ethical shoes

13 Ethical Shoe Brands Worth the Investment


  • WHAT THEY SELL: a small selection of super cool sneakers
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: organic cotton purchased from a small scale farmers' coop | sustainably harvested rubber | leather from cows that aren't farmed on deforested rainforest land | does not advertise | produces on demand to reduce waste |  CO2 reduction | works with marginalized communities

2. Nicora

  • WHAT THEY SELL: vegan shoes and boots
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: made in LA | domestically sourced materials | recycled textiles | eco-friendly vegan | classic, timeless styles | small batch

3. Nisolo

  • WHAT THEY SELL: supple leather, minimalist shoes for men and women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: building infrastructure in Peru | transparent business model | classic, timeless styles | leather sourced from small scale industry

4. Oliberte

  • WHAT THEY SELL: casual suede flats, shoes, and boots for men and women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: fair trade certified | certified b corp | lifetime warranty | leather sourced from small scale industry | local rubber | limited packaging

5. Root Collective

  • WHAT THEY SELL: women's flats and boots made with embroidered textiles and other fabric
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: fair pay | works with marginalized communities | local textile sourcing

6. Sseko Designs

  • WHAT THEY SELL: leather loafers, boots, and sandals for women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: locally sourced textiles | leather sourced from local industry | fair trade | builds infrastructure | woman owned, woman run

7. Etiko

  • WHAT THEY SELL: Converse look-a-like low and high top sneakers for men and women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: fair trade | works with marginalized communities | fair trade premiums for infrastructure development | sustainable cotton and rubber sourcing

8. Cardanas

  • WHAT THEY SELL: classic canvas low and high top sneakers for men and women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: eco-friendly canvas | 90% natural rubber soles | fair trade standards | rotating jobs for factory worker satisfaction | localized supply chain | carbon negative

9. Fortress of Inca

  • WHAT THEY SELL: modern leather shoes and boots for women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: fair trade | builds infrastructure | locally sourced materials | fair pricing

10. Po-Zu

  • WHAT THEY SELL: a wide variety of shoes and boots for men and women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: sustainable | renewable materials | use renewable energy | small scale | ship items for lower carbon emissions | fair wages | eco-friendly, nontoxic work environment | organic and innovative materials

11. Sole Rebels

  • WHAT THEY SELL: flats and sandals
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: 4 times minimum wage pay | medical coverage | free transportation for employees | wages not quota dependent | sustainable production | locally sourced materials | builds infrastructure | cultural preservation | organic and recycled materials

12. OESH

  • WHAT THEY SELL: 3-D printed and injection molded sandals and sneakers for women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: low to no waste | locally sourced materials | 3-D printed | woman owned, woman run | made in Charlottesville, VA | biodegradable materials

13. Deux Mains

  • WHAT THEY SELL: simple, modern sandals for women
  • WHY THEY'RE ETHICAL: builds infrastructure | employee owned and operated | works with marginalized communities | locally sourced materials | fair wages

Suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

Shopping List: Ethical Black Sandals

ethical and vegan black sandals

I used to think every pair of shoes in my closet needed to be a different color, but in the past few years, I've developed a real love for black shoes with everything. I wouldn't call my personal style anything close to edgy, so the bit of black at the base adds something modern to otherwise very simple outfits.

I've seen lots of black sandals around this season, but I want something that looks just as good with shorts as it does with a fancy dress. That means chunky Birkenstocks and thick foam flip flops are out. I've narrowed it down to the options above (admittedly, I'm not the best at narrowing down), making sure to add a good mix of high and lower end, vegan and sustainable leather. Some of these are a bit outside my price range, but they may be worth saving up for.

My favorite ethical black sandals are:

(clockwise from top left)

1. Deux Mains Bel Nanm Sandal, $64.99

Made fairly in Haiti out of upcycled tires, sustainable leather, and all organic ingredients.

2. Everlane Street Sandal, $120.00

Made ethically in Italy out of Italian leather.

3. Nicora Goodall Sandal, $119.00

100% vegan. Uppers made out of recycled X-Ray film, soles and heels made from recycled rubber blend, domestically produced.

4. Bourgeois Boheme Emma Sandal, $194.00

Vegan. PVC free eco vegan leather, handcrafted in Portugal.

5. Nisolo Serena Sandal, $98.00

Made ethically in Peru. Get $25 off your purchase with my referral link.

6. Everlane Slide Sandal, $98.00

Made ethically in Italy out of Italian leather.

I'm leaning toward the Nisolo Serena Sandal, because it combines a sophisticated silhouette with a price point I'm comfortable with (though I still need to pinch some pennies to get there). The Nicora Sandal is a close second - you really can't beat their thoughtful sourcing and attention to detail. I feel like I'm getting real clarity on what I want and "need" within the context of my current lifestyle. It's exciting to have a uniform of sorts. Now all I need is the weather to stay warm so I can actually wear my warm weather gear!

reviews: the shoes blues

For the past couple years, I've relied on thrifting for most of my shoe purchases. It's challenging to find a good pair of shoes and it's even worse when you've spent a lot of money on a pair just to realize they aren't meeting your expectations. But I want to support ethical brands when I can, so when I got a new job, I saved up some money and bought a few new pairs of shoes for the first time in a long time.

Unfortunately, I wasn't pleased with the results.

The Sseko Designs Flats - so beautiful, so disappointing

Item 1: TOMS Flats

I actually found these secondhand online and thought it was the perfect opportunity to get a pair of TOMS. The brand is still working out kinks with production standards and transparency, but I consider them a better option than your standard department store brand. I bought these in a size 7, my usual size, and found them to be both unusually wide and shallow at the heel. As a result, my feet are constantly flopping out of the back and getting shoved to one side or the other.

Item 2: Sseko Designs Lalibella Flats

The website suggests sizing down one size, so I opted for a 6.5 instead of my usual 7. When I got them, I found them to be too small, with the left shoe feeling slightly tighter than the right (my right foot is a bit bigger, so it's not a matter of foot inconsistency). I ordered the next size up and found that the left shoe fit the same if not tighter than the 6.5 and the right shoe fit fine. What?! To their credit, they have incredible customer service and free returns.

I'm terribly disappointed that the Sseko flats are a no-go because I love the style and the company. It sucks because fair trade and small scale are the best ways to ensure fair labor and greater sustainability, but the quality control is (often) lacking. I take my time on making more expensive ethical purchases because, on my budget, these things are investment pieces. They've got to hold up.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the necessary price differences between fast fashion items and ethical/artisanal ones. I get it, but it's hard not to hold items you've spent more than a day's wages on to a high standard. It's a struggle with every new purchase and it makes ethical fashion blogging a bit more challenging because I can't feature tons of ethical brands in personal style posts. Still, important things are often the hardest things to achieve and it's worth it to keep having these discussions, to keep saving up, and to keep discovering and featuring brands that change the industry for the better.