Easily transition-able from brunch to the office to happy hour, a good pair of ethical flats can be the ultimate versatile footwear in your closet.
Finding a good pair of sustainable and fair-made flats, though, is certainly not as easy as hopping over to the discount shoe store down the street. But that’s why I’ve curated this short and sweet guide to seven brands with well-made, earth-friendly, and ethical flats to help you on your hunt for that perfect pair you’ll wear well for years to come.
Note that this guide includes partners and affiliates. As always, brands featured in shopping guides are brands I love and which meet high standards for sustainability!
Looking for an online marketplace to find a wide selection of ultra-chic, consciously-made flats that are pre-vetted all in one place?
You’re in luck because the top spot on our list is just that! ourCommonplace is a WOC-owned retailer with beautiful flats that just so happen to be ethically and sustainably-made.
You can find everything from eco-friendly vegan flats to artisan-made leather flats, elegant going-out flats to casual everyday flats, and sleek minimal flats to delicately embroidered flats from this conscious retailer.
Materials: Piñatex (pineapple leaves), upcycled tires, sustainably-sourced teak wood, cork, algae foam, recycled yarn, locally-sourced leather, and more
Sick of sacrificing comfort to wear beautiful shoes? Rothy’s is the brand you’ve been waiting for. Committed to incredible comfort, Rothy’s signature sustainable material is designed to be instantaneously wearable (i.e. no break-in required)—say bye, bye to those dreaded first-wear blisters.
My mom has Rothy’s flats and she proclaims them to be the comfiest pair she’s ever owned—so much so, she had to buy a second pair and is excited to gift them to friends and family this Christmas.
Materials: Repurposed plastic water bottles, bio-based algae Strobel boards (aka the spot under the insoles), insoles are made with bio-based castor oil and recycled materials, outsoles are made from either carbon-free rubber or a vegan leather (unsure what exactly this material is)
Another eco shoe brand dedicated to comfort, Allbirds’ creates lightweight, super smooth and breathable flats made from earth-minded materials. The shoes are also soft enough to wear without socks (don’t worry, these shoes are washable!)
I haven’t tried Allbirds’ Tree Breezer Flats, but if they’re anything like their sneakers they are sure to be the comfiest shoes you’ll ever own. And given the 200+ positive reviews on Allbirds tree breezers, I think this assumption is correct!
Materials: the mesh knit is made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus pulp, the insoles are made from merino wool and castor bean oil, and the shoe’s soles are made from SweetFoam™, a carbon-negative eco EVA made from Brazilian sugarcane.
4. Made Trade
Made Trade, the curated online destination for all things fashion, home & lifestyle, has a fantastic array of fair-made flats for any occasion. From ballet flats responsibly handmade in India to loafers crafted using centuries-old techniques in Turkey, Made Trade has one exceptional selection of ethical flats.
Made Trade also offsets 100% of the carbon emissions from shipping their products to you, so every shipment is carbon neutral, too.
Materials: responsibly-sourced leather; varies by brand
If you’re seeking a quality pair of classic, fair trade flats ideal for your capsule wardrobe, Nisolo has you covered. The ethical fashion brand has beautiful, neutral-hued flats ethically handmade in Peru by skilled shoemakers. Nisolo also has recently joined ABLE in the Lowest Wage Challenge publishing its lowest wages to spark more transparency in the fashion industry.
I have a pair of Nisolo sandals, and though they required some breaking in, they’re definitely built to last. My pair has lasted 100+ wears and is still going strong!
Root Collective’s high-quality, ethical flats are consciously handcrafted in independent workshops in Guatemala City and Pastores. The brand ensures responsible production by working with small workshops and requiring transparent practices. Shoemakers making Root Collective’s shoes earn 50-100% above Guatemala’s Fair Trade minimum.
Materials: Leather upper and lining, rubber outsole
Price: $$ (Use code CONSCIOUS20 for 20% off!)
A true ethical fashion innovator, ABLE continually pushes for more transparent fashion production practices. One of the most recent initiatives from the brand is their Lowest Wage Challenge, where they’re publishing the lowest wages in their supply chain.
I actually visited the brand’s Nashville headquarters and jewelry workshop and it was pretty incredible getting a glimpse inside the brand’s day-to-day operations and vision for the future.
Oh, and their ethical flats are gorgeous too!
Materials: Suede uppers, leather insoles
BONUS: The RealReal (Resale)
TheRealReal sells designer shoes at a fraction of the cost — monetarily and environmentally. Not only does shopping used reduce the amount of waste generated by the fashion industry by extending the life of a pair of shoes that could be headed to the landfill, but it prevents shoppers from demanding so much new stuff from brands.
Even if you haven’t embraced the idea of secondhand shoes yet, one scroll through TheRealReal’s well-curated designer selection just might have you changing your mind…
Materials: Variety (a lot of leather), all pre-loved
Price: $- $$$$+
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