eVogued lady customer trying shoes in white background

The New Sustainable Women’s Shoes & Boots Trends

The 2021 holiday season is over, and 2022 has successfully arrived. It is a great time to look for trendy shoes and boots while making a statement about the environment.

Sustainability is the new luxury.

Vegan and vegetarian leathers, eco-conscious dyes and colors, plant-based materials, and responsible sourcing have become popular and essential. Buyers are not only searching for luxury, comfort, and style, but now they’ve added sustainability to their list of must-have traits for their shoes and boots. 

Throughout this article, you will find all the information you need to know about shoes and boots that are fashionable, stylish, comfortable, and help you sustain your health and the health of our planet.

CONTENTS

TYPES OF SHOES

There are so many women’s shoes that it can be overwhelming at times but don’t stress because we will simply break it down for you. Here is a list of each type:

VENICE, ITALY. Expensive ballet flat shoes by luxury footwear brand Christian Louboutin.

1 FLATS

Flats are known mainly for their comfort and versatility. They can be worn as every day or formal footwear. This type of women’s shoes’ most defining characteristic is their heel-less flat, thin sole which can be made of many types of materials, including leather, rubber, plastic, and wood. Their other defining characteristic is to be slipped on instead of strapped or tied.

1.1 Ballet Flats

Ballet flats are low-cut shoes that expose the top of the foot and have a closed toe and a low heel. Manufacturing material options include cloth or leather. These women’s shoes originated in the mid 1700’s from ballerina slippers worn at that time. They were launched into the mainstream in the early 1900’s by Anna Pavlova, a Russian prima ballerina, who ordered them from Italian shoemaker Salvatore Capezio for her entire troop.

In 1941, Claire McCardell, an American sportswear designer, had Capezio create a selection of flats for her collection. As a result, high-end retailers then began to promote the women’s shoes in their stores. The style really caught fire in the mid 1950’s when Brigitte Bardot donned a bright red pair in the 1956 movie And God Created Women.

Brigitte Bardot in “And God Created Women”

Audrey Hepburn further catapulted the women’s shoe style into the stratosphere when she wore a custom-designed pair of Ferragamo ballet flats in the 1954 blockbuster movie “Roman Holiday.” Ballet flats combine elegance and comfort in a women’s shoe that provides versatility and ease of wear. These flats can be worn with almost anything but are most popular with Capri pants, skinny jeans, or casual dresses.

Paris, France – Red Patent Brigitte Ballerina Flat by Repetto

1.2 Pointed-Toe Flats

These women’s shoes are a version of ballet flats which expose the top of your foot, but with a pointed toe. In contrast to most pointed-toe shoes that can squeeze the front of your foot and toes together causing pain and discomfort, pointed-toe flats are designed not to crush your foot.

Their sleek shape lends more style than a ballet flat, so they can be worn with slightly more formal outfits for work like a pant suit or even skinny jeans with a jacket.

Pointed Toe Flats for women
Pointed-Toe Flats

1.3 D’Orsay Flats

D’Orsay flats are named after French Count Alfred Guillaume Gabriel who in 1827 married into British aristocracy. Count D’Orsay became known for wearing stylish shoes which the sides had been cut out, and was also know for his stylish hats and coats. This type of women’s shoes are very sexy and stylish due to the side or vamp of the shoe being cut out exposing the side, top and ankle of the wearer.

1.4 Slip-Ons

These shoes for women are low cut like the other flats, and like loafers, have no buckles, laces, or straps. They have a more sporty look, are cool, comfortable, and pair great with a casual outfit.

1.5 Moccasins

Thought to be the oldest shoe in existence, moccasins are shoes that originated before 10,000 BC. Native Americans of the Algonquin tribes used the word to describe the footwear they designed, usually using deerskin or some other soft animal hide, to protect their feet.

Each tribe had their own variation of the shoes using different soles and seams used to secure the hide at the top of the shoe. European settlers on the east coast of the U.S. began wearing moccasins when supplies from England and quality shoemakers both became scarce.

Moccasins have sides tacked with a vamp and soles without a heel, and are usually constructed of deerskin, soft leather or suede. They can be worn as slippers while at home or worn with casual clothing for a really laid-back style.

1.6 Boat Shoes

Created in 1935 by Paul Sperry to prevent sailors from slipping while on deck of their ships, the defining characteristic of these shoes is the non-marking rubber sole. After watching his dog walk without slipping on the ice or snow, Sperry noticed grooves in the paws, and then emulated those grooves in the soles of his shoes.

