Heels, Health, and Humanity: Finding Acceptable Vegan Shoes


I’ve posted about this before, and I’ve certainly complained about it on Twitter fairly constantly recently, but vegan shoes are tough. Don’t get me wrong, there are a decent number of synthetic shoes out there, and a smaller, but still significant, number of shoes that are truly vegan. However, as soon as you start looking for specific types of shoes, it gets complicated.

Accidentally vegan shoes tend to be very inexpensive, and meant for occasional “fun” wear. They are trendy and funky. They tend toward either super high heels and punchy colors or canvas flats and laces (often also with punchy colors). The other frequent suspect in materials is rubber. Not very good for dressing up.

Purposefully vegan shoes are more pricey (often considerably) more pricey, and pretty limited in brands that make them. Some of the brands make only canvas or rubber shoes that can be worn in limited situations. A few (think Olsenhaus, Novacas, and Cri de Coeur) are more dressy (and pricey) but tend toward the funky and the very high heel. Many of them are UK based and not particularly easy to aquire out of Europe.

Once you take that small and very specific selection and add in specific size issues (wide feet, unusual sizes), or health/comfort issues (bunions, RA, heel spurs), you are left with almost no choices.

My rheumatologist is of the opinion that the welfare of the joints in my feet is most important. And, since I know that the prescription medications I take were tested with animals at some point, I can’t get too holier than thou about all of that.

A friend who is more eco focused than animal rights focused tells me that the manufacturing process for vegan shoes may be more problematic on the environment than leather. I can’t decide how to evaluate that fairly, given the multiple stages of leather production.

Another friend is very interested in human rights and less focused on animal rights. She believes that the most important factor is the working conditions of the individuals involved in the shoe production. The fact that most accidentally vegan shoes are made in China and there are such issues with working conditions in many factories there makes that a problem, as well.

I’m currently back on the market for some plain black pumps and I think I’ve spent hours looking online and reading reviews. Because I have feet that are wide in front and narrow in the back and arthritic, it’s a tough combination with veganism. I’ve already ordered and returned two pairs, and am guessing it will take another two or three at least before I find one that works. Oy.

What are your favorite shoe brands or places to shop?


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