Stylish woman dressed for the cold seasons in black sustainable leather boots in walking through a city center lit with festive lights.
November 6, 2023
 in 
Slow Fashion

Here Are 11 Sustainable Boots to Keep Your Feet Warm and Stylish This Winter

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here is nothing more miserable than having cold, damp feet. As a season of snow, rain, and bone-chilling winds approaches, it’s time to break out the winter boots, and hopefully, look good doing it.

The problem is that most boots being sold aren’t sustainable, be it because of the materials that have been used or unethical labor and manufacturing processes. Fast fashion is yet another issue in the mix with approximately 22 billion pairs of shoes ending up in landfills each year.

We’d like to see fewer shoes being thrown out and fewer people not even being able to get a season’s wear out of their investments. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 11 eco-friendly boots. Whether you’re looking for something practical, something for the outdoors, or for your next pair of stylish, sustainable knee-high boots, we’ve got options for you.

We’ll also provide a breakdown of leather alternatives and sustainable materials to prioritize when shopping as well as a detailed look at how to discern meaningful brand sustainability from greenwashed advertising. The sustainable boots on this list aren’t just made for walking. They’re made for strutting past unsustainable practices and straight toward a greener future for all.

Table of  Contents

What Are Sustainable Boots?

There are plenty of emerging brands claiming to sell sustainable winter boots, but there is no universal set of criteria for what “sustainability” looks like. Here are four key tenets that we consider to be the most important when buying eco-friendly boots:

Shoe Materials

The most obvious starting point when discerning whether a pair of sustainable boots is as environmentally conscious as they claim to be is to check what they’re made from. Plastic is usually the first thing to avoid as it can be tricky to recycle and won’t decompose on its own. 

That said, many brands are switching from virgin plastic to recycled materials which at least makes the use of this fossil-fuel-derived material a little less harmful. As we’ll explore later in this article, plastic that is mixed with plant-based materials also ups the sustainability factor. What makes a pair of boots sustainable isn’t just the material, but how it’s sourced and the larger scope of its environmental impact. As another example, purchasing more sustainable leather boots means prioritizing brands that use recycled material or have certifications showing that the leather was sourced through environmentally friendly farming practices. 

Manufacturing

Manufacturing processes are another area to consider when picking out sustainable winter boots this season. Transparency, commitment to lowering energy and water usage, better labor practices, and an overall alignment with legal environmental protections are all things that we’d expect from brands claiming to sell eco-friendly boots.

One of the most trustworthy markers of this is the “B-Corp” label. To operate as a certified B-Corp, companies have to meet rigorous global standards in terms of both social and environmental performance throughout their manufacturing and supply chain processes. Buying your sustainable winter boots from a B-Corp not only means supporting things like fair labor treatment and purpose-driven practices, but it takes a stand against the often shady, environmentally hazardous ways of so many fast fashion brands.

Packaging

Even if a company isn’t a certified B-Corp, they might still have sustainability measures in place worth supporting. Packaging and shipping play a significant part in this so look out for brands that have recyclable packaging, plastic-free delivery, or programs to offset carbon emissions involved in shipping. 

Durability

Most shoes are thrown out within 12 months of being purchased. As far as we’re concerned, that just isn’t sustainable for the planet or your wallet. If you buy a cute pair of winter boots, you should be able to strut through more than one season with them, which is why durability is the final key point on what makes for great eco-friendly boots.

We all need to be buying shoes that last better. It reduces how much ends up in landfills and how much needs to be produced in the first place. Some brands have warranties for their footwear but it’s also worth looking at online reviews to see how items have fared with long-term use.

Sustainable Materials to Look Out For

There are plenty of brands emerging with claims that they sell “recycled leather boots” or “Fair trade” boots but that can get tricky to wade through and understand. Here’s a guide on some of the main sustainable materials and certifications that arise in the world of eco-friendly winter boots and what they actually mean:

Sustainable and Recycled Leather

Though leather is a natural fiber, intensive farming practices have diminished its sustainability. Cattle farming is one of the biggest contributors to environmental issues such as soil erosion, carbon emissions, and deforestation. The actual treatment of leather in tanneries also tends to use toxic chemicals and create excess waste.

Sustainable and recycled leather options are trying to improve on all sides of these issues. We have a few sustainable leather boots included later in this article which are LWG-certified, meaning that the leather was sourced and treated through more environmentally conscious practices. We’ve also included a brand that makes recycled leather boots that use leather that has been reconstituted from leather scraps, thus reducing waste in the industry.

Leather Alternatives

For any vegans or vegetarians, however, no amount of change in the way that leather is made and treated can alter the fact that it’s sourced from animals and supports a slaughter industry.