They were first made using a canvas upper, but Sperry introduced the leather upper just a few years later. Today these shoes are manufactured using leather, canvas, or suede, and are a popular casual look when worn with jeans or shorts.

2 HEELS

High-heels were introduced in the 15th century in Venice by aristocratic women as a status symbol. The trend was followed by Caterina de’ Medici in the 16th century, and Louis XIV wore them to make up for his modest height. By the Victorian era, women of all classes wore high heels to keep their dresses from dragging on the ground. Today, the medical community has a greater understanding of the health risks including often irreversible biomechanical effects of high-heeled shoe wear. So, why so many women still choose wear uncomfortable and potentially dangerous heels?

Researchers completed biomechanical analyses and found two main reasons: a) High heels give women a more feminine gait. The raised heel shortens a women’s stride and increases the rotation and tilt of the women’s hips. It is this exaggeration of femininity that may make high-heeled women more desirable to men, b) Males have a preference for women with a particular lumbar curvature, and wearing high heels mimics this optimal lumbar curvature.  

Heels have become one of the most iconic types of women’s shoes and fashion trends. Their ability to flatter a woman’s calves, legs, and feet while adding a boost in height makes them the preferred accessory for formal or evening wear. High heels can be tough to walk in and very uncomfortable. Consequently, the longer you have to wear them, the less likely they will be an option. 

Heels can range in height from one to eight inches and are available in a variety of uppers, all of which are known by different names. There are dozens of different heels, but we’ll focus on only several of the most common choices.

2.1 Pumps

Around the 1500s the flat shoes wore by men and servants were called “pompes.” As fashion trends progressed, the heels became higher, and these “Court” shoes became synonymous with wealth and power. In the mid 1600’s, King Louis XIV required those who entered his court to wear pumps with high red heels.

Through the centuries, Court shoes evolved from men’s shoes, to embellished heeled shoes worn by women in Europe. Three different heel types emerged during the 1700’s, the French, English, and Italian heels. French heels were curved and mid-height, English heels were lower and thicker, and Italian heels were spiked and higher.

Today, pumps are heels that are known to slip onto the foot and require no buckling or tying. These women’s shoes sport many types of heels, but are best know for their use of tall spiked heels. They are a perfect accessory for business and professional attire and definitely the most iconic.

2.2 Stilettos

Salvatore Ferragamo invented the steel shank for women’s shoes in 1929. Without that, the construction of these women’s shoes with the high heels and arches would be nearly impossible. While taking anatomy classes at USC earlier in the 1920’s, Ferragamo learned that the weight of the body rested mainly on the arches of the foot. That was the inspiration he needed to design a ground-breaking solution. The steel shank helped alleviate the intense pain experienced when wearing his high heels without any arch support.

Stilettos are skinny and very high heels (up to 8 inches) named after the stiletto dagger. They allow women to show off their added height while showcasing their legs, ankles, and the top of their feet. These women’s shoes were made for pairing with a sexy dress, skirt, or hot pants.

Extravagant sexy pink high heel stilettos.

2.3 Kitten Heels

Kitten heels also date back to Louis XIV of France who wore both kitten and chunk style heels that were red. The trend became so popular that it spread across Europe to other royalty, and were worn at their coronations.

These women’s shoes are similar to stilettos but are much lower and, as a result, more comfortable to wear. They can be worn at the office or at events where a great deal of standing or walking is required.

Orange Kitten Heel by Prada

2.4 Peep Toes

Peep toes were seen for the first time in the 1940’s, and describe more the type of upper than the type of heel utilized. These women’s shoes are designed so a few of your toes show at the front of the shoe through a cut-out.

Peep toes feature many heel types and will show off your beautifully manicured feet…at least a few of the toes. They are more formal than other open-toe shoes, so they are made to be worn with dresses or skirts.

Peep Toe black Shoe by Louboutin and Light Pink Pexi Peep-Toe d’Orsay Sandal

2.5 Platform Heels

UK designer, Vivienne Westwood, re-inserted these women’s shoes into the fashion industry in the early 1990’s. Platform heels feature a platform under the toes so that the inclination of the foot is less than wearing a normal heel. As a result, they are much more comfortable to wear and consequently have become more popular.

You get the added height benefit a high heel gives you with less discomfort and stress on the arch of your foot. Platform heels are usually paired with skirts, jeans and shorts, so they can be worn for just about any occasion.

