We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by The Root Collective #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by The Root Collective
We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by Nisolo #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by Nisolo
We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by Bhava #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by Bhava

7 Ethical Heels For That Feel Good High


We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels should be the only way to consciously strut your stuff…

The footwear industry is no stranger to exploitation, forced labor, and unsafe working conditions. Add in the leather typically found in high heels and you get animal cruelty, too.

But ethical shoe brands like The Root Collective are rooted in fully supporting their makers—and actually exist to provide fair trade jobs in Guatemala.

Jo-Anne Vernay turns pineapple leaves into vegan ethical high heels. And no list of ethical heels brands is complete without Nisolo—the brand behind The Lowest Wage Challenge, increasing the shockingly low percentage of workers who receive fair wages.    

Click clack your way to the end of the article to see our ethical footwear criteria.

*This post contains affiliate links

1. NISOLO

We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by Nisolo #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by Nisolo
About Nisolo

Nisolo is a Certified B Corp that wants us all to walk a little more sustainably. 

Between beach days and bachelorette parties, Nisolo provides men’s and women’s shoes for any occasion. 

In addition to their ethical leather heels, they also have ethical sandals, boots, flats, mules, ethical sneakers, oxfords, loafers, and accessories.  

Nisolo’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Nubuck leather with a rubber heel cap is what you’ll find in Nisolo’s range of heels. 

Nubuck is a top-grain calfskin or cowhide leather that is tougher and more resilient, but feels similar to suede. Theirs is sourced strictly as a byproduct of the food industry.  

Because leather is an ethically tricky material, they personally visit all partner factories and tanneries, 95% of whom are certified by the Leather Working Group.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

The shoes are produced in the brand’s own Peruvian factory. A third-party verifies that living wages are provided

Nisolo is actually behind The Lowest Wage Challenge, which is how they’re encouraging other fashion brands to transparently share their lowest paid wages so that improvements can be made. 

Supporting workers more (whether in Peru, Mexico, Kenya, or Nashville, USA), they provide access to training, healthcare, and safe and supportive working environments. 

Green business practices: 

Nisolo reduces and offsets 100% of their carbon emissions and is officially a Carbon Neutral company! 

They also have a Shoe Reclamation Program that allows customers to return their old Nisolo shoes so some components can be either upcycled, recycled, or donated. 

In 2020, they diverted 5,837 pairs from landfills by donating through their partnership with Soles4Souls. 

Community & charitable giving:

Nisolo has revolutionized the way fashion brands can support independent artisans and create opportunities for underserved communities. 

Check out their Impact Report to see exactly what they’re accomplishing—like the fact that they’ve supported 555 livelihood opportunities. 

Available: Nisolo

2. BHAVA

We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by Bhava #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by Bhava
About Bhava

Bhava is one of the few vegan shoe brands choosing cork.

Why cork? 

Because animals as you know are one of the main victims of fast fashion. Bhava believes we need to get creative when it comes to finding alternatives to leather. 

And what’s more creative than cork leather?!

You won’t find any products of animal-origin in their range of women’s shoes, which includes sandals, flats, heels, hikers, booties, and boots. Heel styles include pumps, mules, loafers, strappy heels, and sandals. 

And because they “don’t produce a single pair of Bhava shoes without a thorough NYC test drive for comfort and durability” you’ll actually love wearing these heels (rather than only love the moment you can kick them off!).

Bhava’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Bhava uses solid wood heels, cork insoles, and Italian-made vegan leather that is free of PVC, phthalates, chrome, azo-dyes, formaldehyde, and aromatic amines. 

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Making use of the region’s long history of handmade shoes, Bhava works with artisans in Alicante, Spain. A few pairs are made in India, by the country’s first woman-owned footwear company!

Many of their materials are imported from Italy and their cork from neighboring Portugal.

Green business practices: 

Because Bhava is more aware of where their materials are sourced and how their shoes are made, they’re helping keep pollution and waste at a minimum. 

A relatively localized supply chain, mostly on one continent, helps, too!

Inclusivity:

Bhava is a woman-owned footwear company founded by Francisca Pineda.

Available: Bhava

3. THE ROOT COLLECTIVE

We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by The Root Collective #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by The Root Collective
About The Root Collective

The Root Collective is a “people company that happens to sell shoes and accessories.”

It was founded by Bethany Tran, whose purpose-driven dreams weren’t being satisfied by her job at a Fortune 500 company. 

So she started working with Guatemalan artisans and selling shoes around the globe.

In addition to comfortable ethical heels (in the form of wedges and heeled chukka boots), the brand also sells flats, boots, sandals, and bags.

The Root Collective’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

In many pairs of shoes, leather and handwoven fabric are combined with a wood and rubber outsole. 

We’re not 100% sure what their leather sourcing and processing policies are, so we’ll reach out to check and update this article.

