Best Sustainable Sandals: 5 Brands Walking Towards a Greener Future

Derek Ma Oct 17, 2023
12 People Read
Table of Contents
  1. The Drawbacks of Traditional Sandals
  2. Sustainable Materials for Sandals
  3. The Leather Working Group (LWG)
  4. What is EVA? And is it Sustainable?
  5. Long-lasting design and durability
  6. 1. All Birds
  7. 2. Native Shoes
  8. 3. Nisolo
  9. 4. Message
  10. 5. NAE
  11. Why You Should Trust My Website:
  12. Final Thoughts on Sustainable Sandals

In today's fast-paced and consumer-driven world, it's becoming increasingly important to make mindful choices when it comes to our fashion and footwear. 

As the demand for eco-friendly and ethical products rises, sustainable options have made their way into the footwear industry, and that includes sandals! 

Whether you're lounging on the beach, strolling through the city, or walking on a hiking trail, sustainable sandals offer comfort, style, and peace of mind for those who are environmentally conscious.

When we talk about sustainable sandals, we're referring to footwear that is designed and manufactured with the environment in mind. 

These sandals are crafted using sustainable materials such as recycled or upcycled fabrics, plant-based materials like organic cotton or hemp, and even innovative materials like Piñatex (made from pineapple leaves) or vegan leather. 

Additionally, sustainable sandal brands prioritize fair labor practices and often support local artisans and communities, ensuring that the entire supply chain is ethically responsible.

By choosing sustainable sandals, you not only reduce your carbon footprint but also support a move towards a more circular economy. 

So, let's buckle up - or rather, strap on those sustainable sandals - and take a step towards a more sustainable future together!

The Drawbacks of Traditional Sandals

Traditional sandals, while widely popular and readily available, often come with several drawbacks that make them less-than-optimal for sustainability. 

One of the main concerns with traditional sandals lies in their production process. Many traditional sandals are made using materials that have harmful effects on the environment, such as synthetic materials derived from fossil fuels or leather sourced from animals raised for their skin. 

The manufacturing of these materials contributes to air and water pollution, as well as deforestation in the case of leather production. If you do end up buying leather sandals, make sure the brand sources its leather from a certified Leather Working Group tannery. 

Additionally, traditional sandals are typically designed to be disposable or have a short lifespan, resulting in excessive waste generation. 

Their low quality and lack of durability often lead to frequent replacements, thus perpetuating a cycle of resource consumption and waste accumulation.

Another drawback of traditional sandals is their limited comfort and support. Often mass-produced without much consideration for ergonomics, these sandals may not provide the necessary arch support, cushioning, or proper alignment for the feet.

This can lead to foot pain, discomfort, and even contribute to long-term foot problems. Moreover, in the production of traditional sandals, labor standards and workers' rights are frequently overlooked. 

This can involve harsh working conditions, low wages, and exploitation of vulnerable communities, particularly in developing countries where many of these sandals are produced.

Fortunately, the rise of sustainable fashion has paved the way for the development of alternatives to traditional sandals. 

Sustainable Materials for Sandals

When it comes to sustainable fashion, considering the materials used in our footwear is just as important as the clothes we wear. 

Sandals, being a popular choice for warm weather, can be made from a variety of sustainable materials that minimize the environmental impact and promote ethical production practices.

One sustainable material option for sandals is cork. Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, which regenerates after each harvest, making it an eco-friendly choice. It is lightweight, water-resistant, and naturally cushioning, providing comfort for your feet while also being biodegradable.

Another sustainable material commonly used in sandals is recycled plastic. By utilizing post-consumer plastics, such as bottles and packaging materials, to create sandals, we reduce the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills or oceans. 

Recycled plastic sandals are also durable and can have the same lifespan as regular sandals while reducing the demand for virgin plastic.

For a more natural and earthy option, sugarcane and algae are innovative and sustainable choices. 

When choosing sandals, considering the materials used not only benefits the planet but also supports brands and companies that prioritize sustainability.

By opting for sandals made from cork, recycled plastic, sugarcane, or algae we can take small steps towards a more eco-friendly and ethical fashion future.

But what about leather?

The Leather Working Group (LWG) 

If you are going to buy leather products, make sure they are certified by the Leather Working Group (LWG).

The Leather Working Group (LWG) is an organization that aims to promote responsible environmental practices within the leather industry. 

Established in 2005, the LWG provides a framework and guidelines for assessing the environmental compliance and performance of leather manufacturers and suppliers worldwide. 

By implementing and adhering to the LWG's criteria, leather producers can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and transparency in their operations.

One of the core focuses of the Leather Working Group is environmental stewardship. 

The group encourages its members to implement eco-friendly practices throughout their supply chains, from raw material sourcing to manufacturing processes. 

This includes monitoring water and energy usage, managing waste disposal responsibly, and reducing the use of harmful chemicals in tanning processes. 

By adhering to these guidelines, companies can minimize their impact on the environment and work towards a more sustainable leather industry.

What is EVA? And is it Sustainable?

One material that you may have come across is EVA, which stands for Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate. 

EVA is a type of foam-like plastic material that has gained popularity in the footwear industry. 

