There are a lot of resources and materials that offer great advantages over leather. By using them, we can produce goods in a much more sustainable, less toxic and more compassionate way than with animal hides. No factory farming means less cruelty, less water consumption, and less pollution.
Let us tell you more about some of the materials used in our products and why we think they are great alternatives.
Easily! What’s more: these are usually not just better for the animals and planet, but also more durable, comfortable, and attractive. We also take care to avoid all other animal products in the shoes we sell.
A number of great alternatives to leather exist:
Microfibre can vary greatly in appearance, strength, feel and composition. The defining feature of microfibre is that it is a material or cloth of some description, manufactured from either synthetic or natural fibres. Common fibres used in the production of microfibre include polyamide, polyurethane (PU) or cotton.
Thanks to its varying composition, a wide range of characteristics can be achieved. For example, it can be very soft, like soft Nubuck leather or suede.
The fine pores also make this material especially breathable and lightweight.
Take a look at our shoes from NOVACAS for some great examples of ethical synthetic microfibre.
PU (also known as bicast leather, PU leather or split leather) is a thick foam-like material that can be shaped into many forms.
PU fibres (a microfibre) are especially popular, as opposed to the solid foam, as these fibres can be used to create a durable material that is both flexible and breathable, and perfect for shoe uppers. PU foam in its natural, solid state, tends to be used more often for the soles of shoes.
We stock a number of attractive PU shoes from various vegan, ethical shoe manufacturers. How about some boots from VEGETARIAN SHOES? Or maybe you’d like some attractive shoes from WILLS LONDON to complement your favourite outfit?
Hemp is a plant fibre that humans have used to make cloth for various applications for over 10,000 years. Thanks to the development of a natural enzymatic process in the 1980s, it is now possible to produce soft-yet-strong hemp for clothing and footwear purposes.
Environmentally, hemp offers a few major advantages over other materials. It is a fast-growing, renewable resource and incredibly easy to care for, not necessitating any herbicides or pesticides. Hemp as a material is very durable, light and breathable, with an appealing, slightly raw natural feel that takes up the colours in natural dyes especially well thanks to its high porosity.
Check out our range for excellent examples of hemp footwear from SLOWERS, GRAND STEP SHOES and VEGETARIAN SHOES
Cotton is a renewable resource that is easy to manage and can be grown under organic conditions. The major disadvantage is that its production requires a lot of water, although this water consumption is many times smaller than the water consumed in the production of leather through the production of animal feed, water provision to animals, and tanning.
As a material, cotton is soft, comfortable and breathable.
Like cotton? Take a look at our cotton shoes from AHIMSA, SLOWERS and ETHLETIC.
Gore-Tex is not a fabric, but a lightweight, windproof, waterproof and yet breathable membrane that allows water vapour to pass through. This makes Gore-Tex especially well-suited to outdoor and hiking shoes.
This synthetic and therefore vegan material was originally patented by Robert W. Gore, although the patent has since expired and similar products have come to market. The original Gore-Tex is only supplied to manufacturers who are certified to make products according to Gore’s standards.
Feel like a long walk in the country in some Gore-Tex shoes to keep your feet dry? Or maybe you just need something lightweight, breathable and comfortable for your daily commute? LOWA might have just the thing you’re after.
Yes, the same material that keeps wine from going off can be used to make shoes and other fashionable items. Cork is a natural, renewable resource which can be grown under organic conditions.
Contrary to many people’s assumptions, cork is actually an exceptionally environmentally friendly product. For example, all European cork trees are grown in a sustainable manner, and these forests form rich habitats for a diverse range of species, including the critically endangered Iberian Lynx. These trees are not cut down, but rather the cork is harvested from the living tree once every nine years, giving the tree sufficient time to regenerate between harvestings.
On top of this, cork continually absorbs CO2 – even when keeping your wine fresh, or adorning your beautiful vegan shoes! Talking of wine, you may have observed the growing tendency towards plastic corks in wine bottles nowadays. This has unfortunately led to a decline in the number of cork forests as people switch to more lucrative trees such as pine or eucalyptus.
All the above does not sound so bad, except pine and eucalyptus forests do not support the same diversity of life as cork forests. By wearing cork, you are supporting the continued existence of the three quarters of cork forests currently under threat in the Mediterranean.
Cork is fire-resistant and antibacterial, while also being very lightweight and breathable. Its natural appearance has become quite popular in recent times, so you will naturally find cork used in some fantastic shoes in the avesu store: take a look at cork wedges from COSÌ COSÌ, and even cork boots from NAE
Rubber can be a natural material, such as rubber or latex, created from the rubber tree. Natural rubber can also be grown under sustainable conditions and then used to make the soles or other parts of shoes.
Natural rubber is a great material for the soles of shoes as it is flexible, hard-wearing and environmentally friendly.
ETHLETIC, AHIMSA and certain other manufacturers have made some great shoes using natural rubber. Take a look!
Recycled rubber is recycled, remanufactured rubber, often used for the soles of shoes or rubber boots. This rubber can be fully recycled, leaving no waste in the event you need to dispose of them.
Shoes from EKN and Jonny's Vegan both feature recycled rubber, and we think they look and feel great. What do you think?
