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ethical shopping guide

Fashion, Life & Style

Stylish Sustainable and Ethical Shoes for 2021

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 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.

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 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 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.  

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!

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, given them a lower carbon footprint. 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

Where to Buy the Best Ethical Leggings

Wondering where to buy the best sustainable and ethical leggings for sport or for working from home? Read on for the Moral Fibres top recommendations – from leggings made from natural materials to leggings made from recycled plastic bottles to leggings with pockets!

I’ve written a whole guide to women’s ethical clothing brands, but what about when you are looking for something specific, such as leggings?

With the pandemic requiring many people to work from home, smart officewear has been abandoned, and comfort is king. Many of us are working in our more comfortable, stretchy, and forgiving clothing. What’s more, we have even pushed aside our jeans in favour of elasticated waists. What’s taken their place? Step forward leggings.

Of course, comfort isn’t the only explanation for the rise in the popularity of leggings. Cycling, walking, and running levels are all on the up due to the pandemic.

Where to Buy Ethical Leggings

Let me show you some of my favourite places to buy ethical leggings. I’ve taken into account sizing, so tried to find brands offering inclusive sizing, and I’ve tried to cater to a range of price points. As such you’ll see a price key for each brand.

The price range key for this guide is £ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+

I’m mindful that everyone has different ethics when it comes to clothing. As such, this guide has been designed to be a starting-off point for you to research the most sustainable option for your own particular set of ethics.

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.

On to the brands!

Baukjen

baukjen activewear

Caters for: sizes 6 – 18

Price range: ££

Baukjen*, a certified B Corp, offers a small selection of leggings catering for the ethical shopper.

Ethically manufactured in Europe, their activewear leggings are made from Econyl®. This is a technical fabric, made with recycled nylon from rescued ocean plastic and plastic waste. Baukjen also uses low-impact dyes, which are kinder to the environment.

Handily, these leggings come with a side pocket for your phone and your keys.

Use the exclusive discount code MORALFIBRES15 to take 15% off full-price orders.

Bam: Bamboo

ethical leggings from Bam Bamboo

Caters for: sizes 8 – 16

Price range: £ – ££

Bam: Bamboo’s range of ethical leggings* is the widest I’ve found.

You can shop for:

  • Full-length leggings
  • 7/8 length leggings
  • 3/4 length leggings
  • Capri leggings
  • Skirt leggings
  • Ethical leggings with pockets
  • High waisted leggings
  • Deep waist leggings

All of these options come in a wide range of colourways and patterns (including plain black), that remain non-see-through no matter what exercise you are doing.

Their leggings are made from bamboo, rather than recycled plastic. Clothing made from bamboo isn’t always the environmental panacea it sounds, due to the use of harsh chemicals and the resultant impacts on workers and the environment. However, I’ve taken a look at BAM: Bamboo’s practices, and they only work with bamboo fibre producers who use safe and responsible chemistry and waste treatment practices, and who are committed to investing in the technology needed to further improve their practices, processes, and chemistry where necessary.

You can check out my full review of BAM: Bamboo here.

Boody

boody

Caters for: sizes 6 – 16

Price range: £

Overwhelmed by choice and just want plain black leggings that are ethical? Boody’s black bamboo leggings* come in three lengths – three-quarter, crop, and full length. You can also choose between leggings for everyday wear or activewear leggings. The only thing you can’t choose is the colour – they all come in black! Great if you are suffering from decision fatigue!

Again, Boody manufactures their leggings from bamboo, however, they have a closed-loop system for turning the raw bamboo into a soft, silky fabric. Here, all the solvents are captured and removed safely, and all the liquid is recycled. You can find out more about their processes, ethics and, accreditations here*.

Girlfriend Collective’s Ethical Leggings

Girlfriend Collective Leggings UK

Caters for: sizes XXS – 6XL

Price range: ££

US-based Girlfriend Collective sells the most inclusive ethical leggings I’ve found, offering up to a 6XL size. Their leggings for activewear are made in Asia from recycled plastic bottles, in a factory that guarantees fair wages, safe and healthy conditions and zero forced or child labour. Their factory is also SA8000 certified.  This is a social accountability standard and certificate developed by Social Accountability International (SAI), which helps and protects workers worldwide by providing a standardized guideline to protect the integrity of workers’ conditions and wages. SA8000 overlaps with Fair Trade certification, but while Fair Trade is predominantly used for farming, SA8000 is a certification used in factory conditions.

What’s more, Girlfriend Collective has embraced circularity. Through their ReGirlfriend Scheme, Girlfriend takes back your old Girlfriend pieces to turn them into brand new Girlfriend pieces, rather than being downcycled into insulation. And if the warm glow of doing something good wasn’t enough, then by way of thanks, you receive $15 USD towards a future Girlfriend purchase. Win!

Buy Girlfriend Collective leggings in the UK via Know The Origin*, which stock up to 3XL sizes. Exeter-based ethical retailer Wow Sancho also stocks up to 6XL sizes.

