Italian vegan leather.  This is polyurethane (PU) leather, that is free from aromatic amines, PCP, formaldehyde, PVC, phthalates, azo-dyes, or chrome.

Boheme

boheme ethical shoes

Price range: ££ – £££

Boheme’s stylish eco-friendly shoes are ethically made, using the best innovative, eco-friendly, and vegan materials, by hand-picked artisans in Portugal.

Boheme believes that a good vegan shoe should be about more than just excluding animal materials. Therefore, they are passionate about championing slow fashion and challenging the stereotype of leather-free footwear. 

Cariuma

cariuma eco friendly trainers

Price range: ££ – £££

Brazillian ethical shoe brand Cariuma makes timeless trainers transparently made from natural materials.  Their materials include cork, recycled PET, mamona oil, and leather and suede which is certified by Leather Working Group.  What’s more, to ensure worker safety, no hazardous chemicals are used in their manufacturing process.  Instead, they use Bluesign-certified chemicals (an independently verified scheme) to dye their materials.

Find them for sale in the UK at Selfridges & Co.

Ecoalf

eco-friendly flip flops uk

Price range: £

If it’s eco-friendly flip-flops that you are after, then look no further than Ecoalf*. 

Ecoalf wants to lighten the current load on our planet by using less natural resources, and instead recycling what would otherwise end up in landfill.

Ecoalf integrates breakthrough technology to design and produce sustainable, comfortable, sophisticated, and lightweight footwear so you can make the least footprint possible on the planet. As such, the range of Ecoalf sustainable flip-flops is handmade in Spain from materials that come from recycled tyres. 

I’ve also got a guide to ethical sandals and flip-flops if it’s summer-specific footwear that you are interested in.

El Naturalista

el naturalista ethical shoes

Price range: ££ – £££

Spanish brand El Naturalista* (only available in the UK through Amazon) makes their shoes as ethically and environmentally friendly as is possible when working with leather.  You can find out more about El Naturalista’s commitment to sustainability here.  What’s more, El Naturalista has even recently expanded its range to include vegan shoes, if leather isn’t in line with your own ethics.

Ethletic

ethletic vegan trainers

Price range: ££ – £££

Ethletic footwear is proud to offer an ethical alternative to leather trainers. Their vegan trainers are made with organic and Fairtrade certified cotton, the rubber soles are FSC certified and sourced responsibly, and the rubber is fairly traded. Seeking to tick every ethical box for footwear, Ethletic is a fair-trade company, with the environment and sustainability at the core of what they do.

In addition, the pioneering Fairtrade rubber project pays a Fairtrade social premium for every kilo of rubber used in the production of these trainers. The rubber tappers then have the autonomy to decide how to use their income to improve their living and working conditions.

Find them on sale in the UK at Ethical Superstore*, from £54.

Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather

vegan trainers uk

Price range: ££ – £££

Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather* is a cruelty-free and sweatshop-free ethical shoe brand.  The brand uses vegan ‘leather’ or vegan ‘suede’ and manufactures its stylish shoes in Portugal in a fairtrade environment.

Good News

vegan trainers

Price range: ££ – £££

Good News* are a small footwear brand on a mission to improve the environmental and social sustainability of their products.  They aim to do this by decreasing their carbon, chemical, and water footprint whilst also caring about the people involved in the making of their shoes.

Their signature low-top vegan trainers are sustainably made from organic and recycled materials.  The uppers are made from bio-degradable natural oatmeal organic cotton sourced. Meanwhile, the organic cotton laces are threaded through recycled metal eyelets. And what’s more, the soles are made from recycled material – a mix of car tyres and old rubber shoes!

Find them at Young British Designers* for £80. Use the exclusive discount code MORAL10 for 10% off at Young British Designers. Please note this code cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers.

