The Best Ethical Sandals & Flip-Flops For Summer

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

Wondering about ethical shoes? I’ve got all the details on ethical shoes and even sustainable trainers. And with the sun beaming down lately, it’s the perfect time to talk about ethical sandals and other must-have summer footwear like flip-flops.

But before we jump right in, let’s remember that sustainability is a bit like a puzzle with lots of pieces. It means different things to different people, and there’s no one-size-fits-all definition. So, it’s essential to keep in mind that what’s ethical for one person might not be the same for another.

That’s why this guide is more like a friendly nudge in the right direction rather than a strict rulebook. Think of it as your starting point for exploring what works best for you in terms of sustainability and ethics when it comes to footwear. Ready to find the best brands around? Let’s go!

Guide To Ethical Sandals

Person walking down a sunny street wearing jeans and black sandals, with a blue text box that reads guide to the best ethical sandals and flip flops.

I’ve scoured the internet and poured over sustainability claims to find you the top picks for ethical sandals and flip-flops. From stylish sandals crafted from recycled materials to those aiming for a circular lifecycle, and even vegan options and plastic-free flip flops, I’ve got you covered!

But making sandals ethically is no walk in the park (pun intended!). With so many parts and pieces involved, it’s tough to find ones that check off all your ethical criteria. You might have to compromise to find the perfect pair.

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

Use the quick links to jump to information about a particular brand or keep scrolling for the full post:

Birkenstock

Person wearing a pair of Birkenstock ethical sandals

Price range: £ – ££

Way back in 2006, I saved up for ages to buy a pair of Birkenstocks (from £40 at Schuh), and let me tell you, they were the best investment ever! I practically lived in them every summer until 2022, making them my ultimate cost-per-wear champions. No other shoes or sandals have lasted me as long or felt as comfy.

Birkenstocks are like the anti-fast fashion heroes, staying true to timeless style instead of chasing fleeting trends. But what really sets Birkenstock apart is its commitment to sustainability, with cork as its secret weapon.

What’s so special about cork? Cork is as eco-friendly as it gets. They don’t chop down a single tree to get it. Instead, skilled harvesters gently peel off the bark from cork oak trees, letting the cork grow back and keeping the forest intact. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Birkenstock crafts all of its footwear in Germany and even goes the extra eco-mile by offering a handy repair service. I’ve also heard good things about The Boot Repair Company, which repairs Birkenstocks, if you don’t want to send your shoes back to Germany.

Sandals are available in vegan leather or actual leather. Their vegan range is 100% animal-free and rigorously tested.

But here’s the twist: some of their vegan sandals are made from Birko-Flor, which appears to be made from PVC-based plastic. PVC is not the greenest choice – in fact Greenpeace labelled it “The Poison Plastic“, but leather has its own set of ethical and environmental challenges. Who said making sustainable choices was easy?


Camper

Camper circular sliders

Price range: £ – ££

Camper has been quietly stepping up its eco-game by weaving recycled materials and eco-friendly fabrics into its designs. As well as that, they’ve also launched some circular styles that not only look good but can be remade into new products once you’re done with them. It’s all part of Camper’s plan to stop any waste going to landfill by 2030.

At the moment Camper’s circular range is small, but the good news is that it does carry a range of sandals as part of this collection. That means that you can return the sandals to Camper when they are ready to retire. Here Camper will work its magic, grinding them down to start anew as a fresh sole or snazzy shoe. Talk about closing the loop.

Yet while Camper’s got the right idea, it could do better at spelling out what exactly goes into the making of its circular shoes. In the product composition details, each sandal says it is made from 30% organic waste by-products. This sounds promising. But what about the other 70%? Who knows?


Matt & Nat

Matt and Nat vegan sliders in black

Price range: £ – ££

Looking for chic vegan sandals? Look no further than Matt & Nat’s stylish offerings (available at Ethical Superstore). Matt & Nat is a strictly vegan company and does not use any animal products.

