How to spot cruelty-free shoes

Fall is HERE! Minus that strange day on Wednesday where it was like, 90 degrees. I’m so happy it’s Friday, it was such a productive week and I’m very much looking forward to a quiet weekend.  Yesterday, I went cat trapping and it was amazing. I fell in love with two kitties and I was ready to take them home. Seriously though, if you’re in Chicago and you are able to foster a cat, let me know.

Alright, now on to the fun stuff. Previously, I wrote about becoming a vegetarian, how it’s been going, and my cruelty-free beauty routines. The funny this though is that before I ever gave up meat or changed my beauty products, I stopped buying leather and fur. Instead, I started buying vegan shoes. It seemed like an easy enough change to make. A small way I could start spending my money in a way that would support my values.

Well, I can certainly say that shoe shopping is not nearly as fun as it once was. I had no idea how many shoes were made from leather or suede. A recent trip through Nordstrom about broke my heart. It was a harsh reality when I realized shopping would take a different approach. Now, when I see a cute shoe, I turn it over first before I get attached. Luckily, I’ve learned a few tricks to makes things a bit easier.

Learn to identify

This was the first hurdle. It was difficult to figure out what shoes were made of. If you’re lucky, there will be a nice sticker on the sole of the shoe that will clue you in. It looks like this:

Image courtesy of The Right Shoe

The left column represents the different parts of the shoe. The top left corner refers to the “upper” part of the shoe, aka what you see. The middle left picture shows what the lining or inside of the shoe is made out of. Lastly, the lower left is the bottom part of the shoe, the part that walks on the ground.

The right side of the diagram shows the materials the shoes are made out of. In this example, the top right shape is supposed to resemble a bear skin rug (at least that’s how I see it). This shape means leather. The middle right symbol represents textiles which are all totally made without any animals by-products. The last shape is the diamond which means synthetic materials. Again, this will be totally cruelty-free and vegan. The only other symbol you might see is bearskin rug with a diamond on it, this means that it’s treated leather.

So, if you’re shopping for shoes free of animal products, look for the woven image or the diamond.

If there’s no sticker on the bottom of the shoe, you’ll have to do a bit more detective work. Almost always you can find a stamp inside the shoe stating what it is made of. As a last resort, google the shoe and then you can find out what it is made of by clicking on the shoe details.

Where to buy vegan shoes

Technically, shoes can’t really be vegetarian (lol) so they’re considered vegan. I choose to call them cruelty-free so that I don’t overwhelm my non-vegan/vegetarian friends. Rest assured though, if you’re buying shoes devoid of animal products, they’re vegan.

Now that we’ve covered that, here are a few of my favorites places to buy vegan shoes.

ASOS – You can easily sort through their shoes by clicking the “non-leather” option. Simply click “shoes” and the type you’d like to see. Once those appear, you can filter out leather shoes by pulling down the “leather/non-leather” option and selecting non-leather.

Bhava – Want to shop without any worry? My absolute favorite vegan leather shoes are from Bhava. Each shoe is so thoughtfully and beautifully designed. There are no bad options here.

Nordstrom – Recently I discovered you could search “vegan shoes” on Nordstrom’s website and they’ll populate with non-leather shoes. Huzzah. Nordstrom is my absolute favorite so this has been a Godsend.

Alice + Whittles – A brand I just learned about but I adore. The boots are sustainable and made by former UN refugee aid workers. I promise you’ll love these boots and they’re perfect for fall.

My fall favorites

I’ve taken out the guesswork for you… below are some of my absolute favorite shoes for fall. Happy (cruelty-free) shopping!

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Sansa – Oh, you want a cute, sweet, adorable puppy that has the most ridiculous ears? Meet Sansa. This cutie is available for adoption through K9 4 Keeps and you’ll enjoy every minute of hanging out with her. For more information about Sansa, email Erin at


I’ve never been a fan of orange but I can’t get enough of it this fall. I bought this dress from ASOS and paired it with my favorite new booties. Shop the look below… happy Fall friends!

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All photos Josh Feeney Photography

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