I’ve already written my two cents on shoes and a minimalist wardrobe. I don’t have a perfect formula, but I do have a few thoughts about comfort and quality. (You can read all about that here.)
While my current personal collection is motley mix of shoes from both conventional and ethical sources, I thought it might be nice to point out seasonal options for folks looking to grow their own collection of shoes with an eye toward sustainability and ethical production.
As always, I’m not suggesting throwing all of your shoes to the curb and filling up your closet with new ones. But should new summer sandals be something that you need, and in case you’re on the hunt for a pair that’s been thoughtfully made, here’s a list of summer shoes—dress up and casual—that I’ve come across that might fit the bill.
Bryr Clogs: It’s no secret that I love a nice pair of clogs. If I were to invest in a new pair, I’d choose one of the stunners from SF-based Bryr clogs. Their shapes are super elegant and I love the attention to detail and the colors of the leathers that they use. I think the Hannah Spanish Toe Sandal is my favorite. All of their clogs are made to order; custom orders available. Made in the USA.
Marais USA: For the vegans in the crowd, these guys have your back. I wore a pair of their faux patent-leather oxfords to my wedding going on four years ago. It was their colorful collection of slides that really caught my eye this year. Founder and designer Haley Boyd moved her production (and herself) to LA last year. (Follow her instagram account for a daily movie starlet vibe and peeks behind-the-scenes.) Made in the USA.
Mohinders: I met founder Michael Paratore in New York this spring and he sent me home with a pair of his City Slippers to try. I admit they took some getting used to. I kept flinging them off my feet at first, but they’ve since fully molded to my feet and I never want to take them off. I’ve worn them almost exclusively since coming home from France. Not dressy, definitely comfy. (Shown above.) Ethically made in India.
Nisolo: I’ve found the solution to my summer (and winter!) dress shoe woes in Nisolo. The Nashville-based company makes their shoes ethically in Peru. I purchased a pair of their Elizabeth Slides to wear to weddings this summer and they’ve been so comfortable and easy to wear. Worth noting: Their shipping and returns process is unusually friendly and efficient. Ethically made in Peru.
Proud Mary: This Charleston-based brand works with global artisans to execute modern designs using traditional methods. They’ve worked with artisans from Morocco for a number of years to produce romantic raffia sandals for summertime. This year, their strappy sandals are my favorite. Ethically made globally.
Zuzii: I first learned about these guys after admiring their very elegant baby shoes, but have since fallen for their line of shoes for grown-ups. Their lace-up sneakers and sandals look especially wonderful. All of their shoes are handmade to order; custom orders also available. Made in the USA.
Any others I should know about?
PS. I get tons of questions about the Saltwater Sandals I wear. I love them—they were one of two pairs of shoes I brought with me to France—but they don’t win any particular prizes for sustainability beyond their ability to last for really a long time. (No small feat!)
Thanks for the great list! Summer shoes are so hard, because you wear them so little of the year, but you wear them every. single. day. (At least, I do!) A good pair of sandals that can last for years is definitely worth investing in!
Another place I’d recommend is ELF:
They have beautiful leather shoes and bags (so unfortunately not for the vegans among us) that are ethically made by hand in Bali. The company uses small batch production to cut down on energy usage, and their packaging products are all recycled materials.
Thanks for the recommendation!
I just got an email yesterday saying my pair of Annabelle Peep-Toe clogs are on their way to me from Bryr Studio! Cannot wait! One thing to note about Bryr clogs: they do run large – my first pair had to go back in exchange for something smaller (which was an easy process, by the way). Thanks for the round-up, Erin 🙂
Lucky!! Hope you love them!
Aurora Shoe Company! They have sandals and cooler-weather shoes but they are all handmade to order in upstate New York. They are a bit of an investment but they are so comfortable and worth it.
Ah, yes! Such a sweet company!
I’d never heard of Zuzii, but wow those shoes are so beautiful! Sneaker lust going on over here.
I have been thrilled with my Allbirds wool joggers! The company started as a Kickstarter and is making one product really well – lightweight, washable, casual joggers made from sustainable New Zealand wool. I have the natural grey color and it looks great with everything. We are in the midst of a steamy, nasty, Southern summer, and even at eight months pregnant, my feet are dry and reasonably not-hot. 🙂
Yes! I have the grey ones too, but I wear them mostly for brisk morning walks 😉
I wear my Allbirds (also grey;-) without socks all day, every Friday volunteering at a Houston wildlife rehab. They are super comfortable and my feet are neither hot nor stinky! I love them.