Green Shoes

eco friendly sustainable shoes

Price range: £££

Green Shoes make their entire range of eco-friendly and ethical shoes by hand in Devon.  Their made-to-measure shoe service allows you to choose the colour of the leather or vegan material to create a unique pair of shoes just for you.  What’s more, all of their shoes are fully repairable, for a prolonged lifespan.

Their range of leather shoes is made from high-quality industry waste leathers. By virtue of being a small ethical shoe producer, they are able to use up the leather that large shoe manufacturers no longer want, for a more circular approach to shoe design.

Gudrun Sjoden

eco friendly leather shoes

Price Range: £££

Gudrun Sjoden is passionate about making comfortable shoes that look stylish and distinctive too.  All of their shoes are ethically made in Portugal, to the strict ethical standards associated with this sustainable brand.  You can see my Gudrun Sjoden boots in this post here – they’re my favourite pair of shoes.  

OFKT Footwear

Price Range: £££

OFKT Footwear* design and make contemporary classic footwear with sustainability at the heart of the brand ethos. Each shoe is made traditionally by hand in a small Yorkshire factory from offcuts of leather. This means that each pair of shoes is part of a limited edition run. Even the dustbags, information labels, and shoeboxes are all made from the recycling of waste materials.

Find OFKT Footwear at Young British Designers* from £145. You can use the exclusive discount code MORAL10 for 10% off at Young British Designers. However, please note this code cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers.

Po-Zu

ethical shoes po zu

Price Range: ££ – £££

Po Zu* specialise in stylish ethical shoes made from sustainable vegan materials, including cork, pineapple, and apple skin.

I have to say that I have had my eye on these vegan-friendly Piper V Brown Linen Boots for quite some time now.  However, just about every pair of their eco-friendly shoes could easily make my wish list!

Sign up for Po Zu’s newsletter and take 15% off your first order.

Novesta

novesta shoes uk

Price range: ££

Novesta’s ethical vegan trainers are made with a cotton upper and a natural rubber sole. What’s more, they are made in Slovakia, giving them a lower carbon footprint than shoes made further afield. Find them on sale in the UK at Toast for £55.

TOMS

TOMS ethical shoes

Price range: £ – ££

As a certified BCorp, TOMS Shoes* invest one-third of their profits in grassroots efforts, like organizations creating change at the local level.  Their funding priorities are promoting mental health, ending gun violence, and increasing access to opportunity.

Check out their Earthwise* and Vegan ranges* for their most sustainable shoes.  And the good news is that TOMS are working towards more sustainable materials for its shoes, such as organic cotton, hemp, and recycled polyester.  Encouragingly, they’re also exploring an end-of-life recycling programme for their shoes.  

Wills Vegan Shoes

Wills vegan shoes

Price range: ££ – £££

Wills Vegan Shoes make ethically made eco-friendly vegan shoes, which are made in Italy & Portugal under European Union employment, discrimination, and health & safety laws.  These ensure, amongst others, that workers receive equal pay, maternity, and parental leave for example.  

The shoes themselves are made from vegan leather created with bio oil sourced from organic cereal crops grown in Northern Europe.  The rest of their products are manufactured from Ecolabel certified vegan leathers and suedes made in Italy and Spain that meet Oeko Tex 100 and REACH regulations.  Meanwhile, most of their outer soles are made from natural rubber, and their insoles are made in Spain from recycled rubber.

What’s more, their online store operates a plastic-free Carbon Neutral supply chain using sustainable materials.  It’s no surprise that Ethical Consumer has ranked Wills Vegan Shoes as one the most ethical shoe retailers out there.  

Veja

veja uk

Price range: ££ – £££

VEJA is not a completely vegan footwear brand, however, they do have many vegan shoe options in their collections, making it well worth a look in your hunt for ethical and vegan shoes.

This organic, fairtrade, and ethical brand uses eco-conscious fabrics such as recycled and organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles, and sustainably harvested wild rubber to make their ethical shoes. What’s more, workers are paid a fair price. Find them for sale in the UK at Working Class Heroes.

