Sustainable fashion and travel for the conscious woman

Sustainable fashion and travel for the conscious woman


13 of the Best Ethical and Sustainable Sandals for Summer 2020

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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, natural materials: Look for materials like locally-sourced, 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. Also, keep a sharp eye out for PVC. An extremely toxic plastic, it’s often used in sandals –– include luxury ones and even a couple brands below — because it’s the only way to get that clear vinyl upper strap. If you want that clear plastic look, you’ll 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.

[Looking for other eco summer fashion? Check out our sundresses, swimwear, and sunglasses roundups too.]

Here are our favorite brands for sustainable, ethically-made sandals for the spring and summer.

ABLE

ABLE is a brand that invests in women by creating transformative opportunities for those overcoming addiction, homelessness, commercial sex work, and more. They make their leather shoes in Brazil and Peru. Their lowest wages are transparently published on their website in order to protect the women makers and empower consumers to make shopping decisions that positively impact workers.

Prices: $78 – $148

Laiik

Laiik strives to make all its products with integrity. Close relationships with their 2nd and 3rd generation factories in Greece and careful selection of their suppliers means they can ensure that high ethical and environmental standards are upheld. Laiik makes their sandals exclusively using natural, vegetable-tanned leathers sourced from Pelle Al Vegetale, a Tuscan collective of tanneries. These leathers are celebrated for their softness and durability, and their aesthetic appeal increases with each wear—in short, they age beautifully. Processed using non-toxic, natural tannins extracted from trees and plants, they also have a smaller impact on the environment, as the leather is biodegradable and – unlike chromium tanning – doesn’t return to the earth as poison.

Prices: $140 – $149

 

TIDAL New York

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. They are still working on making the transition to 100% eco-friendly materials, but they are committed to transparency and steady progress. All TIDAL flip flops are made locally in New York at their low-waste facility. They’re known for their comfortable soles, no-slip treads, and curved arch support.

Prices: $26 – $30

 

Reformation

The always sexy and fashion-forward shop makes sandals using eco-conscious materials and processes. You can find out how much CO2, water, and waste was saved on each product page.

Prices: $128 – $218

 

REI

Most of REI’s sandals are more for activities like hiking or climbing, but they do have some more stylish sandals that are also really supportive for your feet. Every brand that REI carries meets a minimum standard of ethical and sustainable operation. Although not every single item is made out of recycled and/or natural materials, but most of them are made in a conscious way and are also really high quality. Or, you can shop from their Used section, which is perhaps the most sustainable (and affordable!) option. To read more about REI’s sustainability initiatives in depth, read this.

Prices: $15 – $150

 

The Root Collective

Handcrafted by artisans in Guatemala, these made-to-order sandals are made out of natural leather and handwoven fabric. They partner with small, independent workshops in order to create the largest social impact and empower entire communities.

Prices: $98 – $108

 

Coclico

Coclico is committed to slow fashion and transparent production. Their sandals are handmade in Spain from carefully sourced Italian leather and they partner with Native Energy to offset the carbon emissions used in production.

Prices: $150 – $365

 

Nisolo

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. They also partner with Ecosphere+ to offset carbon emissions and protect forests in the Amazon.

Prices: $88 – $198

Accompany x Proud Mary

These sandals are handcrafted in Morocco using mostly just raffia and leather. Proud Mary partners with cooperatives, family-owned workshops, and individual artisans who are deeply talented, but may not have the resources to reach an audience wider than their village market. To date, the brand has worked with 30+ artisan-producing groups in over 10 countries, developing a fundamental understanding of the challenges artisans and producers face around the world, and how we can make a difference.

Price: $162

 

Pons Avarcas

Crafted from all-natural leather and recycled tires, Pons were originally designed to keep farmers’ feet dry, comfortable, and protected. They are ethically made by hand with sustainability and longevity in mind, with the raw materials sourced locally in Spain. You can read Alden’s full review of her Pons after traveling in them for a year here.

Prices: $85 – $105

 

Teva

I’m sure you know about Teva—they’ve been around since 1984 and are a favorite among outdoorsy folks. Their journey toward sustainability has been gradual, and starting in 2020, all of their iconic straps (across their entire product line) are now made from traceable, verifiable recycled plastic. They continue to work on decreasing their waste, carbon emissions, and water use and are committed to a transparent and ethical supply chain.

Prices: $25 – $275

 

Fauna

Fauna curates from brands that care about the three P’s: People, Product, and Planet using criteria based on THE TEN Principles developed by the Textiles Environment Design Institute in London. The sandals pictured above are handmade in a small workshop out of old airplane tires and leather scraps that larger companies have left behind.

Prices: $99 – $189

 

Huma Blanco

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

 

KYMA

KYMA sandals are handmade in Greece out of vegetable-tanned leather and natural rubber. The soles are triple-layered for stability, comfort, and durability.

Prices: $170 – $180

 

Swahili Coast

These fair trade sandals are completely handmade by artisans in the Swahili Coast Cooperative in Tanzania that’s worker owned, worker managed, and worker financed. They’re made from all-natural Tanzanian leather.

Prices: $84 – $114

 

Salt + Umber

Each small batch, handmade Salt + Umber product is made with vegetable tanned leathers, scrap leather, and several of their shoes even have a near zero waste design. They use computer-generated shoe models to avoid creating excess waste through the sampling process, and all their shoes are easily resole-able to ensure a lifetime of wear. Salt + Umber uses only ethical SMETA-approved factories and integrates a micro loan initiative into their production process benefiting the rural Indian women hand weaving their shoes.

Prices: $78 – $108

 

Fortress of Inca

Fortress of Inca shoes are made by fairly-paid artisans in Peru out of ethically-sourced leather. They prioritize quality and craftsmanship by partnering with family-owned and operated factories and workshops and design their sandals to stand the test of time.

Prices: $200 – $240

 

Adelante Shoe Co.

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 your craftsmen and women on their website.

Price: $135

 

RAFA

RAFA is a women’s luxury footwear collection designed and hand-crafted by a group of 20 artisans in Los Angeles, California. Born out of a need for smart and timeless design that transcends trends, RAFA is committed to the use of local craftsmanship combined with top quality materials to create a collection of accessible luxury footwear. All shoes are made using ecologically friendly materials and sustainable processes.

Prices: $300 – $400

 

St. Agni

St. Agni creates simple, luxurious, woven leather sandals with a minimalistic approach. Made in Australia, they minimize their environmental impact by working with locally farmed leather, re-usable packaging, and controlled production practices.

Prices: $89 – $249

 

Indosole

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

 

The RealReal (secondhand)

TheRealReal is an authenticated online consignment shop that carries the biggest luxury brands out there. Their 100+ in-house expert team includes gemologists, horologists, and luxury brand authenticators who inspect thousands of items every day, ensuring everything they sell is 100% authenticity guaranteed. They also teamed up with the Ellen McArthur Foundation, Stella McCartney, and the World Resources Institute to create a circularity calculator to keep track of how much water and CO2 have been saved through their job, just by consumers shopping secondhand. (Just take its accuracy with a hefty grain of salt.)

Prices: $20 – $1,000

thredUP (secondhand)

thredUP is the largest online consignment store and they check their clothing for quality and functionality before shipping them to you. You can expect to find a wide variety of sweaters for women from brands like Gap and J.Crew, but they have a lot of filter options to make shopping easier.

Prices: $5 – $700

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

 

Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn’s timeless Greek-style sandals are handsewn in Los Angeles using upcycled deadstock leather.

Prices: $110 – $160

 

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