Organic Basics Ethical Leggings

Organic Basics ethical leggings

Caters for: sizes XS – XXL

Price range: ££

Danish-based Organic Basics pride themselves on selling, well, sustainable basics fairly made in Europe from GOTS certified organic cotton or recycled materials.  They offer basic colours, timeless styles, and no seasonal collections to minimise wastage.  As such, they have a small but perfectly formed range of full-length ethical leggings* in five colourways.

Their leggings are made from recycled nylon, and their active leggings have a pocket for your phone and keys.

I have a pair of their leggings and what I especially love is that their leggings are sewn together in a way that creates no seams. This means you don’t get any irritation when you are working out, and it increases durability because there are no weak points in the garment. Organics Basics leggings do run at the more expensive end of the spectrum, however, I’ve had mine for 5 years now. I’ve worn mine daily and I can confirm that they are still in pristine condition. No holes that I’ve had to repair yet!

Use discount code WENDYOBC to take 10% off your order.

People Tree

people tree activewear

Caters for: sizes 8 – 16

Price range: £

If you are looking for leggings to compliment your work from home wardrobe, rather than to be active in, then try People Tree’s range of leggings*, which start from £25.

Their super soft leggings are made from 95% GOTS certified organic cotton with 5% elastane for comfort and movement. Their organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment, with systems in place to replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilisers, and build biologically diverse agriculture.

They also offer yoga leggings, again made from 95% GOTS and Fair Trade certified organic cotton and 5% elastane. These leggings come with a pocket for your phone. In case you hadn’t guessed, I am all about the pockets, so this detail genuinely makes me happy!

Seasalt

Caters for: sizes 6 – 28

Price range: £

Offering inclusive sizing at a lower price point (leggings start from £18.95), Seasalt’s leggings* are made from 95% GOTS certified organic. In fact, Seasalt was the very first fashion company to achieve Soil Association GOTS certification in 2005, and they’ve continued to do great things by bringing sustainability to the high street, whilst catering for the widest range of sizes.

I have a pair of their Sea Dance ethical leggings, which I bought earlier this year. They are lovely and thick, and incredibly comfortable. They come in a wide range of solid colours – they’re not patterned though, and they don’t have pockets.

Thought Clothing

thought clothing leggings

Caters for: sizes 6 – 18

Price range: £

Thought’s range of reasonably priced sustainable leggings* is pretty wide. From leggings in a variety of colours, prints, you can also choose between GOTS certified organic cotton or bamboo, or leggings with a mix of organic cotton and bamboo. There is something for everyone. As well as producing their clothes ethically, what I like about Thought is that they turn their scrap fabrics into headbands and leftover yarns into socks. They use also zero plastic packaging, which is a great additional touch.

Where to Buy Secondhand Ethical Leggings

As with any aspect of ethical clothing, the single most sustainable option is always to buy secondhand ethical leggings. Some people have qualms about secondhand clothing (particularly activewear), and others don’t. I personally don’t – a hot wash quickly dissolves any concerns. If you are similarly ok with the notion of secondhand clothing and/or activewear then here are several ideas on where to buy secondhand clothes online. And specifically for secondhand activewear, try ReRun Clothing. Their mission is to prolong the life of running clothes, so they focus solely on activewear. Their preloved leggings start from just £3 and include activewear brands such as Adidas, Superdry, Karrimor, and more.

Tell Me More About Recycled Polyester

Recycled polyester sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I mean, what’s not to love? Clothing that’s made from recycled plastic, and in some cases, recycled ocean plastic is surely the way forward? Well, it’s not that simple I’m afraid.

It’s important to know that recycled polyester isn’t a silver bullet. For regular leggings that you put on for everyday wear – for example, if you wear leggings instead of tights, or for working from home – then I would always choose natural fibres for this use, where possible. Look for natural materials such as organic cotton.

For ethical leggings for sportswear, the main market is recycled polyester. This is because it’s simply not possible to make leggings for sport from 100% natural fabrics, and still have the properties that we expect performance sportswear to have. The problem is that when you wash a synthetic garment, such as recycled polyester, then it sheds plastic microfibres. These end up in our oceans, rivers, and soils, which in turn end up in our marine life, in our drinking water, in the foods we eat, and ultimately in our bodies. You can wash your clothes in a microplastic catcher, such as a Guppyfriend*, but ultimately I think the responsibility should lie with the Government, clothing manufacturers, and washing machine manufacturers to come up with a solution that doesn’t shoulder responsibility and cost on to the end-user (i.e. us).

The other issue is that recycled polyester is recycled but it is not recyclable. At the end of your product’s life, it will probably end up in landfill, unless you shop with a brand that offers a circular recycling system. For this reason, it’s important to look after your clothes, follow the correct washing instructions, repair any tears when they appear, and wear your clothes until they wear out and are unrepairable. People change size, it happens, so in this instance, selling your clothes or passing them on to others to keep them in active use is vital.