It’s a pretty good time to be a vegan. No longer confined to crunchy health food stores, plant-eaters can now find jazzed up vegetable dishes on the menus of top restaurants, faux leather that’s not cheap-looking, even multiple options for gummy bears. Nowhere is this evolution more apparent than in the world of footwear, where designers are using new materials to craft shoes that are typically made from leather or suede. We asked Christina Sewell, manager of clothing campaigns at PETA, along with a vegan nutritionist, two vegan writers, and two personal stylists, to point us toward the most stylish animal-friendly shoes on the market.
Best vegan clogs
A vegan option for proud members of the clogerati, this pair comes from Sydney Brown, a line that’s also committed to using renewable resources and fair labor practices. Sewell admires how the brand finds creative ways of replacing animal products in their shoes. “The company uses pressed pineapple and coconut fibers to construct its shoes, and its uppers are composed of fused shaven cork and grains,” she says.
Run by a third-generation female shoemaker, Nicora got nods from three of the experts we spoke with. Vegan nutritionist Taylor Wolfram likes that “they are handmade in the U.S. using fair labor practices and ethically sourced materials.” Sewell adds that they’re best known for their boots. “My favorite right now are the new Swedish-style clogs,” says Ashlee Piper, author of the sustainable living manual Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet.
Best vegan sneakers
When Stella McCartney founded her eponymous line back in 2001, making vegan clothing and accessories was almost unheard of in luxury fashion. And according to Sewell, she’s still “a pioneer of animal-friendly style.” Between the platform sole and the color-block upper, this pair exemplifies the “ugly sneaker” trend we’ve been following.
Best vegan heels
Also in business since 2001, British brand Beyond Skin is a top pick of Wolfram’s, who likes that they “offer loads of styles.” Among them is this stiletto heel, which challenges the notion that ethical shoes are unsexy.
We’re already fans of Matt & Nat’s vegan bags — Libby Bartley, a content strategist and branding stylist, put them on our radar when she told us this backpack was her work bag of choice — and Los Angeles-based stylist Ali Levine points out they also make stylish, vegan shoes. “They go above and beyond with their vegan materials,” she says, “[using] recycled bottles, corks, rubber, nylons, and of course vegan leather.” With their block heels and notched-V vamps, these remind us of Everlane’s popular V heel style — but these are totally free of animal products.
Best vegan flats
As a personal stylist, Vanessa Valiente says she gets “constant requests” for vegan clothing and shoes from her clients. Among her favorites are these flats from the PETA-approved, “beast-free” brand Native Shoes. “The shape of this shoe is fantastically versatile. It goes from work to play and packs perfectly for a trip,” says Valiente. “My clients also love that it is waterproof, odor-resistant, and comes in so many colors.”
Piper also recommends Nicora’s classic ballet flats. They’re dead ringers for real-leather — and more expensive — designer flats.
Best vegan boots
Like Sewell, Piper is a fan of Sydney Brown’s “minimal aesthetic.” “They’re expensive,” she says, “but the classic black boot with the wooden heel is on my fall — and forever — wish list.”
If you need a hard-working, waterproof, vegan shoe for outdoor adventures, Piper loves this pair from London-based brand Will’s Vegan Shoes. “There’s a lot to love about this brand, but I was most impressed with the pair of hiking boots I bought from them recently,” she says. “They’re waterproof, hella durable with a Vibram sole, and they didn’t break the bank.” Because they’re made from vegan leather and suede, they’re naturally weatherproof and don’t need extra treatments.
Best vegan sandals
Founded by designer Bianca Moran, Susi Studio has collaborated with PETA on a line of boots, with a portion of the profits going to the organization. Made from faux suede, these burgundy sandals look ready for holiday party season. For a much cheaper, and also vegan version, Lulu’s — one of Levine’s favorite brands — makes a very similar sandal.
As if you needed any more evidence that the fashion world has embraced vegan footwear, environmentally-conscious Brazilian brand Melissa has collaborated with designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, and, for these rose gold sandals, Jason Wu. Piper says these shoes are designed “with sustainability and style in perfect harmony,” and that their jelly material is completely recyclable.
Best vegan mules
Writer (and vegan) Arielle Egozi knows it isn’t always easy to find ethical footwear that’s also attractive and durable. “A lot of times you’ll get shitty materials that crack and flake, and then you feel sort of silly in your statement of moving away from real leather,” she says. But her BC mules have lasted several seasons and, she says, “I still get complimented on them all the time.” The brand is also PETA-certified.
Best men’s vegan shoes
Brave Gentleman’s founder Joshua Katcher is also an activist, an instructor at Parsons School of Design at the New School, and the creator of the first men’s vegan lifestyle website, The Discerning Brute. Sewell says Katcher’s unique designs and way of working with vegan materials have been hugely influential to others. These brogues are made from the brand’s “future leather,” a durable, high-tech microfiber.
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