Vegan Shoes (Part I – Manufacturing)

Please note: This article was first published on The Vegan Tourist and last updated October 9, 2011.

In my last blog entry, I reviewed MooShoes, a New York-based retailer of vegan shoes. The store sells shoes from more than thirty different manufacturers, and as I was unfamiliar with most brands, I spent some time online and checked out the companies’ websites.

Several businesses (but not all) manufacture exclusively vegan shoes, and their commitment to a vegan lifestyle is obvious from their mission statements and all other content on their websites.

Other companies sell a mixture of non-vegan and vegan shoes.

I also found a few companies that list so little information about the materials they use for their shoes, that I was somewhat alarmed. How can I be sure that their shoes are vegan, if they don’t even mention it on their websites?

Going through life as a vegan is a huge commitment. We live in a non-vegan world, and as so many products are highly processed, it is difficult to judge which items are truly vegan. Companies, which sell their products to vegan consumers, need to be aware that we have a much higher need for information about the products we purchase than other consumers. We want to know, we need to be sure.

This increased need for information is something that many companies, which market their products to vegan consumers, do not seem to be aware of. As a vegan, this is my biggest request to manufacturers, businesses, and retailers: please provide us with as much information as possible. Every detail matters!

Shoes, which are marketed as vegan, are especially difficult to verify as such. A shoe that isn’t made from leather isn’t necessarily vegan.

For example, some kind of glue is used in the production of most shoes. And most brands of industrial glue contain animal by-products. Unless a manufacturer uses vegan glue, the shoes won’t be considered vegan.

This is where it gets tricky, as most manufacturers – even those that describe themselves as “vegan” – provide very little information about the kind of glue they use. Or they just don’t know.

The owners of Vegan Wares, a brilliant Australian company, which is fully committed to manufacturing vegan shoes, address the problem on their website: “…because we don’t personally make every component used in our shoes, & do not manufacture each ingredient which is used in the production of glues, soles, heel & toe stiffeners, labels, etc, we still do have to rely on the assurances of other people who are not always in tune with our principles & who may not be fully aware of the origins of all the materials they work with.”

So there you go. Even the manufacturers of vegan shoes have problems tracing all the components they use in the production of their products.

And it’s not just glue vegans need to be concerned about. What exactly are heel and toe stiffeners? And does anybody now how rubber is produced and processed? I certainly don’t. But I need to know.

The more I read about the manufacturing of shoes, the more frustrated I get. It seems almost impossible to find shoes, which are 100 percent guaranteed vegan.

Clearly, there’s a need for more information, and it is my hope that the manufacturers of vegan shoes will provide this information on their websites, so vegan consumers can feel confident in their choices.

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