Sseko sandals! Empowering women in Uganda by buying handmade leather sandals which are pretty, fun, comfortable and durable – I can’t recommend them enough!
Shop Sevilla! I splurged for these and get compliments every single time I wear them. They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned (usually I need sole padding even for flats but these are the exception). Handmade in Philadelphia.
Cosigning Bryr as well – super comfortable and unique. Very very well made.
ETA: Sevilla Smith is the actual name of the etsy shop. Oops!
Hi! I am hoping to purchase a pair of Sandy shoes from Sevilla Smith. I am a little concerned about how well they hold up and am struggling to find reviews that speak to this. Would you mind sharing how your shoes are doing after having them a while? Thanks!
Hi Morgan, I have two pairs of Sandys that I’ve worn consistently over the past 6-8 months. They are a total dream and genuinely the highest quality make of a shoe I’ve ever seen. When I brought it in to my cobbler to renew the sole, he was amazed at the craftsmanship. The leather softens to mould to your foot, and the sole is so comfortable. I added a topy/rubber layer to add grip and increase its lifespan. They look good as new despite my regular wear (1-2 times a week for several hours) , and I’ve no doubt they’ll age beautifully.
I actually have a question about them too- have you found that the leather is getting thinner? I’m reasonably hard on my shoes (walk a few miles per day back and forth and at work) and I’m concerned they may be too thin to hold up!
Hiya, the leather is softer but definitely not thinner. It feels and appears to be a very durable shoe!
That being said, it may be best for you to email Faye @ Sevilla Smith directly with your concerns. She’s very responsive and helpful, and I’m certain she can give you advice on that front. Perhaps she can point you towards her hardier leathers?
They dont:( i sold mine a week after order was delivered. One size was too big the other one was too smallmy herl forced inside made the hell support wrinkle. I reslly lobed tje look amd wantrd so badly to wear them and at the end i lost hald
Money as i had to sell themnewrly half price:/ so not for everyone unfortunately
I bought a pair of Zuzii’s Classic sandals this summer and they are wonderful! They’re also very friendly and let me return the first too-small pair and made me a new pair.
So lovely. It’s such a different experience to shop from small businesses, isn’t it?
I love your Mohinders! How much do you need to articulate your foot to keep them on? (Twenty years of teaching yoga and a few stress fractures have yielded cranky feet!)
They’re really super comfortable. I needed to wear them a good ten times or so to have them really mold to my feet, but now they don’t require any special attention to keep them on!
You should definitely know about Nicora Shoes! They are a vegan shoe line that is all exclusively made in LA, and all of their materials are sourced in the US!
Immediately after seeing your recommendation a while back for the Saltwater Sandals, I couldn’t resist that affordable price so I purchased them right away. I’ve been in need of some durable sandals to wear as my feet swell this summer (due to heat AND being in my third trimester of pregnancy)… Now I wear them nearly every day and they have been a lifesaver! Almost none of my shoes fit my feet anymore, and I can’t justify spending any money on new, comfy shoes while my feet are expanding.
So to any readers who are pregnant or happen to have wide feet in general, the Saltwater Sandals are the perfect affordable solution!
I’m sure they’re not made sustainably, but Birkenstocks last forever! And that’s an important part of sustainability, too. Because you can reseal the cork and replace the soles, they last me, with daily summer wear, for about 15 years. Can’t do without them.
Also, would someone please explain vegan leather to me. How does plastic (which is essentially what it is), which destroys the planet (and a destroyed planet would definitely not be good for animals), get one moral brownie points? I’m not trying to pick a fight here, but I really don’t understand this concept. Why not stick to fabric shoes if one’s vegan?
It’s a complicated web we weave, isn’t it? Agreed on the longevity point!
There are some really great companies making vegan shoes, such as Nicora Shoes (http://nicorashoes.com/), and I would encourage you to read about their sustainability practices. For example, their sandals are made from materials as varied as recycled x-ray film to recycle ketchup bottles. I think as with most things, there are companies making vegan shoes in a sustainable way and companies making cheap plastic shoes that are just as terrible for the environment as the chemicals used to dye traditional leather shoes.
Thanks so much for sharing, Megan!
Thank you for the clarification, Megan.
Thanks so much for the recommendation of Bryr. When I was in high school in the late 90s/early 2000s, I bought a (cheap) pair of corduroy and (faux) wooden clogs from Old Navy. I absolutely loved them and finally got rid of them when the heel cracked. The shoe guy said he couldn’t fix it because it wasn’t real wood.
