The UK has the highest usage of shoes in the world per capita with an average of 7.4 pairs in use per person with the States only just behind. (Statista.com, 2018)
Whether we think that’s average, or a lot (or a little?!) thinking about where are our pairs of shoes coming from and their impact is so important!
This is a list of the shoes we own, buy, and wear and I hope it helps you narrow down your search or get some ideas!
14 Places We Buy Shoes for Ethical Options
ROTHYS (international shipping)
Rothy’s inspired this post after you all went wild in ordering them, and I haven’t taken them off for a year! They are incredibly comfortable with or without socks. I wear them out, and to feed the chickens. Being washable and made of recycled plastic they are very durable.
I really do love them and I’m impressed by their removal of ocean plastic to make their shoes, their comfort and machine washable credentials!
This has to be one of my top brands on the list for social responsibility and really really well made shoes. Jared and I both have the Chelsea boots and have had them for year.
They are a certified B corp, they have a shoe reclamation program, and I also love their ethical marketplace.
Bryr clogs are handmade by the small team in San Fransisco and are stunning. From summer wear to a bridal line, they’re a pricey but treat addition to your wardrobe. I was gifted mine (a friend gift not a PR gift!) and they’re one of my favourite things I own.)
ABLE (international shipping*)
ABLE is hands down my top choice for how they run the company, respond to changes and issues and commit themselves to TRUE transparency. I recommend everything they sell and think they’re a fantastic company to support.
VEJA (international shipping/availability)
I have 2 pairs of Vejas and the kids have them too. They’re one of the original ethical brands when it comes to shoes with international availability and vegan options. The one complaint people have with them is they aren’t comfortable – I wear them for hours and don’t find them “uncomfortable” but they don’t have the softness of all birds, or the all day walking comfort of treads.
Vegan options. Kids options. Worldwide Shipping.
ALLBIRDS (Worldwide Shipping)
I’ve had my Allbirds for 5 years and they’re still going strong. They’re made of ethical merino wool, and are machine washable which is such a plus. They’re a softer shoe with less support but I love them for every day wear and non cardio gym time or walking.
Jojo Maman Bebe (UK/EI)
Jojo is a company I love when people want to buy our kids new clothes and I want something with ethics and really well made. The last two years my parents have bought Roey a pair of boots from here and a pair of summer shoes and we love them!
Like Jojo, Boden is a company I love when people want to buy our kids new clothes and I want something with ethics and really well made.
I’ll talk below about second hand shoes but for what might get worn daily for 9 months of the year I wanted to go washable and new. I looked at Allbirds minis but they didn’t have what we needed and these felt like a similar alternative with the same kind of ethics. I paid for it for sure but these are a great option for what our school needed.
School can be tough when you have strict uniform requirements! I have a post HERE that talks in full about how we did school uniform and items. These were the plimsoles we found that were the best for the school requirements and weren’t second hand and I was impressed. Organic cotton and natural rubber and ethically made in a family run factory in Spain.
Everyone has mixed opinions on this! The reality is not everyone can afford all new shoes – especially with the rate kids grow and if we’re shopping ethically! And it doesn’t feel right to say my kids having new shoes is important for their development so I can’t afford to buy ethically made… and potentially affect a child somewhere else who I’m not looking at daily. Right? So I think it’s best to look at the right way to do it rather than say that it’s not always ideal so we should never do it.
“It is OK to buy second hand as long as you can see and feel that the shoes have not broken down, or don’t have a very poor wear pattern on the soles and heels.” Tracy Byrne, podiatrist and leading paediatric researcher.
I look for the shoes that are closest to unused, in good condition, no crazy wear patterns and with soft soles. Ebay and Facebook marketplace are my go to. We also bought a proper kids’ foot measurer so we’d know we were buying the correct sizes. Then I look up the brand and their sizing guide when buying secondhand.
I’ve never found a shoe company that has ingredient disclosures for their colours and polishes and I was so impressed! They are made ethically in the USA and are incredibly durable and well made.
BROOKS (international shipping)
Before I purchased my first Brooks I read the whole of their sustainability report! I love reading those kinds of things! You can read it yourself HERE, but I was surprisingly impressed by where they are and where they’re committing to be. There are some other options – like Vejas running line, but reading reviews, I felt for miles a week of running Brooks were the best option.