I’ve been posting Veganuary tips on my Instagram all month, and have covered a lot of basics from “no, you won’t die of protein deficiency” to vegan makeup brands. I’ve avoided vegan shoes as a topic because personal style varies so much, and my favorite pair of clunky black creepers might be your actual nightmare. But, even if your style isn’t quite the same as mine (half 41-year-old vegan hardcore lady and half spooky mom) I think the shopping resources here are still useful if you’re new to the world of vegan shoes.
So, here are my very favorite pairs of vegan shoes and boots sprinkled with info about where to shop, or other styles that might suit you better. Oh, and my style is pretty femme, so if that’s not your thing, you might want to check out Vegan Skate Blog and fall down a rabbit hole devoid of ballet flats and creepers.
Creepers will never go out of style, and even though they’re best loved by punks, skinheads, and goths, the right pair of creepers can look perfectly cute with office attire. I personally love a classic black pair of creepers with a significant, but not dangerous sole height so I’m devoted to my T.U.K. Vegan Viva Mondo Creepers. They can be dressed down so as not to freak out the squares, or, I can wear them with fishnets and a black dress and relive my punk rock youth. T.U.K. has been in business for 25 years because they make really nice quality shoes in classic and not-so-classic styles, including sneakers, boots, creepers, ballet flats, and mary janes. Now they have a large vegan collection, and even an outlet store where you can get amazing deals on shoes and boots.
If you’re looking for something along these lines, but a bit more overtly “Halloween,” Strangecvlt is a newer, all vegan shoe company that really specializes in creepers, flats, and flip flops featuring jack-o-lanterns, bats, and other creepy characters.
To All the Sneakers I’ve Loved Before
I really only wear sneakers casually. I haven’t been to my gym for nearly a year and since then I’ve gotten really into Pilates, which you do in bare feet. When I did go to the gym I had an insanely expensive, hideously ugly pair of running shoes that I don’t want to talk about. Just about every major gym shoe brand has vegan options now, including Nike and Adidas, and there are plenty of all-vegan gym shoe brands now, as well as sneaker options from other vegan-friendly brands like T.U.K. and others I’ll namedrop throughout this post.
So how do I choose my recommendations? I’m just going to show you a few pairs that I buy over and over again. Even if your style differs from mine, maybe this is a good starting point for you finding your forever sneakers.
Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 – I’m giving you a direct link to my all-time favorite gym shoes because this website is actually infuriating. In fact, when I’m shopping for Tigers I usually cross-reference Zappos and vegan fashion blogs because their own descriptions aren’t always helpful. But this particular style is sleek, lightweight, and easy to wear with everything. I’m a black and white person myself, but there are some more colorful options, too. I also like some of the Mexico 66 options, which bafflingly are the only ones actually categorized as vegan on the site, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on a pair yet.
Saucony Jazz – This was my go-to for about three years in a row. I started traveling a lot with my friend Nicole for work, though, and they’re also her go-to shoes. Given that the two of us are almost always wearing dark wash jeans and an Earth Crisis shirt it just got to be a bit much and I switched to the Tigers. But Saucony has pretty many vegan shoes in varying degrees of ugliness.
Vans Authentic black/black – You can take the girl out of the stoner metal environment of Joliet, IL, but you can’t take the stoner metal out of the girl. To me, these solid black, plain AF sneakers are the ultimate doom shoe. If you plan to live in these all summer, I recommend upgrading to the Authentic Pro, which has better cushioning and studier build. I’ve also bought these in solid yellow and solid red, when available, and people always stop me to ask about them. So their Custom tool might be handy if you’re looking for something more striking. (I’ve designed so many shoes inspired by Skeletor but like, will I wear purple shoes? Probably not.)
Veja is an eco-friendly shoe brand with a wide variety of vegan options. I wore these until they were like, curled into a ball.
