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Fashion, Life & Style

The Best Ethical Sandals & Flip-Flops For Summer

From ethical walking sandals to vegan sandals, to sustainable and plastic-free flip-flops and more, I’ve got all your eco-friendly summer footwear needs covered.

I’ve got an entire guide to ethical shoes and even ethical trainers. And as the sun has been positively shining lately, today let’s focus our attention on ethical sandals and other summer footwear staples, such as flip flops.

Before we dive in, it is important to bear in mind that sustainability is a complex and nuanced subject. There’s no official definition and the term means many different things to many different people. I’m therefore mindful that everyone has different ethics when it comes to footwear and the materials used in their manufacture. 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.

Guide to Ethical Sandals

Here are the best ethical sandals and flip flops that I’ve been able to track down for you. From sandals made from recycled materials to sandals aiming to be circular, right through to vegan sandals and plastic-free flip flops. Do bear in mind that sandals, like shoes, are notoriously difficult to make ethically. This is due to the numerous components that go into making them. As such options are limited, and you probably won’t find a sandal that ticks 100% of your own particular ethical boxes. Instead, you may have to exercise a degree of compromise.

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

This post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that are purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.

Birkenstock

Birkenstock ethical sandals

Price range: £ – ££

I bought a pair of Birkenstocks* WAY back in 2006, and, do you know what? I’m still wearing the exact same pair today. These ethical sandals are almost indestructible. I know, I have worn mine every single summer since. I’ve walked perhaps a thousand miles in them – maybe more – and these beauties are still going. They have just this year started to unravel at the footbed, but after 15 years that’s some pretty good innings. In terms of cost per wear, you simply cannot beat Birkenstocks.

I always think of Birkenstocks as being the opposite of fast fashion, as they always maintain a grasp on who they are by not conforming to specific trends. However, what makes Birkenstocks ethical and sustainable is the main component is super sustainable cork.

In some previous research on cork, I found out that to extract the cork not a single tree is cut down.  Instead, the bark of the cork oak trees is peeled away.  The cork is then carefully extracted manually by highly skilled harvesters. The cork then simply grows back. This system preserves the forest in its pristine entirety and enables perpetual harvesting with no damage to the forest or ecosystem. It’s pretty amazing stuff, really.

Birkenstock makes all of its products in Germany. And for top eco points, Birkenstock offers its own repair service. I’ve also heard good things about The Boot Repair Company, which also repairs Birkenstocks.

Birkenstock offers both vegan and non-vegan leather options, depending on your preferences. Their vegan ranges are entirely free of animal products and are verified by independent testing laboratories. However, something I did note is many sandals in their vegan range are made from Birko-Flor, which appears to be a PVC-based plastic.  PVC is the single most environmentally damaging plastic. This is because PVC is made out of petroleum (a fossil fuel), which contributes to carbon emissions. The manufacturing process of PVC uses a lot of resources, and it releases a lot of toxic chemicals. Leather isn’t without its environmental and ethical problems either. Who said making sustainable choices was easy?

Camper

Camper ethical and circular sandals

Price range: £ – ££

Camper* has slowly been working on increasing its use of recycled materials and eco-friendly fabrics. Recently they’ve introduced circular styles which use closed-loop materials or can be transformed into new products at the end of their life. Their goal is to send no waste to landfill by 2030.

At the moment Camper’s circular range is small, but the good news is that these Wabi vegan sandals are part of their ethical Better Collection range. That means that you can return the sandals back to Camper when they reach the end of their life. They will then be ground down to restart life as a new sole or shoe. This sounds good. However, at present these particular sandals are made of only 20% recycled materials, and the remaining 80% is made of virgin plastic, which is oh, about 80% too much, given that fossil fuels are required to make plastics. I hope Camper can nudge the recycled figure upwards as they expand their Circular range. I’ll keep you updated.

Matt & Nat

Matt and Nat vegan sandals in black

Price range: £ – ££

Matt and Nat’s vegan sandals* are a stylish choice if you want to avoid animal-based fabrics. Matt and Nat are a strictly vegan company and do not use any animal products whatsoever.

However, like many vegan shoe materials, there are trade-offs. Good on You highlights shortcomings when it comes to Matt and Nat. For a start, the company does use PVC plastic in some of their products, which, as we discussed in the section on Birkenstocks, is not good for the environment.

