Back to School Shopping for Sustainable Kids’ Shoes

Back to school shopping. If you are a parent, it may be on your mind. Kids grow fast and often need new clothes and shoes. Last week we blogged about sustainability, and the week before we blogged about earth-friendly clothing for children and only briefly touched on earth-friendly shoes. Today, let’s explore shoe companies that make sustainable kicks for kids a bit more in-depth so you can make smart, earth-friendly back to school shopping choices.

Sustainable Kids’ Shoe Suggestions for Back to School Shopping (brands in alphabetical order):

Adidas has a sustainable line they are featuring for this year’s back to school shopping, some of which are in partnerships with other brands (like Lego). Adidas says all of the shoes in their sustainable line are made in part with “recycled content generated from production waste, e.gl cutting scraps, and post-consumer household waste to avoid the larger environmental impact of producing virgin content.” Recycled content varies by shoe model. But the Multix, LiteRacer, NMD_R, and the Kevin Lyons Original are all a part of this line.

BOGS’ marketing says they are easy on the eyes and 100 percent comfortable. For kids, they make winter boots, rain boots, and outdoor shoes (including slip ons called Kicker, which has an algae-based EVA footbed). The company offers a program where their boots can be donated back to the company and they will be refurbished and donated to outdoors-related nonprofits. (They also have a partnership with 4-H and offer a grants program to conservation and nature-related nonprofits and projects.)

Native Shoes makes shoes, boots and sandals and their goals is that by next year that 100 percent of the shoes they manufacture will be recycled at the end of their lives. (So far, they have made five playgrounds as part of their Remix Project). Native is also incorporating more biomaterials into the construction of its shoes, including a sugarcane-derived resin that helps to reduce greenhouse emissions by 22 percent. Their sustainable line is lightweight, mostly perforated (except for the sandals), and super colorful and fun.

children's shoe
Source: Plae
Max Imperial Garnet

Plae makes shoes to stand the test of time and active children. The shoes feature replaceable insoles and durable components with the intention that multiple children will wear the same shoe. Plae shoes come in sports styles, mary janes, boots, low tops, high tops, and waterproof varieties. All are made in solar-powered factories using recycled materials and water-based glues. The company also uses eco-friendly packaging and shoe stuffing materials.

Petit Nord uses vegetable tanned leather, 70 percent recycled rubber, and upcycled scraps to make their children’s’ shoes. Zippers used on their products come from recycled PET bottles, old fiber, and other polyester remnants and all of their products’ packaging comes from recycled cardboard and recycled paper. Petit Nord has a whole range of shoes for both indoors and outdoors for children and boots for women.

Rothy’s is often thought of as a shoe company for adults but they offer loafers, slip-on sneakers, and Velcro strap sneakers in fun colors for kids. They utilize recycled materials including ocean-bound plastic waste in their manufacturing. All of their shoes are machine-washable which is great if you have super active kids.

Smallbirds shoe
Source: Allbirds
Smallbirds Wool Runner

Smallbirds (by Allbirds) run from sizes 5T to 3Y and come in styles of all-wool runners and loungers. The runners tie and the loungers are slip-on, and both styles are machine washable (which they recommend be done on cold and then for the shoes to air dry to use sustainable practices). Allbirds aims for 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 for their stores and factories.

Ten Little offers a range of styles from recycled canvas Velcro strap tennis shoes to mary janes to rainboots to everyday high tops and vegan leather booties with faux fur linings and natural rubber soles made from the milk of the Hevea tree. All shoes were designed with the input of doctors to meet the developmental needs of growing feet and bodies.

Toms is famous for their one pair of shoes donated for each pair of shoes sold campaign that the company was built on. Their kids line features bright colors and patterns, some slip on varieties and lots of use of Velcro closures to make shoes more secure on small, active feet.  

VEJA creates high quality shoes with sustainability and ethics in mind from design to finished product. The company uses recycled leather and natural materials in their products, which are ethically made by socially vulnerable members of Brazilian society who are paid fair wages. VEJA also restores used shoes so that they can have second (or third or fourth) lives. VEJA has a chrome-free and a vegan line of shoes, too.

back to school shopping
Source: Vessi

Vessi claims to be the world’s first waterproof, breathable knit shoes. The kids’ versions come in a weekend sneaker and a weekend Chelsea boot (slip on with a white rubber sole) in a range of colors. All shoes are vegan and machines washable and lightweight. Vessi may be the perfect back to school shoe if you live in the Pacific Northwest or other places that often have puddles.

VivoBarefoot makes minimalist shoes, including “barefoot” shoes, rugged terrain shoes, sports shoes, a splash-proof vegan bootie, and slips-ons made by an Ethiopian social enterprise. And they offer a back to school shopping special that if you return a pair your children has outgrown, you get 20 percent off a new pair. (VivoBarefoot is a certified B Corp.)

So if you haven’t finished your back to school shopping yet, consider these brands so you can feel like you are making a sustainable and earth-friendly choice for what goes on your kid’s feet. The brands on this list are not only better for the environment but will be better for your children’s health as they won’t expose them to harmful chemicals (like chrome-based tanned leather, toxic adhesives, and the fumes from petroleum-derived plastics).

 And isn’t that what we really want—healthy families and a health planet?

(Whole Champion Foundation note: the organization receives no compensation from mentioning any of these products.)

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