Image credit: Fortress of Inca
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I used to have a million pairs of cheap, low-quality sandals in my closet that would be worn out after just one summer. I would have to buy new ones every. single. year.
Since then, however, I’ve matured and I’ve found that part of living my best life is buying beautiful sandals that are comfortable and will last several summers. And there are now quite a few amazing brands making ethical and sustainable sandals that are not only high-quality but beautiful and affordable too.
What to Look for in a Sustainable, Ethical Pair of Sandals
Quality and durability: A timeless pair of well-made sandals should last you a while—at least more than just one season! That means no flimsy straps that break apart while you’re on the dance floor at your cousin’s summer wedding. (Yep, that happened.)
Sustainably sourced and natural materials: Look for materials like vegetable-tanned leather, natural rubber, and recycled components. These kinds of materials are mostly renewable, biodegradable, much less taxing on the planet, and more often than not, they’re higher quality and more durable, too. (We haven’t yet found a vegan leather replacement with the longevity of real leather.) Also, keep a sharp eye out for PVC. An extremely toxic plastic, it’s often used in sandals—including luxury ones—because it’s the only way to get that clear vinyl upper strap. If you want that clear plastic look, you’ll likely have to either compromise on sustainability or leave it behind.
Fair wages and transparency: Making a high-quality shoe is an art. And the people who make them should be paid accordingly. Look for brands that are committed to paying their artisans living wages for their work, while also providing other benefits like healthcare and education. Not all of these companies are doing absolutely everything 100% ethically and sustainably—but they’re honest about that and are committed to improving.
Comfort: If you’re going to be frolicking around to farmer’s markets, networking events, and summer festivals, you might as well be comfortable, right? Of course, some sandals require two to three wears to break them in. But once they’ve molded to your feet, you’re set.
Timeless, Versatile Style: We’re pretty adamant about the fact that you can have a minimalist wardrobe without sacrificing your look. Most of the sandals below can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion and can be kept and worn for years.
Here are our favorite brands for sustainable, ethically-made sandals for the spring and summer.
ABLE is a brand that invests in women by creating transformative opportunities for those overcoming addiction, homelessness, commercial sex work, and more. The brand makes its leather shoes in Brazil and Peru. ABLE’s lowest wages are transparently published on its website to protect the women makers and empower consumers to make shopping decisions that positively impact workers.
Prices: $78 – $148
TIDAL started out making typical polyurethane flip flops with a uniquely innovative process but has since started to incorporate eco-friendly castor seed oil extract instead. The brand is still working on making the transition to 100% eco-friendly materials but is committed to transparency and steady progress. All TIDAL flip flops are made locally in New York at its low-waste facility. TIDAL is known for its comfortable soles, no-slip treads, and curved arch support.
Prices: $26 – $30
Handcrafted by artisans in Guatemala, these made-to-order sandals are made out of natural leather and handwoven fabric. The brand partners with small, independent workshops in order to create the largest social impact and empower entire communities.
Prices: $98 – $108
Nisolo shoes are intentionally designed to be versatile and long-lasting. They are ethically made in Peru and Mexico, where all of the artisans earn fair wages, healthcare, and a healthy working environment. Nisolo also partners with Ecosphere+ to offset carbon emissions and protect forests in the Amazon.
Prices: $88 – $198
Christy Dawn creates vintage-inspired sandals made from sustainably sourced upcycled leather. Each pair is handmade in Los Angeles by talented craftspeople.
Prices: $110 – $160
Crafted from all-natural leather and recycled tires, Pons sandals were originally designed to keep farmers’ feet dry, comfortable, and protected. Its sandals are ethically made by hand with sustainability and longevity in mind, with the raw materials sourced locally in Spain. You can read EcoCult’s founder Alden Wicker’s full review of her Pons after traveling in them for a year here.
Prices: $85 – $105
Nomasei is a timeless, responsible footwear brand designed in Paris and produced in Montopoli, Italy. It only produces two collections per year and uses biodegradable soles, 100% recyclable zippers, and metal-free leathers. Nomasei works with suppliers and factories certified in sustainable sourcing and practices that comply with OECD practices. It’s a set of indicators that measure manufacturing facilities’ environmental performance, including their reuse of wastewater and their low presence of metals. Nomasei’s packaging is created with paper, recycled cardboard, and GOTS-certified cotton.
