Welcome to the wonderful time of the year where we finally banish our sneakers and boots to the back of the wardrobe. (Hell, toss your socks in too – you won’t need them.) For the next two months, we’re only interested in shoes that are suitable for taking us between bodies of water.
While this all sounds utterly enjoyable, things can get tricky when you try to find a stylish shoe that is open-toed, as well as sustainable. Shoes in general are a bit of a pain point for us. The most common materials found in sandals and slides include leather, polyester, rubber, foam and plastic. These don’t exactly wave a green flag for the environment as they nearly always come from fossil fuel derivatives.
By our criteria, footwear made from natural, biodegradable or recycled materials is more sustainable than regular shoes. Be careful though: products labelled vegan or eco don’t automatically get our tick of approval as they tend to still contain virgin plastics or materials made using petroleum. When thinking for our feet, we also look for brands with end-of-life solutions to their products or a core focus on circularity (the reuse or recycling of materials at the end of life).
We’ll admit it’s hard to find a product that fulfils all these environmental wishes – but some do exist. If you’re looking for a new pair of sandals or slides this season, here are five that we approve of.
We love to see a brand take a waste issue and return a stylish solution – which is exactly what Indosole has done with car tyres. Each year, 1.5 billion tyres are discarded worldwide. Founder Kyle Parsons came up with the idea of turning used tyres into shoe soles after a trip to Indonesia in 2004. Since then, the brand has prevented over 100,000 tyres from entering landfills, giving them new life as soles for its footwear. We admire the commitment to upcycling and circularity, as well as Indosole’s innovative shoemaking process.
Indosole’s collection covers a variety of styles, including thongs, slides and cross slider sandals. These cross platform slides and the slides with contrast stitch have definitely made it onto our summer essentials list.
Team RIISE are very much team Nelson Made. We’ve swooned over its heels and boots, and now, as we head into warmer weather, we’re fixing a longing gaze directly on its flats. We’ve stared particularly hard at the Rae Sandal (in honey or black) made from certified recycled leather. There are of course pros and cons to this: leather is an animal product and this industry does have a rather hefty impact on the environment. But there is positive weight to the fact that the post-manufacture waste leather used by Nelson Made would otherwise end up in landfill, is a virgin leather replacement and is infinitely recyclable.
VIVAIA is on a mission to create shoes that are comfortable to wear, stylish and sustainably made. It’s achieving these things by employing modern technology (such as 3D printing) to reduce waste, using recycled and natural materials where possible and packaging products in 100 per cent recycled cardboard. The VIVAIA shoes that have caught our eye are these Chaya Round-Toe Slides, available in classic black, white or pink. Though there are some virgin materials used (PU foam which is derived from crude oil), the uppers are made from recycled plastic bottles and the outsoles are made from carbon-free rubber.
If you’re looking for a bolder, dare we say chunkier, shoe to step out in this summer, then GANNI has you covered with its recycled rubber velcro sandal. The brand is upfront about the fact that only 50 per cent of the shoe is made from pre-consumer recycled rubber (the rest is made from virgin rubber). But we feel this is still a step in the right direction as that pre-consumer rubber would otherwise be treated as waste. GANNI is a good example of a brand that is doing some good, but knows that it still has ways to go. In a bid to lower its environmental impact, it has introduced over 30 responsible initiatives including a take-back scheme, a rental platform and integrating more certified, organic and recycled fabrics into its collections.
As a brand unafraid to mix luxury with sustainability, we’re not surprised to see Stella McCartney slide into this list. The Air Slide recycled canvas flip flops are the shoes that have caught our attention, providing a simple, understated and practical staple to add to your wardrobe this season. These are the designer’s first shoes crafted from repurposed manufacturing waste: the straps are woven from recycled canvas, while the soles are made with reused phylon foam for cushion and comfort.