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Steve Madden Beige Platform Heel Shoe

2.6 Block Heels

Block heels are distinguished from other heels by their large, square-shaped heel. They come in different types of uppers and heights and are known for their comfort and versatility. They were launched in 1965 by shoe designer Roger Vivier.

This type of women’s shoes is much easier to walk in due to the added stability of the larger heel, and the size of the heel prevents it getting stuck in sidewalk cracks or grates. They look great when paired with a business suit or a nice pair of slacks.

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Block Heel Shoe Examples

2.7 Mules

Mule’s etymology comes from Ancient Rome. The Latin word “mule” refer to both backless shoes and slippers. From the 16th century to the 19th century Mules were bedroom or boudoir slippers. They were not supposed to be worn out in public.

Today, mules are heels that have no back strap or support for your foot. They are easily slipped on and usually feature an open toe, but they may take some practice to walk in. Mules show off more of your foot, so they are more sexy than shoes with a full upper. Pair them with skinny jeans, skirts, or short dresses.

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Color Women’s Mules with Heels

2.8 Sling Back

Sling backs feature a strap around the back of the foot over the Achilles tendon. The strap helps with stabilization and keeps the shoe moving around on the foot. It also lends a bit of style and elegance to the women’s shoe.

These women’s shoes became popular in the 1940’s and were primarily used in photo shoots for pin-up girls so that their ankles and heels could be seen. Large companies used them in their advertising and on magazine covers.

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Sling Back

2.9 Ankle Strap

Ankle strap heels feature a small back that envelops the heel and Achilles’ tendon and a strap that goes around the front of the ankle and is either buckled or tied. These women’s shoes provide more foot stability than slingbacks or mules and add elegance and style.

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Ankle Strap Shoes

2.10 Birdcage Heels

Birdcage heels, were Invented by Salvatore Cangemi in 1952. Also known as cage heels, they are known for their heel which looks like a birdcage constructed of heavy wire. Some designers, showcasing their sense of humor, have placed birds or even a monkey inside the cage heel.

Bird-Cage Heels by Chanel
Birdcage Shoes by Chanel

2.11 Cone Heels

Launched into the fashion world in the 1980’s by French fashion designer Maud Frizon, cone heels are just as their name describes. They are heels that are shaped like a cone and are largest where the heel attaches to the upper. Their cone-shape is very stylish and can be paired with just about any type of outfit.

Cone heel Shoes
Cone Heels

2.12 Flare Heels

Flare heels originated in the 1970’s and were named so due to the way they emulate flared jeans. The heels are smaller at the top where they attach to the bottom of the upper, and they become wider as the heel touches the floor. They pair perfectly with bell-bottom jeans and dresses and skirts that also flare out at the bottom.

2.13 Lace-up Heels

These women’s shoes are similar to ankle strap heels which have a back on the shoe which helps support and protect the heel and Achilles tendon. The difference is that instead of straps and buckles to help secure the shoe on the foot, these shoes have laces which wrap around the ankle and then tie just like a classic ballerina slipper.

2.14 Spool Heels

This type of women’s shoes originated in Europe during the 1600’s, and was aptly named as its heels were shaped like a cotton spool. These Baroque period heels also became very popular in the mid-1800’s.

A variation in the shape of this heel is called the French or Louis heel. It has a larger top where the heel attaches to the upper than the tapered bottom which touches the floor. Their shape makes them easier and more comfortable to walk-in than a slim, pointed heel. Pair them with semi-formal or formal outfits.

Flare, lace-up and Spool Heelsls
Flare, Lace-Up and Spool Heels

3 LOAFERS

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Even though loafers are a common choice for men, they are also an increasingly popular option for women’s shoes. Their design was derived from Native American moccasins, which slipped on and had no heel. Shoe manufacturers began using the name for that type of footwear in the 1930s.

Loafers usually have a small heel and can be slipped on without being tied or buckled. There are versions made for women with a raised heel and ornamental stitching or tassels, which are perfect for the office that requires everyday formal wear.

3.1 Penny Loafers

Penny loafers are the most traditional variation of loafers and feature a slot in a leather strap built into the upper part of the shoe, which was explicitly designed to hold one penny. They are a classic and every boy’s first dress shoe (no laces). It is a lifelong wardrobe staple and the most versatile shoe you will ever slip on. But: why the penny?

