Save Our Soles – Ethical and Sustainable Footwear

We’ve covered ethical clothing and fast fashion, so now it makes sense to move on to the feet! Footwear is a tricky one. Quality, affordable shoes can be hard to find at the best of times. Add other criteria like sustainable, ethical, and vegan, and the pool starts getting pretty empty! This especially seems to be the case in the NZ market where we don’t currently have easy access to a wide range of ethical footwear. I’ve been doing a bit of homework on what is available to us, and I thought I might as well share it!

We are big fans of thrift shopping at Use Good Stuff, which I’m sure many of our regular readers have realised. There are some great footwear bargains to be found at recycled clothing stores and most will be under $20, depending on the shops you visit. Savemart is always worth a look. When I was living in Christchurch, Tasman Traders was always my go-to for buying shoes. Now that I’m in Wellington, Recycle Boutique is my favoured option but they can be slightly more expensive. An added bonus of buying second hand footwear is that the awkward (and sometimes painful) job of breaking in new shoes is already done for you! How nice.

Quite often when I tell people that I prefer thrifting instead of buying new, they come back with the argument that you’re still purchasing “bad” products, you’re just doing so indirectly. This is totally true, but I think it’s better that my money isn’t actually going into the pockets of these unethical or unsustainable companies. Buying brand new “good” stuff is not possible for everyone because it can be very expensive, so we can only do what is achievable for us individually. Also, if not for second hand stores, a whole lot more stuff would be ending up in landfill, and we really don’t need to be contributing to that more than we already are! So check out your local thrift stores and see what you find 🙂

There isn’t a huge selection of NZ made shoes, but what we do have are pretty top notch:

Soul Shoes

These brands are all pretty classic, full leather style footwear. Great quality with a bit of a higher price tag, but they are well made and will last a good amount of time. Probably not so good for those wanting animal product free footwear though, so the search continues…


Toms have a range of sweet casual shoes. I like Toms because they have some cool, unique patterns, have vegan options and help people in need with every product they sell. They have an awesome array of social enterprise projects that go way beyond shoes. There are quite a few Toms retailers in NZ, so just give it a Google.


Etiko started in Melbourne in 2005 and have gone on to achieve a whole lot in the realms of sustainability, social justice and fair-trade. Seriously the list is way too long, so I’m just going to link to it here. Their shoes are more sports focussed in the same style as the Converse range. Except that these ones contain no animals and are made by people in fair and safe work environments. They can be purchased in NZ from The Cruelty Free Shop.


The Beloved store now sells a pretty neat ballet flat. The lining of their flats are leather so again, not best for those wishing to avoid that. They have great range of fashion and homewares, crafted by people from all over the world who have been rescued from poverty, human trafficking and gang life.


This brand is my favourite so far. I currently have 2 pairs of Sanuks and I am almost literally living in them. They are super comfy, easy on the wallet and no animals died or were exploited in order to make them. Their classic range is made from canvas with rubber soles, but they also recently released a range of sandals made out of recycled yoga mats. They do versions made from hemp, too. Awesome and cool for the planet, they also support a number of environmental organisations and projects worldwide. I know these can be bought from Bivouac Outdoor, Nature Shop and NZShred as well as the Sanuk NZ site.

So, hopefully that helps! I’m sure this isn’t even close to a complete list, so feel free to share any other “good” shoe brands that you know of! Leave a comment below or find us on Facebook 🙂

– Blick

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2 thoughts on “Save Our Soles – Ethical and Sustainable Footwear

  1. Hi, thanks for the tips! Any ideas on what to do with shoes that are worn out? Do you know if there is there any type of shoe that won’t go to landfill at the end if it’s life?


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