Looking for cork shoes and sandals made ethically and made to last, using sustainable, natural, and vegan materials?
We've taken the time over the past few years to seek out some of the highest quality cork shoes and sandals around - made by ethical, sustainable, and PETA Approved Vegan brands. We're happy to announce that all of the brands in this article are either already available in our store, or on their way soon to our warehouse.
In footwear applications, cork materials are ideal for meeting the technical demands of the shoe industry and can be used in all parts of the shoe - insocks and insoles, heels, sole and bottom fillers, mid-soles, coverings, and footbeds. Cork insocks and soles are known for being comfortable on the feet. It's not only a question of comfort but true foot support - due to its properties as a material (wax-based internal structure with air pockets), cork provides excellent shock absorption, cushioning, ground insulation and impermeability.
Upon beginning our search for quality, ethically produced cork shoes and sandals, we found that it wasn't so simple. Many of the most commonly known shoe brands that use cork soles also incorporate animal leather in their products, which goes against our ethics as a vegan store.
Cheaply made shoes with a "cork look" are also very common to find. When examined in detail, usually these shoes are made with very little cork (and low quality cork to boot). They have just enough of a thin adhesive layer of cork on the exterior (usually on the heel) to give the shoe the "look" of cork, without much substance. These shoes don't provide the ergonomic benefits of cork mentioned above.
Finally, after years of searching, we're so excited to have found cork shoes and sandals from brands that not only share our values, but that make some of the most functional, well-made, and beautiful cork shoes and sandals currently on the market.
Read on to discover the four brands of cork shoes and sandals that are making waves in the world of sustainable fashion and at HowCork.
1. ORIGINAL CORK
Original Cork is a family-owned small brand from Cascais, Portugal, that locally manufactures their cork sandals using three distinct layers of different types of cork. The family was inspired by their son who brought to their attention the severe lack of availability of sandals made from sustainable materials back in 2011. They soon after were inspired by cork trees in their home of Alentejo - trees that had been recently stripped of their bark and were currently in their "nude" state. They realized that cork was the perfect material for making flip flops - it's flexible, water-resistant, and anti-bacterial, all things we look for in sandals. So, Original Cork got to work on creating an all-cork flip flip that was also completely natural and vegan. Their design is a patented model using cork composites combination.
Original Cork sandals sport a cork fabric strap and upper sole, a cork foot bed for foot support, and a sole made from cork mixed with rubber.
Original Cork has its brand ethics in the right place. Here is what they have to say as to why they chose cork:
"The best thing for the environment is to use what nature has given us, respectfully. We are much better off using the resources the earth has given us: plants and other materials from the earth, in moderation. And we should also buy smart. Buy fair trade, organic, and cruelty-free when you can."
Their sandals have a neutral cork base with a range of different colored cork straps. We have been wearing them every day for almost a year now, and they still show very few signs of wear and tear. Although they seem to have a hard sole at first, they truly mold to your feet and break in over time!
Original Cork uses the following materials in their shoes:
- Cork (used in all three layers in differing granule thickness)
- Natural rubber (combined with cork to make the soles)
- Cork fabric aka "Cork leather" for the foot bed and strap covering (on a cotton base)
2. TREEC SHOES
Treec Shoes is a brand of vegan shoes made in Portugal by two brothers with a shoemaking background who decided to make the switch to ecological and animal-free materials.
Rui Silva, co-founder of Treec, explains the beginnings of the brand:
“It all started in S. João da Madeira, a small town near Porto, north of Portugal, worldwide recognized to be home of top quality shoe making. Me and my brother Filipe inherited all the shoemaking knowledge and interest of our community – but we wanted to do it slightly different.”
How does Treec do shoe production differently?
The founders of Treec decided it was time to build a better future for people and planet. They already knew how to make shoes, so they started crafting footwear made with the help of their local community members and using sustainable materials.
Treec Shoes are manufactured in Portugal where high standards of comfort, quality, and functionality are met. As they are crafted by experienced shoe makers, they are made with care and made to last.
Treec proudly uses the best materials in the market to bring their creations to life. The cork leather used to make their shoes is certified with the Cork Mark Label® and sourced in Portugal. Their other eco-friendly fabrics are certified either with the Global Organic Textile Standard International or with Global Recycled Standard. These include organic cotton and Desserto cactus leather.
