Have you ever thought about the origin or ethics of your shoes?
Where they were made, who made them, what are they made from, what distance did your shoes travel to be on your shoe shop shelf, did each company in the supply chain act responsibly with regard to their staff, their company waste and sourcing raw materials? Is there a better, more ethical and local alternative to your next shoe purchase? I agree, it is all quite mind boggling and I might come across being a bit ethical shoe obsessed, but I am ok with that.
I simply can’t bear the thought of buying cheap sweat-shop-mass-produced footwear, it leaves me wondering if a six-year-old in a developing country has made my six-year-old his shoes for the school term. I can’t see how it is possible to ethically produce pair of childrens shoes of $9 AUD. Not to say that if you pay $200 for a pair of shoes that you are guaranteed any higher levels of ethics, such as child labour, sustainability of resources, or that at each point of the supply chain workers were paid fairly.
So my quest continues to find a pair of ultimate ethical shoes. Thankfully there are plenty of highly creative social entrepreneurs who all have a different twists on the ethical shoe equation. Some are about fair trade, some are about using recycled materials, and some are about funding a social purpose. Please find below a list of my top ten favourite ethical shoe brands. My intent is not for you to nessecarily buy your next pair of shoes from this list (although there are some mighty-fine treds here) what I would really like you to do is simply pause and consider the ethics of your next shoe purchase.
1. SoleRebel is a fair trade footwear company founded in 2004 in Ethiopia. SoleRebels started to bring jobs to the local community, where there literally were NONE. SoleRebel uses hand spun cotton, artisan loomed fabrics and a range of recycled products including army uniforms, car tyres and bicycle inner tubes to make their unique style of shoes. SoleRebels believe in treating their workers fairly (paying 4 times above minimum wage), sustainable production and employing local artisans to preserving local culture.
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2. Gideon Shoes – are unique hand crafted and anti-sweatshop shoes, using almost entirely Australian materials including cane toad hide and kangaroo leather (yes you read this right – CANE TOAD SHOES!). Founded in 2007 as a social enterrpise to fund The Street Univeristy a retreat for marginalised kids in Western Sydney. Shop facebook twitter
3. Soul Thongs – committed to eco-friendly manufacturing, all Souls Massage Thongs are made from a combination of EVA foam and natural rubber, both recyclable products. All rubber material used to produce Souls Thongs is sourced from the natural rubber plantations of Sri Lanka. All offcuts from production are recycled in manufacturer’s on site recycling facility. Shop facebook twitter
4. Ethletic Footwear – call themselves the ultimate ethical alternative. Ethletic™ is a UK brand of Fair Trade and eco-friendly footwear. Founded in 2004 by a team of two, the brand was developed under the company Fair Deal Trading, Ltd. They have since expanded to offer Fair Trade sports balls and eco-friendly household products under the brand name Green Tips. of Ethletic’s products are 100% Fair Trade, eco-friendly and vegan. They are available in both adult sizes and children’s sizes. Shop facebook
5. Greenbees are a luxury fashion driven eco-line doing their part to help minimize the fashion industry’s global footprint. They only use full grain leathers and raw hide is by product of meat industry. Use tyres on soles. For every pair of shoes sold, one tree is planted via Trees for the Future
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6. Above and Below – Finely crafted, contemporary Limited Edition Trainers are made by sweat shop free, European labour. Upper: Restored London Underground and London Bus seat covers! Trim: 100% recycled or repurposed leather. Sole: 33% recycled tyre rubber. Features: Retroflective safety strip.
7. Sseko Designs – is a sandal company based in Uganda, making beautiful leather sandals with interchangeable fabric straps that can be styled in hundreds of different ways. Sseko uses fashion to provide employment and scholarship opportunities to women in EAst Africa pursuing their dreams and breaking the cycle of poverty.
Sseko began as a way to generate income for high potential, talented young women to continue on to university. Sseko has graduated three classes of women. Every woman who has graduated from Sseko is currently pursuing her college degree. (ps and the sandals are BEAUTIFUL!) Shop facebook twitter
8. Tzandals – After 2 years working in Tanzania, Joel and Kayla Erickson saw people taking tyre waste (a huge space hog and even hazardous in landfills, as well asa breeding ground for malaria spreading mosquitos) and turning it into quality, durable footwear. Taking their belief in longterm ecomomic development and a cleaner environment, they launched Tzandals using 100% recycled tyres – all profits support Africa and you, the purchaser gets to choose how. website facebook
9. Roma Provisions combines fashion with charity. They design and sell rain boots while their subsidiary – Roma for All – distributes boots to children living in poverty. Their mission is to keep feet warm and dry by providing a comfortable, durable and practical pair of Roma Boots to every poor child living in cold and wet climates.
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10. TOMS – (no top ten list of mine would be complete without TOMS!) Founded in 2006 by social entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie who for every pair of shoes sold, gives another pair away to a child in need, one for one. TOMS also has a range of eyewear with the same supporting principles. Read my earlier TOMS blog here. On a personal note, my TOMS are super comfy! Shop facebook twitter
And lastly, if you dont have enough money to buy some new fancy ethical shoes, check out your local op shop or this great pattern on how to make your own pair of ethical shoes from an old tyre!
Have I missed your favourite brand of ethical shoes? Please leave me a comment below, I would LOVE to hear about others….
I like the idea of these! I’ll have to look around to see if they are available in NZ. I know my wife has a couple pair of shoes with various recycled materials. The ones I’ve tried haven’t felt right on me, but I’ll keep looking.
Nice range of choices with different focuses, I hope it gets people thinking more about their footwear purchases. If its not being too cheeky some of my Cholesburys sandals have been bought online and sent over to Australia. In a nutshell they are hand made in England, over 60% of components are recycled or up cycled, low Co2 production and the only new leather (the sandal insole) is vegetable tanned.
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thank you for your lovely comment – you have made my day! Cheers, tara