Although its sandals look good, there are some ethical trade-offs. Good on You raises a red flag about Matt & Nat’s use of PVC plastic in some products, which I raised when I looked at Birkenstock’s sandals.

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. This means they’re a step up from PVC and better for the planet.

But while these sandals boast ethical materials, Matt & Nat’s ethical track record isn’t crystal clear. Good on You points out some murky waters, citing a lack of transparency in their production processes. With no details on the specific measures undertaken to ensure labour standards are being upheld or evidence of a Code of Conduct for suppliers.

So, if you’re after vegan sandals, Matt & Nat has you covered. But if you’re looking for the full ethical package, you might want to keep digging for the perfect pair of sandals.


Teva

Teva walking sandals in black

Price range: £ – ££

Many years ago I had a pair of TeVa walking sandals (available at Schuh or directly from Teva), which I adored. They were one of the most comfortable pairs of sandals I had ever worn. But after they finally bit the dust, I switched to my trusty Birkenstocks, thinking I’d moved on for good. Little did I know, TeVa was making huge tracks in the eco-friendly footwear world.

Fast forward to now, and TeVa’s eco-game is on point. They’ve been slashing water use, cutting down on waste and packaging, and ramping up their use of recycled materials in their sandals. In fact, they’ve gone all-in on sustainability by, in 2020, transitioning all their sandal straps to traceable, verifiable recycled plastic. In the process, TeVa says it has diverted a whopping 24 million plastic bottles from landfills in the process.

Now, Teva’s got a heap of walking sandals, sandals, and flip-flops to choose from. Not all of them are vegan-friendly. But don’t worry – there are heaps of vegan styles available, so you’re spoiled for 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 its shoe production, making them a zero-waste sandal.

While Vivobarefoot offers a vegan range, unfortunately, they don’t have a vegan sandal option. Leather, like virgin plastic, isn’t the most sustainable material. However, Vivobarefoot sources its leather ethically as a byproduct from small-scale Ethiopian farmers. They’re dedicated to using every last scrap, showing their commitment to sustainability.

Vivobarefoot also promotes circularity by offering a repair service. If your shoes have reached the end of their life, you can send them back. Their skilled team will recondition the old shoes by carefully repairing seams, patching torn or weak areas, replacing broken eyelets and lace hooks, and more. Keeping shoes out of landfill not only benefits the planet but also allows people to shop at lower price points while supporting 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. Yes, it’s true – the ultimate combination of eco-friendly materials – plastic-free and vegan – is within reach!

Many flip-flops on the market today are made from petroleum-based rubber and plastics. However, Waves flip-flops are crafted from 100% natural rubber that’s FSC certified.

What sets Waves apart is its commitment to sustainability throughout the production process. Any off-cuts generated during the manufacturing process are granulated and repurposed to create new flip-flops. This innovative approach not only minimises waste but also reduces the overall amount of rubber needed, thereby conserving water, land, and energy resources.

But it doesn’t end there! Once your Waves flip-flops have served their purpose, you can send them back to be recycled. As a token of gratitude for your contribution to waste reduction, you’ll receive a 10% discount on your next order. It’s a win-win for both you and the planet.

Which Ethical Sandals Should I Buy?


Choosing ethical sandals can indeed be a daunting task, especially when considering the environmental impact. Every new shoe or sandal production inevitably leaves a footprint on the Earth.

The decision ultimately comes down to your values. Do you prioritise plastic-free products, or are vegan and cruelty-free options more important to you?

If the choice seems overwhelming, consider whether flip-flops could meet your footwear needs. However, this poses its own set of questions. Are flip-flops that may need frequent replacing better for the environment, or would a pair of sandals with a longer lifespan be more sustainable?

It’s a complex issue with no one-size-fits-all answer. But amidst the confusion, don’t overlook the most eco-friendly and ethical choice of all: Do you truly need a new pair of sandals? Could your current sandals be repaired? Is there a secondhand option that fits your needs? I always find this the best starting point before buying something new.

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