What are Eco-Friendly Shoes?

Mary McMahon

Eco-friendly shoes are shoes which have been designed, produced, and sold in a manner that is considered ecologically friendly or “green.” People concerned about the environment may choose to purchase eco-friendly shoes as part of an overall lifestyle choice which is designed to be more ecologically friendly. Some shoe stores sell eco-friendly shoes, and they can also be purchased through various green businesses, catalogs, and original producers.

Boots made of synthetic materials may be considered eco-friendly.
Boots made of synthetic materials may be considered eco-friendly.

There are a number of steps in the process of shoe production which can make shoes more environmentally friendly. For example, some companies make vegan or vegetarian shoes, which do not include any animal products. By avoiding animal products, these companies reduce their impact on the environment, since the process of preparing leather for shoes can be very messy and time consuming. Other companies use organic or all-natural ingredients, such as natural latex, rather than commercially produced synthetics, opting for sustainable natural materials wherever possible.

Shoes made of vegan leather would be considered eco-friendly.
Shoes made of vegan leather would be considered eco-friendly.

Companies which produce eco-friendly shoes may also try to use recycled materials as much as possible. The wood for traditional clogs, for instance, might be salvaged from old buildings, rather than being purchased new, or recycled canvas from old sails might be used to make shoe uppers. The factory itself may also be designed in an environmentally friendly way which reduces energy usage and the overall impact of the factory on the surrounding environment.

Some eco-friendly shoes are also produced in a way which promotes human rights. Workers may be paid a living wage, and the company may try to avoid being perceived as exploitative. Factories in economically depressed regions may tout their contributions to the community, which might include factory housing, clean water initiatives, and other projects in addition to employing and paying workers. Some people believe that eco-friendly products must be produced in a way which supports communities and human rights in addition to the environment, while others view these business practices as additional reasons to purchase the product.

A wide variety of shoe designs and styles can be produced in an ecologically friendly manner. Eco-friendly shoes do not have to be bland or boring, although many producers have historically made fairly uninteresting shoes for the green market. Growing awareness of the need for environmentally friendly business practices in the 21st century led to a radical expansion of green industries, and an accompanying diversification in designs and styles. While dull brown vegetarian clogs are available, it's also possible to find styles from outrageous heels to work boots in eco-friendly designs. Some people argue that the most eco-friendly shoes of all are shoes purchased in thrift stores, consignment shops, and other stores which provide second-hand goods for new owners.

High-end vegan shoes are comparable in price to traditional designer shoes.
High-end vegan shoes are comparable in price to traditional designer shoes.

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Discussion Comments


If you can't find eco-friendly shoes in your area, the article makes a good point about wearing used or second-hand shoes. Quite often, you will be able to find a pair that is like new from a thrift store, and the money will go to someone who really needs it.

Another way to be eco-friendly with your foot wear is to take good care of the shoes you already have so you get many years of usage out of them. When you aren't constantly buying new shoes, you are saving the environment in that way well.


I found a pair of eco-friendly shoes at a department store that are made mostly of recycled plastic water bottles. Not only are they comfortable and stylish, but every time I wear them, I have an interesting story to tell about their origin. Wearing them also makes me feel like I have done something good for the earth.

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