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Not too long ago, it was pretty difficult to find fall and winter boots that were simultaneously ethically made, durable, affordable and cute. Even just a couple years ago, it seemed like you had to sacrifice one or two of those things and just pick your battles.
But we’re excited about this roundup because of how many brands are now making boots that aren’t made in sweatshops, that will last you a really long time, and that are actually affordable for the modern woman. Oh, and they’re beautiful and fashionable, too.
What to Look for in a Sustainable, Ethical Pair of Boots
Quality and durability: A timeless pair of well-made boots should last you a really long time. Not only that, but if you’re going to be trekking around in the fall and winter elements, your shoes need to actually protect and support your feet.
Sustainably-sourced, veggie-tanned leather: A lot of the boots you’ll find at the mall or in Target are made out of faux leather, a.k.a plastic. These boots look and feel cheaper, don’t last as long, and obviously don’t biodegrade. Real leather lasts longer and can endure more weather than other materials, plus won’t harm the earth when you’re done with them. We looked for companies that prioritize the ethical treatment of animals and who don’t process and dye their leather using toxic chemicals.
Other natural materials: We also looked at what other materials were used in addition to leather. Natural rubber, cork, wood, and recycled materials, are all biodegradable and renewable materials you’ll find in the boots below.
Fair wages and transparency: Making a high-quality shoe is an art. And the people who make them should be paid accordingly. These brands 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.
[If you’re also in the market for a new winter coat, click here.]
Here are our favorite brands for sustainable, ethical boots for fall:
ABLE is a brand that invests in women. Their leather boots are handmade in Ethiopia and Peru by women transitioning out of sex work. Their wages are transparently published on their website in order to protect the women makers and empower consumers.
Prices: $75 USD – $200
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, they have a really wide variety of boots to choose from that are not only made in a conscious way, but are incredibly durable and made to last a really long time. Or, you can shop from their Used Gear section, which is perhaps the most sustainable (and affordable!) option. For more about REI’s sustainability initiatives in depth, read this.
Prices: $60 – $350
If you’re looking for eco-friendly rainboots, Alice & Whittles is your go-to. Their lightweight rain boots are made from fairly traded, natural rubber from sustainably managed forests in Sri Lanka and require 80% less water to produce compared to a standard rainboot. They also have their Weekend Boot now too, which is a more versatile, water-resistant boot that can be worn hiking or even to run errands.
Prices: $120 – $200
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: $350 – $707
The Root Collective’s ankle boots are handcrafted by artisans in Guatemala out of natural leather.
Nisolo boots are intentionally designed to be versatile and long-lasting. They are ethically made in Peru, Mexico, and Kenya, 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: $150 – $250
With a made-to-order model that delivers you a personalized pair of sandals directly from Guatemala within 10 days, Adelante provides ethically made boots out of high-quality leather.
Prices: $245 – $325
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 boots to stand the test of time.
Prices: $240 – $275
Seven All Around at ourCommonplace
Seven All Around creates elegant boots and flats out of 100% recycled post-consumer waste plastic and vegan leather. They’re designed for comfort and versatility, the idea being that you can wear them seven days a week and to any occasion. Get 10% off with code ECOCULT.
Prices: $175 – $795
Red Wing Shoe Company has been making high-quality, long-lasting leather boots in the USA for over 110 years. The company was originally created to deliver “ladies’ boots” to independent women that had the same durability and craftsmanship found in men’s boots.
Prices: $320 – $360
TOMS has upped its game since they first came on the scene with their not-so-high-quality slip-ons. They still partner with organizations that fight for things like equality, safe drinking water, and other resources to underprivileged people all around the world. They use eco-friendly materials like leather, certified leather, hemp, organic cotton, and recycled polyester in many of their shoes, and their boxes are made with recycled waste and soy ink. They’re a certified B Corp as well.
Prices: $90 – $160
Coclico is committed to slow fashion and transparent production. Their boots are handmade in Spain from carefully sourced Italian leather and they partner with the organization, Native Energy, to offset the carbon emissions used in production.
Prices: $375 – $450
Timberland’s products are made to last a really long time, so you can get the most out of your boots. The brand is currently working on five sustainability goals for 2020 and is in the process of transitioning out of using plastic materials like PVC and PFC and incorporating more organic, renewable, and recycled materials into all of their products.
Prices: $90 – $400
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: $300 – $410
Of course, shopping secondhand is also an excellent option when it comes to both sustainability and affordability. Check out this post for our recommendations for where to look for secondhand and vintage boots!