Vegetarian Shoes are a shoe company based out of the United Kingdom that make vegan sweatshop-free boots, belts, jackets, and sneakers. Though I’ve been familiar with the company for over a decade, I’ve only immersed myself in their product lines in the last 5 years or so.
With spring in the air and summer around the corner it seems appropriate to sit down and give you all some detailed reviews of their sneakers. I currently own or have previously owned all of the shoes that you’re going to see below. All of them have pros and cons but all of them are quality shoes.
Everyone of the sneakers below are ethically made in Portugal in a sweatshop free environment and they are all vegan. In our quest to buy “cruelty free” shoes it is easy to forget about the cruelty of sweatshop and child labor that goes into many of our more inexpensive synthetic footwear options. There are ethical alternatives out there that are beneficial for animals and humans alike. Vegetarian Shoes is one of those options.
Over the last 5 years the appearance of their sneakers has improved by leaps and bounds. They continue to experiment with different materials and designs, which shows a commitment to push their own limits and improve their product lines. However, there are some growing pains and every idea isn’t always a winner. Since I’ve worn several of their designs I feel my experience with their shoes is worthy of sharing. They are slightly unconventional and lack the vast popularity of Nike, Addidas, Vans, or Emerica and you can’t just walk into a store and try them on so I think I can give some helpful insight. I am going to say right off the bat that the insides are fairly flat and do not offer a great deal of arch support. Any of these shoes can be complimented with insoles if you jog, stand all day, or otherwise engage in behavior where arch support is a huge plus. That being said, read on:
I wanted to start with the sneakers I currently wear the most. I actually like these sneakers so much that I own 2 pairs. I ordered my first pair in the spring of 09 and have been wearing them ever since. At the time that I got these sneakers they were, in my opinion, the nicest looking kicks that Vegetarian Shoes had ever made. Brown and tan weren’t really my thing but I think they are a great design and they actually look really good on my feet. I wear these shoes for walking, jogging, biking, and general wear. The original brown and tan pair I own are now my general wear shoes, and my black and white pair are my “good shoes” that I put on when I want to look my best and know they aren’t going to get trampled or filthy.
The soles were a new style for Vegetarian Shoes and have a series of saw toothed ridges as you can see in the photo. These ridges are great for flipping the pedals on my bike so that I can get my feet into my toe clips quickly. The disadvantage of the saw tooth sole design is that they started to wear down extremely rapidly the one time I wore them to skateboard in – the grip tape making light work of the soles. Now the name X-Trainer would lead one to believe that they are designed for more active wear. The padding and comfort overall is great, though the puffy heal pad will take a little while to break in. Like all of Vegetarian Shoes products they are lacking in arch support. I highly recommend buying foam inserts if you’re going to be jogging in these. Note: Dr. Scholls tests their other products on animals so make sure to avoid their inserts if you are going to buy insoles.
Appearance: 4.5/5 stars
Comfort: 3.5/5 stars
Durability: 4/5 stars
So now I’m going to rewind to the shoe that started it all for me with Vegetarian Shoes. Up until 2005 I was jumping between Ed Templeton’s from Emerica and I Paths. My Ed Templeton’s were a huge disappointment. They had a vinyl rim around the toe area much like the navy blue rim on the toe of the shoes above. My Templeton’s were a beautiful looking shoe until that rim started crack the 2nd week I had them. They were a short lived shoe – a complete disappointment for an expensive skate shoe. My quest for vegan kicks then led me to a choice between Geoff Rowley’s and I Paths, and since I Path were a smaller company I went with them. The black and gold pair I had were beautiful and durable for skating – a solid shoe. However, 2004/2005 saw the most skating I had done in my adult life and I burned through them pretty quick. Though I loved my I Paths I had decided I wanted to support a company more in line with my own ideals so I took a step down in appearance to rock these bad boys. I did skate and bike in these but the biggest amount of abuse they received was getting tread upon by others at shows. I wore my pair for a year and a half and the soles, which have a relatively flat design, started to wear out. I would have likely gotten at least another 3 months out of them hadn’t my pit bull made a chew toy out of them when I was at work. My friend Kyle had the exact same shoes and he wore them every single day for like 2 1/2 years – traveling mostly by foot/rapid transit, and abusing the hell out of them by being a mosh warrior. Not the most stylish sneakers, but they were comfortable enough and they were exceptionally durable. Since the time that I owned them they released this design in an assortment of superior color schemes.
Appearance: 2-3.5/5 stars (the color scheme really dictates whether the design is cool.)
Comfort: 3/5 stars
Durability: 4/5 stars
When my Veg Supremes got retired due to the aforementioned dog mauling I replaced them with a pair of Trail Legends. They were definitely a step above the Veg Supreme’s I had in terms of appearance and breathability. Unlike the Veg Supreme which is an all Vegetan shoe, the Trail Legend is largely a lightweight breathable synthetic mesh. I chose the above photo to show off the crazy soles on these shoes. It honestly took a couple weeks of wearing these to wear down those rounded nubs a little and no longer feel like I was wearing some sort of space shoe. Once I wore them in though they became incredibly comfortable. I wore them for jogging until I wore the soles down so much that the concussion of running was making my feet hurt. I continued wearing them long after they were totally shredded. They became the shoes I put on when I was going to be biking in the rain or if I was going to be in some other environment where my shoes were going to get filthy or brutalized.
Appearance: 3/5 stars
Comfort: 4 (3)/5 stars (The first couple weeks they feel sort of weird but once you wear them in they’re awesome.)
Durability: 3.5/5 stars
I bought these shoes to skate in and actually have done everything except skate in them. My initial impression from the photos was that these were a pretty cool looking shoe. To be honest though, when I got them I was a little disappointed. The white soles are huge and they contrast so sharply with the all black upper that I think they look kind of weird on my feet. I did just see someone wearing a pair of Nikes the other day that looked a lot like these so maybe that’s a cool look now. I don’t know. Appearance aside they are fairly comfortable though the uppers took a little longer to wear in than their other shoes. The layering of the fake suede over the fake leather is thick and distinctively creases/hinges when you bend your foot. This was a sensation I am not particularly used to. It also happened to rain the first day that I wore them and I discovered that the flat soles (which are the same as those of the Veg Supreme shoes) were not particularly good for flipping my pedals to get into my toe clips when they were wet and slick. However, I think these soles will be much more durable and grippy for skating. The layered design will also probably hold up better against skate wear/ollies. I tried jogging in them and discovered that the X-Trainer and Trail Legend were both far superior. This is a much clunkier shoe with the thick layer of fake suede over fake leather on the uppers. These are great for anything where the tops of your shoes are going to get abused.
Durability: 4/5 (this rating may increase after I skate in them)