I’ve never been able to find a pair, but I may just have to splurge on a lovingly made, authentic pair of clogs.
Pons Avarcas! I’ve been wanting them forever. Haven’t actuallly bought them yet but I hear they’re crazy comfortable.
Yes! In my original shoe post. Love mine (very comfy!).
Hi Erin, how would you compare the fit, comfort and durability of your Saltwaters vs Avarcas?
They’re really different sandals, so it’s a little hard to compare. The saltwaters are designed to get wet, so that makes them a little better for wet weather, but both are super durable and comfy, just totally different looks!
Ah! I was hoping someone would mention these. I’ve been beating around the bush on buying my first pair. I know I’d get good wear out of them, since I live in Texas where the weather is seasonable for so long.
And I’ve never worn Saltwater Sandals, but I buy them every March for my son. I get them a size larger than what he needs and he can wear those babies until late October. Yes, please!
Jealous – these are super cute. Old Lady Erin here can’t wear flat foot soled shoes anymore because of hip bursitis. Whimper.
I haven’t researched their sustainability, but these are my summer shoes.
My first pair lasted through seven years of hard wear; I believe my second pair will as well. They’re a little more…um…outdoorsy than what you usually seem to like, but they’re just right for me.
I LIVE in my Chacos from March to October every year. They’re great shoes!
I’ve been wanting a pair of Mohinders for sometime now but my needs come dead last with our tight budget these days. Dreaming of shuffling my feet around in Mohinders in my nest. Enjoy yours!
Les Tropeziennes: http://www.rondini.fr/en/
Love this post! My local shoemaker continually blows me away with how cheap and easy fixes are. Shoes last for years with his help! I also thought I wouldn’t be into open-toed clogs until I clicked on the Hannah Spanish Toe Sandal– gorgeous.
While this is more autumn/ winter, I love Frye boots for lasting literally forever. I have a vintage pair of my mom’s that still look great. Not sure about their sustainability though…
Thanks again for the thoughtful post, as always! I am a first-time commenter but long-time reader. Your blog has encouraged me rethink my habits and make conscious efforts to curb my desire for ‘more’.
Thanks for your kind words, Alison!! Agreed: finding a good cobbler is priceless!
I love Sabahs. Madewell has a few now in stock but his shop/showroom is in the East Village, run out of his apartment! You can go during open hours or make an appointment. The colors are seasonal. I bought my first pair this year for my birthday, a gold pair with blue undertones. I wear them at least 3 or 4 times a week.
Long socks or tights – I have jeans, trousers and skirts and I’m trying to decide which of these would be most practical if I had to choose just one kind. For the most part, with the exception of heels and skirts, I emulate how men dress, which is very simplistic. For instance I wear a silk cami and silk boxer under my clothes during the day and then remove my clothes and sleep in the cami and boxer at night, just like the guys do with their T-shirts and boxers. What are your thoughts on long socks vs tights?.
Where do you get your cami/boxer?
Just discovered http://www.naturalworldeco-shop.com for those living across the Atlantic! Haven’t fully delved into a complete investigation of practices, but they seem to be super focused on not only materials (organic cotton!) but also eco friendly production methods. Also, at great price points!
Hoping to purchase some locally soon! ..a bit late to add to this comment feed, but maybe for anyone revisiting this post 😉
Sorry, I know this is a very late comment, but does anyone have any suggestions for shoes like this for wide feet? I really want to buy fewer better things, but I really struggle to find high quality shoes and clothes that fit my non-standard body. A lot of shoemakers say “our leather will stretch to fit your feet”, which is probably true, but if your feet overhang the sides too much, the sides wear through quickly…
Erin — I’ve been thinking about a pair of Mohinders since I fist saw this post! I’m wondering, do you find the City Slippers stay on your feet well enough to wear communing? I’m worried about the slippers, well, slipping. Nothing like a pair of flats that stay on your feet without the work of weary toe muscles!
Hi Annie! I would choose the woven City Slippers! The solid ones take quite a bit of working in, but the woven ones mold to your feet nearly immediately. I’ve not had trouble with slipping!
Hi! I’m looking for some fairly comfortable and cool shoes/sandals to wear in Europe this summer. Keep in mind, I’ll be walking 8-17 miles a day. Would you suggest Mohinders for that purpose? Maybe not the slipper version, but the shoe in general?
Thanks so much! Love your blog!
Totally depends on your personal preferences and how long you have to get used to them. I’m hesitant to recommend any brand-new shoes for a trip where you’ll be doing so much walking, but with a bit of time to get used to them, anything’s possible!
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