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Social impact is what drives The Root Collective, They exist, first and foremost, to support community jobs. 

Partnering with small, independent Guatemalan workshops, they’re able to support talented artisans with wages 40-500% above the fair wage minimum. 

The handwoven fabric comes from two women’s cooperatives, and other steps of the manufacturing take place in other small workshops and factories in Guatemala.

Inclusivity:

The Root Collective is women-founded and operated and has a sale section for those who want big heels on a small budget.

Available: The Root Collective

4. MATISSE

We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by Matisse Footwear #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by Matisse Footwear
About Matisse

Matisse meets the needs of modern women—and the needs of our planet and the people on it. 

From beach to street, Matisse provides artisanal, ethically-made shoes and sustainable accessories

The L.A.-based brand sells ethical boots, mules, flats, sandals, sneakers, and leather and vegan heels.

Matisse’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Matisse has a large selection of heels, and an equally-large range of materials. 

Leather and suede are commonly used, as well as EVA—a rubber-like plastic polymer.

Whenever possible, recycled leather and textiles are used. We’ll still be reaching out to learn more about the non-recycled leather.

Fortunately, they also offer vegan pairs made with synthetic, PETA-certified vegan leather. Unlike the worst vegan leather alternatives, theirs is PU, not PVC. 

Supply chain & labor practices: 

All manufacturing partners are family-owned and operated and are regularly audited to ensure workers are treated fairly. 

Green business practices: 

Their leather tannery partners use technology to minimize watershed waste. Again, we’re hoping to learn a little more about how they process their leather.

Available: Matisse

5. JO-ANNE VERNAY

We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by Jo-Anne Vernay #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by Jo-Anne Vernay
About Jo-Anne Vernay

Named after stylist and creative director Dyandra Raye’s mother, Jo-Anne Vernay was started to fill a void in the ethical shoe industry. 

If you like piña coladas and luxury vegan shoes you’ll love their small but gorgeous line of pineapple leaf vegan leather high heels

Jo-Anne Vernay’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Did you know pineapple leaf waste can be turned into a fabric called Pinatex?

This revolutionary vegan leather alternative also provides income opportunities for subsistence farmers in the Philippines, allowing them to make use of every part of their crops. 

Organic cotton, vegan ultra suede, and wood are also incorporated into the shoes, as well as a water-based bonding agent. 

Supply chain & labor practices: 

Jo-Anne Vernay is certified by Remake Our World, a nonprofit trying to make fashion a force for good. 

This means that in addition to making vegan ethical heels, they have a transparent supply chain, provide living wages, and ensure safe working environments—to name just a few criteria. 

All shoes are handmade in Italy and you can read more about their ethical supply chain here

Green business practices: 

Aside from making use of a byproduct that is normally burned, the Pinatex manufacturing process doesn’t require any additional raw materials, doesn’t use any dangerous toxic chemicals, and is manufactured in a closed loop production where any residual biomass can be used as biofuel!

The brand is making further efforts to reduce water use and carbon emissions. 

Inclusivity:

Jo-Anne Vernay is Black- and woman-owned. 

Available: Jo-Anne Vernay

6. VEERAH

We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by VEERAH #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by VEERAH
About VEERAH

VEERAH doesn’t want you to sacrifice style to be sustainable. 

But with their designer vegan shoes, you can get both.

VEERAH got their name from veerabhadrasana, Sanskrit for ‘warrior pose.’ We can all be eco warriors in the brand’s high end ethical heels, boots, flats, and sandals.

They also have a bridal collection to go along with your eco friendly wedding ring.

VEERAH’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

VEERAH’s materials are 100% cruelty-free, PETA-approved vegan, and can be broken into three categories: apple, plastic, and algae. 

Their apple leather is bio-based and made from organic Italian apples that are a byproduct of the apple juice industry. Apple peels are treated with a non-toxic pigment and blended with 50% polyurethane for waterproofing and durability.  

Using an algae foam cushion allows VEERAH to assist in cleaning waterways from toxic algal blooms. This replaces 30% of the petroleum typically found in foam. 

Because it’s extremely difficult to make ethical vegan heels without plastic, VEERAH uses renewed plastic as much as possible. Many pairs incorporate either four or nine plastic bottles.

The linings are organic cotton. 

Supply chain & labor practices: 

The women-led design team spent years looking for manufacturing partners committed to sustainability. 

Their production is based in Guangdong, China—home to many highly-skilled footwear artisans. Workers are paid above a living wage.  

Green business practices: 

Instead of buying several pairs of shoes, VEERAH shoes can come with removable accessories that spice up a single pair. Perfect for a minimalist wardrobe!

Inclusivity:

VEERAH is woman-founded and “led by women, for women”.

For affordable ethical heels, they offer a dedicated sale section.