If You’re Gonna Die, Die With Your Boots On
I’ve been wearing combat boots since I was 12 years old. My family went on a day trip to some boring and quaint Illinois town where my mom probably wanted to go a quilt shop or something. I wandered into an antique shop where I fell in love with a pair of deadstock Austrian army mountain boots. My mom thought they were the ugliest things she’d ever seen but I was relentless, and for $20 she made me the happiest miserable little doom metal kid in the whole world. That started a long love affair with Dr. Martens that resulted in me moving to Chicago with about 15 pairs in varying eyehole counts and colors, that I’d soon be shamed out of when going vegan. Now, of course, you can buy vegan Docs… more on that in a sec.
My absolute favorite pair of boots are from an out-of-business brand called Nicora. I know that isn’t helpful, really, except to say that they were an investment – I got them on clearance for $300 – and almost five years later, they’re still the most beautifully made shoes I’ve ever owned. In recent years I’ve seen second hand pairs of their other styles on sites like Poshmark, and if you ever see a pair that suits you I recommend snatching them up.
In the meantime, I’m still searching for the perfect combat boots to replace them with should I ever need to. I did recently buy a pair of platform boots from Koi Footwear that I think are cute. I’m still breaking them in, but so far so good. I mention this brand because they’re all vegan, and have a lot of styles ranging from pretty wearable biker boots, to completely insane raver shoes. They ship from the U.K. but it’s not terribly expensive, and it’s SO FAST. I got mine in about five days.
So let’s talk about vegan Docs. A couple years ago, one of the Chicago Dr. Martens retail shops asked me to host an event to promote their then-new line of vegan shoes and accessories. I grabbed my friend Heather, and we hosted it together. They sold tons of shoes, and thanked us each with a pair of boots. Heather chose a pair of black Docs that I believe she has re-purchased since, and loves. I was really stuck on the Jadon II Platforms, but they didn’t have black in my size so I took home a pair in cherry red, and I think that was a mistake. They were really shiny, which I grew to hate, as well as plasticy and squeaky. Maybe if I’d chosen another style in the not-shiny black I would have had a different experience, I know other people love them. So they’re on my list for a second chance when I need a new pair of boots.
For the Country Club
Here are some types of shoes I never in my life thought I would wear, and now wear a lot: saddle shoes, oxfords, and loafers. I think once I reached a certain level of tattoo coverage – like, pretty much my whole body, hands, and neck, I finally felt secure enough to wear a precious and preppy shoe. That’s not a dig on preppy style, it’s more of a story about a person who needed to go on a long journey before she figured out she should just wear whatever shoes she likes. I know this is a bit of a jumble, but stick with me if you like preppy shoes:
I wore saddle shoes as a kid and have so many memories of wishing I was dead inside the Buster Brown store. A few years ago, though, I got really enamored with a clothing brand called Deandri, and filled my closet with a half dozen variations of their Wednesday Addams dresses. They were making super high platform saddle shoes back then, but I knew I’d break my ankle so I went on a search for non-fetish vegan saddle shoes for adults. I ended up finding an all-vegan vintage style shoe brand called B.A.I.T. Footwear that makes saddle shoes in a bunch of cute colors, including classic black and white. They specialize in styles from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, so if you’re a vintage-loving vegan definitely check them out.
For our 10th wedding anniversary, Tony and I spent a week in NYC. That’s where I defied all odds, and became an oxford shoe-wearer. We were at MooShoes NYC and I spotted a pair of silver brogues by Matt + Nat. My love for them made no sense. They weren’t gym shoes or combat boots. They weren’t black. And most offensively, they had a tan gum sole – one of my most hated qualities in a shoe. But I kept going back to them over and over until Tony just insisted I buy them. Five years later I have them worn in to the point of perfection, soft as butter. This style is no longer made, but Matt + Nat still has a pretty cute pair of oxfords on their site. Moo Shoes also has a pair of brogues from a brand called Novacas that are almost as cute as my silver ones.
Once I’d allowed myself to put an oxford on my foot there was no stopping me, and I ended up getting and even shinier and more silvery pair from T.U.K. that you can actually snag for $29 on their outlet site.
