Though the eco-friendly footwear market seems to be overstocked with tacky, ugly footwear, there are a handful of affordable, attractive and sustainably made shoe options out there. You don’t have to wear thatch sandals and get called a hippie just to find footwear that lines up with your ideals.
Here are four of my favorite options for everyday eco-conscious footwear:
Saucony Originals Jazz Low Pro Vegan
In high school, while all my friends wore almost exclusively Adidas Superstars (“shell tops”), and New Balance 574s, I was a Saucony Originals kind of man. Did I wear these to make a statement? Not hardly. I wore them because Nikes were more expensive and my parents were buying. Regardless, I laced those bad boys up from the 8th grade until well into my junior year. When they got dirty, I’d throw them in the washing machine with a load of laundry and voilà! They’d be good as
new slightly used.
While no one was predicting the Saucony resurgence, it’s not surprising. The Jazz Originals are the perfect shoes for the jeans and flannel look because they’re simple, interesting but not alienating, and they’re comfy as heck. Better still, the Jazz Originals and the Originals are both available with entirely vegan uppers. They’re solid shoes that aren’t “too much” of anything, so they pair nicely with nearly any casual clothing combination.
Chaco Z2 Wake Unaweep
Though many disagree, I think Chacos look great. I suppose there’s a simplicity to Chacos that you don’t find with many other sandals – there’s nothing on the shoe that doesn’t serve a purpose.
The minimalist approach to Chaco sandals, by the way, is equal parts fashion and function. Their straps use as little material as possible and they’re easily repairable, which gives them a smaller eco-footprint than their competition. It’s also neat that you can find nearly any color imaginable for straps, including multi-colored weaves, but the Chaco hallmark is their soles.
The thick black sole, Chaco’s most identifiable trait, gives them an athletic look – a miraculous accomplishment for an eco-friendly sandal – and a sturdiness that suggests a high quality product. They’re comfortable, extremely durable, and very environmentally friendly.
While some will balk at Chaco prices being $20-$30 higher than other brands, I can tell you from experience that they last forever. I’ve put several hundred miles on my current pair and they look and feel the same as they always have.
Toms Men’s Classic Farrin Vegan
Toms aren’t for everyone – I definitely can’t pull them off. But man, they look really great on some folks. There’s a navy pair I’ve seen guys wear with khakis and an oxford and it makes for a very clean look. Even if you have no interest in owning a pair, you should still make it a point to try some on once because they feel no heavier on your feet than a pair of thick wool socks.
Their popular Farrin line is also available in a vegan-friendly option that is void of any animal products. These shoes retail for around $55, but it is common to find them in the upper $30s and low $40s. They’re good looking, comfortable, cheap, responsible and definitely worth considering. Try a pair on – you may be surprised how natural they look on your feet.
Asics’s Onitsuka Tiger 81
When I bought my Onitsuka Tigers from an outfitter about a year ago, they immediately became one of my favorite pairs of shoes, ever. They look great, they’re lightweight, their outsoles are very grippy, and nearly every model has vegan-friendly uppers.
I picked a very simple color combination with a simple navy logo over grey, but I’ve nearly bought a white, red, blue combination – the Mexico ’66 model – several times over the past few months. I just can’t over-emphasize how comfortable they are. If you need a little more arch support, I recommend Smartfeet insoles. These sneakers are also easy to clean (again, washing machine) and only look better as they get older.
And don’t forget that oftentimes, the greenest pair of shoes are the ones you get repaired, rather than tossing them out and finding replacements.