Why a penny? In the 1930s, the cost of a call in a phone booth was only two cents. Each shoe was made to hold a penny, so the person wearing them had what they needed to make an emergency call from a phone booth.

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Men’s Penny Loafers

3.2 Tassel Loafers

Tassel loafers were designed after World War II at the request of Paul Lukas, a popular actor that starred in “Watch on the Rhine.”  During his travels, he found a shoe in Europe that had tassels on the end of the shoelaces and wanted shoemakers in New York and Los Angeles to design something that featured the tassels.

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Tassel Loafers By Gucci

4 OXFORDS

Oxfords are manufactured using only one piece of leather and are known for their distinctive look and closed lacing. Closed lacing is when the eyelet tabs are stitched under the vamp or top of the shoe, so they aren’t visible.

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Oxford Shoes

This women’s shoe has been around in various forms since the mid-1600s and was named after Oxford University in England. The style became popular among students of Oxford in the late 1800’s who had become tired of wearing boots and opted for an easier option.

4.1 Saddle Shoes

Saddle shoes are a type of stylish and functional low-heeled Oxford in white leather and have been around since 1906. They get their name from the contrast-colored piece of leather that reinforces and is stitched across the shoe’s instep. The most common color for that piece is black, but brown and blue are also very popular. 

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Men’s Saddle Shoes by Polo Ralph Lauren

They were originally designed for indoor sports due to the reinforced instep providing added support and stability for rigorous activities. Golfers still use them today because they possess both the support and the wardrobe formality required by golf courses. Saddle shoes enjoyed renewed popularity in the 1950’s when dancers were often seen performing popular swing dances like the Jitterbug.

5 PLATFORM

Platform shoes feature thick soles which can range from one to six inches in height.  They originated in ancient Greece about 600 BC and were utilized by actors to be seen more easily while on stage.  The more prominent the character in the play, the higher the platform shoe they wore.

In the Middle Ages, platforms were used to keep clothes from getting soiled or wet while walking on the streets.  Platform shoes became popular with the French elite in the mid-1500s when Catherine de Medici wore them to enhance her tiny frame.

5.1 Platform Heels

A Platform heel is raised significantly higher at the front of the foot and is more comfortable than standard high heels.  Caution is advised because wearing these elevated women’s shoes requires good balance and practice.

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6 CLOGS

Clogs dated back to the 13th century in the Netherlands and were traditionally carved entirely out of wood.

They were designed and made to protect the feet from damage while working outdoors or gardening.  Clog shoes feature a raised sole and heel, usually the same height.

Over the last few centuries, clogs for women have transformed from a clumsy-looking carved block of wood into a stylish and comfortable option that can be worn for almost any occasion.

6.1 Cork Clogs

One of the most popular clogs styles features a sole manufactured of cork.  Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree which can be found in southwest Europe and northwest Africa.  The harvest occurs every nine years without damaging the tree because the bark regenerates, thus earning an environmental-friendly reputation of sustainability.

Humanity has used cork in many forms over the last 5,000 years and possesses remarkable traits.  It is fire retardant, buoyant, has a cushioning elasticity, and is impermeable.  It is best known for its use as stoppers in wine bottles; it has incredible health benefits as soles for shoes.

The health benefits of cork when used as soles in shoe manufacturing include shock absorption, moisture-wicking, and lighter weight.  Extra cushioning properties of the cork alleviates the pressure on the Achilles tendon and helps prevent shin splints when walking on hard surfaces.  Its ability to draw perspiration away from the feet also prevents the formation of bacteria and foot odor.

7 SANDALS

Sandals originated in ancient Greece around 500 BC and were made of leather.  The type of sandal worn by an individual spoke to their class and position in society.

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Women’s Summer Sandals

Sandals are a traditional women’s shoe worn during the summer and usually expose a large part of the foot.  They are flat-soled and lightweight due to the amount of material used.  Sandals are generally made of plastic, rubber, or leather and are usually a comfortable option for shopping, gym, pool, or casual events.

7.1 Flip Flops

Flip flops are most likely the most popular type of sandal in existence.  They are inexpensive and have a minimalist design, usually utilizing a y-shaped strap that slides between the toes to hold it in place.  Flip flops are usually made of plastic or rubber, so they are water-resistant.

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Since they allow the feet to breathe and accommodate swelling or expansion due to heat, flip flops are popular for walking on hot summer days, running errands, or coming from a workout.  They fit perfectly with shorts, t-shirts, swimwear, and even a casual sundress.

