If you’re concerned about animal welfare then it’s pretty obvious you should be steering clear of leather products. No matter how you look at it the leather industry causes a huge amount of unnecessary suffering and death to animals. Thankfully for our feet (and our animal friends) there are now plenty of synthetic shoe options… but they still might not be completely vegan. Did you know that a lot of shoes use glue made from animal connective tissue, bones and sometimes dairy products? As avid hikers and explorers our feet are pretty important to us but so are our morals. For a long time we’ve been on the look out and finally we found some affordable vegan hiking shoes, plus, they’re bloody awesome!
Leather alternatives aren’t anything new, they’ve been around for quite some time. Because of this it’s easy to pick up a pair of leather-free hiking shoes and quite often for a good price as the materials are cheaper. However, it quickly came to light that manufacturers were using animal products in the glue and this made things slightly harder. To find 100% vegan hiking shoes is no easy feat and the shoe manufacturers know this. You can find vegan options but the prices are often sky high considering the quality. As we’re pretty crazy about hiking and the outdoors it was important to find a cruelty free solution.
After a lot of searching we came across the Chameleon Wrap Slam from Merrell which ticked all the boxes. Don’t worry you can find them much cheaper at different shops, we’ve listed them further down. Since Christmas they’ve really been put to the test. They’ve been worn in hot and cold conditions, wet and dry, on hiking trails, on cycle tours and for everyday use (basically they haven’t been taken off). And, the end result is… they’re pretty damn good. I’ve spoken with many other vegans who wanted affordable vegan hiking shoes so I thought I’d write this to let you all know.
Why are they so good?
For me, most importantly, the low ankle shoes are incredibly comfortable with a nice cushioned heel and lacing which hugs your feet. There’s also an elasticated band on the inside, from the sole to the tongue, keeping your feet snug even if your laces loosen.
Because of the materials and ventilation the shoes are very lightweight and breathable. I loved this because even after working up a sweat your feet stay nice and cool (plus your feet don’t pong). At 482g you don’t feel weighed down like other hiking boots and this really helped keep a spring in my step on longer hikes.
Considering the light build there’s a good amount of protection and toe cushioning for knocks against rocks. The sturdy build means you feel secure and make for a hard wearing, long lasting vegan hiking shoe. The Vibram rubber outer sole has awesome tred and gives good grip on all surfaces from mossy rock faces to dusty trails. The materials are fast drying too so they air out quickly after a wet walk.
Want to know why you should be choosing vegan? Click here…
Another thing that sticks out is the brand. Merrell shoes are always reliable, after owning a lot of their regular shoes in the past I knew the quality would be good. They’re also recommended by PETA which is a big brownie point! For me it’s always a huge bonus buying gear from a company you already know because you know what to expect. As soon as I saw they had a low ankle hiking shoe made from completely vegan materials I knew I had to give em a try.
And on to a crucial point: the cost. This is something which has put me off a lot of other hiking shoes. I bought mine for £55 which is I think is great value for such a versatile shoe. Because of the high quality materials even if you give the shoes a battering they’ll last a long time.
Aren’t Gore-Tex shoes better?
Whilst Gore-tex technology is great for making shoes waterproof, it’s not the best option for all environments. As the material means water can’t seep in, it also means water can’t get out. If you step in a puddle and and water goes down your ankle then Gore-Tex shoes will hold the water inside. The same applies to the sweat from your feet whilst you’re working hard. Mmm, puddles of sweat…
These vegan hiking shoes are permeable and allow water (and sweat) to leave, so you won’t be walking around with puddles in your shoes. This also allows more air to your feet and means your don’t end up with clammy feet after a long day. Even so, I’ve warn these hiking shoes in seriously wet conditions and I was very happy with how dry it kept my feet even without the Gore-Tex lining.
So these vegan hiking shoes are just good for the outdoors?
With the low ankle, style and colour options (from bright colours to black and grey) these are great for everyday shoes too. They’re comfortable to wear all day around town or at work without being weighed down but they also offer enough support and protection for long distance hikes and the outdoors. I’d recommend them to anyone looking for a comfortable vegan shoe, they just also have the bonus of being adventure ready.
Is there anything bad about them?
I wouldn’t use a low ankle shoe for very cold conditions or hiking in the snow. For this I would definitely opt for higher ankle boots with more insulation. Also because of the rigid outer sole they’re not great for cycling in wet weather as your feet can slip on the peddles. They’re absolutely fine for work commutes or for shorter cycle trips but I wouldn’t use them for cycle tours.
If anything I would say they are better suited to wider feet, however, unless your feet are exceptionally narrow they should be great. Also, they come up fractionally smaller than other shoes, so consider buying a half size bigger especially for longer hikes if your feet are likely to swell. With all hiking shoes it’s definitely best to try them on first, here are some places which stock them; Sports Direct, Go Outdoors.
Do you need a vegan shoe?
Personally, I think if you care about animal welfare then wearing animal products is no different to eating them. Enough light has been shed on the leather industry to know that their practises are extremely cruel and inhumane. Now that we know about the animal products in glue I think it’s important to make a stand and find alternatives.
Years ago, finding vegan hiking shoes was a) very difficult and b) very expensive. Times have changed and now you can have affordable quality and comfort but without the cruelty. We can encourage the clothing industry to move towards ethical products by supporting the ethical products they already have.
If you don’t think these are the shoes for you, here’s a wicked article on how to spot other vegan shoes in the shop
These shoe from Merrell tick all the boxes and do exactly what they say on the tin. They’re very versatile and whilst it is perfect for your adventures outdoors it’s also great for indoor comfort and at work. At £55 at many shops there’s no longer the excuse of vegan hiking shoes being difficult to find or too expensive.
Don’t stop at veganism, go green!
At Veggie Vagabonds we’re always trying to take more steps towards sustainable lifestyles. When buying new clothes I’ll always think whether I really need them first. Then I’ll try and find a good quality pair second hand as the clothing industry (vegan or not) is a terrible contributor to global pollution. In the UK you can find great quality outdoor gear in second hand shops, on Ebay and Gumtree. If there’s something you need specifically go and ask the staff at charity shops. If you’re nice they might take you behind the scenes to look at all the extra stock!