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All about vegan shoes

Epsilon white vegan basketball

What's a vegan shoe?

Vegan shoe...vegetarian sneaker, vegan leatherVegetable leather, vegetable tanning, imitation leather... so many key words and adjectives that are losing us. Between trends, questions and false friends, it is high time to sort out what a vegan shoe is once and for all.

A vegan person, for starters, leads a lifestyle where they do not use any animal products, whether it is their food, their choice of clothing, make-up, furniture, etc., where vegetarians do not eat animal flesh. Their leitmotiv? To fight against animal suffering. Of course, other reasons can be taken into account, such as a more ethical and eco-responsible way of consumption for example. However, a vegan shoe does not contain any animal components, be it the materials of the upper, the sole or details such as laces, eyelets, etc., which can be used to make the shoe. For example, a leather shoe is not vegan: an animal must be sacrificed to recover its hide, which is then processed (or more precisely tanned). It should be noted that this treatment will also entail an ecological cost, especially if it is done with chrome, since this process is polluting. 

In order to offer an alternative consumption to vegan people or people who are sensitive to this way of life, Subtle has created the Epsilon basketball, without animal matter, therefore cruelty-free and supported by Peta via the label Peta Vegan Approved. More information on Why vegan shoes.

How are vegan shoes made?

The assembly of a vegan shoe does not differ much from a so-called classic shoe. The big difference is in the materials used in its manufacture. Let's start with the simplest: the material of the upper. All materials that come from an animal such as wool, cashmere, mohair, silk, alpaca, not to mention leather and fur are to be avoided! It should be noted that while some materials such as wool does not involve killing an animal to obtain it, it is not necessarily obtained without animal suffering. However, there are many alternatives to these materials, which are often considered "noble". These include cotton, linen, polyester, microfibre, acrylic, cotton flannel, nylon, rayon, denim, jersey and, more generally, synthetic fabrics. Subtle's vegan sneaker is notably made with a quality microfiber, certified Oeko-Tex. It has the visual aspect of leather, a good resistance and brings a comfort of wear to your vegan shoes. As for the other parts of the shoe, it is less obvious to spot the vegan potential of your shoes at first glance. For example, let's talk about the capacity of certain components such as glue: it's not easy to know to which saint to dedicate yourself, as the saying goes. Several solutions are available to help you see more clearly: visit the brand and/or manufacturer's website. If a label or certification exists, they will be communicated openly and logically put forward. In the same way, if the brand of your favourite vegan shoes is committed to transparency, it will communicate its choice of materials and will be able to answer your questions. Finally, in store, ask a salesperson for advice, or simply refer to the composition label.

Identify the different parts
of a shoe and the materials
used for their manufacture

Stem or top 

Lining and 


Leather or split leather

Coated leather

Natural textile or synthetic textile (woven or non-woven)

Other materials (polymers, cork, wood, ...)

Is a vegan shoe necessarily an eco-responsible shoe?

The veganism can arouse curiosity, perhaps even a form of interest that is not linked to a willingness to take the plunge and radically change one's lifestyle. But then, what is the point of buying an vegan shoe 

Choosing a shoe with non-animal suffering components is an ethical choice if you are sensitive to the animal cause. It is a matter of convictions and lifestyle.

Another reason would be to avoid buying shoes treated with toxic products. Indeed, once the animal skin is obtained, it is necessary to treat it to make it rotproof and thus suitable for use and manufacture. This chemical process is called tanning, and it is the process of turning a hide into leather. It is important to know that more than 80 % of the world's leather is chemically tanned using chromium. The NGO Pure Earth, working in the fields of health and pollution, estimates that there are an astronomical 16 million people exposed to the dangers of chromium. This treatment, which is common and inexpensive, has many harmful consequences. As far as our health is concerned, skin and respiratory diseases can be caused by chromium exposure. From an ecological point of view, this polluting treatment is discharged into rivers and groundwater, thus affecting the fauna and flora, i.e. our environment but also our food and once again our health. In the same way, leather workers are the first to be exposed to these risks and dangers of chrome tanning. Their health and life expectancy are all the more impacted as they are in contact with toxic products.

Buying a vegan shoe is therefore tantamount to not supporting this type of production and to making an alternative and ethical purchase. It is for this very reason that Subtle shoes are vegan or in vegetable-tanned leatherto offer alternative, sustainable and eco-responsible consumption choices.

How do you care for your vegan shoes?

Alternative materials to leather means... no waxing! So then, vegan shoes are easier to maintain. This being said, different materials can make up your shoe, and its maintenance must be adapted to it of course. For microfiber shoes like Subtle's Epsilon, nothing could be simpler: just take a soft cloth, soaked in soapy water and draw circular movements on the upper of your vegan sneaker. That's it! It's important to resist the urge to leave them under the radiator for those in a hurry, which would weaken your shoe. Letting them dry in the open air makes more sense. For canvas shoes, simply use a brush rather than a cloth, also soft, always with soapy water. Some people recommend machine washing, which is quick and effortless. The repetition of these washes again weakens the assembly of the shoe, in particular the gluing of the various parts of the shoe. And, although the Epsilon vegan sneaker is designed by a Stroebel assembly, i.e. glued and sewn for more solidity, we recommend cleaning by hand, which remains quick and easy. For take care of your vegan shoes in every detail, and especially your Subtle Epsilon, a complete article will help you to keep them in time

Where to buy vegan shoes and sneakers?

Today more than ever, it is easier than ever to find something to wear or wear vegan. However, the challenge is to reconcile veganism and ethics, or let's say eco-responsibility. Indeed, you can find shoes at an affordable price in any department store or chain store, where animal materials are replaced by synthetic fabrics or canvas. But several questions arise. Are the materials used of good quality? Will they last over time? Is the manufacture of the shoe of good quality? Do the workers in the factory or workshop work in good conditions? What is the ecological impact of the production of these shoes?

As such, Subtle strives to reconcile eco-responsibility and alternative choices. The Epsilon's microfiber is Oeko-Tex certified, the model itself is supported by Peta, the different materials come from the same Portuguese area to limit the carbon footprint of your vegan shoes, and to compensate for this same footprint, already reduced, Subtle plants a tree in your name when you buy your pair. This tree, throughout its life, will offset 100kg of carbon dioxide emissions and contribute to the conservation of a natural reserve in Africa. For more details and to plant trees together.


You can find our vegan shoes and sneakers in these shops today:

Rand Store (Antwerp - Belgium)

By LMS ( Toulon - France )

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