16 Designer Shoes That Walk the Line Between Sustainable and Stylish
Good for the earth. Great on your feet.
These days, sustainability is far more than just a buzzword in fashion—it’s almost expected. Given what we know about the unethical practices of fast-fashion brands, we’re all shifting toward placing sustainable and ethically-made items at the very top of our shopping lists. It doesn’t hurt that those brands are some of the coolest, and most on-trend in the market.
One thing that we never want to skimp on is an abundance of options. Luckily we don’t have to, because more products than ever before are being made with some element of sustainability in mind. That includes everything from activewear and denim to jewelry and everyone’s favorite, footwear. Ahead, we round up 16 pairs of shoes—from boots to sandals—that blend sustainability with style. And if sneakers are more your thing, no problem—here are 17 sustainable kicks you can shop right now.
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It’s no secret that denim production is highly earth-polluting, but Gucci’s Deva flats are crafted from organic denim that’s made using minimal amounts of both water and chemical dye. In true Gucci style, these simple flats are elevated by the logo-jacquard upper, gold-tone horsebit, and silver chain strap. And as an added bonus, the heels are collapsible so they transform into mules and slip on with literally no effort—perfect for those days when you simply need to to get up and go.
Designing sustainably has been at the forefront of Marine Serre’s brand from the very beginning. Putting her own spin on the sock boot, Serre covered the recycled polyamide-blend upper in her signature crescent print (of which Beyoncé is a fan) and added a sporty rubber sole to contrast the very manageable 50mm heel.
The classic Timberland boot gets a high-fashion upgrade in this collab with Jimmy Choo. The sustainably-made shoe is crafted from leather from a LWG gold-rated tannery, and has Jimmy Choo’s text logo embroidered all along the heel collar. For an extra-luxe touch, you’ll notice the black upper has been sprayed in gunmetal glitter which shimmers as your boots catch the light.
Outdoor brand KEEN may be known for its comfortable, practical footwear, but this collab with Engineered Garments has given its comfy leather slides the fashion world’s stamp of approval. The slip-on style is enhanced by the brand’s woven cord upper, making it the perfect aesthetic for summer. And if you look closely, you’ll notice key design details like the asymmetrical finish that incorporates smooth leather on one foot, and the rougher underside on the other. As with much of KEEN’s product offering, these are handcrafted from vegetable-tanned leather and have a pesticide-free Eco Anti-Odor treatment.
Trust Scandi-favorite Ganni to deliver on some seriously stylish slides. (Would you expect anything less?) Thanks to their on-trend square-toe silhouette and delicately beaded upper, these sandals are the ideal partner for springtime denim and summer dresses alike. And as an added benefit, they’re carbon neutral, meaning Ganni has gone the extra step to offset the carbon it takes to create them. For another layer of transparency, the brand has included climate compensated labelling on the shoes to explain how.
Vegan brand Rombaut has long had a focus on sustainable footwear design, and its recent collab with Melissa was further proof that the hype isn’t dying down anytime soon. If you’re looking for a shoe that will seamlessly see you through the seasons, these loafers are it. The patent faux-leather upper will add some shine to your ‘fit and the chunky, oversized tread gives the classic loafer more of a futuristic appeal.
LVMH prize-nominated brand Kwaidan Editions has become a rising star in the fashion industry in just three short years. We love these sleek mules for their understated glamour, channelled through the pointed toe, kitten heel, and metallic finish. Oh, and they’re part of Farfetch's specially-curated Positively Conscious range, which spotlights brands that score highly on Good on You’s ethical brand ratings.
Cher Horowitz called, and she wants her shoes back. UGG may be best known for its ultra-cozy boots, but this summer you’ll catch us wearing its pastel Fluff Sugar sandals while working from home. Not only is the plush cotton candy finish comfortable and Y2K-approved, these sandals are made with plant-based, low-impact materials. As for the fluff? It’s made from TENCEL™Lyocell that comes from responsibly-harvested trees and the outsole is literally made from (renewable) sugarcane. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
What’s a summer wardrobe without a pair of espadrilles? Spanish brand Castañer takes the traditional shoe up a notch with this wedge iteration. The durable black canvas woven with recycled cotton, and the natural jute wedge make these shoes a double-whammy when it comes to ethical construction.
This collab is quite possibly as close to Cinderella's glass slipper as you’re going to get. It’s made in partnership between Comme des Garçons and Brazillian brand Melissa—which is revered for its use of recycled materials and the development of its unique 100 percent recyclable MELFEX® material. With a fully transparent finish, these shoes take on a new personality every time you slip them on—it just depends on what socks or tights you rock beneath. And what’s more sustainable than owning one pair of shoes that can be reinvented with every wear?
Burberry’s iconic check is reimagined in these slick slides, which take the traditional plaid pattern and interpret it through woven strips of beige, black, and red. Metallic gold Burberry lettering gives these slip-ons an additional designer touch, and all the leather used is sourced from a tannery that’s certified to environmental traceability and social standards. The only things you need to worry about? The tan lines.
Minimalists will go wild for St. Agni’s slingback sandals. The Aussie brand is known for its less-is-more approach to design, and although they may look simple, these sandals make an impact. Pair them with everything from tailored denim to linen dresses, all the while knowing that the leather is sourced from a silver-rated LWG-certified supplier.
Now that a post-Zoom lifestyle seems likely to resume in the near future, you’re going to need some statement shoes to take the place of the comfortable kicks you’ve been hiding in the past year. And Nicholas Kirkwood’s Joaquim mules are just the ticket. The chunky, hollow heel may steal your attention at first, but the twisted tan brown upper is made from suede that’s NATURE·L ® certified, which means it's highly biodegradable and requires less water during the tanning process.
It goes without saying that boots are a fall wardrobe staple. And if you’re the type to plan your outfits a season ahead, then go ahead and add these to cart right now. The Chelsea boot silhouette is perennially stylish, so there’s no risk of these looking like last season’s cast-offs. Thanks to the dual pull tabs, these are quick and easy to slip on and off. And let’s not forget that the easy-to-style supple leather upper is produced in LWG-approved tanneries.
If you’ve been lusting over Stella McCartney’s beloved Falabella bags, you may want to turn your attention to these sandals next. That’s right, they’re basically a shoe version of those versatile chain-link totes—and they share the same sustainability standards, too. We love the zesty orange color way, but the fact that they incorporate both silver and gold metals means you can wear them with pretty much anything.
Live out childhood nostalgia in Rombaut x Melissa’s Possession sandals. Not only do these sandals give us serious Y2K vibes thanks to the transparent, glittery finish, but they’re also crafted with sustainability at their core. 50% of the PVC used in the construction is recycled from factory waste, they also boast 30% renewable carbon content. Style these with other nostalgic essentials like a plaid miniskirt or a slinky knit cardi.