5 Things To Look for when Shopping Ethically for A New Pair of Shoes

This post is a guest post from the folks behind the newly released Bendy Shoe - they’re sharing their expertise to help make navigating ethical shoe shopping a bit simpler. Check out their Kickstarter Campaign here!


Every purchase you make will leave a footprint on the planet. We all understand the importance of responsible consumption, yet there are few guidelines or road maps. Ethical shoe shopping can be tricky but there are many things you can start to do right now to make a difference. Thankfully, many shoe brands are using ethical and responsible principles when building their products. This list will help you know what to look for to lower emissions, reduce landfill or to ensure workers were treated fairly and paid and honest wage when making your pair.

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1. Leather shoes

The first shoes on record were from the Stone Age, and guess what? They were leather. Leather was breathable, durable, pliable and readily available as it was a by-product, so it was a great choice for covering the foot. The same thing holds true now. Savvy vintage shoppers know that the oldies and goodies are not the synthetic or fabric pairs. The coveted finds are typically high-quality leather ones that have lasted for decades. Leather can be cleaned and polished to look great year after year. Buy the best quality that fits into your budget. You will probably tire of the styling before they wear out. If this mindset leads to less purchases, then congratulations, you are doing your part in reducing emissions and landfill.

2. Can your repair your shoes?

Before you discard a broken pair of shoes, try a cobbler. A good shoe repair professional can work miracles. As long as the upper is in good shape there is a good chance they can be restored. Don’t let the prices deter you either, $20-$40 can give your shoes new life. It’s better to spend the money and keep the shoes in your rotation than have them end up in landfill.

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3. Fair trade brands

These brands help craftsman and sometimes, women in particular, in developing countries achieve higher economic and social standards. They tend to be high quality and handmade. Central and South America and Southeast Asia are both known for their communities of shoemakers. Buying from fair trade brands ensure workers have been paid fair wages and work in safe conditions.

4. Ethically sourced

More and more shoe companies are starting to use recycled, natural, or responsibly produced raw materials when making their products. All of this matters and ultimately results in less carbon emissions. If something that would be otherwise discarded is being reused in your shoes, that equates to less landfill. If an upper material is natural or responsibly sourced, that typically means that less energy is used in the making of it as compared to a typical shoe. All of this means that the process of making your shoe is kinder and gentler on the planet.

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5. Handcrafted in the US label

Since shoes made in the US don’t have to be transported over vast distances, they offer a lower carbon footprint. There are some cool brands starting to make shoes in Los Angeles now. Made in US also means higher standards for workers and for the environment. The US has national, state and local laws in place that regulate how workers are treated: minimum wages, overtime, and safety. Also, laws regulate waste processing, use of chemicals, water usage and recycling. Many of these things don’t exist overseas.