The Ultimate Guide to Plastic Free Vegan Shoes

The search for vegan leather and eco vegan shoes have skyrocketed over the past few years. Many shoppers are beginning to realize that most vegan options are not eco friendly or sustainable. The vegan leather label has a certain commercial value, but not to the detriment of mother nature. Vegan leather is often just a euphemism for plastic.

The reality is that everything that is plastic, is classified as vegan. The impact of petrochemicals and the exploration of oil, has a huge negative impact on the environment. The process of producing plastic is not sustainable and is harmful to people, animals and plant life. Choosing plastic free vegan shoes, will help you to reduce your carbon footprint.

Plastic Free Vegan Leather

Vegan leather means that no materials of animal origin or animal exploitation, including wool, silk, beeswax and fish bone glue, are used. The plastic free vegan leathers that are incorporated in the eco vegan shoes that we will explore here, are the following:

  • Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork tree and does not harm the tree. It is biodegradable and sustainable and make beautiful cork leather shoes.
  • Pinatex is pineapple leather made from the waste leaves after the pineapple harvest.
  • Wood leather is made by bonding thin sheets of wood to fabric, using an environmentally friendly adhesive. To achieve a soft leather like feeling, small laser etchings are applied. Only wood that comes from FSC approved forests are used.
  • Apple leather is a combination of fifty percent apple fiber and fifty percent polyurethane. Apple peels are a byproduct of the juicing industry and is produced in Bolzano, Italy. Veerah is making apple leather shoes and you can read more about that later in the post. Eco vegan shoes certification
  • materials like hemp, cotton, linen and cellulose.

For a product to be vegan approved, it needs to have the Certification Peta approved vegan.

We have previously explored vegan friendly brands, like Rothy’s and Veja, that incorporate recycled plastic in their shoes., and brands like Adidas that make sneakers from recycled plastic, and brands like Indosole that make flip flop sandals and thongs using recycled plastic and rubber.

1. Po-Zu

Po-Zu is a British brand that has been producing shoes using eco friendly materials since 2006. The range is designed in London and made in Portugal and Sri Lanka. Po-Zu stems from the Japanese word to pause.

The sustainable and ethical footwear range includes sneakers and boots for the trendy man and woman. The products are healthy for your feet and safe for all the workers. These materials are used in their footwear:

  • Organic cotton and Linen
  • Pinatex (leather made from pineapples leaves),
  • Frumat Apple skin is used to make apple leather shoes.
  • eco friendly microfiber – this is superior to synthetic leather made from petrochemicals as it uses fewer chemicals, water and carbon emissions. It is also more breathable than polyurethane alternatives. It is made from a water based and solvent free polyurethane with a polyester backing. The look, feel and texture is similar to leather and is a hard wearing and versatile vegan leather. It still has a significant environmental impact, so personally I am not too keen on it. Vegan leather sneakers with cork uppers and natural rubber sole
  • Wool is sourced from local British Jakop sheep. It is unbleached and undyed. Both of course not vegan approved
  • Cork is a natural and sustainable alternative to real leather and is highly insulating. It provides maximum comfort with minimum waste.
  • Chrome free leather comes from raw hides that are sourced in Iberia and tanned in Portugal. The environmentally friendly tanning method used, is free of harmful chrome and other heavy metals. So once again this would not be vegan approved.
  • Coir is made out of a mix of coconut husk and natural latex and is used in their unique Foot Mattress technology. It molds to the shape of your foot, providing underfoot cushioning and joint support.
  • Natural rubber is free of solvents and very hard wearing. Coconut husk and natural latex are used together in their Foot Mattress technology.

Sneakers are made with a natural rubber sole which is stitched, so it is free of solvents. It uses memory foam Foot Mattress made of natural latex and cork and is removable to allow for orthotics inserts. Reviews all indicate that the cork leather shoes are extremely comfortable, and if some of them are slightly pricey, it is value for money knowing that you are supporting sustainability and ethical production processes.

Although Po-Zu uses a very small amount of chrome free leather and wool in some of their products, I will include them here because of all the other vegan friendly options that they produce. Get your pair of Po-Zu eco vegan shoes here.