Taking it a step beyond fabrics used in the upper part of the shoes, Treec doesn't ignore the material from which the soles are made either. Treec uses both recycled cork and coffee remains in the soles of their shoes - which is a noteworthy innovation in the shoemaking industry.
Treec shoes are tested to the limit in the Portuguese Shoe Tech Center of S. João da Madeira. Performing these tests guarantees that they are in line with European quality standards and provide customers with a product that they can trust - meeting high standards of comfort and durability.
The materials used in Treec Shoes are:
- Cork (certified with the Cork Mark Label)
- Organic cotton
- Desserto cactus leather
- Coffee grounds (named "Cofsoles" by Treec)
- Natural rubber (soles)
- Recycled cork from wine stoppers (named "Stoppersoles" by Treec)
3. NAE VEGAN SHOES
"Your choices belong to you. With a creative design and sustainable materials, we protect the environment step by step." - NAE Vegan Shoes
NAE stands for No Animal Exploitation. The name carries the brand's mission: to bring an animal-friendly and ecological alternative to the table against exploitation. Their shoes and accessories are manufactured in certified and ethical factories in Portugal.
The brand was founded in 2008, when NAE's founders were driven to start the brand due to feeling a personal duty to reduce the horrific impact that the food and clothing industries have on animal lives.
They focus not only on the natural and ecological materials they use, but also on the design, style and quality that sets Portuguese footwear apart. The brand works daily to create a positive impact: to make the world into a more sustainable, animal-friendly, and free place.
Every NAE product is environmentally friendly. Their shoes and accessories are all made with ecological, sustainable, and recycled materials. For NAE, cruelty isn't an option - you won't find them using animal skin, fur or other meat by-products in any of their designs.
NAE makes use of the following materials in their shoes:
- Organic cotton
- Recycled PET
- Proprietary "Vegan leather" made from a mixture of cotton, polyester, and nylon (which is recycled whenever possible)
4. VESICA PISCIS
"Never did Nature say one thing and Wisdom say another." - Vesica Piscis
Vesica Piscis is a brand from Elche, the birthplace of footwear in Spain, and come from a community of shoemakers by family tradition. Launched in 2015, the brand was created with the aim of offering a coherent and ethical footwear alternative, in line with values based on respect for nature. Circular economy and veganism, along with responsible consumption based on local production, are their pillars. The brand is currently close to achieving one of their most important objectives -to minimize their water and CO2 footprint as much as possible and to generate no waste by designing fully recyclable vegan footwear.
FIRST ETHICS THEN AESTHETICS
Vesica Piscis makes it clear that ethics come first, then aesthetics. Design is based upon how to make sustainable materials work together in a way that has the least possible impact on the environment. They don't bow to the frenzy of fashion trends and they create their own "flow" by always complying with three premises: veganism, circular economy and minimalism. All of their shoes and sandals are respectful of animals and the planet. Their products take a stand against animal suffering while making use of the best raw materials of organic or recycled origin.
The brand states, "Our teacher is nature, from her we learn the guidelines to follow and the importance of cycles, that is why we design footwear based on circularity, making the most of each element, where everything is transformed and nothing is destroyed or becomes waste."
With a concept that values practicality and simplicity, Vesica Piscis designs are minimalistic, timeless and unisex. Their collection reflects a natural and comfortable style, and their shoes are designed for durability so that they are part of your style all year round.
Their brand logo is a geometric symbol that represents unity in diversity, or the union of two circumferences. This symbol embodies their brand concept - "despite all our diversity of thoughts and experiences, we find a meeting point shared among all of us: love and care for our planet."
The materials Vesica Piscis uses in their shoes are:
- Recycled cork from wine stoppers
- Recycled cotton
- Organic cotton
- Recycled polyester
- Natural rubber (soles)
- Recycled EVA (soles)
There you have it! That's our list of the cork shoe and sandal brands coming to HowCork that we think are among the top ethical, sustainable, and vegan shoe brands around.
Have any thoughts to share or additional brands that you would add to this list? Let us know below!