Feet are gross, and I hate the summer. So, I try to make due in my all-black Vans Authentics for as long as I can. But, sometimes I have no choice but to let my toes see the sunshine, so I’ve won some hard fought battles to find sandals that don’t make me want to set my own head on fire.
One major problem I have with most sandals, especially flip flops, is that they destroy your feet. If you’re going to walk in them for any length of time, they shred your toes, and if you’re like me, your feet swell in hot weather and anything strappy cuts into the tops after a while. For the actual beach when you’re going to end up with sand everywhere, I recommend Crocs flip flops for comfort, and you can get them in all-black. I’m not even going to link to them because everyone knows what Crocs are, and no one likes them. Which brings me to my actual favorite sandal:
Sanuk Yoga Sling 2 – the most comfortable, man-repelling sandals of all time. I have them in five colors, but I only ever wear the all-black version. When I first showed these to Tony, he said they look like a shoe you’d fashion for yourself on a desert island. Every man I’ve ever showed them to has recoiled in horror. Every woman who sees them asks me where I got them. Here’s the deal: The sole is a yoga mat. Legit. I’ve walked MILES in them and my feet never hurt. The straps are stretch-knit like a t-shirt. So if your feet swell, they stretch. And they don’t rub on your toes or heels so no blisters. They are the greatest summer shoe ever made and the fact that men don’t like them only makes me love them more. They’re weird enough that they look perfectly natural with my anti-beach summer wardrobe, and if you aren’t a summer goth there are tons of colors and patterns to choose from.
Last summer I also bought a pair of Bat Sandals from Strangecvlt, and I’m going to be honest and tell you they’re so uncomfortable… but if you cannot bring yourself to wear rubber flip flops and just need something fast for the beach they’ll do it for you. And if bats aren’t your thing, they have lots of other weirdo sandals on the site.
I’m fortunate that my job is super casual 99% of the time, and even when we have professional events I’m usually fine in sneakers or creepers. But, on the rare occasion I have to like, wear non-jeans pants or a dress that doesn’t go with fishnets, here’s what I do:
You know those really expensive flats that are all up in your Facebook ads claiming to be the world’s most comfortable shoe? Well, I bought them. I bought a pair of Rothy’s. A friend of mine in a similar line of work received a pair as a gift, and recommended them. After spending probably a month trying to decide if I should do it, I did it. I opted for the pointy flats, because they’re a little dressier than the round-toe version and I planned to wear them with wide-leg pants so the longer shoe would show more. They’re very lightweight and breathable, so they’re great for long shows where you stand around with sweaty feet all day, and the heels don’t slip so I haven’t gotten blisters yet.
Under no circumstances do I ever want to wear high heels. If you’re a person who loves them, good for you. To me, they’re torture. But, I’m not going to stroll into your wedding, or some other formal occasion in my combat boots so I own TWO pairs of heels. One black, one metallic. They’re low, less than three inches, so I can walk in them, and relatively comfortable although as soon as I’m back in the car I fling them off.
Will’s Vegan Store has a lot of styles made from really nice vegan leather, including the perfectly classic City Courts. This fills my “standard black heels” requirement, and I bought the gold pair I have at DSW a billion years ago, which brings me to my next point…
Where Oh Where?
Where to buy vegan shoes? Well, technically… just about anywhere. Most inexpensive shoes are made with synthetic materials so you can actually grab vegan shoes at Target. Of course it’s a little murky whether they’re “vegan” or just “not leather” because some glues used in shoemaking are made from animal products. But for the budget-conscious, you can absolutely find vegan (enough) shoes almost anywhere shoes are sold. But if you’re looking to support specifically vegan businesses, or know that every part of the shoe is, in fact, vegan, I have some suggestions.
MooShoes NYC – 100% vegan shoes, in a wide variety of styles, from lots of different brands. They also carry wallets, purses, belts, and home goods.
Vegetarian Shoes – This company has been around for 30 years, and everything they carry is their own house brand. Tony is good at spotting what conventional shoes a lot of their styles are dupes of, so if you had a favorite shoe and wish it was vegan, you might want to see if they’ve made it.