2. Corks

Corks is a South African brand that is using Portuguese cork to produce Peta certified vegan cork leather shoes. All their cork is FSC certified and is produced locally using these materials: Corks natural vegan shoes

  • Upper is natural cork backed with a sturdy canvas material for added strength.
  • The lining is organic cotton.
  • Shoelaces are cotton.
  • Water based dyes and no chemicals are used.
  • Sole is a type of thermoplastic rubber (TPR) which is a material that has the properties of both rubber and plastic. It performs similarly to vulcanized rubber and is reusable and recyclable. It is lightweight, weather resistant, has good abrasion resistance and good tear strength.

The sneakers are available in the natural buttermilk color, but also three other colors. They are certified to be Peta approved vegan.

3. Cémélé

Cémélé is a sustainable French vegan shoe brand that was founded by the shoe designer Coline Burckel. Cémélé plastic free vegan shoesThey produce plastic free vegan shoes that respects animals, man and earth.

So no products from animal origin are used and materials are all natural, plant based and biodegradable. The range is designed in France and made in France, Spain and Portugal with European materials.

Because of the different components that make up footwear, it is difficult to recycle shoes at the moment. It is therefore important to use natural fibers that are biodegradable. Materials that are used include these:

  • Shoes have a cherry wood leather upper with an organic cotton liner. Cherry wood is an Italian vegan leather which is softened by laser engraving.
  • Also use vegetable vegan leather that is made of latex and cellulose.

Wood leather is as flexible as real leather and is waterproof and breathable. Their footwear is breathable, antibacterial and impermeable. Use ecological shoe polish or waterproofing recommended by them and they will resole their shoes. Range of men, women and unisex sneakers and also accessories.

4. NAE (=No Animal Exploration)

Nae is a Portuguese vegan brand which is ethnically manufactured in Portugal. Materials used include:

  • 100% organic cotton  NAE eco vegan shoes
  • Pinatex – leather made from pineapple leaves after the pineapple harvest. Any unused fibers are used as fertilizer
  • Cork is hypoallergenic, waterproof and soft to the touch and make sustainable cork leather shoes.
  • Recycled PET plastic bottles
  • Ecological microfibers make up their vegan leather and is a mix of microfibers, including cotton, polyester and nylon. Wherever possible, recycled polyester and nylon are used.

Boots are made with a 100% organic cotton upper, foot bed is cork with coconut fiber, Goodyear welting and 100% natural rubber sole. Sandals are made with Pinatex, cork and also recycled plastic uppers.

The range covers flip flops, sandals, shoes and boots for men and women. It is Peta approved vegan and this is where you can get NAE eco vegan shoes at the best prices.

5. Bhava

Bhava socially conscious footwear are artisanal shoes that are 100% vegan, made with organic and recycled materials. It is an innovative vegan women’s footwear brand founded in 2012 by designer Francisca Pineda. Bhava eco vegan shoes

They are based in New York City and put their footwear to test on the streets of New York. They have an atelier in Mumbai and also in Alicante Spain, where the sandals and boots are handcrafted by artisans.

The ethical vegan brand uses environmentally friendly materials, such as:

  • organic cotton,
  • cork leather
  • recycled microfibers.
  • vegan leather is sourced from Italy and does not use aromatic amines, PCP, formaldehyde, PVC, phthalates, azo-dyes, or chrome when creating its vegan leather.

The sandals and shoes have a natural cork insole, solid wooden heel and a shock absorbing sole, with Italian vegan leather as an upper. The footwear is very trendy and pairs well with everything.

6. NOAH

NOAH is an Italian brand that makes eco friendly vegan sneakers, flats and elegant shoes using traditional Italian craftsmanship. Materials that are used include:

  • Uppers are made from micronappa and micro suede: NOAH eco vegan shoes
    • micronappa is a microfiber material that is composed of ultra fine polyester fibers. It is very similar to nappa leather and is waterproof, breathable, easy to clean, soft to touch and long-lasting.
    • Microsuede is also microfiber material composed of ultra fine polyester and is very similar to nappa suede, with the big difference that it is waterproof.
    • Summer shoes and ballerina flats often use organic hemp, cotton and linen for the uppers.
  • Inner sole – cork is used for casual models, while microfiber is used in elegant shoes.
  • Sole – natural rubber is used for some models, but mostly use a blend of natural rubber and recycled materials.
  • Water based glue.

