Two primary things make shoes vegan: (1) they contain no leather or other skins, and (2) they are not made using any animal-based glue.
Various terms are used to describe the materials used for vegan shoes. These include vegan leather/suede, faux leather/suede, and micro-leather/micro-suede These materials are typically made from man-made microfibre.
While historically non-leather alternatives have received a bad rap for their toxicity and poor quality, among other things, modern production techniques mean that today's materials are far less environmentally damaging and of much higher quality. Polyurethane (PU) is commonly used, rather than the more toxic PVC, and many microfibres are produced using at least some portion of recycled materials. Furthermore, the newest forms use a water-based method to apply the PU to the fabric, rather than the highly toxic solvents that were traditionally used.
Microfibre fabric is lightweight, durable, and somewhat water repellant, so it makes a good substitute for leather. Microfibre is also made into Ultrasuede, which is cheaper and easier to clean and sew than natural suede leather.
Although there are some environmental concerns about microfibres entering the oceanic food chain via washing, this is not an issue with footwear and accessories, as these items are not washed.
All of Ecoture's carefully-selected vegan shoes are made from the highest-quality faux leathers and faux suedes. Our partner brands are focused not only on the vegan and cruelty-free aspects of their products, but also on their ethical and sustainability impacts.
More information on the materials, ethics and sustainability of the footwear industry can be found in our blog post, Is there something wrong with your shoes?