Sustainable Shoe Edit: What to Look For in Your Kicks

Featured: Adidas UltraBoost, made from ocean plastic

When we discuss sustainable fashion, conversations inadvertently revolve around clothing and accessories. Very rarely, if at all, do we engage in discussions about sustainable shoes.

The shoe industry is a multi-million dollar one with no signs of stopping. What was first considered essential has now taken on several roles, including that of prestige-giving and brand-showcasing. At the end of the year, however, over 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown out only to be replaced by shiny new pairs. And the cycle goes on. The industry is a stubborn repeat offender when it comes to climate change and unethical manufacturing and sourcing chains.

That said, we're no longer living in a world where little thought goes into the items we purchased. Today's educated customers expect transparency and quality from their favourite shoe brands, often hopping off the bandwagon to buy sustainable shoes if their questions aren't adequately answered.

If you're looking to make some sustainable choices of your own, here are some tips on how to pick the right sustainable shoes to purchase.

Buying Sustainable Shoes Tip 1: Prioritise your sustainability causes

As we've mentioned quite frequently, sustainability is an umbrella term and highly intersectional in its applications and consequences. So you'll want to figure out which cause you want to support because the world hasn't reached that stage where buying one pair of sustainable shoes = making ethical, eco-friendly, fair trade, cruelty-free and humane choices at one shot.

Do you want your sustainable shoes made from sustainable materials instead of plastic and its earth-choking friends? Or maybe you'd like to help pull plastic out of our oceans by buying shoes made from recycled bottles. Maybe you'd like to replace worn-out slippers with environmentally friendly sandals or tired sneakers with sustainable gym shoes.

Whatever your reason is, you'll want to read up on the types of sustainable shoes out there because you won't be able to hit it all at once. But one step forward in that direction, on a global scale, is a powerful indicator to unsustainable companies to pull up their socks and get with the movement.

Buying Sustainable Shoes Tip 2: Find Out Where They're Made

At Lyfesize, we're massive fans of shopping locally and from small businesses. You'd be pleased to know that there are scores of sustainable shoes being made by local brands often with smaller operations. Shopping locally also has other benefits– you'll reduce, for example, a tonne of carbon emissions that come from shipping sustainable shoes from other countries that sell them.

If possible, read into the story of the pair of shoes you're eyeing. Ask questions such as:

  • Who worked on making the shoes?

  • Were they paid fairly?

  • Do they work in decent conditions?

  • Are they oppressed by a massive corporation?

  • What materials were used to make the shoes?

  • Are the shoes completely sustainable or do they use some or lots of unsustainable material?

Granted, you might not immediately find local substitutes for, say, the Adidas sustainable shoes (also considering the prestige value we tend to attach to big names). But it's only a matter of time until sustainable shoes pick up the pace in India– after all, South Asia was traditionally sustainable so we don't have to look too far back.

Buying Sustainable Shoes Tip 3: Look For Quality

If your "sustainable shoes" fall apart within two weeks of wearing them, they're not really sustainable in the all-encompassing sense of the term. Quality is a critical factor when making buying decisions so ensure that, when you're giving money up for sustainable shoes, they last for long. A few details you'll need to conduct quality checks for include:

  • Soles (sturdiness, flexibility and potential use of plastic)

  • Surface material (durability and cleanliness)

  • Laces

  • In-soles

  • Aglets

The tables are slowly turning on a wasteful industry, and we're all here for it– driving it, even, with our conscious purchases of sustainable shoes.

If there are any indigenous brands you'd like to highlight for their work in the world of sustainable shoes, send us an email or a commend down below and we'd love to tack them onto our list.

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