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What are Vegan Shoes?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 21, 2024
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Vegan shoes are footwear made without leather or any animal ingredients. Originally touted by hippies and the vegetarian and vegan communities, vegan shoes have now spread to the fashion world. Whether you are looking for a simple pair of non-leather sandals or a fashion forward $500 US Dollars (USD) boot in the hottest color, it is now easier than ever to find on the runways an online.

In the late 20th century, veganism gained more popularity and exposure through the research that showed that the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles were more environmentally-sustainable and often healthier. Several highly popular celebrities also supported the rise of veganism and vegetarianism by converting to meat-free lifestyles as well. Polls and studies in the 21st century have shown a large increase in vegetarianism since the mid-20th century, suggesting that between 4-5% of American and British citizens consider themselves vegetarian.

Not all vegetarians avoid leather products, but some do as part of a completely animal-product free lifestyle. Typically, vegans not only avoid meat, but also any animal byproducts. Typical exclusions from a vegan existence include dairy, eggs, honey, wool, leather, and fur.

For a long time, fashion-and-fitness conscious vegetarians and vegans were out of luck in the shoe department. Non-leather shoes tended to be cheap, unattractive and difficult to find. High-quality running or exercise shoes were all but impossible to find without leather, and even the hippy-friendly Birkenstock® sandals were made primarily of cow skin.

In the late years of the 20th century, vegan shoes began to find popularity with some shoe companies. Zappos and Payless Shoe Stores in particular became havens for non-leather shoes that were fashionable and used synthetic leather or suede instead of traditional animal leather. Stella McCartney, a noted fashion designer, made enormous strides when she launched an animal-free line of clothing and shoes in the late 1990s. Making great strides for vegans who need running shoes, she partnered with the athletic clothing giant, Adidas, to create a vegan-friendly line.

Today, vegan shoes are available in many stores and on popular online sites such as Endless.com and Amazon.com. Some websites offer exclusively vegan products, including wallets, handbags, and clothing, as well as vegan shoes. The price of vegan shoes depends on the design and the maker, and some high-end shoes are comparable in price to traditional designer shoes. In the 21st century, the vegan fashionista lives a dream come true: he or she can make a fashion-foot-forward statement without ever harming a critter.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for BeautyAnswered. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon998795 — On Aug 27, 2017

You did not answer the question: What are Vegan shoes made from, what is the materials involved?

Personally if a shoe looks like it is leather, but faux, then it is not Vegan. I am neither Vegetarian or Vegan. I just do not like hypocrisy.

By anon74987 — On Apr 05, 2010

What's up with this silly cliche sounding statement "Originally touted by hippies"? There were vegans before "hippies". If you researched, you'd notice "hippies" wore as much or maybe more leather fashions as others in their era, because it was a "natural" material.

A couple of "hippie" shoe styles made of suede or leather were moccasins and sandals, not to mention the popularity of leather/suede coats/jackets/vests with fringes.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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