Natural Alternatives to Leather Shoes

By Maria Victoria Malela. Updated: January 16, 2017
Natural Alternatives to Leather Shoes

When we think of leather, we think 'style', 'elegance', 'fashion statement'. Leather shoes have been considered high fashion for hundreds of thousands of years because of how comfortable they are, their practicability, durability and of course, their beauty. From antiquity to modern days, leather shoes have evolved following cultural trends and adapting to new designs. Their wide variety has taken over the market, going from simple sandals to athletic or sophisticated designer shoes. However, in a world that is rapidly changing to become more ecologically and ethically conscious, as well as active threats like pollution and people's exposure to dangerous chemicals during the manufacturing process, suggest that it might be time to look for natural alternatives to leather shoes. So what are some of these natural alternatives? OneHowTo explores the question and offers options.

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Cork leather

Water-resistant and eco-friendly, cork comes from cork oak trees. Cork fabric or cork leather is produced from thin cork shavings, directly obtained from the bark of the tree. It's flexible, hypoallergenic and dust repellent.

Natural Alternatives to Leather Shoes - Cork leather

Vegan leather

Vegan leather is another natural alternative to leather shoes. It is made out of different microfibers. There is a variety of types of vegan leather available on the market- among them are vegetan, lorica, birko-flor, birkibuc, pvc (polyvinyl chloride) and kydex. Some alternatives, such as polyvinyl chloride are more detrimental to the environment, however other safer options offer a visually indistinguishable choice.

Recycled rubber

Recycled car tyres are a popular material among natural alternatives to leather shoes. In a more conscious approach, more brands like Timberland are choosing to partner up with a tyre manufacturer and distributor in order to recycle tyres into footwear.

Natural Alternatives to Leather Shoes - Recycled rubber


Ultrasuede was invented by Miyoshi Okamato, from Toray Industries in 1970 and refers to a synthetic microfiber fabric. It combines polyester and polyurethane - a component which is also used in the manufacture of high-resilience foam seating. Easily cleanable and resistant, Ultrasuede is versatile, comfortable in any climate and feels like natural suede leather.

Natural Alternatives to Leather Shoes - Ultrasuede

Faux crocodile and 'fake snake'

Made from 100% vinyl, both faux crocodile and 'fake snake' come in different colors. They are durable, stylish and easy to take care of. They are also strong fabrics.

Cotton canvas

Cotton shoes come in different styles - sneakers, sandals, flats or high heels. Brands like Vans, Converse and Roxy made canvas cotton fashionable. They are easy to maintain, breathable and light.

Natural Alternatives to Leather Shoes - Cotton canvas

Towards conscious consumption

Natural alternatives to leather can now be more easily found for a wide range of prices and styles. More major brands are bending towards developing a more ethical approach to shoe wear. Natural alternatives to leather shoes are also more affordable when compared to leather. They represent sustainability and conscious consumption.

If you want to read similar articles to Natural Alternatives to Leather Shoes, we recommend you visit our Fashion & Style category.

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