Prices: $166 – $231
Located in a Haitian factory, Deux Mains creates handcrafted sandals, accessories, and bags at a 100% solar-powered factory. It provides dignified wages, wellness benefits, health insurance, paid holidays, among other benefits to its workers. Deux Mains rescues and upcycles discarded tires and inner tubes to use as material in its products. Its leather is sourced from one of the top ten tanneries globally that has a committed effort to sustainability and the environment by implementing technology that reduces water use by 30% and recycles 66% of all waste. In addition, 100% of its packaging is made with recycled materials.
I’m sure you know about Teva—the brand has been around since 1984 and is a favorite among outdoorsy folks. Its journey toward sustainability has been gradual, and starting in 2020, all of its iconic straps (across its entire product line) are now made from traceable, verifiable recycled plastic. Teva continues to work on decreasing its waste, carbon emissions, and water use and is committed to a transparent and ethical supply chain.
Prices: $25 – $275
All of Proud Mary’s sandals are made using eco-friendly raffia. Its wedges and slides are handmade in Morocco by female artisans who receive a fair wage for their work.
Prices: $75 – $210
Huma Blanco shoes are designed by Adriana Crocco, a third-generation shoemaker, and designer based in Lima, Peru. Alden actually visited this factory herself and saw the artisanship in person! They’re made from locally sourced, natural Peruvian materials such as suede, alpaca, and calf hair and colored with natural dyes.
Prices: $150 – $250
Fortress of Inca shoes are made by fairly paid artisans in Peru out of ethically sourced leather. The brand prioritizes quality and craftsmanship by partnering with family-owned and operated factories and workshops and designs its sandals to stand the test of time.
Prices: $200 – $240
With a made-to-order model that delivers you a personalized pair of sandals directly from Guatemala within 10 days, Adelante provides ethically made sandals out of high-quality leather. You can read more about the craftsmen and women on their website.
Price: $150 – $185
Brother Vellies was founded in 2013 by Canadian and fashion professional Aurora James with the goal of keeping traditional African design practices and techniques alive while creating and sustaining artisanal jobs. Originally focused on South African vellies made of Springbok leather, the collection is now produced across the globe in South Africa, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Italy, Haiti, and New York City.
Prices: $365 – $715
Coclico is committed to slow fashion and transparent production. Its sandals are handmade in Spain from carefully sourced Italian leather, and it partners with Native Energy to offset the carbon emissions used in production.
Prices: $150 – $365
Sometimes you don’t need anything stylish; you just need that basic flip flop to wear to the pool or boating. This B Corp certified company uses up-cycled tires for the soles and natural materials like organic canvas, banana leaves, and grass for the upper. All shoes are created by artisans in Indonesia.
Prices: $35 – $45
Brave Soles uses tires to create handmade shoes. Although the brand is working towards using only upcycled products, some of its items come from high-quality leather from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Argentina. Brave Soles works with local artisans across the North Coast of the Dominican Republic to supply most of its items—from the shoes it makes to the bags they are delivered in. The brand ensures all of its employees and suppliers are employed ethically: from wages to vacation time to health care and working conditions.
Prices: $39 – $269
Founded in 2013, Manebí’s signature footwear styles are fully designed in Italy and handcrafted by artisans in Spain. Its iconic espadrilles feature the sole crafted from natural jute combined with natural rubber. The brand’s shoe boxes and shopping bags are entirely made of recycled paper.
Prices: $39 – $322
Founded in 2017, Emme Parsons designs classic and versatile shoes made from nearly 90% biodegradable, natural components. Its tanneries use non-biodegradable dyes and bio-based suede. Although its vegetable tanning requires more water, its residual wastewater is significantly less impactful to the environment due to its natural compounds. Emme Parsons’ has eliminated all plastic bags from its packaging. Its boxes are 50% recycled cardboard, and its dusters are made from Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) cotton.
Prices: $228 – $475
Carrie Forbes creates Moroccan raffia shoes, comprised of a weave indigenous to the culture. Each unique product is handwoven by artisans with deep-rooted knowledge and skill of indigenous weaves using sustainably sourced and local raw material. The raffia used is sourced from the lush marshes of Madagascar and is collected, harvested, and transported to Morocco. Each pair of sandals are woven by hand, and it takes up to an entire day to weave one pair. Its artisans are paid 30% more than the standard pay.
Prices: $120 – $375
Vestiaire Collective (secondhand)
You will find more vintage luxury pieces on Vestaire Collection, which is more heavily curated based on brand. You can shop designer sweaters for both men and women.
Prices: $20 – $2,000