Herbivore Clothing is clearing out a lot of their shoe inventory so you can get some styles for as little as $10. That means it’s a big of a roll of the dice if you find your size, but if you do, that’s a pretty sweet deal.
Zappos – This online shoe giant actually has a vegan category that makes it really easy to find vegan shoes. If I’m looking for something specific that isn’t in that category, though, I use their material filters and just shuffle out all the suede, silk, leather, etc and can usually find what I want.
Of course there are hundreds of places to buy vegan shoes now, but the ones listed here, and throughout are all places I’ve personally shopped from and can recommend. And, like I mentioned, even Nike and Adidas have vegan shoes in their catalogs now so it’s really a matter of finding your style.
I would be remiss to give shoes all this attention and not talk a little bit about socks. Vegan socks are decidedly not hard to find – just like, don’t buy wool or cashmere and you’re pretty much all set. But, I do believe that a cute pair of socks can make any shoes look 100% cooler, so here are some places I like to shop for them:
We Love Colors is THE PLACE to go for tights, socks, fishnets, and gloves in literally any color. Plus, they’re very size inclusive. I am especially fond of their Sheer Anklets, which are super soft, stretchy, and can make an outfit an entire mood. I have a few pairs in black, that just add a bit of creepy doll vibes to any look, but I also have red and kelly green, which totally change up a whole outfit.
T.U.K. also has a lot of cute socks, including these tie dye tube socks, fishnet crew socks (which I wore on set with Svengoolie!) They also have a lot of sheer, slouchy, and ruffled socks that are super cute.
Honestly, when Tony drug me into a Stance store and told me I should spend $15 on a single pair of socks I almost divorced him. But he made some kind of promise about how I could slap him or take his wallet or something and convinced me to buy a single pair of the Boyd St crew sock and he was not wrong. What really did it for me was the arch support – it’s like nothing I’ve ever worn and now I have a whole drawer full. They also do a lot of licensed designs, so if you’re a person who wants Baby Yoda socks, there you go.
This is the weirdest way to end this post, but one last foot-and-leg-related piece of advice, if I may. If you have leg tattoos, you’ve probably run into a time when it might have been appropriate to wear pantyhose but realized that wearing them makes your tattoos look like huge bruises. It doesn’t happen often, because who wears pantyhose anymore? But once in a while I’m at a winter wedding and bare legs just aren’t OK. For whatever reason, I impulse bought a pair of nude fishnets and they’re the perfect solution. It’s warmer than nothing, they make your legs look more “polished,” and your tattoos show through. I’ve found Capezio to be the nicest quality, and worth the money. Plus they’re available in a wide variety of shades, so nude doesn’t just mean “caucasian.”
Wait… There’s More?
I was so excited to stop writing this I forgot I’d promised on social media to also talk about how to save money when shopping for vegan shoes. One major tip if you love creepers and boots is to check out the T.U.K. outlet I linked above. But over all, when shopping online I have two tools on my Google dashboard:
Rakuten (affiliate link) – You’ve probably seen their ads on TV. Basically, when you shop with Rakuten, it not only searches the internet for coupon codes, but it also earns you cash back. They get a commission for “referring” you as a customer, even if you visit the shopping site directly, and use Rakuten when you’re ready to check out – and they share that commission with you. You can earn anywhere from 1-10% back. I literally get a check for at least $100 every couple of months just for buying stuff I was going to buy anyway. You can install the plug in to your browser, and you can also download the app if you shop on your phone. Plus, if you sign up with my code (affiliate link) you’ll get a $20 bonus after you spend your first $20.
Honey – Honey is similar to Rakuten, although I use it less often. Sometimes when Rakuten can’t find a code or doesn’t offer cash back, Honey does. Honey rewards you in points rather than cash, and you can use those points to get gift cards. So, I typically redeem mine for Target gift cards. I have an affiliate link for Honey, too, but I’m not sure what the bonus is for you to use it – let me know if you find out!
Oh my god, this was SO LONG and I left out SO MANY things! The conversation carries on in this Instagram post, and you can drop your favorite vegan shoe styles or brands in the comments!