What About Ethical Slippers and Welly Boots?

I’ve got two separate guides for these! Do check out my guide to ethical slippers, and my guide to ethical wellies.

If you come across any more ethical shoes, then be sure to let me know. I aim to continually update this list, so it’s always up to date.

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Image of a persons legs in jeans wearing trainers, with a blue text box that says guide to stylish and sustainable ethical shoes
Fashion, Life & Style

I Tried Minimal Shoes – Here’s How I Got On | AD

Paid for content with Wildling minimal shoes

Have you ever tried wearing minimal shoes before? I hadn’t until recently. However, I’ve been wearing minimal shoes for the last month and wanted to share how I’ve been getting on with them. I will also share where you can buy ethically produced minimal shoes.

What are Minimal Shoes?

minimal shoes from Wildling Shoes
The Rubus Vegan Winter Minimal Shoes from Wildling Shoes – other shoes in their winter range aren’t vegan, and instead, use carefully selected wool from a landscape conservation project

First off, you might be wondering what minimal shoes are. Minimal shoes are shoes that are designed to closely approximate walking barefoot, in comparison to traditional shoes. With a sole thickness between 1mm and 4.5mm, minimal shoes allow the wearer to experience more sensory contact with the ground. Simultaneously they provide the feet with protection from the ground.

Another key feature of minimal shoes is that the soles are flexible, and the shoes are very light.

Why Wear Minimal Shoes?

wildling minimal shoes

Wildling Shoes, a German ethical producer of minimal shoes for kids and adults, says that “98% of all children are born with healthy feet. Unfortunately, only 20% can maintain this foot health into adulthood”. 

Wildling says that if your feet can develop and move freely, your feet will develop strong muscles. However, thick, stiff soles and footbeds prevent the foot muscles from being strengthened, leaving feet weakened. Whilst many shoes taper at the point where feet widen – putting pressure on your feet.

To rectify this, the Wildling lasts – the basic models for Wildling Shoes – are based on an anatomical foot shape with a natural width. This is designed to mirror the shape of a strong, healthy foot. This gives feet the space they need to develop in a healthy way, whether your feet are narrow or wide.

And to strengthen feet, Wildling says that over the long term walking in minimal shoes demands more of the muscles. Through repeated wear, feet can regain strength, and become more flexible. Wildling also says that minimal soled shoes can lead to better balance and stability, as the increased sensory contact with the ground makes wearers more reactive to underfoot conditions.

How I Got On With Wildling’s Shoes

When Wildling asked me if I wanted to try a pair of their shoes, I’ll admit, I thought I was an unlikely candidate for wearing minimal shoes. I have a condition called hyper-mobility – it’s traditionally known as double-jointedness.

When I was young, I thought it was pretty cool being hyper-mobile. But as I’ve gotten older it’s been less of a joy. Of the many problems it brings, I’m pretty prone to going over on my ankles. This makes footwear a huge problem for me. I can’t wear high heels, and I veer towards shoes with firm support or supplement with prescribed orthotic insoles. Minimal shoes did not come into my footwear equation.

I explained to Wildling that whilst their shoes were very lovely, I wouldn’t be a very good candidate for their shoes because of my condition.

Minimal Shoes & Hypermobility

Wildling quickly got back to me and shared a link to this Facebook post. The post is in German, I had to use the translate button. But here I found that many people in the comments shared that since switching to minimal shoes they are less prone to going over their ankles.

I also read this blog post on the Wildlings site. It featured testimonials from customers with a range of health issues. These ranged from rheumatism to back and foot pain, to diabetes sufferers. All claimed that minimal soled shoes had helped with some of their conditions.

It all really got me thinking. Could a pair of shoes really help with my hypermobility problems? Over the years I’ve seen countless podiatrists, with little success. Let’s just say I was a little skeptical. Wanting more than just anecdotal evidence, I then did my own research. I came across this article on a scientific peer-reviewed study, which found that, in runners, minimal soled running shoes did actually strengthen their feet.

