The benefits of choosing a vegan lifestyle can extend to your health, the environment, and of course, the well-being of cute and beautiful animals otherwise exploited by big industry. For the most strict, going vegan doesn’t just involve removing animal-based foods from your diet but also avoiding and advocating for products that avoid animal products altogether–cosmetics, toiletries, even apparel and footwear.
The number of vegans among outdoor enthusiasts communities is undoubtedly on the rise. Still, the dominance of leather in hiking shoes (and in rock climbing shoes) is only beginning to be challenged by the use of synthetic leather and fibers. When done right, these manmade materials can be just as capable as leather, without any harm done to any animals.
What Makes a Vegan Shoe?
To pass the first step in our vegan shoe litmus test, we’re looking at whether the boot uses leather on its upper, the portion that sits atop the sole and secures your foot. This may seem obvious, but it’s not uncommon for bootmakers to use a combination of synthetic fibers and leather (or suede) together, so it’s essential to look closely and check technical descriptions carefully.
With the uppers of the boots cleared, there are only a couple more opportunities for animal products to appear: mainly liners and shoelaces. Leather shoelaces don’t typically come on boots made from synthetic materials, but that’s no reason to overlook that detail. Interior liners and insoles are other places to check for the use of both wool and leather as insulators. A shoe's sole and last can also conceal animal products, so again, keep a close eye on product descriptions.
All shoes on this list have met the aforementioned criteria and cleared as a vegan option (if you catch an error, give us a shout at hello @ fieldmag .com).
Whether you’re devoted to removing animal-based products from your life or simply looking for a leather alternative, consider one of these animal-free, vegan options for your next pair of hiking boots from our favorite brands.
Our 9 Top Picks for the Best Vegan Hiking Boots
Salomon has plenty of hits outside of their super on-trend Sportstyle line, a staple of the current GORP streetwear craze, like this fully animal-free ankle-height hiker. The Outline is built more like a tall, lightweight trail-runner with hiking capabilities and weight savings from synthetic fiber uppers, waterproofed by Gore-Tex. On trails, there’s loads of traction on tap thanks to aggressively lugged soles, supported by a polyurethane shank at the midsole.
This fast and light, vegan-friendly hiker from Keen uses a mesh upper that receives extra protection against abrasions from a series of panels made from thermoplastic polyurethane (aka TPU), an alternative to silicone that’s capable of biodegrading. Waterproofing comes from the brand’s proprietary tech that heralds itself as breathable while still retaining protection from the wet. A lofty midsole makes for a supportive stride atop the high-traction sole.
Italian mountain footwear kings La Sportiva are seldom left out of our product roundups; they’ve been at it for nearly a century, and pieces like this vegan boot only further prove their place as a top dog. Abrasion-resistant mesh uppers replace the need for leather anywhere on this medium-duty hiking boot that’s suitable for more strenuous outings where you’re carrying a loaded pack. Vibram rubber encircles the base of the boot to create a protective barrier, in addition to making up the entirety of the monstrous Megagrip soles. Going alpine? Take a look at the big brother of the TXS, the Trango Tech GTX.
The Half Dome logo brand brings forth this ankle-high option, chock full of product tech developed by the brand. VECTIV stands for a forward-motion sole unit developed in conjunction with sponsored athletes, while FUTURELIGHT brands their own breathable waterproofing development. Abrasion-resistant ripstop Cordura uppers make for a rugged piece hiker with no need for leather. The sole tread isn’t as hefty as other options, so this one’s best use case is for light wet hikes or urban excursions.
The Toronto-based women and POC-led brand (recently known as Alice + Whittles) launched via Kickstarter in 2013 focused on high-quality, sustainably made products. The brand’s hiker-style unisex boot receives over 95% of its makeup from natural and recycled materials–not a single bit of it sourced from animal products. Except for optional wool insoles, the entirety of Thesus’s product line is entirely animal-free.
Price: $198 SHOP NOW
The gods of marshmallow-like midsoles are well known for their runners, but they do a bangin’ hiker as too. This ankle-height rendition of the Speedgoat 2 sits somewhere between a trail runner and hiking boot, made from a lightweight mesh upper that holds a Gore-Tex bootie. Unless you know how to shave grams from your pack seriously, it might not be our recommendation for thru-hikes, per se.
It’s not all alpine shells and luxe puffers from our beloved dead bird brand, the footwear lineup from Arc’teryx has been pretty solid for several seasons and getting stronger every year. The Acrux boot is a fully synthetic, superlight vegan boot with a classic silhouette made from their SuperFabric; a lightweight synthetic said to have exceptional abrasion resistance. Of course, Gore-Tex is present here doing its thing, as is Vibram’s MegaGrip compound at the sole.
British footwear brand Inov-8 may be a niche brand here in the States, but the Lake District-tested footwear from the brand with funky spelling puts forward some super technical hikers without a trace of animal products. The Cordura-upper Roclite 286 champions itself as the world’s lightest Gore-Tex hiking boot, a claim that earns itself serious consideration if true! Of course, a weight of just 286g is certainly nothing to balk at, so we’re inclined to believe it.
Footwear brand Native isn’t explicitly an outdoor brand, and their Fitzsimmons Citylite hiking style boot isn’t quite a boot for hiking in. That said, the brand built itself on the principle of making a light environmental impact, so we can’t argue with that. The unisex EVA shelled boots certainly have a cartoony look, but surely this flavor of weird does it for someone out there.