The good news is that these Cyndie sandals are made from 100% recycled Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB). PVB is an innovative material made from 100% recycled resin from windshield glass, making it a better choice than PVC.

Whilst these specific sandals are made from ethical materials, there are also question marks over Matt and Nat’s ethics. Matt and Nat’s products are made in China, and Good on You highlights a lack of transparency over certain aspects of production. There are no details on the specific measures they undertake to ensure that their labour standards are being upheld. There is also no evidence that Matt and Nat has, or requires suppliers to use, a Code of Conduct. Reading this I would say that Matt and Nat are a vegan shoe company, rather than an ethical shoe company.

Teva

Teva walking sandals in black

Price range: £ – ££

Many years ago I had a pair of Teva walking sandals* which I absolutely adored. They were one of the most comfortable pairs of sandals I had ever worn. After they wore out, I replaced them with my near-indestructible Birkenstocks, and I hadn’t revisited the brand until recently when I started hearing more and more about Teva’s eco-friendly and ethical credentials.

It turns out that Teva has really upped their eco game in recent years, and has made solid progress in terms of reducing their water consumption, reducing waste and packaging, and increasing their use of recycled materials in making their sandals. In fact, in 2020, Teva transitioned all of its sandal straps to traceable verifiable recycled plastic. Since then, they say they’ve diverted 24 million plastic bottles from landfills.

Teva has a wide range of walking sandals, sandals, and flip-flops. Do bear in mind that if you are looking for vegan sandals, then not all Teva shoes are vegan-friendly. However, they do have many vegan styles, so you won’t be short on choice.

Vivobarefoot

Vivobarefoot tan leather sandals

Price range: £££

If minimal soled ethical sandals are more your thing, then Vivobarefoot* has you covered. This certified B-Corp’s ethical sandals are made from premium leather offcuts from their shoe production, making them a zero-waste sandal. Whilst Vivobarefoot does have a vegan range, unfortunately, they don’t offer a vegan sandal option. Yes, like virgin plastic, leather isn’t the most sustainable material. However, Vivobarefoot’s leather is ethically sourced as a byproduct from small-scale Ethiopian farmers. And as you can see, they are committed to using every last scrap.

Aiming for circularity, Vivobarefoot offers a repair service. And for shoes that have reached the end of their life, you can send them back to Vivobarefoot. Here, their skilled team reconditions the old shoes, by carefully repairing seams, patching torn or weak areas, replacing broken eyelets and lace hooks, and more. By keeping shoes out of landfill, it benefits the planet and allows people to shop at lower price points whilst helping to support circular business practices.

Waves Flip Flops

Waves ethical plastic-free flip flops

Price range: £

Are you looking for plastic-free and vegan flip-flops? Step forward Waves ethical flip flops*. Yup, the holy grail of footwear materials – a plastic-free vegan product – is possible! You see, many flip flops are made from petroleum-based rubber and plastics. However, Waves flip-flops are made from 100% natural rubber that’s FSC certified.

Any off-cuts from the manufacturing process get granulated. These rubber granules are then used to create flip flops. This system cuts down on the total amount of rubber that producers need to grow, thereby reducing water, land, and energy usage. You can also send back your worn-out Waves, and again, these will be recycled. You’ll also get 10% off your next order, by way of thanks for keeping your old flip flops out of landfill.

Which Ethical Sandals Should I Buy?

I find footwear to be the most tricky aspect of an ethical wardrobe. Therefore, when it comes to ethical sandals it’s no easy matter. Any new shoe or sandal will take a toll on the earth.

What to choose depends on whether you value plastic-free products, or whether you value vegan and cruelty-free products more. If it’s too tricky to choose, then ask if flip-flops could fulfill your footwear needs. Of course, this then brings other quandaries. What is better for the environment? Flip-flops that may require regular replacing or a sandal that may have a much longer lifespan?

There’s a lot to think about. However, don’t forget the ultimate eco-friendly and ethical option. Simply ask yourself do you actually need to buy a new pair of sandals? Could your existing pair of sandals be repaired? Could you find what you need secondhand? I always find this the best starting point before buying something new.

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