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California-Based Sustainable Shoe Brands You'll Love

California-Based Sustainable Shoe Brands You'll Love

From heels to sandals, California-based ethical shoe brands have everything you need to complete your capsule wardrobe’s shoe collection.


5 min read

April 09, 2021

Consumers are continually understanding their role in creating the changes they hope to see in the world and treating their purchases like a ballot—casting their votes for brands they believe in by buying their products. As this movement gains momentum, purchasing goods from ethically driven companies can help make a difference in the world.

By reducing the rate of deforestation, paying workers fair wages, and avoiding the use of toxic chemicals and nonrenewable resources, mission-driven companies have a positive impact on both the environment growing the materials for garments and the people making the products. 

One easy way to go green is by shopping sustainably. If you’re looking to pair your ethical clothes with eco-friendly shoes, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you are searching for the perfect running shoes, a comfortable pair of everyday sneakers, a professional loafer, or stylish heels, these California-based sustainable shoe brands have everything you need to complete your capsule wardrobe’s shoe collection.

the eco-friendly shoe brands to know now

Keep your environmental footprint to a minimum with these eco-friendly and sustainable shoes you'll love to wear every day.

1. The People’s Movement

Best for: Everyday wear

Based in: San Francisco

The People’s Movement aims to create conscious footwear and accessories that reduce the impact of single-use plastics (a mission all-too-familiar to California’s best eco-friendly companies). The eco-friendly shoe brand uses vegetable-fiber cotton canvases, wax-treated laces, water-based glues, upcycled plastics, nickel-free eyelets, and natural dyes—culminating in an eco-conscious product that it is easy to feel good about wearing. 

Offering shoes with reasonable price points and clean, simple designs that are ideal for everyday wear, The People’s Movement makes ethical living accessible.

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2. Zuzii

Best for: Both upscale and casual occasions

Based in: Los Angeles

This footwear company is shaking up preconceived notions of the made-to-order movement. Zuzii goes above and beyond its commitment to ethically made shoes by sourcing sustainable raw materials, using renewable energy whenever possible, avoiding toxic substances in manufacturing, and opting for vegetable-tanned leather.

Zuzii also reduces its environmental impact by making each item to order, so there is little to no waste and only what is needed is created. With a wide range of shoes—including clogs, sandals, and oxfords—and a line of accessories, Zuzii makes it possible to live ethically and fashionably. 

Ethical shoe brands

3. Rothy’s

Best for: Work and school

Based in: San Francisco

Rothy's is on a mission to use recycled and renewable materials in its shoes and packaging—and has already repurposed over 25 million water bottles in the process. The company recognizes plastic pollution as a monumental issue facing the planet; every minute, 1 million water bottles are sold across the globe, yet 91 percent of plastics are not recycled. 

In addition to repurposing single-use plastics, Rothy’s only incorporates non-toxic vegan adhesives, recycled foam, and carbon-free rubber soles in its shoes. The brand also opts for recycled and recyclable packing materials.

Rothy’s shoes are both comfortable and stylish, and the versatile line of footwear for women and girls features bright colors and patterns that can highlight the individuality of each wearer—all while maintaining the characteristics of ethically made shoes. From a day at work to a dinner with friends, these classic and classy styles are perfect for every occasion. 

4. Freewaters

Best for: Everyday wear

Based in: San Clemente

Everything about Freewaters’ shoes is ethical. The sustainable footwear brand uses PVC-free materials, water-based glues, and recycled rubber for footbeds. Since leather tanning is a water, chemical, and energy-intensive process, the brand works with a Gold Certified supplier to make sure all products are purified on-site. This allows the chemicals to break down by the plants and microorganisms in the wetlands. The water can then be recycled and reused.

Not only are the shoes ethically made, but so is the packaging. In addition to the sustainable shoe brand’s certified sandal bags, the company makes a conscious effort to minimize the amount of packaging. Thus, all hang tags and boxes are made of recycled materials. Shop from this ethical shoe brand and help build a better tomorrow in style.

Sustainable sneaker brands

5. Allbirds

Best for: Outdoor adventure

Based in: San Francisco

Allbirds’ sustainability is as real as it gets. As the go-to brand for naturally made, environmentally responsible sneakers, this sustainable sneaker brand is a certified B Corporation. Allbirds is committed to using natural materials and recycled packaging, creating simple and comfortable designs, reducing waste and pollution, and giving back. The revolutionary superfine merino wool, used in the company’s Wool Runners and Wool Loungers, provides all the benefits of synthetic materials (like moisture wicking, breathable fabric, and temperature regulation) but takes less than half the energy to produce. 

For those shopping for a material other than wool, try the Tree line of shoes. These kicks are made from eucalyptus tree fiber sourced from farms that minimize fertilizer and rely on rain rather than on irrigation systems. Not only does the tree fiber require 95 percent less water than traditional materials such as cotton, but it also cuts the carbon footprint in half. And since Allbirds has a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification, rest assured that the forest and the animals that rely on it are protected, too. 

Allbirds even incorporates recycled bottles in the laces and sugarcane (which is so sustainable that its biomass actually powers the mill and fertilizes the subsequent year’s crop) in the soles of its earth-friendly shoes.

With so many styles to choose from, you'll want to grab more than one pair of Toms.

6. Toms

Best for: Everyday wear

Based in: Venice

As one of the best-known ethical shoe companies, Toms has been committed to the one-for-one model since its founding in 2006. This business model has led to the sale of over 80 million shoes and the donation of just as many pairs to children in need across 70 countries. 

While the company started with only a simple slip-on shoe, it now creates various types of styles for men, women, and children—plus apparel, accessories, sunglasses, and bags—but each purchase still supports a person in need. 

As a certified B Corporation, Toms has solidified its position as a change leader, helping to create a more conscious shopping experience that takes into account fair wage practices, environmental protection, and social responsibility throughout the supply chain. 

Sustainable footwear brands for every season

7. Matisse Footwear

Best for: Casual and workwear

Based in: Los Angeles

From fair labor standards to small-scale artisanal production, Matisse Footwear is committed to making wardrobe staples the right way. All factories used by the sustainable footwear brand are socially audited to ensure workers are compensated and treated fairly. 

At this sustainable shoe brand, recycled materials are used whenever possible. From heel wraps to shoe uppers, Matisse strives to source sustainable and reusable materials. What’s more? The brand lessens water waste by utilizing technological advances. Matisse also uses tanneries that work hard to be cleaner and greener alongside the brand. Check out the brand’s PETA-certified vegan collection for your next spring find.

8. Taylor + Thomas

Best for: Upscale occasions

Based in: Los Angeles

Taylor + Thomas is here to redefine the state of luxury consumption. From carbon emissions and water pollution to the proper treatment of animals and labor force, this sustainable shoe brand aims for change. The brand works with artisans who are paid fair wages. Taylor + Thomas implements ethical and ecologically responsible methods to create their products.

The female-founded line is bettering its practices every day. They’ve emerged in the industry as a brand with a mission to bridge conscious consumption with elevated taste—Taylor + Thomas is the real deal. And did we mention how incredibly chic the shoes are? If wardrobe needs revamping, these ethically made shoes are the answer.

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