Vegetarian or vegan shoes are made using materials that are not derived from any animal products. This will include leather and even the glue that is often used to fix shoes together and is made from animal bones.
People wear vegan and vegetarian shoes for a number of reasons. For some it is part of a lifestyle choice which is combined with a preference for not eating meat either due for ethical or animal welfare reasons. For others it is more about the environmental impacts that are associated with the rearing of animals whose skins are used to make the leather and the tanning of the leather which uses a cocktail of damaging chemicals. For some people the choice of vegan shoes is about the choice to live a more healthy and chemical free life.
If you choose to wear vegan and vegetarian shoes you can be sure that animal will have suffered in any way in order to produce your shoes.
But aren’t synthetic alternatives to leather damaging to the environment?
Yes many synthetic alternatives to leather have a significant environmental impact which includes the use non renewable resources (oil) to make them, the pollution caused by their manufacture and their inability to bio degrade at the end of their useful life. Whilst these alternatives may be acceptable for those who don’t wear leather shoes purely because of animal welfare, it is difficult to say whether the different aspects of their environmental impact adds up to more or less than that of leather. If you want to ensure that you are choosing the most eco friendly vegan shoes you should look for the completely natural alternatives to leather. Specialist manufactures of ethical shoes make natural and bio degradable vegan shoes in a variety of materials including cork, natural latex, coconut husk and organic hemp.
So are vegan and vegetarian shoes as long lasting as leather shoes?
It depends on the type and style of shoe and the material that it is made from. It will also depend on how you look after the shoes. Hemp is incredibly strong and a good alternative to leather for casual shoes. It is also breathable and can be dyed many different colours. If the shoes are manufactured well and looked after they should last well.
Do vegan and vegetarian shoes look as good as leather shoes?
This is all about individual taste. Many people like the look of leather and there are some leather alternatives that look almost identical to leather. However these are usually synthetic and so not great for the environment. Other alternatives to leather include wool, hemp and cork can be made into beautiful, stylish and fashionable shoes. There are plenty of styles available so you should be able to find some that you like the look of.
Vegan and vegetarian shoes are a great way to minimise your impact on the environment provided that you choose natural alternatives. You should shop around for great styles that are good to look at, hard wearing and long lasting.