NOAH footwear is Peta approved vegan. Their organic zero waste shoe collection are lightweight and durable and use a selection of organic cotton, linen, natural rubber and natural latex. The shoes are soft and lightweight and repels dirt. It is also completely biodegradable as all the components are biodegradable.

The range includes footwear for men and women and also unisex styles. They also produce accessories including gloves, bags and belt, wallets and hats.

7. Toms

Toms was started in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie after he traveled through Argentina and was shocked to see the amount of children without shoes, and the hardships they faced. So Toms, which stands for Tomorrow’s Shoes, was created.

At the core was the idea that for every pair of shoes that was sold, one pair of shoes would be donated to a child in need of a pair. Eco materials that are used in “earth wise” Toms footwear include these:

  • Organic cotton Toms Vegan sneakersis grown without the use of harmful chemicals or genetically modified seeds.
  • Tencel lyocell, made from viscose fiber which is derived from wood pulp and obtained from responsibly managed forests.
  • Econyl – is regenerated nylon from fishing nets, old carpets, fabric scraps and industrial nylon waste.
  • Eco fibers like hemp, linen and jute that use less water when growing and during production.
  • Ortholite insoles are made with sustainable materials like recycled rubber. It is lightweight and breathable.
  • Recycled strobel board – strobel board is the part that attaches the outer sole to the insole and is made from 70% to 80% recycled polyester.
  • Repreve is recycled polyester derived from post consumer plastic bottles.
  • Plant dyes are free of chemicals and pigments are obtained from natural botanicals.

Toms is a certified B-Corp company and a member of the Fair Labor Association. They work closely with the Leather Working Group and in the few styles that leather is used, it is always obtained from gold and silver rated Leather Working Group (LWG) manufacturers. Do be aware of this when choosing vegan shoes.

The range includes shoes, sandals, sneakers, and more for men, women and kids. They also now do a range of eye ware. Get your Toms at the best price here. For every $3 they make, they give away $1.

8. Veerah

Veerah is a luxury brand that makes eco vegan shoes for women. It was started by Stacey Chang in 2014 and they are based in New York.

Veerah Appeel is the first eco vegan shoes collection that is using Frumat apple leather, made from 50% apple skins and 50% polyurethane. Frumat apple leather is a bio-based vegan leather material that is derived from organic apples, a byproduct of the apple juice industry.

Apples are harvested and goes for juicing and after juicing, the discarded peels are rescued. The apple peels are ground into a fine powder and the powder is mixed with non-toxic, organic pigment and transformed into bio-based leather. So a waste product is transformed into a vegan friendly fabric. Veerah apple leather shoes

All the apple leather shoes in the Appeel collection is made with Frumat apple leather uppers. Other materials that Veerah uses include these:

  • Linings are 100% organic cotton.
  • Insoles are made with Algae foam cushion.
  • Renewed plastic textiles derived from recycled plastic bottles. The signature Orchid collection means that four plastic bottles are used for every upper, whereas the Venus sandals use nine bottles for each pair.
  • Water based vegan leather which uses no toxic solvents which are commonly used to make polyurethane synthetic leather.

All Veerah shoes are Peta approved vegan and free of PVC’s.

The Italian brand Womsh, is also making apple leather shoes as part of their vegan range.

Oliver co. is a sustainable start-up, based in London, who is making vegan leather from wood and apple waste. The vegan leather has been used to make card holders and wallets.

Final Thoughts on Eco Vegan Shoes

With fast fashion chasing after new products, traditional crafting of shoes have been replaced by mass-produced cheap, and low quality, footwear. It often means that harmful chemicals are used and unsustainable, petrochemical based materials.

Synthetic garments made with plastic fibers and toxic dyes, and which releases micro plastics every time it is washed, might be classified as vegan, but I do not subscribe to that. A garment made from wool might not be classified as vegan, but it is far more sustainable and eco friendly than the petrochemical derived synthetic alternatives.

I hope that you enjoyed discovering the options for plastic free vegan shoes, but if you do have any questions or comments, then please leave them below and I will get back to you.