7.2 Gladiator Sandals

Gladiator sandals originated in the 3rd century BC and were used by professional Roman fighters while fighting to the death in arenas in front of large crowds. These shoes had a distinct style characterized by many thin straps attached to the shoe’s sole that ran up and horizontally over the foot.

Today’s women’s gladiator sandals are similar in appearance to their Roman predecessors, and are primarily constructed of leather. They are a comfortable option to wear with casual outfits like shorts, sundresses, and jeans.

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Women’s Gladiator Sandals

7.3 Slides

Slides (aka Sliders) are sandals that sport one large strap that runs from the sole up over the top of the foot near the toes.

They are popular for being used as shower shoes due to their water resistance and protection against athletes’ feet commonly found on shower floors. 

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Women’s Slider Shoes

These women’s shoes are normally worn by athletes who don’t want to wear their sports shoes while traveling to their practice or game sites.

Slides allow them to put their socks on and slide into a sandal, usually made of rubber, which is easy to take off before putting their sports shoes on once they have arrived at the venue.

8 SNEAKERS

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Multi-brand Women’s Sneakers

The first sneakers were created by U.S. Rubber in 1892 and were called Keds. Using rubber soles and canvas tops, they were nicknamed sneakers due to the ability of the person wearing them to walk without being heard. Mass production began in 1917 and soon after Converse created the first sneaker made exclusively for playing basketball.

Sneakers are a lightweight and comfortable choice with a flat rubber sole and doesn’t usually offer a high level of support like trainers.  They are designed to provide more protection for the feet than sandals but use a durable, lightweight, and flexible canvas material.  Sneakers can be worn with shorts and jeans and look cute with summer dresses.  They are perfect for casual events and shopping because they are much easier to walk in than most other shoes.

9 BLUCHERS

Bluchers are named after an 18th century Prussian General, Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher, who commissioned a boot for his troops with added side pieces positioned over the front of the boot.  They were so popular that they were used by troops throughout Europe.  Today, bluchers are worn extensively and associated with British style.

Bluchers are similar to Oxfords in their appearance, but feature open lacing as opposed to closed lacing like Oxfords.  The vamp or upper is comprised of a single piece of leather, in which the tongue is integrated, and the eyelet tabs are sewn on top.

Leather bluchers are not only elegant and the most comfortable of this type of shoe but also provide a classic look with just about any outfit.  They can be worn with pant suits, skirts dresses, and slacks.

10 TRAINERS

Trainers are another name for sports shoes. The most popular trainers are running shoes, but you can also include court shoes like basketball and tennis in this category.

10.1 Running Shoes

Running shoes typically have laces which allows them to be secured according to an athlete’s need.  They are designed to fit so they secure, support, and protect the foot during the intense forces encountered during impact, stopping, starting, and change of direction.  These shoes can be fashionably paired with shorts, jeans, or sweatpants, for an easy casual look.

11 WEDGE

The first wedge shoes were invented by Salvatore Ferragamo in 1936 and were manufactured with wood and cork.  Their soles are usually two to four inches in thickness and offer added height like platform shoes.  Instead of the shoe’s heel being centered under the heel of your foot like they are in most variations of high heels, the wedge-shaped heel continues from the heel forward to the ball of the foot.  This creates an inclination from the heel to the toe.

Wedges are more comfortable and casual than stilettos, so they are a natural choice for the warmer months. They look best when paired with maxi dresses or skirts, flared jeans, or shorts.  Wedges also have more stability, and the heel will not get stuck in the cracks of a sidewalk and break off.

11.1 Espadrilles

Espadrilles are a wedge sandal with a canvas upper and a sole made of rope. They originated in Spain around 2000 BC and are highly popular in Europe.  The Catalan root for espadrille refers to the esparto plant which was originally used to create the rope used in the soles.  Today, the most used plants to produce the rope are jute and hemp.

These women’s shoes gained worldwide popularity in the 1940’s when Rita Hayworth and Lauren Bacall wore them in their blockbuster movies.  Once they were seen onscreen, everyone wanted a pair for themselves.

TYPES OF BOOTS

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Luxury footwear brand Christian Louboutin Women Boot Stilettos

Boot variations are primarily based upon the height of the shaft.  The shaft is the section of the boot that rises from the arch upward and is measured from the bottom of your foot to the top of the boot. For example, calf boots rise above the ankle and fall below the knee in the calf area of your leg.