A number of materials can be completely upcycled, which as opposed to recycling, means that absolutely no new raw materials are needed to create a new useful product.
A great example of upcycled rubber can be found in the form of the Retread Bush Boot from VEGETARIAN SHOES. These shoes have soles made entirely from old car tyres.
Upcycling is the natural evolution to recycling. Just like the products from which they originate, these upcycled materials are stable, waterproof, and hardwearing. Products that might otherwise end up in landfill ends up being properly reused, helping us to enjoy new shoes and attire with minimal environmental impact.
We often hear that leather shoes are very comfortable and adapt the shape of the wearer's feet. People tell us that the non-leather shoes they tried were terrible, uncomfortable and didn't last. And it's "just plastic"! Let's clear up some prejudices about vegan shoes.
You obviously wouldn’t judge the quality of the entire market for pens and writing instruments based on
a cheap ballpoint you found behind the sofa, so why would you do the same for shoes without leather?
The truth is that low-end non-leather (although not necessarily vegan) shoes are not representative of the full range of vegan footwear. Good leather alternatives, like those found in shoes by NOVACAS, NAE or WILLS LONDON, will form to fit the shape of the wearer’s feet. We’re quite convinced you’ll find many of these alternatives to be better than leather – with better properties in terms of weight, water resistance, breathability and comfort.
Aesthetically, people can rarely tell the difference between high-end, ethically produced vegan footwear and their non-vegan counterparts, so you can also rest assured that your vegan shoes will never attract the wrong sort of attention. If you’re still not sure, though, please do call in to one of our stores and try a few pairs on, just to see for yourself.
Another thing to bear in mind is that those non-leather shoes found in mainstream stores are not necessarily (rarely) vegan and even less likely to be fairly produced. At avesu, we care about more than just avoiding leather and more than just animals, and the same goes for our excellent suppliers.
People are often shocked to learn that there’s a bit more to ethical, vegan shoes than just leather. In addition to the various kinds of leather and hide, wool, felt, silk, animal-based glue, animal dyes and down feathers are all regularly used in the manufacturing of shoes.
At avesu, we have carefully researched all of these details with our manufacturers, ensuring that no materials of animal origin are ever intentionally used in the production of the shoes we sell.
We get this one a lot. And we do understand the question. There are a few things to consider here.
A lot of people think that vegan shoes would be cheap because they are not made of leather. If you have read the section about leather and tanning, you know by now that leather is not necessarily the high quality material that is produced in a cost-intense process. In fact, the opposite is the case. Since the production of leather almost exclusively takes place in countries with few or lax environmental laws, mostly no animal rights, or health regulations for workers, the costs for the sourcing and the chemical treatment of the raw materials is considerably low.
Leather is produced in enormous quantities due to the high demand on the market. These high quantities allow the production to be optimised and therefore more cost-efficient. Alternative materials on the other hand are often harder to obtain and are not (yet!) produced in such high quantities.
Especially if we are looking for materials that are sustainable we need to take a slightly different approach. Natural materials like cotton or cork need time to grow and rehabilitate, and conscious sourcing of materials and human- and environmental-friendly production are rightfully more cost intensive.
Vegan shoes are still a niche product, so all brands (that are exclusively vegan) are currently only able to produce and sell small numbers of their products, which naturally increases the cost of production and materials, as well as other things such as transportation and insurance.
Big shoe production factories request a certain amount of shoes per model to be ordered that can’t be fulfilled by small independent brands. Because of this, but also for ethical and quality reasons vegan shoes are mainly made in small workshops where they are handmade or include a lot of meticulous manual work.
Most of our brands produce vegan shoes out of conviction, like AHIMSA, NOVACAS, BORGEOIS BOHÈME, FREIVON, VEGETARIAN SHOES and many others. So if you get a shoe from avesu, you can be certain that everyone involved did his or her best to give you a good vegan shoe. A shoe that is convincing and worth it’s price.
China, Indonesia, Vietnam and India are the biggest suppliers of the world's footwear. Though factories with good working conditions exist and are developing, the vast majority of factories employ underpaid workers in a hostile work environment.
We want to provide an alternative that is not only vegan, but all-embracing. Over 80% of our stock is produced within the EU, and therefore is subjected to it’s regulations on labor law, working hours, union laws and insurance. From outside the EU we only stock products from manufacturers with sufficient and regularly controlled labour conditions.
So if a shoe from avesu is a little bit more costy than the one you find around the next corner, it’s because the people who made it got decent pay checks, have vacation days and insurances.
We want to offer shoes that are not only vegan, but also good to our planet and to everyone who is involved in their production. But we also want the vegan lifestyle to be affordable and accessible to everyone, and we see that wealth is an issue here. We try to keep moderately priced products in stock and encourage brands that we work with to develop alternatives that are affordable to everyone without cutting corners.
However, we also want to sell shoes that not only convince you, but that also last, so you can see it as a good investment not only for yourself, but also for our planet's future.
Shoes from avesu are not just any shoes. We try to provide you with the best from the above aspects and hope that you can see your shoe as a small investment. Not only in your style, but also in a good future for everyone.