Image credit: Nisolo
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A cute, comfy pair of sandals is a must-have in every woman’s summer wardrobe. But let’s be real. How many pairs of cheap, low-quality sandals have we bought that have worn out and been tossed after just one season?
But worry not. We rounded up some of our favorite brands making beautiful, ethical and sustainable sandals that will not only last you several summers, but are beautiful, comfortable, and affordable too. Pair them with your favorite sundress and you’re all set for some fun in the sun!
First, here’s 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.
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 easiest way to get that clear vinyl upper strap.
Fair wages and transparency: Making a high-quality shoe that you can wear for days walking around cobblestone city streets 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. Keep an eye out for labels like Fair Trade and SA8000. 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 — especially artisan, vegetable-tanned leather ones — 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.
Sustainable packaging. Opt for brands that use recyclable or biodegradable packaging made from plant-based or recycled materials like FSC-certified recycled paper. Minimal or reusable packaging is the way to go.
Here are our favorite brands for sustainable, ethically-made sandals for the summer.
Brave Soles uses tires to create handmade shoes. Although the brand is working towards using only upcycled products, some of its items are made with 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. It ensures all of its employees and suppliers are employed ethically: from wages to vacation time to health care and working conditions. The brand is also committed to transparency, partnering with Green Story for its Impact Report.
Prices: $55 – $85
Nisolo shoes are intentionally designed to be versatile and long-lasting, our editors can attest from personal experience! They are ethically made in Peru and Mexico, where all of the artisans have a healthy working environment, earn fair wages, and have access to healthcare. Nisolo is a Climate Neutral certified brand and partners with Ecosphere+ to offset carbon emissions and protect forests in the Amazon. It’s also a certified B Corporation. In an effort toward transparency, the brand started creating sustainability labels for its products (similar to nutrition labels) that scores the product in 10 categories across People and Planet. It’s never been easier to find out the impact of those sandals you’ve been eyeing.
Prices: $90 – $160
Nomasei is a timeless, responsible footwear brand designed in Paris and produced in Montopoli, Italy. It only produces two collections per year in an effort to encourage conscious consumption and minimize waste. It uses soles that are made of 50% bio-plastic (from renewable biomass sources including corn starch, sugar cane, and beets) and 50% plastic, recycled zippers, and metal-free leathers. Nomasei works with suppliers and factories certified in sustainable sourcing and is transparent about its pricing. Its packaging is created with paper, recycled cardboard, and GOTS-certified cotton.
Prices: $170 – $440
Handmade in Greece, Laiik is reinventing the classic Greek sandal. The brand uses biodegradable vegetable-tanned leather that is sourced from responsible tanneries in Italy. These tanneries reclaim hides from the food sector, and all of them come from farms that comply with EU legislation on animal welfare. The leather is tanned using plant-based tannies, which means it’s metal-free and doesn’t contain harmful toxins like chromium and nickel.
Prices: $90 – $178
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 handmade from locally sourced, natural Peruvian materials such as suede, alpaca, and calf hair, and colored with natural dyes.
Prices: $185 -$285
Christy Dawn creates vintage-inspired sandals made from sustainably sourced upcycled leather. Each pair is handmade in Los Angeles by talented craftspeople.
Fortress 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: $140 – $285
NAE is a vegan footwear brand that manufactures its shoes in ethical factories in Portugal. It uses natural materials like cork, organic cotton, and piñatex, as well as recycled PET for its shoes.
Prices: $29 – $126
Use code NAECULT15 for 15% off.
Message uses upcycled wine corks to make stylish slip-ons that are naturally moisture and odor-resistant. The outsole is custom-molded with natural rubber, but the uppers of the shoes are made with stretchy synthetic materials. Message’s sandals are made in small batches by expert craftspeople in family-owned factories in Portugal, where it sources its cork from.