Just like shoes, there are numerous variations of boots available in the marketplace.  They are most popular during Fall and Winter but due to their versatility can be worn year-round with just about any type of outfit.  Here is a list of each type of boot:

1 ANKLE BOOTS

The shaft of these women’s boots is designed to rise to the level of your ankle between 3-8 inches in height.  Fastening options for boots can be slip-on, have zippers, buckles or laces.

Their stylish appearance lends a classy look to just about any outfit.  Boots with a little higher heel especially dress up a pair of skinny jeans, pants that have a tight fit at the ankle or a skirt.  They are perfect to wear at the office or for a professional event, and especially popular during Fall.

2 CALF BOOTS

The shaft of this variation of women’s boot rises onto the calf portion of your leg but stays below the knee.  Calf boots come in various designs and heel types like ankle boots, but normally have a zipper or laces due to the height of the boot on your leg.

Mid Calf Boots

These boots are popular in winter because they keep your legs warm and protect your feet from water and snow.  They pair perfectly with a dress or skirt.

3 THIGH HIGH

Thigh high boots get their name from the shaft of these women’s boots reaching all the way up to the lower or mid-thigh. They come in all different heel types and are most popular in leather and suede.

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Thigh High Boots

If you wear fitted jeans, then thigh-high boots look fantastic and make a fashion statement.  They can be worn any time of the year but are usually too warm for the summer months.

4 COMBAT

Combat boots are military-inspired casual calf boots.  They utilize laces just like military boots, and have the same clunky, sturdy design. These women’s boots go great with just jeans and a t-shirt but are also often paired with a skirt and jean jacket.

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Combat Boots

5 COWBOY

Cowboy boots are calf high boots which are slipped on.  They have a pointed toe, so the boot easily slides into a stirrup and a large heel which keeps the boot from sliding forward through the stirrup.  Cowboy boots are made of leather to protect feet from the abrasion of stirrups, horses, venomous snakes, and barb wire.

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Women’s Cowboy Boots

These women’s boots can be paired with jeans or skirts and are popular when going line dancing or out to a western-themed nightclub.

6 RAIN

This boot was designed merely for the practical purpose of preventing your feet from getting wet.  Rain boots are normally manufactured using rubber, are not insulated, and are waterproof.  Their shaft usually rises to the upper calf region of your leg or to just below the knee so water will not splash into the boot.

Women’s rain boots are a must-have if you live in a region that receives a large amount of annual rainfall or snow.

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Women’s Rain Boots

MATERIAL TYPES

Shoe and boot manufacturing is based on three main types of materials: 1) animal, 2) plant, and 3) synthetic. See them here below broken down by category:

1 ANIMAL

1.1 Cowhide/Horsehide Leather

Cattle and horse leather is the most widely used material for shoes and boots due to it durability and the large number of variations it offers.  Here is a list of the most widely used leathers in shoe and boot making:

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Horsehide Leather Shoes

1.2 Shell Cordovan

This type of leather is the rarest and most sought-after of all leathers. It is cut from the hindquarters of a horse. Naturally water and stretch-resistant due to high pore density, it is the hardest to tan and work with. Tanning can take up to six months, and very few tanneries can handle it. Shoes made of Cordovan are expensive but will last for 50 years or more if cared for properly.

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Shell Cordovan Leather

1.3 Roughout

This leather utilizes the rough flesh side of the hide as the outside of the shoe.  It is durable enough for heavy use, breathes better than rough-in leather, but has a soft nappy feel to it that doesn’t really require shining.

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Roughout Leather shoes

1.4 Suede

Like roughout, suede utilizes the rough flesh side of the hide.  The main difference is that the hide is sanded and buffed down to a texture which makes it thin and pliable.  That’s why it so popular for making gloves and other delicate clothing.

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Women’s Suede Loafer and Gloves

1.5 Calfskin

The source of this leather is young calves and has a fine grain which is durable and free of imperfections.  Calfskin is thin and pliable leather lasts for years if care for properly and responds very well to a high polish.

1.6 Vegetable Tanned

This leather is tanned using tree bark and vegetable matter.  The result is a stiff leather which over time softens, darkens, and has an amazing sheen to it.  Water will cause this leather to shrink and crack when it dries, so proper care must be followed for it to last.

1.7 Pull-Up

This type of leather is aniline or chrome-dyed in a drum and then finished by heavily oiling and waxing it.  The result is a very soft leather which changes color as it is stretched or pulled when used in manufacturing.  It is a very low maintenance products that readily absorbs scrapes and scuffs.

