When it comes to shoes for summer, traditional materials like leather, canvas and rubber aren’t the only options available to guys. There are plenty of vegan shoes for men to see you through summer and beyond.
But what’s a vegan shoe, anyway? It’s a shoe that’s made with a material that resembles leather but isn’t made using an animal byproduct such as cow’s or goat’s skin. Broadly speaking, vegan leather is the same as faux leather, although it’s often made with experimental new materials such as mushroom leather. There are a number of reasons why you might want to skip a genuine leather product and go vegan, including the fact that sustainable footwear is in fashion right now.
Is Vegan Leather Really More Sustainable?
Studies have shown that one of the best ways to cut down on your environmental impact is to reduce your meat consumption. This is doubly true for beef, which uses more water and generates more greenhouse gas emissions than just about any other type of food. Concern for the environment and animal welfare has led to a growth in vegan-adjacent products, such as vegan shoes. But how sustainable is the average vegan leather shoe?
Most vegan leather is made from polyurethane (PU), a synthetic material produced using petroleum. While a quality leather shoe can last for decades and even outlive you, even a well-made vegan leather shoe made from PU is likely to age more quickly and break down.
That said, you might still opt for a vegan leather shoe for other valid reasons. There are some vegans who wouldn’t want to wear a leather product, even if it’s one that they bought secondhand. In that case, vegan leather can be a suitable alternative for someone who needs leather-like footwear for professional settings.
The good news is that faux leather made from virgin plastic isn’t the only option. Since petroleum-based vegan leather carries its own environmental concerns, there are options that are made using recycled plastics to lessen the environmental impact. Additionally, there are brands offering plant-based leather alternatives, such as mushroom leather, pineapple leather, grape leather and cactus leather. Since these materials are so new, it’s not yet clear how durable they’ll be as an alternative to genuine leather, which has stood the test of time for thousands of years. Still, some options have shown the potential to be a genuine competitor to real leather. These options are still fairly niche, but it’s very likely that the market will continue to grow. Check out our in-depth breakdown of the best plant-based vegan leather.
The Best Vegan Shoes for Men To Wear This Summer
Vegan leather is so widespread that you can find options from many top brands like Birkenstock and Doc Martens. If you like rugged footwear, you can turn to brands like Teva. For something hiking-inspired, brands like Birkenstock will see you through warmer weather. And since sneakers are what most men lace-up on a daily basis, there are plenty of sneakers from top brands like Adidas that are made using vegan leather.
We rounded up the best vegan shoes for summer, including options made from synthetic materials, as well as shoes that are fabricated using plant-based “leathers.” These are the best vegan shoes for summer.
1. Birkenstock Arizona Slide Sandal
One of the reasons why Birkenstocks have been popular for years and years is that they’re ridiculously comfortable. Another reason is their style; it’s iconic and often copied. This vegan style has the same anatomically correct footbed as its other styles. It has a cork midsole, EVA sole and the straps are adjustable.
2. Thousand Fell Men’s Court Sneaker
In terms of sustainability, the end of a product’s life is just as important as the start. Can it be recycled or reused, or will it pollute a landfill? Thousand Fell took that into consideration, and the brand offers vegan shoes that are recyclable. That means you can send the shoes to them for a discount, and they will repurpose them. The shoes are constructed from a mix of recycled bottles, natural rubber and repurposed food waste.
3. MR P. Eco Edition Larry VEGEA Sneakers
Mr. Porter is one of (if not the) best destinations for luxury menswear, and their in-house MR. P line is replete with stylish and understated staples. They recently updated their Larry sneakers in a material called VEGEA. It’s a leather-like material that’s made using grape skin that’s a byproduct of wine production.
4. Clarks Desert Boot Black Vegan
If there’s such a thing as a summer boot, it has to be the desert boot. Clarks undoubtedly makes the most iconic version (they invented the style, after all) and they also make this non-leather version. For a dressier night out, this is one of the best vegan shoes to wear this summer.
5. Sanuk Beer Cozy 2 Sandals
All Sanuk’s shoes and sandals are made with re-used yoga mats, so they’re cushy and responsive. These vegan leather sandals have padded faux leather straps with a neoprene lining (they dry fast), and have built-in arch support, so wearing them all day won’t make your feet unhappy.
6. Birkenstock Vegan Leather Birkibuc Boston Clogs
That Birkenstock has become one of the most fashionable footwear brands is a boon to us all, given how enormously comfortable their shoes are. The Bostons are one of the brand’s best styles, and this option is made from Birkibuc, a proprietary synthetic material with a similar feeling to nubuck.
7. Clae BRADLEY CACTUS
There are a lot of minimal sneaker brands, but there aren’t that many using the innovative methods of Clae. The LA-based brand crafted its Bradley sneakers out of cactus leather. You can get it in white or black, or lean into the earthy vibe by picking it up in green.
8. Adidas Stan Smith Shoes
Adidas’ Stan Smith sneakers are arguably the reason there are as many minimalist white sneaker brands as there are today, and while they aren’t as popular as they were a few years back, they’re still one of the best white sneakers on the planet. These are made using Adidas’ proprietary Primegreen, which means these vegan shoes are made using recycled 50% recycled content and no virgin polyester.
9. Teva Omnium 2
BEST FOR DAY HIKES
Teva’s famous for their Original Universal sandal, but did you know there’s such a thing as hiking sandals? Yes, and they’re cool. Modeled on the classic Fisherman Sandal (a combination of lace-up shoe and sandal), Teva’s rest on an EVA cushiony midsole, has a nylon shank for stability and a rugged outsole that’s great for fording streams. The toe is covered, and there are cut-outs on the sides. While the sandal looks like a mix of leather, nylon, and rubber, it’s a completely vegan shoe. Teva used synthetic and plant-based materials to create this sandal.
10. Doc Martens 1461 Vegan Oxford Shoes
Doc Martens is best known for its leather combat boots, but the brand has an entire line of shoes and boots made from vegan leather. These oxford shoes are a great alternative for your favorite Doc Martens boots during the summer months, and they feature the brand’s famous air-cushioned sole.