Yet another shoe question
March 15, 2015 3:44 PM   Subscribe

I just finished my PhD (yay!) and want to buy some grown-up shoes (hmmm). I am very picky. Shoe me!

I am looking for shoes (not sandals or boots) suitable for disguising myself as an adult. I wear a women's size 7 US, but I'm open to men's shoes if they come in my size. My style is androgynous/minimal. I have these and like them a lot, but they're too hot for summer and look weird with some of my jeans. Also, I want:

- Not leather, since I'm vegetarian. They don't need to be certified vegan, though that would be nice.
- Ethical manufacturing and recycled or renewable materials are a big plus.
- No heel of any kind. Maybe like 1/4 inch. Maybe. Also, not clompy. This rules out a lot of the Dr Martens vegan shoes.
- Not highly gendered either way -- no Mary Janes, and no square-toed man shoes.
- Preferably black or gray.
- Appropriate for a semi-casual office, conferences, etc. Not too casual or outdoorsy.
- Comfortable. My feet are delicate flowers, and any shoes other than sneakers usually take me several painful weeks to break in. Some sneakers too, actually.
- Durable and at least somewhat weather-resistant.
- Under $150 or so.

I was looking at these, but can you do better?
posted by zeptoweasel to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try Earth brand. I think they fit all your criteria. I dig mine which I bought at Whole Foods. Specialty shoe stores have them in stock or major websites like QVC and Nordstrom.
posted by Lil Bit of Pepper at 3:51 PM on March 15, 2015

Best answer: A thought from someone in your shoes [groan, sorry]. Androgynous / gender bending vegetarian academic, not that into fashion but I always want some kickass solid shoes to take the outfit up a notch.

Are you absolutely certain about the no-leather requirement? My partner and I went through about 10 different pairs of fairly high end vegetarian (faux leather) shoes from Moo Shoes, Sudo Shoes and even ordering some from overseas. They all looked like crap within a year. The finish would flake off, the creases would look much dirtier and uneven, and they couldn't be polished like leather shoes. They don't breathe well and sometimes dry in weird ways. We realized we were wearing fairly expensive shoes that did not really look or feel expensive, and replacing them much faster, which caused its own issues with guilt from participating in the industry of disposable fashion.

After some research and consultation with many vegan and vegetarian friends, they had found the same thing. We decided that buying two pairs of really solid leather shoes that can be polished, resoled, made waterproof and generally maintained for years was more ethically and environmentally friendly than replacing 4 pairs of shoes a year and having them look crappy over much of that time.

Apparently some leather shoes are created from the byproducts of the meat industry, which means that the leather was going to be 'wasted' by the meat industry and the animal was not raised specifically for the footwear industry. I never really found much evidence of this, and it makes some sense but perhaps isn't the case for higher end shoes. In any case, this road is not a perfect solution, but it's been a good decision for us at this time. Another benefit is that it has removed the stress over "my shoes look terrible already!" out of our life and we're both wearing much more sustainable and comfortable footwear.

This was about three years ago, so maybe the microfiber and faux-leather materials have improved - I certainly hope so. MooShoes has a decent return policy so it's worth ordering a few and trying them on.

Keep in mind this is for dressy / urban footwear, not canvas sneakers. Those are totally fine to get for very casual outfits, and many of them are vegetarian by default.

If you're interested in leather options, let me know, and I'd be happy to dig up some of the best value-for-money options that I've found.
posted by barnone at 4:01 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, I'd consider leather shoes if that's the only way to get the ethical-durable-attractive trifecta.
posted by zeptoweasel at 4:09 PM on March 15, 2015

I used to wear Camper shoes in graduate school because they were comfy, decently professional and pretty well made too. agree that durable would be a challenge for dressier shoes if they aren't leather.
posted by citron at 8:25 PM on March 15, 2015

Seconding Campers. If you are willing to go leather, their leather shoes last years...and years and years and years and years....
posted by Toddles at 8:47 PM on March 15, 2015

I'm not sure how you get comfortable and durable without a certain amount of clompy -- having a thick sole enables more shock absorption and arch support without the padding that deteriorates faster than any other part of the shoe. So I'd suggest Sanita or Dansko Professionals; they're available vegan or leather and they're unisex, and it's possible to find them on sale (though that mostly applies to the weirder prints rather than the normal solid colors.)
posted by asperity at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2015

I'd go with a loafer. Not gendered at all, very classy, good for casual as well as professional environments. Always flat. Good in warm weather all the way to cool, can be worn with or without socks. Found easily in black, brown, and colors.

You can look for a pleather or cloth one if you want something not in leather.
posted by amaire at 6:05 PM on March 16, 2015

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