What You Need To Know to Avoid Leather Shoes


I never thought it would be possible to have the fun taken out of shoe shopping but trying to avoid leather made from animal skin was beginning to be a pain in the arse. One of the biggest challenges I had was trying to figure out whether the shoes were made from real leather (from an animal) or from synthetic, man-made materials.

After some digging, I finally found a quick and painless guide to follow when trying to find animal-free shoes. HORRAY!

Quick note: The points mentioned below are to help consumers find shoes made without animal skin. There are certainly drawbacks and environmental implications of buying shoes made from toxic materials like petroleum and PVC however this guide is for someone who is looking to avoid shoes made from animal sources.  We definitely encourage our readers to look for more environmentally-conscious materials that also do not harm animals whenever they can. 

Getting to know our shoes

Shoe manufacturers and retailers are required to label the composition of the entire footwear, specifically identifying the materials used for the Upper, Lining & Sock, and Outer Sole.


The two most common ways you can find out what materials your shoe is made from is either

  1. written or printed somewhere on the inside of the shoe (or an attached tag) or
  2. illustrated by a pictogram that can be found on a sticker on the bottom of the shoe or on a tag.

Reading Shoe Composition

We’ll start with the easier one, depending on the shoe and brand, you can sometimes find text printed on the inside of the shoe, either on the side or underneath the tongue. This little bit of printed information is super helpful when you’re trying to find vegan-friendly shoes.

To avoid shoes made from animal skin, you’ll want to ward off from materials labelled as leather, coated leather, suede, fur.

Vegan-friendly materials are made from anything other than animal skin so that includes anything and everything from PVC, polyurethane, rubber, fabric, and man-made materials.


Familiarize Yourself with These Shoe Symbols

Ever wonder what on earth that sticker on the bottom of the shoe was for? Other than being a b*tch to take off? Well, it’s actually a helpful pictogram telling you what materials the shoes were made from. The shoe composition will be made from one or a mixture of the following materials.


So in order to avoid shoes made from real leather or animal skin, you’ll obviously want to avoid both the leather and coated leather symbols and opt for shoes labelled with either the textile or other materials symbol. Since leather and coated leather symbols look very similar, I like to keep it simple and say there are only 3 symbols we need to remember.

Here is an example of a pair of shoes I recently purchased. Notice the only symbols in the pictogram are Textile and Other Materials, this means these shoes were made from materials other than animal skin.


Final words

This is definitely a quick and dirty guide but I found it to be extremely helpful and a great starting point to consciously know what I’m choosing to support through my purchases. I use to just walk into a store, pick a shoe off the shelf, try them on and if they’re a winner then they’re coming home with me. I didn’t really put any thought into how my choices as a consumer can affect the outcomes; if consumers don’t want to buy, then stores and manufacturers will stop producing and supplying them. It’s your decisions that will change the world, make it a kind one.

Vicky Ly

I'm Vicky! I've been a vegan for 4 years and want to do my small part in making the world a kinder place. When I'm not on my laptop creating or designing, I enjoy running, vegan chocolate chip cookies + ice cream, and the occasional Simpsons marathon.

  • JoAnn Perdue
    September 12, 2016

    Thanks for all the info. It was confusing to identity non-animal based shoes, especially if your trying to be fashion concious and learning that Italy (and I’m sure other countries) are purchasing dog and cat skins from China to make their shoes, purses , etc….

  • Karen Meixner
    August 31, 2016

    So if the shoe states Upper/man made/textile,Lining man made/textile,socklining man made and and outersole man made/textile than I can safely assume the shoes are vegan?

  • January 30, 2016

    This is so helpful! I’ve been trying to find a new pair of clogs and I can’t believe how difficult it is. 🙂

  • Bee
    December 18, 2015

    What about ‘non leather’?
    I have this pair of boots and they say:
    Non leather upper
    Non leather lining
    Non leather sole

    I’ve looked all over the place but no one has said anything about it and I’m dying to know if these shoes are vegan friendly!

    • May 16, 2016

      They are probably synthetic, although that doesn’t mean they are vegan. The glue used, for example, can be of animal origin.

  • July 6, 2015

    I’ve always wondered what all those symbols meant on that annoying sticker stuck to the bottom of my shoe, now that I know I’m happy it’s there. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips!>

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