Because EVA is plastic and non-biodegradable, it is not sustainable.  However, many sustainable footwear brands continue to use it for its unique properties and benefits.

One of the main characteristics of EVA is its flexibility. This material can be easily molded into various shapes and sizes, allowing for the creation of shoes with different designs and styles. 

Additionally, EVA is highly durable and resistant to wear and tear, making it perfect for shoes that are subjected to regular use and stress.

Another notable characteristic of EVA material is its unique cell structure.  The unique cell structure makes the material lightweight and gives it shock-absorbing capability so it can effectively absorb impact and provide excellent cushioning. 

This feature is particularly important in athletic shoes, as it helps to reduce the risk of injuries by minimizing the impact on joints and muscles during physical activities.

Furthermore, EVA material exhibits excellent water and moisture resistance. This characteristic is especially advantageous in footwear, as it helps to keep the feet dry and comfortable even in wet conditions. 

The water-resistant nature of EVA also makes it easier to clean and maintain the shoes, ensuring their longevity.

In addition to its functional properties, EVA material is also known for its versatility in terms of color and texture. It can be easily dyed, allowing shoe manufacturers to offer a wide range of vibrant and attractive colors.

Long-lasting design and durability

When it comes to sustainable sandals, one of the most important factors to consider is their long-lasting design and durability. 

Unlike fast fashion trends that come and go, sustainable sandals are built to withstand the test of time. 

Sustainable sandals are carefully crafted with sustainable and high-quality materials.

The focus on durability means that these sandals can withstand frequent wear and tear, allowing you to cherish them for years to come. 

Whether you're walking on sandy beaches or exploring rugged terrains, sustainable sandals are designed to endure various conditions without compromising style or functionality.

Not only do sustainable sandals promote conscious consumption, but they also contribute to reducing waste. 

Fast fashion often leads to a disposable culture where low-quality products are quickly discarded and end up in landfills. 

Furthermore, the enduring design of sustainable sandals transcends seasonal trends and fashion fads. 

These sandals are created with a timeless aesthetic, ensuring that they remain fashionable for years to come. 

By opting for a sustainable pair of sandals, you are not only investing in a durable and long-lasting piece but also making a statement that sustainability and style can coexist harmoniously.

All Birds Sandals

1. All Birds

Price: $20

Material: Sugar Sliders - Sweetfoam (sugarcane) and carbon-negative EVA, Webbing Straps made with 100% recycled polyester, finished with bio TPU strap end

Manufactured: Vietnam

Social and Environmental: B Corp Certified, Soles4Souls (helps get new shoes and clothing to people in crisis), Carbon offsets (Fund projects that neutralize carbon footprint), Fairtrade.

Sustainable Packaging: 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard that serves as a shoebox, shopping bag, and mailer all in one.

Transparency Score: 9 out of 10

Allbirds, an innovative footwear company, has taken the world by storm with its unique approach to design and sustainability.

From the beginning, Allbirds gained recognition for using merino wool, a renewable and biodegradable resource, in crafting their signature sneakers. 

This choice provided unparalleled comfort and significantly reduced the company's carbon footprint. 

As All Birds continued to grow, it expanded its range of materials, introducing eucalyptus tree fiber and sugarcane-based foam for even more sustainable options. 

Today, Allbirds is recognized as a leader in sustainable footwear, with a loyal customer base and numerous accolades. 

The brand's commitment to innovation, comfort, and environmental responsibility has set a new standard in the industry, inspiring other companies to follow suit and prioritize sustainability in their practices.

Native Sandals

2. Native Shoes

Price: $55 - 60

Material: Sugarlite (sugarcane based EVA blend material), Jefferson Bloom (Algae - Bloom Technology), toecap made with recycled materials

Manufactured: China and Vietnam

Social and Environmental: Remix Project - recycling initiative that recycles shoes for projects across the community (e.g. grind and repurpose the lightweight bouncy material for playgrounds)

Transparency Score: 7 out of 10

When it comes to summer footwear, finding the perfect balance between style and comfort can often be a challenge. 

However, Native Shoes Sandals have managed to crack the code with their innovative designs. 

These sandals are not only fashion-forward but also provide unparalleled comfort, making them an ideal choice for those long summer days.

In addition to their style and comfort, Native Shoes Sandals are also environmentally friendly. 

These sandals are made with sustainable materials, such as sugarcane and algae, reducing their impact on the environment. 

By choosing Native Shoes, you can look good while also doing your part for the planet.

Nisolo sandals

3. Nisolo

Price: $85 - 170

Material: Leather (Certified by leather working group), EVA

Manufactured: USA

Social and Environmental: Certified B Corporation, ensures living wage to factory workers, Carbon offsets (Fund projects that neutralize carbon footprint), 0% net carbon (verified by climate neutral certification), installed solar panels on Peru factory

Ensures living wage to 100% of the people creating products in their factory.

Transparency Score: 9 out of 10

If you want to buy leather sandals, Nisolo is the brand to buy them from. Nisolo sources their leather from Leather Working Group certified suppliers.

Nisolo is a brand that has made significant strides in sustainability, positioning itself as a leader in ethical fashion.