Here are some vegan leather options and materials to look out for instead:

  • Pineapple Leather: Pinatex is the main form of pineapple leather used and not only is it formed from waste left by pineapple farming, but any further waste left by the process is used as biofuel and fertilizer to create a closed-loop production process. As a fun fact, it was also developed by a woman, Dr Carmen Hijosa, after decades of trying to find a leather alternative with a low environmental footprint and positive social impact.
  • Apple Leather: Apple leather is another material that recycles agricultural waste. Most versions of this fiber are a 50% mix of cellulose from the apple juicing and compote industry with 50% polyurethane. It’s not a perfect plant-based material but it’s helping to reduce waste and the use of plastics in vegan leather boots.
  • Recycled Plastic: The most widely used leather alternative for sustainable boots is probably recycled plastic. Though it’s not the ideal material to use in terms of staying natural, it does however have major environmental benefits in that it keeps plastic out of landfills and reduces the amount of virgin plastic being produced.

Fairtrade Boots

Certified Fairtrade boots aren’t very common as the certification process is extremely rigorous, but if you do see a pair of sustainable boots with a “Fairtrade” label on them, it means that materials have been sourced and used in a way that conserves natural environments. It also means that fair labor practices have been enacted.

What Does it Mean When Boots Are Sustainably Made?

A question many ask when trying to buy more ethically made boots is what that actually means in the first place. Something being “sustainably made” usually refers to both the social and environmental factors involved in the making process. Here are some examples of this in practice:

  • Products are made to order or in small batches to reduce manufacturing waste and deadstock.
  • Products are handmade and/or support the work of smaller creatives and artisans.
  • Those who make the products are fairly compensated and cared for. From a more legal standpoint, this means complying with things like safe working environments and minimum wage guides.

There are probably plenty of other points that could be added to that list but those are the ones we see most often discussed and the ones we’ll be referencing when looking at sustainable winter boot options in the next section.

11 Ethical and Sustainable Boot Brands

Whether you’re looking for a cool pair of sustainable combat boots that don’t make you feel like Bigfoot or more ethical leather shoes to get you through the Winter, we’ve got you sorted.

Keep reading for a comprehensive list of 11 sustainable boot brands, where to buy them, and the sustainability features that have us excited for the future: 

1. Blundstone

Model wearing the sustainable Chelsea boots in brown by the Blundstone brand while crossing street.

The Blundstone leather Chelsea boots have become a thing of legend in recent years thanks to their simple look that encompasses both style and practicality. 

Where to Buy: Nordstrom and directly from the brand’s site.

Sizes and Styles: Mostly ankle and Chelsea boots. Women's US size 6-11.

Sustainable Features: 
  • Shoes are available in vegan leather.
  • Company-wide commitment to recycling water and lowering emissions.
  • Full compliance with EU and American regulations on chemical use.
  • Transparent and audited environmental management system.

2. Reformation

Example of Sustainable leather boots by Reformation.

If you’re looking for sustainable winter boots that also keep up with fashion trends, Reformation is the site for you. They have a full range of chic, durable styles fit for any fashion-lover.

Where to Buy: Net-a-porter and brand’s site.

Sizes and Styles: You can get everything from sustainable knee-high boots to moto boots and everything in between. US women’s sizes available are 5-11.

Sustainable Features:
  • 100% carbon neutral.
  • Vegan options are available.
  • LWG-certified and traceable leather.
  • Chrome-free, vegetable-tanned leather.
  • Quarterly sustainability reports.

3. Ground Cover

A pair of boots 100% vegan boots by Ground Cover.

Featured on High Snobiety and Flaunt, Ground Cover’s genderless, sustainable combat boots are as much of a fashion statement as they are a practical, winter staple.

Where to Buy: Directly from the brand’s site.

Sizes and Styles: Lace-up combat boots and regular ankle boots in US women's sizes 6-13.

Sustainable Features:
  • Vegan with a pineapple-based outer.
  • Cork insole.
  • Recycled and recyclable packaging.

4. Koio

Female model wearing Koio beige boots made from sustainable leather and recycled rubber.

The chunky heels and water-resistant qualities of Koio’s sustainable leather boots make them as fashionable as they are utilitarian.

Where to Buy: Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Free People, and the brand’s site.

Sizes and Styles: Lace-up combat boots and slip-on ankle boots in US women’s sizes 5-12.

Sustainable Features:
  • LWG-certified leather.
  • Partially recycled rubber soles.

5. Nisolo

Person wearing water resistant suede boots made with sustainable leather by the Nisolo brand.

Nisolo offers water-resistant, ethical leather shoes that consider everything from leather sourcing to the wages of the people who make them. These sustainable women’s boots are a winter must-have.

Where to Buy: Directly from the brand’s site.

Sizes and Styles: Various styles of ankle and combat boots in US women’s sizes 5 – 11 (with half sizes).

