When most people think of going vegan, they typically think of a radical change in diet: cutting out dairy products, avoiding eggs, replacing meat proteins with nuts and seeds. But what many people don’t realize until they’re knee-deep in veganism is that going vegan isn’t just about changing your diet. It’s a radical lifestyle upheaval that makes you re-evaluate everything you consume, from clothes and purses to makeup and art supplies. Even some of the most popular shoe brands use animal products like leather, silk, and cowhide. Those old sneakers in your closet that you’ve been wearing since high school? You might want to invest in a new pair of trainers, because there’s a good chance that your favorite shoes are lined with wool and animal skin.
The search for 100% vegan trainers
Finding vegan trainers at the local shoe outlet might seem like a simple task. But once you start doing your research, you’ll be surprised how many animal products have sneaked their way into the clothing industry. Leather, cowhide, silk, wool, suede, fur, sheepskin, shell, and even alligator skin are all components of some of the most popular trainers on the market. These products aren’t sustainable, and often involve a lot of animal cruelty in the process. If you’re sickened by the meat industry, you probably know that the fur industry is just as horrifying, with countless animals losing their lives for a $50 pair of designer shoes.
Fortunately, in today’s increasingly socially-conscious world, the vegan trainer industry is booming. Countless brands have sprung up that offer fashionable, affordable, and completely cruelty-free vegan trainers. Instead of being made from animal products like fur and leather, these shoes are typically made from plant-based materials like cotton and hemp. They’re just as comfortable as “traditional” shoes, stand up to harsh elements, and come in a wide range of colors and sizes. And best of all, you’ll feel good knowing that you made a conscious choice to help save the environment and support a sustainable business.
Promising vegan trainer brands
Ready to ditch your old alpaca-lined shoes for a set of brand new vegan trainers? Here’s some of the best vegan shoe brands on the market today.
1. Native Shoes
Founded in 2009, Native Shoes is one of the oldest vegan shoe brands on the market. Unlike other sneaker companies, which typically focus on making thick, durable shoes that can stand up to harsh elements, Native Shoes are made to feel light and breezy. Their collections are designed to be lightweight and allow for a great deal of air circulation, while still holding up to weeks of summer adventures. And if your shoes get worn out, you can ship them back to the company to be recycled, free of charge. The unique components that make up each pair of Native Shoes can be recycled into playground equipment, insulation, outdoor seating, and more. In other words, you’re not just buying a pair of shoes–you’re investing in an entire life cycle.
Native Shoes offers a variety of styles for men, women, children, and even babies. If you like the minimalist look, their sets offer bold blocks of color and brightly colored laces. Their trainers come in bright shades like red and turquoise, as well as more subtle shades like silver and peach. The trainers sport rows of holes in the side to allow for air circulation and keep the shoes feeling lightweight and comfortable.
Founded in Brazil, the Cariuma brand offers sneakers made from high-quality, ethically-sourced materials that were handpicked by the founders. The shoes are made from raw materials that were harvested directly from the source without harming the trees or destroying natural forests. Cariuma shoes are made from bamboo, rubber, cork, cotton, and even sugarcane (yes, sugarcane can be used in clothing materials!) Even the boxes the shoes are shipped in are made of recycled paper, ensuring that the entire process is 100% sustainable. These vegan sport shoes offer the classic sneaker look, with a solid-color shoe framed by a sturdy white sole. Just make sure you read the list of ingredients before buying: while most Cariuma shoes are vegan, they do sell a few options that were made from leather.
Cariuma offers both men’s and women’s shoes in a selection of five different styles. Each style comes in a wide range of colors, including bright blue, soft yellow, and vibrant pink. Cariuma also sells a few knit pattern options.
3. Nothing New
Nothing New is unique in the fact that its shoes are largely made from recycled plastic. When you think of recycled plastic, you typically think of bottles, trash bags, and plastic chairs. Surely recycled plastic can’t create the classic sneaker look–right? But Nothing New’s vegan sport shoes are indistinguishable from regular canvas sneakers. The upper part of the shoe is made from plastic sourced from post-consumer plastic and fishing nets, while the soles are made from recycled rubber and cork. This shoe isn’t just sustainable–it actually breathes new life into old materials that were once thrown in the trash. And these shoes are so comfortable and durable that you won’t be able to tell the difference between these and your old pairs of Skechers.
Like most brands, Nothing New offers shoes for both men and women in bold, monochromatic styles. They sell classic low-tops as well as vintage high-tops that’ll make you feel like a teenager again. And while you’re there, you can pick up some socks made of recycled plastic and cotton to complete the outfit.
4. No Saints
Think you’ve seen it all? Think again. No Saints offers a line of shoes made from “apple leather”–and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Apple leather is made from discarded apple peels and cores that were thrown away by the juicing industry. Instead of incinerating the cores, creating unnecessary waste, the remains were formed into a type of leather that’s popular for shoes and handbags. No Saints also offers a collection made from pineapple leather, which is formed from pineapple leaf fibers. Looking for something a little less fruity? They also sell shoes made from recycled polyester, as well as vegan leather and suede. With materials like these, No Saints truly offers some of the best vegan trainers in the shoe industry.
No Saints offers a simple, minimalist line of less than a dozen sneakers, each made from a unique set of materials. Most of the styles are black, grey, or white, but the “Pamela” is a bright glittery gold.
The Vessi brand came to life when the founders realized there was a big hole in the vegan trainer industry: a lack of waterproof sneakers. Vessi shoes are designed to withstand wind, rain, mud, snow, dirt, puddles, and lake water. They’re perfect for a long hiking trip or a relaxing day at the beach. And like the best vegan trainers, they’re 100% vegan and made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials. Vessi shoes are also manufactured in a way that takes only a fraction of the time as traditional shoes, lowering the shoes’ carbon footprint by over 600%.
Right now, Vessi offers only four basic styles in a variety of neutral tones. The shoes come in a wide range of sizes for both men and women. Shoppers also have the option of donating to Vessi’s community charity fund while they make their purchase.