1.8 Reptile

Reptile skins have long been used as an alternative to horse and cattle hides, especially in areas where large reptiles are indigenous. They are more expensive here in the U.S. due to their difficulty to acquire, and some of the species are also on the endangered list so they are not a responsible option.

2 PLANT

2.1 Cork

As outlined in the Cork Clogs section of this article, cork’s properties include impermeability, buoyancy, elasticity, fire retardation, and extremely light weight. 

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Cork Material and Nathalie Coco black Blucher with cork sole

2.2 Wood

Wood, other than cork, is still being used extensively to make heels for women’s shoes and boots.  It is also a preferred choice for making heels for cowboy boots.  Of course, don’t forget about Dutch wooden clogs manufactured exclusively of wood.

2.3 Hemp

This thread has been used in shoemaking dating back to the 14th century.  Hemp has a 23% higher resistance to tearing than other threads, and it is waterproof, so it makes a great choice for manufacturing.

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Hemp Plant and Fabrics

2.4 Jute

One of the most affordable fibers available on the market today, jute is used to produce rope and thread.  It is most widely used to make burlap bags or gunny cloth, but it also very popular in the manufacturing of espadrilles in Bangladesh, the world’s largest producer of jute.

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Jute Fabric

2.5 Cotton

Cotton is used in many types of garments and shoes due to its versatility and breathability.  It is also mixed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to manufacture canvas, one of the most popular materials used in the manufacture of sneakers.

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Cotton Field and Cotton Fabrics

2.6 Linen

Linen is derived from the flax plant and is widely used not only as a very popular fabric, but also for thread in the manufacturing of shoes and boots due to its strength and durability.  This fabric is also mixed with PVC to manufacture canvas.

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Soft Color Linen Fabric Samples

2.7 Silk

Silk is used several ways in shoemaking, from the cloth being used in the upper to the thread being used for stitching due to its natural elasticity. It also lends a beautifully natural sheen when used used as the fabric for a women’s upper.

3 SYNTHETIC

3.1 Rubber

Natural rubber is derived from latex which is a milky substance found in rubber-producing plants primarily found in South American rainforests and also in India and southeast Asia.  Today, synthetic rubber is primarily used in the manufacture of boots and shoes for both soles and uppers.

3.2 Plastic

Plastic used in shoe and boot-making comes in many forms.  Some of the variations include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PU) which is a rigid, ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) which is tough and flexible, and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) which is flexible and has elasticity.

3.3 Polyester

Polyethylene terephthalate is the chemical name for polyester, and this fiber is widely used in the garment and shoe industry.  You can find it both on the inside and outside of shoes and boots due to its durability, fire retardant, and lightweight properties.

3.4 Nylon

Polyamide, the chemical name for nylon, and polyester are used in shoe and boot manufacturing. Nylon is more expensive to produce.  It is more durable and weather-resistant than polyester but has one fifth of the worldwide production. 

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Nylon Sport Shoe

3.5 Steel

Steel shanks, plates and toes are used in the manufacture of shoes and boots.  The shanks and plates are used to reinforce the shape of the shoe or boot and help maintain the shape, and steel toes are used in the manufacture of safety shoes and boots to help protect against foot injury from heavy items crushing your toes.

SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability in shoe and boot manufacturing is becoming significantly more important due to several factors.  The sheer volume of shoes and boots produced is estimated to contribute approximately 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions to our atmosphere each year.

Besides the emissions, the use of toxic chemicals in tanning and manufacturing, plus the synthetic products produced using petroleum products, presents a huge threat to our environmental well-being.

It is vitally important that eco-friendly alternatives be used when available, instead of using products or processes that clearly harm our environment. Here are some of the materials used and processes which are eco-friendly alternatives:

1 LEATHER TANNING

The process of converting animal hides to leather is called tanning.  There are various ways in which tanning occurs and this plays a significant role in the characteristics of the finished product. In addition, they also impact the environment differently.

Chromium tanning was developed in 1858 to replace more expensive and time-consuming vegetable tanning.  This much less natural process involves soaking the hides in acidic salts using acids, chromium sulphates, and other chemicals.  These chemicals have negative impact on our environment, and the industry is under heavy scrutiny as more environmental regulations are introduced.

Vegetable tanning is an environmentally friendly method that has been used for thousands of years and uses a solution comprised of tree bark like the oak or chestnut.  Only about 10% of the leather worldwide is tanned using this method due to its high cost, skillful, and lengthy process, but this leather can be considered biodegradable and eco-friendly.