Sustainable Features:
  • LWG-certified leather.
  • Vegetable-tanned leather outsole.
  • 100% living wages.
  • 0% Net Carbon.
  • Transparent practices with each shoe being delivered with a “sustainability facts” label.

6. Zou Xou

A pair of black sustainable boots by Zou Xou.

This black-owned business is a champion of both sustainability practices and the craftsmanship of the Brazilian artisans who make their beautiful, timeless shoes. 

Where to Buy: Directly from the brand’s site.

Sizes and Styles: Slip-on ankle boots in US women’s sizes 6-10.

Sustainable Features:
  • Produced in small batches to limit waste.
  • Most leather used is LWG-certified and uses vegetable tanning.
  • Supports a community of artisans and is committed to fair, safe, and transparent labor practices.

7. Patagonia

A pair of durable and sustainable leather boots by Patagonia.

Style isn’t the only consideration for sustainable leather boots. If you’re looking for a strong, durable work or hiking boot to see you through the season, these are a great option.

Where to Buy: Directly from the brand’s site.

Sizes and Styles: Leather work boots in US women’s sizes 6-11.

Sustainable Features:
  • Leather is sourced from free-range American Bison.
  • Made in small batches.
  • The company donates 1% of sales to “the preservation and restoration of the natural environment”.

8. Christy’s Dawn

Woman modeling a pair of dark brown sustainable high boots by Christy's Dawn.

There’s a reason why if you google “sustainable boots women’s”, this slow-fashion brand is likely to come up. Other than what we've picked out, their Victorian-style lace-up boots that are both timeless and supportive.

Where to Buy: Directly from the brand’s site

Sizes and Styles: Lace-up ankle boots and pull-on sustainable knee-high boots that come in a US women’s size 5-11.

Sustainable Features:
  • Handmade by artisans in Guatemala.
  • Vegetable tanned leather.
  • Committed to fair labor practices.

9. Thesus Outdoors

Woman modeling sustainable outdoor boots by Thesus Outdoors brand.

This is a Portuguese-made sustainable boot brand with outdoor footwear in mind. They offer a variety of options for stomping through rain and mud this winter or just taking your dog for a walk. These are a great comfortable and durable choice worth looking at.

Where to Buy: Directly from the brand’s site

Sizes and Styles: Lace-up boots, water-proof rain boots, and more in sizes 6-11 (US women’s).

Sustainable Features:
  • Shoes use various recycled materials such as recycled rubber, nylon, and foam. Every shoe design is broken down into a list of materials used and their sourcing.
  • Water-based vegan glue is used to bind the upper to the sole.
  • Recycled and recyclable packaging.

10. Veerah

Side view of classic dressy ankle boot made with vegan material by Veerah brand.

This is one of the best sustainable boot brands for women wanting both style and comfort. Our favorite is their “Hedy Ankle Boot” which uses 100% recycled materials and comes in a glittery, silver outer as well.

Where to Buy: Directly from the brand’s site

Sizes and Styles: Ankle boots in US women’s 5 -11.

Sustainable Features:
  • Uses algae to replace some of the traditional petroleum-based foam usually found in insoles.
  • Some styles feature apple leather and recycled materials.
  • Transparency about product materials.
  • Shoe dust bags are made from recycled PET bottles.

11. VIRÓN

A pair of black sustainable combat boots made with apple skin leather by Viron.

The sustainable combat boots from this Portuguese brand don’t just look cool, they’re using seriously cool environmental practices with their “appleskin” boots.

Where to Buy: Stylemi, FWRD, and the brand’s site.

Sizes and Styles: Lace-up combat boots available in women’s US sizes 6-17.

Sustainable Features:
  • Certified B-Corp.
  • Peta-certified vegan products.
  • The outer layer of the shoe is made from 26% apple waste and the lining and sole feature recycled rubber, recycled plastic, and even corn polymer.

Beyond Sustainable Boot Brands

Supporting sustainable boot brands isn’t the only way to reduce the environmental impact of your boot choices this winter. Other ways to improve sustainability include taking boots you already own to a local cobbler for repairs and fresh soles or purchasing items secondhand. Either way, it’s a step in the right direction for our planet and a chance to ensure that the footprints we leave behind are positive ones.

You can also learn about biodegradable fabric choices, and upcycled clothing so you are ready to make eco-friendlier choices when refreshing your closet.

Every Step Counts

Something you probably noticed in this article is that no brand does sustainability 100% perfectly and quite frankly, you don’t need to either. As long as we can reduce how much footwear ends up being thrown out and get conscious overall about our purchases, we’re still making positive changes for the planet. 

Support sustainable practices where you can, try to purchase boots made from sustainable materials that will last a few seasons, and stay curious. New sustainable boot brands and innovations are appearing all the time!

You can refer to our guide to sustainable shoes, to learn even more and this topic and learn which brands are adopting sustainable practices to produce more eco-friendly yet elegant alternatives.