16 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Plastic Free Vegan Shoes”

  1. What a great point that simply looking at a flashy word / label like “vegan” can be misleading, and that one really needs to look underneath the surface marketing to learn whether or not something is a good overall choice. Also, it’s great to see so many beautiful and thoughtful styles of vegan shoes that are stylish, functional, and vegan-approved!

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    • Hi Aly, Unfortunately many vegan products are plastic, which is very harmful to the environment. I am very pleased that we do have plastic free vegan shoes and other products to choose from. All the best, Liné

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  2. Thank you so much for this information. I understand the importance of being eco friendly and stop using products that come from animal, but sometimes it is hard as pur consumerism takes over and we just buy whatever we like and that is cheap. Next time I am looking for shoes I will definitely get one of these!

    Reply
    • Hi there, I think it is not only about the animals, but also about planet earth. So it is great to find plastic free alternatives for products like eco vegan shoes and garments. We just need more people to question what they are wearing. All the best, Liné

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  3. awesome review you have written here on the ultimate guide to plastic free vegan shoes…I’ve heard from friends that vegan leather are really quite nice for making shoes, never did believe though not until I stumbled upon this year article on vegan shoes and  after going through it, I must say that these leather shoes are really amazing and look really nice,,, thanks for sharing such an intriguing review

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    • Hi Evans, I would like to point out that these are not leather shoes, as leather is not vegan approved. These eco vegan shoes are made with alternative materials, like cork, pinatex, hemp, cotton, linen and more. If anything is not clear you might want to read the aticle again. All the best, Liné 

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  4. so thoughtful of you to put up such an intriguing review on guide to plastic free vegan shoes… I must confess that is actually my first time seeing such review on how these shoes have been maid and sincerely speaking a look really good and well fitted…. thanks for sharing such a lovely review and I look forward to getting it across to order plugs

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  5. Hello there, This is an amazing article that you have got here. It is awesome to know that there are plastic free shoes. In this article I discovered that I may want to try out some shoes from the po-zu brand. The materials used are quite beautiful and comfortable for foot wears also to note that they are plastic free makes it exceptionally my dream brand.

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  6. Wow! That’s all I can say! I’ve been looking for ways to be more eco-friendly. I’m currently quarantining with my parents, and the amount of plastic they use is horrendous. It’s made me more aware of my own habits and consider how I might be able to change them even more for the future. These shoes are TOO CUTE! I didn’t know they made vegan shoes that look this nice. Some of these look 100% designer, like some fancy thing people will drop $500 on without flinching. Cémélé is my favorite. It just seems like my vibe and a good quality everyday shoe!

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    • Hi Maria, Cémélé with the cherry wood uppers are beautiful and stylish. There are some awesome choices and I really like the cork and hemp shoes. Some of them are quite pricey, but most of them are pretty affordable in today’s terms. 

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  7. Hi Lin,

    Thank you for this extensive review. As I went vegan myself recently it is still a huge adjustment. Many people still think that vegan is just about food. In clothes and especially in shoes, vegan means often that plastic materials are used. There we have the second dilemma. We go vegan to save animals but use then plastics to harm the planet. It was eye-opening that there are possibilities out there to do both and even avoid plastic when buying shoes.

    Keep up the great work, I will absolutely follow your blog closely in the future.

    All the best!

    Joe

    Reply
    • Hi Joe, It is specially the use of plastic in vegan products that has been an issue for me, because of the damage to the environment, but also the harmful effects it has on our health. To have plastic free vegan alternatives is a move in the right direction and there are more brands that are also using recycled plastic. I really like the use of cork and hemp in footwear, so that will be my next pair of sneakers. Liné

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  8. I LOVE the blue high heels and yellow sandals on your page. I wish they have a shipping option for Serbia. 

    Wow didn’t know that vegan shoes existed in the first place and then reading your article I am surprised how much I missed! Incredible! I love that the menkind is finally changing their habits protecting the mother nature and your websites speak about that. 

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    • There are indeed some awesome vegan shoes available which is not just plastic and also looks after Mother Earth. The blue high heels are made with apple skin leather and is on the high end of the price scale, but makes a statement. 

      Reply

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