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Leather Tanning

2 VEGETABLE LEATHER

Vegetable leathers are produced solely from plant. Examples are desert cactus, grapes, mushrooms, pineapples and mangos.  Each of these vegan leathers are processed without the use of toxic chemicals or harmful substances, and much of the process is done by hand.

These leathers also do not create sourcing issues. The cactus is naturally abundant, and the grape source is grape waste leftover after winemaking. The mushrooms used in the vegan leather are harmful to trees, so their removal helps the forest, and the mango leather utilizes only discarded mangos.

Some plant or fruit “leathers” are starting to gain traction. One of them is obtained from the leaves of pineapples grown in the Philippines and is called  Piñatex. Its production is much more sustainable than traditional leather and is completely animal-free. Piñatex requires less water and no harmful chemicals that are ecologically toxic to wildlife. The leftover leaf waste is recycled and used for fertilizer or biomass.

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Piñatex Extraction and Final Product Sample

3 WOOL

Wool is considered one of the most eco-friendly materials used in the manufacturing of women’s shoes and boots.  It uses approximately 70% less water than cotton, and approximately 20% less energy than polyester to produce the same amount of fabric.

Since fleece is sheared from sheep annually and then regrows, it has a very low environmental impact and the most sustainable of animal materials used in manufacturing.

4 CORK

This is one of the most environmentally responsible materials used in the making of women’s shoes and women’s boots.  Its trees are not cut down during harvest, instead the trees are periodically stripped of their bark which naturally regenerates.  The trees continue to live and thrive.  Forests of cork not only prevent the degradation of the land they are on, but also provide a sanctuary to many endangered species.

Cork trees absorb a large amount of carbon dioxide, over 40,000 pounds during its lifetime, which keeps the gas out of the atmosphere.  The trees live over 200 years, so that’s a lot of carbon dioxide being kept out of the atmosphere. 

Cork and its by-products are also biodegradable, so when you add that to its health benefits when used in shoes and boots, you have a huge win-win.

5 HEMP

This natural fiber has been used for thousands of years to manufacture rope, paper, fuel, and cloth.  Unfortunately, it was outlawed due to political pressure from competing materials like cotton and plastic.

Hemp grows easily, requires little water, and no pesticides.  It returns nutrients to the soil and absorbs carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide is only returned to the atmosphere if the plant is burned or composted, so if it used in manufacturing then the gas is retained. 

Almost everything that can be made with cotton, corn, or soy, can be made sustainably with hemp.  It is biodegradable, takes up very relatively little room, and produces more pulp per acre than trees.

6 JUTE

Jute was discovered by Europeans as a substitute for flax in the late 1800’s.  Like hemp, it grows easily without pesticides, enhances soil fertility, absorbs carbon dioxide, and releases oxygen much faster than trees.

It is also completely biodegradable, recyclable, and uses only natural rainwater to grow.  Jute is another sustainable option like hemp which fights the adverse effects that cotton has on our planet.

WRAPPING UP

Sustainability can be described as an initiative to preserve the resources and our lives on earth. The three main principles of sustainability are economy, society, and environment. Dozens of materials have been classified as sustainable, including those that continue to have a negative impact on our society and environment. 

There are some criteria to consider when thinking about sustainability. Does the material degrade soil, is it derived from petroleum products, or does it use too much water relative to what it produces. If the answer is yes to any of the questions, then those materials do not positively impact earth’s resources or our lives. We cannot live without water, we cannot grow without fertile soil, and we cannot continue to rely upon fossil fuels. Utilizing eco-friendly alternatives preserves our planet, our resources, and improves our way of life. 

Today, we are experiencing a considerable change in consumer behavior as millennials and generation Z reach the market. Most baby boomers inherently consider luxury brands exclusive due to their high price, exceptional quality, and scarcity. Many luxury brands mass-produce, generating huge excess of products in secondary markets like outlets and consequently are not sustainable. These long-established brands do not comply with the new definition of luxury demanded by new generations.
The meaning of luxury is shifting from being a synonym of “economic status” to incorporating the principles of purpose-driven quality products with cultural credibility and values. In other words, a social harmony achieved through sustainability/eco-friendly products, processes, and companies.

Sustainability is the new luxury! At eVogued you can explore some of these new brands making a difference.

If you have any comments regarding this article, please send us an email to info@evogued.com.

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