Sustainable and toxin-free living

Sustainable and toxin-free living

A Traveler’s Review: Pons Avarcas Are Ethical, But Are They Sustainable?

Pons Avarcas Review

I first saw Pons Avarcas five years ago, around the time I founded EcoCult. A sustainable fashion blogger friend was wearing a pair in metallic. The leather is thick, and the quality of craftsmanship is obvious when you handle them, though the design is simple.  In style, they’re sort of like the Balearic answer to Birkenstocks, with a slimmer profile and slightly more artisan feel.

As they’ve grown in popularity, it’s now common to see avarcas on the kind of women who favor loose, flowing clothes of natural textiles, creatives who like their fashion to be authentic, beautiful, and handcrafted. In short, I always liked the look of them, but I didn’t think they were sharp enough for NYC living.

But as I was preparing for our around-the-world trip, I realized that they were exactly what I needed: shoes that were comfortable, would last a long time, and match most of my travel outfits, which involve a lot of cotton and linen. Without even knowing their backstory, something about them whispered to me, “I’m made for walking among the cacti.”

And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve worn them pretty constantly now for eight months: in the dusty streets of Oaxaca (where I was delighted to find out that Hannah, Marketing Director of the artisan brand MZ, has the exact same ones) and down the cobblestones of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I walked to the beach and then carried them lightly in my hand in Tulum, Mexico. I got caught in the rain in Panama and Nicaragua, and wore them to upscale restaurants for dinner, and beach bars alike. I spied them on the feet of women in Berlin, even. They have a universal appeal, and go with every travel outfit and every warm-weather location.

Artisan Made…But Sustainable?

The first avarcas (also called abarcas or Menorquinas) were created over a century ago for farmers working the hot and dry land of Menorca, Spain, the second largest Balearic island in the Mediterranian. Crafted from natural leather and recycled tires, they were designed to keep farmers’ feet dry, comfortable, and protected.

Avarcas USA was founded by a married Spanish couple who had grown up wearing these artisan shoes. When they moved to California in 2004, they received so many compliments on theirs, that they decided to create a company to import and market authentic avarcas to conscious American consumers.

According to the Avarcas USA website, the modern Avarcas are crafted by a third-generation, family-owned business in Ciutadella that has specialized in artisan Menorcan avarcas since 1945. They’re made from materials sourced 100% from Spain, including natural leather or vegan leather, recycled tires for the soles of the flats, or Spanish natural rubber for the heels.

This was the extent of the information on the website, but I had questions. So I emailed them to ask. They responded and said that the real leather is from Spanish cows and is chromium tanned – not vegetable tanned – in Murcia, Spain, under the EU’s stringent REACH guidelines, which governs the use and handling of chemicals. The vegan leather version is 90% Polyethilene and 10%  Polyurethane.

Of course, I always prefer vegetable-tanned leather if possible (and it’s not always possible), but Avarcas hit all the other sustainable and ethical points for me: made by traditional artisans of local and recycled materials.

But then there is the most important thing when it comes to sustainability: they should be worn often and last a long time. So, how have they done in that respect?

How My Avarcas Performed

They are super comfortable to wear. Even wearing them multiple days in a row for hours of walking, I never got a blister until I was six months into our trip, when one strap inexplicably started rubbing my back heel as we walked along the waterfront in Lisbon. I adjusted it and was mindful of how it fit over my heel while I kept walking, and it stopped rubbing.

They do not have arch support, so my feet do get sore if I walk on cobblestones for more than three hours. Nothing that a foot rub from my husband can’t fix, though. And they’ve done a great job of protecting my feet from the dust, much better than a typical pair of sandals.

I’ve probably worn my avarcas at least 100 times by now, and many more wears are left in them.

After eight months, they’ve developed some deep wrinkles, signs of their wisdom and experience. Because I have a light tan color, they have developed a couple of stains. It’s possible I could have prevented this by sealing them with  a water and stain repellent non-silicone leather spray and then regularly buffing and cleaning them with a dry and then damp cloth, as recommended by the website. But I didn’t, so what you see is what you will get after constant use and little to no care.

But most importantly, they have held up structurally – I haven’t had to bring them into a cobbler for fixing, even after all I’ve put them through.

My only complaint at this point is that I seem to have a permanent avarca tan on my feet from wearing them in sunny locations: a sharp line across the bridge of my foot, like a farmer’s foot tan.

Where to Buy Pons Avarcas

Hot tip: you should make sure to look for the “Avarca de Menorca” logo, since some counterfeiters have started manufacturing low-quality fakes to take advantage of their popularity. I also recommend you start with the most basic and classic styles before going to the trendy ones. (And please don’t get the glitter ones – they’ll shed microplastics wherever you walk!)

You can buy the capsule-wardrobe-ready Classics, Classic Strap, and a Classic Textile versions here.

Do you own a pair of Pons Avarcas? How have they performed for you? 

This post has affiliate links, which pay me a small percentage of the sale price if you click through the buy. The opinions contained are definitely my own and honest! 

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