If you want to start an ethical wardrobe, shoes are a great place to begin. Investing in a few pairs of high-quality, ethical shoes can actually make a real difference in your social and environmental footprint (no pun intended).
I don’t know about you, but I used to go through new cheap shoes every year. By the end of the season, they’d either be headed for a landfill or the problematic secondhand market. Since I started buying ethical shoes, I haven’t pitched or donated a single pair.
Shoes are also one of the most polluting items in the fashion industry, with all kinds of chemicals—including carcinogens like chromium—involved in mainstream production. Buying ethical shoes ensures less toxic exposure to workers and the surrounding environment. Many footwear brands are also actively cleaning up the environment. Rothy’s makes their shoes from recycled water bottles, while Brave Soles reclaims tires from landfills.
And of course, when you buy ethical shoes, you ensure a fair wage and safe working conditions for everyone involved in the production of your footwear.
Here are some of my favorites for summer:
Ethical Women’s Shoes
Believe it or not, these flats are made out of recycled plastic bottles. Best of all, they are MACHINE WASHABLE. I have these in round-toe black, and I do all kinds of gardening and messy-motherhood tasks in them. I can attest that they wash up beautifully, and they’re incredibly comfortable too. Get $20 off here.
These sandals are on the top of my wishlist. They come in several colors (I’m a sucker for Burnt Sienna), and seem to be the perfect addition to just about any outfit. I already have three pairs of Nisolos, and I adore their quality and craftsmanship. These sandals are handmade by artisans in Peru. Get 20% off if you sign up for their emails here.
I just bought these for spring, and I am already loving them. The leather breaks in beautifully, and the ankle strap gives the perfect amount of support. Plus they go with everything! These sandals are ethically made in Peru. They also come in Almond. Get 20% off if you sign up for their emails here.
I’ve worn through a few pairs of Converse in my lifetime, so I was thrilled to see Etiko come out with an organic, fair-trade version of the shoe. Etiko is an Australian brand, but ships worldwide. This sneaker also comes in black, navy, red, olive, and hightop styles.
I love a shoe that looks like it’d be at home in the boardroom AND the boardwalk. I also love that ABLE seeks to end generational poverty by employing at-risk women in Ethiopia, Peru, Mexico, and America. These beauties also come in Adobe Red and Desert Rose Suede. Get $10 off if you sign up for their emails here.
Although I don’t yet own any of their shoes, I have been obsessed with the Brave Soles coin purse my husband gifted me last year. All of their products are handmade in the Dominican Republic, and they have all the charm to prove it. Plus they use recycled tires, which cleans up local landfills.
Ethical Men’s Shoes
When I first saw leather sneakers coming into fashion, I was confused. Then I got a pair of leather shoes that were so comfortable and breathable I barely wore anything else all summer. I suspect you might do the same with these. This versatile sneaker also comes in Tobacco and midtop styles. Get 20% off if you sign up for their emails here.
Looking for a sturdier, classier flip flop? These sandals have my vote. They’re handmade in the Dominican Republic using ethical leather and recycled tires. They also come in Caramel and Black.
Etiko sneakers are a great ethical and sustainable alternative to Converse. With some of the highest ethical standards in the business and relatively low prices, these shoes are worth the shipping from Australia. I see some in my husband’s future (shh…don’t tell him).
The perfect simple, streamlined sandal. These sandals are handmade in the Dominican Republic from local leather and recycled tires. They also come in Cocoa and Caramel.
If you’re not the sandal type but want a cool summer slip-on, these are for you. They’re made of soft leather and hand-woven at Nisolo’s ethical factory in Mexico. Get 20% off if you sign up for their emails here.
I’m a sucker for a man in boat shoes, and Toms makes some delightfully preppy styles. Previously known for their problematic “One for One” giving strategy, Toms has since evolved to include local production and partnerships in its model. I appreciate a company that can accept criticism and change, so I recommend you check out their new styles. Get $20 off here.
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