Walking (Barefoot) Across A Metaphorical Minefield
(Photo was not taken in an actual minefield)
So, who knew that shopping for kids’ shoes would be such a vegan conundrum? When our littlest baby started walking around 3 months ago, off we went to Clarks, as we had when our daughter needed shoes nearly 2 years ago. The difference? We weren’t vegan back then, so just picked a pair we liked the look off and we were done. So when we looked around Clarks we noticed that all of their Pre-Walker or First Steps shoes seemed to contain leather or suede. So where the hell could we get some cruelty-free baby shoes that still looked (and felt!) good for our little one?
The common misconception that leather is best for developing feet (although not so great for the animals it comes from) seems to be rife amongst the “traditional” shoe retailers. I contacted both Clarks and Start-Rite and only Clarks responded, saying:
“Unfortunately we do not currently offer any vegan certified footwear and cannot at the present time confirm that our non-leather shoes are free from all animal derivatives in all elements such as the glues.”
So if you want to be absolutely sure that you’re buying cruelty-free shoes it’s probably best to avoid Clarks for now. That said, they did also tell me that as part of their product development process they review current trends, materials and category options to take into consideration the expectations of their customers. So I’m hoping they’ll be able to offer us something soon. (Please Clarks!).
So where IS safe?
Happy Little Feet Without The Cruelty
Don’t worry! There are still options for babies and for older children too. I contacted a selection of retailers to ask what they offered in the way of vegan kids shoes and I have had some success*. I’ve also sought out a few smaller and online shops who sell some beautiful cruelty-free baby and children’s shoes.
*Please note that I’m only listing companies that sell vegan shoes, meaning they contain no animal derivatives. I have not looked into where or how they manufacture their shoes, and what, if any, human impact there might be. One for another post perhaps.
Independent and Online Shops
If you Google “vegan kids shoes” or “vegan baby shoes”, the choice that comes up is pretty limited, I have to say. However, I have found a few places that are worth a mention so here they are:
Happy Little Soles
This is where I ended up buying The Little Restaurant Inspector’s first shoes in the end. They have a vegan filter in their search function, often have a good sale on AND they’re a UK stockist of Pediped shoes, which I think might be my fave for cute vegan trainers.
Click here for their website if you want to have a look.
Tom’s do a lovely selection of kids trainers, canvas shoes, slippers and even cute baby snow boots. Oh and some of them are available in matching adult sizes…twinning is winning right? Tom’s entire kids vegan range can be found here. They’re not cheap, but they’re the most obviously sustainable and kind brand in this list so I think it’s well worth it. You can see what they do to give back to communities in need all over the world by looking at their Improving Lives page.
Highly recommended, these guys are good (vegan) eggs.
Whilst we’re on the subject of eco-friendly brands, Devon-based online shoe shop Green Shoes comes in a close second. They still use leather in some of their products, but their entire (really cute and colourful) kids range can be made 100% animal-free – you just add the vegan option when placing your order. I also spy on their website they have a dedicated vegan range coming soon, so watch this space!
Vivo have some lovely vegan children’s shoes for all the barefooters out there. Again, they’re not cheap, but the styles are super cute so maybe worth looking into if you have an older child who could hand down to a younger sibling. They’re also masters of sustainability, which is obviously another big tick from me.
It’s no surprise really that some of the supermarkets with the most pioneering and innovative approaches to vegan food also stock a decent range of vegan shoes. Here’s a roundup of what I’ve found.
F&F at Tesco
When I contacted F&F they responded to say “All of our shoes are vegan, adults and kids.” That’s it, no speculation. Hurrah!
It’s worth having a look at their range of school shoes, as a lot of my readers have mentioned that it’s an area they’ve struggled with.
Tu at Sainsbury’s
I’ve always been a fan of Sainsbury’s for clothes (although why so much pink for girls Sainsbo’s? My daughter likes yellow please!). So when they responded to me to say “where the composition is listed as ‘textile’ or ‘other’ then there are no animal derivatives used.”
Looking at the Sainsbury’s website, they have a range of shoes, boots, trainers and wellies, many of which range from an infant size 4 all the way up to an adult/big child size 6 in some cases. So loads of choice including, again, school shoes.
Nutmeg at Morrison’s
Morrison’s said “All our shoes to the best of our knowledge are synthetic and do not contain animal derivatives”. Reading this, I’d probably be inclined to stick with one of the more certain options just in case. That said, if their statement satisfies you then Morrison’s have a good range of baby and kids shoes so they’re worth a look. Again, not available online so you’ll have to go in store to have a look.
To be confirmed…
The following shops responded to say that they are unable to guarantee the source of all of the materials in their kids shoes so couldn’t categorically say that they are definitely vegan friendly:
Marks and Spencer
With these, it feels a little bit like the food cross-contamination issue we sometimes encounter. Something is not officially certified vegan because it “may contain” animal products because of manufacturing processes. I generally happily eat products with a “may contain” warning on it as long as it’s also labelled vegetarian, because the supermarket has at least confirmed that a product’s usual ingredients list does not contain any animal derivatives. With shoes this same thinking makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Most of the responses I had suggested that the buyers representing the retailers do not have a say in what goes into the smaller components of their products (such as glue). This means the manufacturer is free to use whatever they like or is cheapest, which could well be an animal product. For that reason, I’m out.
It’s Oh So Quiet
The following were contacted but haven’t responded:
I will of course update this list if I do hear from them. Watch this space.
So there you have it – we DO have options, we just have to dig a little deeper than our non-vegan friends. Which is fine isn’t it? Because reading labels and asking questions is what we do now, and it’s worth it. If you’d like to learn more about raising eco-friendly kids, check out this post I wrote for sustainability app Ailuna.