Image: Christy Dawn
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Not too long ago, it was pretty difficult to find fall and winter boots that were simultaneously ethically made, durable, affordable and cute. Even just a couple years ago, it seemed like you had to pick your battles and sacrifice one or two of those important things.
But we’re excited about this roundup because of how many brands are now making boots in artisan workshops — boots that will carry you for miles and miles, and that are actually affordable for the modern woman. Oh, and they’re beautiful, too.
What to Look for in a Sustainable, Ethical Pair of Boots
Quality and durability: A timeless pair of well-made boots should last you for five years or more, both physically and stylistically. Not only that, but if you’re going to be trekking around in the fall and winter elements, your shoes need to actually protect and support your feet.
Sustainably sourced, veggie-tanned leather: A lot of the boots you’ll find at the mall are made out of faux leather, a.k.a plastic. These boots look and feel cheaper, don’t last as long, are difficult to repair, and never biodegrade. Real leather lasts longer and can endure more weather than other materials, plus won’t harm the earth when you’re done with them. We looked for companies that prioritize the ethical treatment of animals and who don’t process and dye their leather using toxic chemicals.
Other natural materials: We also looked at what other materials were used in addition to leather. Natural rubber, cork, and wood are all biodegradable and renewable materials you’ll find in the boots below. When synthetic is used, we look for recycled materials.
Fair wages and transparency: Making a comfortable, lifetime shoe is an art. And the people who make them should be paid accordingly. These brands are committed to paying their artisans living wages for their work, while also providing other benefits like healthcare and education. They are honest about areas in which they can improve, too, always a good sign.
[If you’re also in the market for a new winter coat, click here.]
Here are our favorite brands for sustainable, ethical boots for fall:
ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by providing economic opportunities for women. The brand’s wages are transparently published on its website in order to protect the women makers and empower consumers. ABLE is a great brand for elevated, yet comfortable, shoes and bags that can easily be dressed up or down. Its leather boots are handmade in Ethiopia and Peru by women transitioning out of sex work.
Prices: $94 USD – $158
If you’re looking for eco-friendly rainboots, Alice & Whittles is your go-to. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Alice & Whittles creates lightweight rain boots that are made from fairly traded, natural rubber from sustainably managed forests in Sri Lanka and require 80% less water to produce compared to a standard rainboot. Alice & Whittles designed a Weekend Boot, which is a more versatile, water-resistant boot that can be worn hiking or even to run errands.
Prices: $155 – $200
Nomasei is a timeless, responsible footwear brand designed in Paris and produced in Montopoli, Italy. It only produces two collections per year and uses biodegradable soles, 100% recyclable zippers, and metal-free leathers. It recently launched its first thigh-high boots named WHISPER, adapted to fit a more size-inclusive range of legs and thighs. The leather used includes a special cotton stretch lining that allows for more durability and stretch. A typical stretched leather only has an elasticity of around 25%, and this new pair of boots is about 40%. Nomasei works with suppliers and factories certified in sustainable sourcing and practices that comply with OECD practices. It’s a set of indicators that measure manufacturing facilities’ environmental performance, including their reuse of wastewater and their low presence of metals. Nomasei’s packaging is created with paper, recycled cardboard, and GOTS-certified cotton.
Prices: $417 – $735
Nisolo boots are intentionally designed to be versatile and long-lasting. They are ethically made at the brand’s Peruvian factory, where all of the artisans earn fair wages, healthcare, and a healthy working environment. Nisolo also partners with Ecosphere+ to offset carbon emissions and protect forests in the Amazon. For its U.S. customers, Nisolo offers a reclamation program, offering a $40 credit for those that donate their shoes. In collaboration with Soles4Souls, these pairs are given to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries, enabling them to clean, repair, and resell the shoes in their communities.
Prices: $175 – $250
With a made-to-order model that delivers you a personalized pair of shoes directly from Guatemala within 10 days, Adelante provides ethically made boots out of high-quality leather.
Prices: $235 – $255
Fortress of Inca boots are made by fairly paid artisans in Peru out of ethically sourced leather. The brand prioritizes quality and craftsmanship by partnering with family-owned and operated factories and workshops and designs its sandals to stand the test of time.
Prices: $240 – $275
Based in. Minnesota, Red Wing Shoe Company has been making high-quality, long-lasting leather boots in the USA for over 110 years. The company was originally created to deliver “ladies’ boots” to independent women that had the same durability and craftsmanship found in men’s boots. Its boots have a three-layer waterproofing system to keep the feet dry.
Prices: $279 – $360
Coclico is committed to slow fashion and transparent production. Its boots are handmade in Spain from carefully sourced Italian leather, and it partners with Native Energy to offset the carbon emissions used in production.
Prices: $397 – $480
Nearly everything Timberland designs are made using organic, recycled materials. Its boots are long-lasting and are made out of several types of leather, including regenerative leather and recycled leather. Its Earthkeepers collection, in particular, is the brand’s highest level of eco-innovation. Its regenerative leather comes from farms that give the land a rest so it can absorb carbon, retain water and restore biodiversity to the pastures where the cattle graze. And the rubber it uses to make its soles are sourced from rubber plantations that use responsible land management practices. Timberland uses nearly 500,000 pounds of recycled rubber in its footwear every year. In addition to building a better product, Timberland is committed to becoming a more inclusive company that strengthens communities of color and supports Black entrepreneurs.
Prices: $90 – $230
Fashion brand Christy Dawn makes vintage-inspired boots using sustainably sourced upcycled leather. Each pair is handmade in Los Angeles by talented craftspeople and are designed to last a lifetime.
Prices: $355 – $388
Huma Blanco shoes are designed by Adriana Crocco, a third-generation shoemaker and designer based in Lima, Peru. EcoCult founder Alden actually visited this factory herself and saw the artisanship in person! They’re made from locally sourced, natural Peruvian materials such as suede, alpaca, and calf hair and colored with natural dyes. The brand aims to appreciate Peruvian hides and textiles while also sustaining long-term jobs for shoemakers in the country.
Prices: $300 – $410
The Root Collective’s ankle boots are handcrafted by artisans in Guatemala out of natural leather.The brand partners with small, independent workshops in order to create the largest social impact and empower entire communities.
Prices: $258 – $338
Of course, shopping secondhand is also an excellent option when it comes to both sustainability and affordability. Check out this post for our recommendations for where to look for secondhand and vintage boots!