Whilst Wildling Shoes aren’t specifically minimal running shoes, I took the plunge. Soon a pair of Wildling Shoes were winging their way to me, shipped completely plastic-free. The day my Wombat Shoes arrived was an exciting one. I popped them on immediately and tried them out around the house.

Whilst it’s really early days to tell if the shoes will help with my hypermobility problems in my ankles, and I can’t offer any anecdotal evidence at this stage of my minimal sole journey, I have very much been enjoying the feeling of wearing minimal shoes.

What I Liked

Owing to the thin soles – of all the minimal shoes on the market, Wildlings have the thinnest soles available – I feel like I notice more when the ground I’m walking on is uneven. As such, when I’m wearing them more likely to take care on uneven ground. I went on a walk last week wearing welly boots, as it was wet and muddy underfoot. I fell over on some uneven ground, splitting my knee open. I’m convinced this wouldn’t have happened if I’d been wearing my Wildlings shoes.

Something else I’ve noticed is that after walking, my feet and calves feel tired, like they’ve had a workout, in very much a good way. Hopefully, this is a sign that the muscles are strengthening, but I will update this post next year with how I get on.

Warmth wise, I am wearing my Wildlings with the Felty insoles for extra warmth in winter. I was worried that with the thin soles I’d have cold feet. But I have to say that my feet have been very warm and cosy in my Wildlings. I really shouldn’t be surprised – my Wombat boots are made of sustainably sourced wool. As a material, wool has natural temperature regulating characteristics. And because of the muscle stimulation while walking in minimal shoes, this, in turn, means your blood circulation is also stimulated, warming your toes too.

Comfort-wise, the thin soles are not uncomfortable. In fact, I feel like I’m wearing slippers and I hate having to take them off when I get home!

What I Didn’t Like

The only criticism of my shoes is that on wet days when I’ve walked to my car, I’ve found the soles of the shoes to be quite slippy on the pedals of my car. There is definitely less grip on them. Once or twice when I’ve been manoeuvring my foot has slipped off the clutch, causing me to stall. To counteract this, I’ve been making sure to wipe my feet thoroughly on the car mat before driving.

Why Choose Wildling Shoes

There are quite a few manufacturers of minimal shoes, but what I really like about Wildling Shoes is their commitment to ethics and the environment.

From the very beginning, Wildling was clear that their shoes should be produced with as minimal impact as possible, both environmentally and socially. After exploring various locations, and taking into consideration the need to keep delivery routes short to minimise carbon emissions, and to keep the shoes themself affordable – Portugal was chosen as Wildling’s production site. Now each and every pair of Wildling shoes are handmade in Portugal by skilled sewers paid a fair wage. Transparency is also key, so you can also find out more about the production process here.

The materials of the shoes are carefully considered too. Their entire range is made from natural and renewable materials such as organic cotton, sustainably sourced wool, hemp, and linen.

I’m definitely a convert, and I really look forward to updating you on my minimal shoe journey! Do check back and I’ll share my experiences here.

Shipping & Fees

If you’d like to try out Wildling shoes for yourself then bear in mind that their shoes ship from the EU.

For purchases up to £135 (net & excluding shipping rates), 20% taxes will apply and will be charged automatically during the shopping process via the Wildling online shop. No further action needs to be taken from your side, and you won’t have to pay any customs fees on arrival in the UK.

If your purchase exceeds £135 (net & excluding shipping rates), no taxes will be charged at the point of sale. Instead, you’ll have to pay taxes and customs duties upon delivery of the goods. To do so, you’ll receive an email from their delivery service DHL Express, including instructions on how to easily pay the outstanding taxes online prior to the delivery of your parcel.

Find the Wildling Shoes website here, and follow them along on Instagram and Facebook