Find out which high street retailers offer vegan-friendly shoes and boots, and how to spot them
Finding synthetic alternatives to leather shoes is a breeze, as most large retailers stock their shelves with leather free alternatives. Some mainstream brands, such as Toms, Vans, Etnies and Dr. Martens have even created multiple styles especially for vegans, proving that ditching your worn leather boots for shiny new vegan alternatives isn’t so hard after all.
However, it’s not only the leather symbol you have to look out for when buying shoes, as some large retailers still use animal-derived glue in their products. Animal-derived glue is often made by boiling an animal’s connective tissue or bones, so even if you purchase leather free shoes they still may not be vegan-friendly.
Brands such as Dr. Martens and New Balance continue to use animal-derived glue, with New Balance’s response stating that: “Many of our models are manufactured using synthetic materials. There is no guarantee that a given model with a synthetic upper will be completely vegan as we use different types of adhesives across all of our global manufacturing sites and these glues may or may not contain animal by-products.”
Dr. Martens also responded saying “Any footwear not in our vegan collection is made using glue containing animal derivatives.”
In terms of high street retailers, Next have stated that their “non-leather shoes don’t contain animal ingredients and the glue is synthetic”, suggesting that their leather shoes however do still contain animal-derived glues.
Zara also don’t use animal-derived glue. However, not all of their shoes are vegan friendly as “about half of our shoes are made from synthetic materials and do not contain products from animal origin. About a third of our shoes feature textiles, and in some small cases, these products may contain wool.” So when purchasing from Zara, make sure you check the label for a leathermark or any textile features, but if they’re made with synthetic materials then you’re good to go.
Marks & Spencers, another large high street retailer, have claimed their “glue used in M&S shoes is synthetic and we offer a wide range of non-leather and synthetic shoes, but we are unable to guarantee that these are vegan.” As they cannot guarantee this, why not contact them before purchasing and prompt them to apply for the Vegan Trademark? This is a great way to demonstrate demand for vegan shoe options within larger retailers.
If you are in the market for some new hiking boots, Merrell have a vegan-friendly range that they plan to expand in the future, though they have no current plans to eliminate animal derived glues completely from their non-vegan range. Luckily you can also find vegan hiking boots from many retailers online, including Ethical Wares and Eco Vegan Shoes among others. This blog lists where to find great vegan-friendly walking boots while this one talks about climbing shoes among other equipment.
Another major shoe brand that do not use animal-derived glues is Skechers, who provided us with the following statement “All of the glues and adhesives in Skechers are water based. Many of Skechers shoes are vegan friendly, they are all found in a category under ‘Technology’ and currently there are 370 shoes in stock on UK website that are vegan. We cannot comment on common practice for all shoe companies, but Skechers uses all water based adhesives due to adhesives being more effective as well as animal-friendly.”
Vans have also assured us that they “do use glue in our shoes, but they are not animal based glues, they are synthetic. We proudly offer the following vegan styles through our online shop. Most of our Classic Collection has styles and colourways that are vegan-friendly.”
It’s apparent that synthetic alternatives are easily available and used by certain retailers, so always check with the company to see what they use before purchasing. Keep a look out for the Vegan Trademark, the international symbol that guarantees no animal testing or animal products. You can search for Trademarked shoes and boots here.
Also remember that if you are in the market for some new shoes, check out some local charity shops. Not only will you be getting a bargain, you can help reduce animal cruelty within the shoe industry and the large amounts of textile waste within the UK at the same time.
Find out which vegan shoe companies are the most ethical here.
List of popular retailers whose synthetic shoes are vegan-friendly
Remember, most of these companies also sell leather and wool shoes, so always check the label.
Do you know any others, or is this list out of date? Email web[at]vegansociety[dot]com with the subject line ‘vegan shoes’ to let us know.
Brooks - running shoes only
Marks & Spencers - a range of pumps, shoes and boots, with a kids range
Next - a range of pumps, shoes and boots, with a kids range
Skechers - a range of trainers, shoes and boots
Vans - trainers
Zara - a range of pumps, shoes and boots
For fully vegan shoes, browse Will’s Vegan Shoes (they also provide a kids range), Vegetarian Shoes, Beyond Skin, Eco Vegan Shoes, Freerangers, Risorse Shoes, Nemanti Italian Luxury Shoes, Mink and Bourgeois Boheme among others. Our Trademark search is a great place to find more vegan shoe brands.
If you're looking for an international vegan shoe store, Avesu sell a variety of vegan shoes and a bags online to a global audience.
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