From the sourcing of materials to the manufacturing process, Nissolo prioritizes transparency and environmental responsibility. 

Nisolo is also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.  They have invested in renewable energy sources and are continually exploring innovative ways to minimize their environmental impact. 

Through their dedication to sustainability, Nissolo sets an example for other fashion brands and demonstrates that style and sustainability can coexist harmoniously.

Message Sandals

4. Message

Price: $160

Material: Barecorked footbed (Made from unused and upcycled wine cork),  Rubber outsole

Manufactured: Hand-made by expert craftspeople in Portugal

Social and Environmental: Manufacturing and supply chain is short and low impact.  

Transparency Score: 7 out of 10

Message sandals are not only fashionable and comfortable, but they also have a positive impact on the environment. 

The use of cork as a material for sandals is an eco-friendly choice due to its sustainable nature. 

Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, which can be done without harming or killing the tree. 

This means that the trees can continue to grow and absorb carbon dioxide, contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

Additionally, cork is a renewable resource, as the bark of the cork oak tree regenerates every few years, making it a highly sustainable choice for footwear.

Another environmental benefit of cork sandals is their biodegradability. 

Unlike synthetic materials commonly used in footwear, such as plastic or rubber, cork is a natural material that can easily decompose over time. 

This reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and contributes to the overall pollution of the environment. 

Furthermore, cork is a highly durable material, which means that these Message cork sandals have a longer lifespan compared to other types of sandals. 

This durability reduces the need for frequent replacements, thereby minimizing the demand for new production and the associated environmental impact. 

Additionally, cork is resistant to moisture, making it an ideal choice for footwear, as it is less likely to develop mold or mildew, further extending its lifespan.

NAE sandals

5. NAE

Price: $97

Material: Upper and Straps (vegan leather crafted from sustainable microfibers), insole (rubber and organic cork), Rubber sole (recycled tires), Straps (Pinatex - Pineapple leaf fibers)

Manufactured: Portugal and Spain

Social and Environmental: Vegan leather (mixture of organic cotton, polyester, and nylon (recycled when possible)

Factories regulated by a hygiene, health, and safety protocol and a Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

Sustainable Packaging: 100% recyclable packaging

Transparency Score: 7 out of 10

One of the standout features of NAE is its commitment to sustainability. 

These sandals are made using high-quality vegan materials, such as cork, organic cotton, and recycled PET, ensuring that no harm is done to animals or the environment.

By choosing NAE sandals, you can take a step towards a more sustainable future without sacrificing style or comfort.

NAE sandals are not only environmentally friendly but also incredibly stylish. 

With a wide range of designs and colors, there is a perfect pair for every occasion. 

Whether you prefer a classic and timeless look or a more bold and vibrant style, NAE sandals have got you covered. 

From sandals with delicate straps to more sporty and casual options, you can find the perfect pair to complement your personal style.

Why You Should Trust My Website:

First and foremost, my educational background and qualifications contribute to my credibility on the topics I cover. 

I hold a bachelor's and master's degree in environmental science and have spent years studying and researching to develop a deep understanding of sustainable products and brands.


This expertise allows me to provide accurate and well-informed content.

Furthermore, my professional experience in the environmental industry adds to my credibility. Over the years, I have gained practical experience and insights through working in the government and private environmental sectors.

This hands-on experience allows me to offer practical advice and solutions to the challenges my readers may face, making my content more relatable and trustworthy.

Final Thoughts on Sustainable Sandals

Sustainable sandals are becoming increasingly popular as consumers seek more ethical and environmentally friendly options. 

With the rising awareness of the impact of fast fashion and the desire for more sustainable lifestyles, brands and market options for sustainable sandals have expanded. 

Many well-known brands have embraced sustainable practices and have included sustainable sandal options in their product ranges. 

These brands use materials such as recycled plastic, organic cotton, and vegan leather to create sandals with a lower carbon footprint and reduced environmental impact. 

Additionally, there are also several independent and niche brands that specialize in creating eco-friendly footwear. 

These brands often focus on handmade sandals crafted from natural and sustainable materials, ensuring not only minimal impact on the environment but also supporting local artisans and communities. 

Moreover, by supporting brands that produce sustainable sandals, consumers are directly contributing to the larger movement towards a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry.

This trend shows no signs of slowing down, as more and more consumers are becoming aware of the significant impact their purchase decisions can have on the environment. 

Ultimately, opting for sustainable sandals is a small yet impactful way to align personal style with eco-consciousness. 

By choosing footwear that is both fashionable and sustainable, individuals can showcase their commitment to preserving the planet while still enjoying all the benefits that quality footwear has to offer.

Table of Contents
  1. The Drawbacks of Traditional Sandals
  2. Sustainable Materials for Sandals
  3. The Leather Working Group (LWG)
  4. What is EVA? And is it Sustainable?
  5. Long-lasting design and durability
  6. 1. All Birds
  7. 2. Native Shoes
  8. 3. Nisolo
  9. 4. Message
  10. 5. NAE
  11. Why You Should Trust My Website:
  12. Final Thoughts on Sustainable Sandals