I need a new pair of shoes. Okay okay, maybe I don’t need them, but I have no ‘casual shoes’, other than my Doc Martens, and sometimes they’re not the most delicate shoe to wear everywhere…
This shoe shopping task slightly fills me with dread, which is weird, because pre-zero waste, I’d love the need to buy a pair of shoes.
Now that I’m a zero waster, I think of the full cradle-to-grave cycle of an item I purchase or use.
I figured some of you lot out there would feel similar to me, so I created some questions which I’ve recently been pondering to ensure no regret for my shoe purchase in any way.
1. Do you need this pair of shoes?
In this case, yes I do (see paragraph one, for further details!) A need for shoes is different for each person. Some people would say they need 20 pairs of shoes, whilst others, only a few. People who do crazy extreme sports might need specialist footwear. I have about 10 pairs (including flip-flops, running trainers, walking boots etc.) so I know that owning any more than 10 pairs is unnecessary for me. You do you with this point.
2. Do you need a new pair of shoes?
Can you borrow or buy shoes second hand? I was a bridesmaid for three of my close friends last year, and rather than buy new shoes for each occasion, I borrowed off another friend. I’ve also purchased second-hand shoes, with slightly mixed results though. My ones off eBay were great – they looked unworn – but unfortunately didn’t really fit into point 6 very well, as they’ve got holes already. Another pair I purchased smelt AWFUL and that's not really something you can pick up from an online ad. I’ve managed to deodorise the shoes though! Hoorah!
3. What’s the guarantee?
The Buy Me Once affiliation website is a godsend for this point. On here, you can search all sorts of home items, clothing items and sportswear knowing that all the items have a super duper long guarantee or are well known for their longevity. Some shoes like Doc Martens and Birkenstock are on here due to both of these points, and also because the supplier will fix broken parts as long as you have bought a certain pair.
4. What might break and can it be fixed?
Could the laces, fastenings or eyelets be fixed if they break? If these seem pretty robust anyways, you may not even need to consider this point.
Resoling shoes is pretty cheap compared to buying a new pair of shoes. I had some brown leather brogues which cost me £50 and I managed to resole them three times for only £5 which made the original investment so much more worth it. Only certain shoes can be resoled – they must have a traditional sole, rather than a thermoplastic moulded sole – so you can’t resolve a Converse shoe, for example.
5. What materials are they made from?
This point ties into the end of life for these little shoesies you’re about to buy. I’m seeing more and more vegan alternatives to leather, which is great on the one hand, as animals aren’t being harmed to make new shoes. But I do get concerned when the alternative is PVC based. I worry the shoes will outlive me, as plastics typically take 450 years to degrade, and by that point, they’re micro-plastics.
Unfortunately, I’ve not found any concrete evidence to prove that leather is a byproduct of the meat industry, as the companies don’t have any obligation to publish figures relating to waste from the industry. This article refers to leather as a subsidy, rather than a byproduct, so on that basis I guess you guys can make your own decisions in terms of veganism/ vegetarianism and zero waste living.
Of course, leather is not the only material for shoes. However, I tend to buy leather rather than non-waterproof materials as the thought of walking to the bus, in the rain, in my little cotton ballet pumps when I was 16 still bring back a certain amount of PTSD.
If you are a vegan, who is after zero waste shoes with no animal products in it at all, Raw Organic is a good company as they don't even use glues.
6. How long and how often will these be worn?
Everyday? Special occasions? This usually helps me figure out if I can justify spending more on a pair of shoes, or if I should borrow or buy a second-hand pair.
Another point to consider in this one is the style and colour. If you want to wear them daily for the next three years will the style go out of date, or it is a classic design?
7. Where were they made and where can you purchase them?
Going back to the cradle stages of your shoes, can you figure out where they’ve been produced and are you happy with the worker’s conditions? Buying fairly traded shoes is much better environmentally, but will cost more. Often fairly traded items last longer due to this, so if your budget can stretch to it, it may well be a worthy investment.
I’m pretty much avoiding online shopping, and have been for a good few months now, as I realised that having a couple items shipped to me or driven around the country was not very eco-friendly at all. This also means I can avoid unnecessary packaging. Being able to buy your shoes from a shop may be a point to consider if you feel the same as I do. However, saying this, the shoes I’ve bought can only be purchased online! They company, Allbirds, have designed their packaging in a way which lowers the waste.
So, I bet ya’ll dying to know which shoes I purchased. After a lot of internet searching and trying various pairs on, I have got myself this pair of Allbirds Trainers, as they fit my initial criteria best and tick off most of the points I’m happy with.
So far? I love ‘em. They’re super comfy and I just love that I can pop them in the washing machine if (I mean when, I’ve very messy) they get dirty.