Community & charitable giving:

VEERAH’s 1-10-100 battle plan means:

  • 1% of revenue is donated to social impact causes
  • 10 paid hours are offered for employees to either volunteer or take self-improvement courses
  • For every 100 customer feedback surveys, a one-year scholarship is given to a She’s the First girl scholar. 
Available: VEERAH

7. CULT OF COQUETTE

We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by Cult of Coquette #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle
Image by Cult of Coquette
About Cult of Coquette

Responsibly chic, cruelty-free, and ethically styled is…Cult of Coquette

Bebe Roxana is the woman behind the brand, she wanted to combine her love of animals with Louboutin-esque shoes.

Cult of Coquette is known for ethical designer heels available in pumps, boots, mules, open-toe shoes, and a bridal collection.  

Cult of Coquette’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices

Materials: 

Every pair of shoes is 100% PETA-approved vegan and made with man-made materials (PU, vegan ultrasuede, satin, etc.).

Aware that many of these materials come with their own set of environmental concerns, they’re actively seeking out alternatives. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

Founder Bebe Roxana was thrilled to “find a factory that shared my beliefs and vision for an ethically based company [and] one that was also 100% woman owned”.

We couldn’t find much more information on this factory though (location, certifications, etc) so we’ll be reaching out to get a little more transparency.

Inclusivity:

This brand is yet another woman-owned and operated one!

Available: Cult of Coquette

HOW WE FOUND THESE ETHICAL AND VEGAN HEELS

Looking for the best sustainable fashion brands means looking at not just sustainable fabrics, but also how those are transformed into products like ethical heels. 

Materials: 

Ethical and vegan heels can be made from a range of materials—some great and some not-so-great. 

We ideally look for natural materials like organic cotton, cork fabric, natural rubber, algae foam, and some vegan leather alternatives like Pinatex and apple leather (though the latter are still not biodegradable because they’re coated in PU for durability).

When it comes to synthetic fabrics like PU (a type of plastic) and EVA foam, they do come with some environmental concerns, but are better than their alternatives—like highly toxic PVC. If you opt for these shoes, make sure they last a long time.

Though leather definitely has some concerns, we don’t automatically discount it (because it IS a very durable material). More on this below.

Supply chain and labor practices: 

Our feet might hurt after a long day in a pair of ethical black heels but our conscience can feel good about significantly higher-than-fair wages or 100% living wages, support for independent artisans (especially women), family-owned factories, and brands that provide healthcare, training opportunities, and safe working environments.

Green business practices: 

While ethical supply chains were the main focus for this roundup, many brands are also making use of carbon offset programs, circular programs to recycle/donate shoes, efforts to reduce waste and water and chemical use, and closed-loop manufacturing processes.

Inclusivity:

Great to see woman-founded and Black-owned brands! 

Footwear can also be very expensive, especially ethically-made footwear, so it’s nice to see sale sections and other ways these shoes are made a bit more accessible for all budgets.

Community & charitable giving: 

We love it when brands make donations to social impact or environmental causes or provide paid employee volunteer days.


VEGAN LEATHER HEELS VS ETHICAL LEATHER HEELS

The leather vs vegan leather debate is a tricky one. 

For some, the animal welfare concerns make vegan leather the clear winner. For others, the environmental impact and limited durability of synthetic materials is a big no-no.

Fortunately, vegan leather can be the foundation for eco friendly heels, especially when it’s made from plant-based materials like Pinatex, cork, and apple leather.

And, while it’s still made from fossil fuels, polyurethane (PU) contains significantly fewer chemicals, and isn’t composed of materials that can wreak havoc on our hormone or endocrine system. It’s also far less toxic to soil and water and can even be recycled. 

For heels that will be worn for decades to come, natural ethical leather provides the most durable option. It’s best to look for vegetable-dyed or at least chrome-free leather, as it’s free of many of the toxins and heavy metals typically found in leather. 

Traceable leather that’s sourced as a byproduct from the food industry is an arguably better option. Recycled leather is clearly the best option! 

Some brands could certainly stand to be more transparent on their leather manufacturing, so we’ll be updating this article as we find out more.


FINAL THOUGHTS ON ETHICAL HEELS

For some occasions, there’s no better pair of shoes than heels… as long as they’re not stepping on anyone’s toes (besides your dance partner’s, of course!).

To make your new footwear even more ethical, first have a look for a secondhand pair from one of the many online thrift stores. But when an upgrade is necessary, however, consider supporting one of these ethical heels brands

Now it’s high time you hit the town, so strap on those vegan black high heels to match your little black fair trade dress! But a night out is always more fun with friends, so be sure to share this article with them so we can all strut our conscious stuff.


We should be keeping our heels, heads, and standards high. Which is why dressing up with ethical heels is much more glamorous! Image by Nisolo #ethicalheels #sustainablejungle

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