8 Sustainable Heels to Step Up In

posted in brand roundups

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

As far as we know, heels originated in 10th-century Persia, and, surprisingly or not, heels were meant for men only “to secure their feet in the stirrups and give them more leverage when fighting,” as L’Officiel points out. Wearing heels was a symbol of power and strength — and status, too, given that not everyone could afford horses at that time.

Persian royalty expanded the style to France in the 17th century, and soon, heels were widespread among wealthy European men. Not long after, women from the wealthier European courts began to wear heeled shoes to “achieve some of the social benefits they accrued.” That’s when heels started to be associated with sexuality and eroticism.

Since then and over the decades, trending heel types have changed throughout different generations under the influence of both male and female icons: from the pin-ups wearing high heels in the 40s, to the 60s when women were opting for kitten heels à-la Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” to the ‘70s disco era with platforms and clogs really gaining momentum also thanks to glam rock’s artists like David Bowie. And again: the return of the kitten heels in the ‘90s, with Princess Diana leading the way, then back to wedges and rock star-inspired platforms and cowboy boots in the ‘00s (think Freddie Mercury and the Queen, or Steven Tyler and the Aerosmith).

Some people may wonder how it’s possible that wearing high heels has persisted as a fashion trend until today, given how uncomfortable they can be. But if you’ve embraced walking in heels  — high, low, thin, chunk, whatever they are — we put together a list of sustainable brands to keep in mind if you need to get a new pair.

(please note: some affiliate links are used in this post which means we may get a small commission)
Image credit: NAE


The name itself carries this brand’s mission: No Animal Exploitation. NAE is an established brand responding to the growing demand for vegan shoes and accessories since 2008. Locally manufactured in certified and ethical factories, NAE’s heels collection includes both décolleté and open-toe sandals. A special mention to the natural cork-made heeled sandals, a true Portuguese signature!

Price: USD 98-123

Size range: US 5-10
Sustainable materials, Recycled/reclaimed materials, Vegan, Factory transparency
Based in Portugal, ships worldwide

Image credit: AERA


AERA is a New York-based brand known for its luxury slingbacks, pumps, sandals, and boots. The 100% vegan shoes are entirely made in Italy by manufacturers committed to using “lower plastic-content materials and materials with an increased percentage of recycled content.” If you’re on the hunt for heels to treasure that do not compromise on quality, style, and comfort — this brand may easily become your go-to.

Price: USD 425-850

Size range: US 5-13
Values: Sustainable materials, Recycled/reclaimed materials, Vegan, Gives back, Plastic-free packaging, B Corp, Carbon neutral shipping
Availability: Based in the US, ships within the US

Sylven New York

Apple leather, coconut husk fibers, and bio-based lining from wheat and barley byproducts are just some of the innovative materials this brand adopted for its iconic boots. Designed with a square, comfortable heel, Sylven New York’s range of sustainably made boots includes classic plain-color pairs as well as two-tone, squared-toe, 70s-inspired pieces that make a statement. 

Price: USD 345-450

Size range: US 5-11
Values: Sustainable materials, Recycled/reclaimed materials, Vegan, Factory transparency, Plastic-free packaging
Availability: Based in the US, ships worldwide

Image credit: Nisolo


Pioneering transparency and social responsibility, Nisolo is known to be one of the best-in-class US-based, sustainable shoe brands. The brand’s selection ranges from seasonal, classic sandals and boots, to mules and clogs you can wear year-round. While Nisolo is committed to continuously improving and testing out new animal-free leather alternatives, for now, the brand uses leather “as one of the more sustainable options available for high-quality, durable footwear and accessories when it’s made and processed responsibly.”

Price: USD 170-240

Size range: US 5-11
Values: Recycled/reclaimed materials, Factory transparency, Plastic-free packaging, B Corp, Take-back recycling program
Availability: Based in the US, ships to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many European countries

Image credit: VEERAH


The sleek design of VEERAH’s vegan sandals, pumps, and boots will make your eyes glisten if you love your footwear with neat lines and elegant colors. This brand’s shoes are made using apple leather, algae foam insole cushions and other natural, repurposed, and vegan materials. VEERAH winks at your bolder self offering a series of versatile accessories like chains, straps, and brooches you can add onto your shoes, and change up the style when you feel like it.

(psst. use coupon code VERENA for 10% off Veerah!)

Price: USD 228-448

Size range: US 5-11
Values: Sustainable materials, Recycled/repurposed materials, Vegan, Factory transparency
Availability: Based in the US, ships worldwide

Image credit: VIVAIA


Vivaia’s low-heel shoes scream comfort from all angles! Made using innovative fibers such as rice husks and Artemisia argyi, together with recycled materials, these shoes are incredibly lightweight, wide-feet approved, extra breathable, as well as foldable and portable. Pick your fave among kitten heels, wedges, or chunky heels. 

Price: USD 60-255

Size range: US 5-10 +custom
Values: Sustainable materials, Recycled/repurposed materials, Gives back, Plastic-free packaging, Low-waste production
Availability: Based in the UK, ships worldwide


This US-based, Mediterranean-inspired brand makes “authentic Spanish espadrille wedges.” Biankina’s espadrilles are crafted from natural jute and organic cotton canva upper: clean, ultra-comfortable, and breathable materials. Its wedged version includes soft cotton ankle tie laces for those who long for extra comfort but don’t want to give up on walking a few inches from ground.

Price: USD 115-125

Size range: US 6-10
Sustainable materials, Recycled/repurposed materials, GOTS Certified, Vegan, Gives back
Based in the US, ships worldwide

Image credit: Prota Fiori

Prota Fiori

If stilettos don’t scare you, you’ll fall in love with Prota Fiori’s range of strap sandals, elegant pumps, and sock booties. The brand manufactures its high-quality shoes from plant-based and environmentally friendly materials such as apple and grape skin. Founder Jennifer Stucko also committed to designing and making footwear using traditional Italian craftsmanship methods to preserve the historical authenticity and ability of artisans from the Marche region.

Price: USD 375-895

Size range: US 5-12
Values: Sustainable materials, Recycled/reclaimed materials, Factory transparency, Plastic-free packaging, Gives back, B Corp
Availability: Based in the US, ships worldwide

Follow Denise Caggio:
Denise is a freelance partnerships manager and ethical living advocate. After working in media agencies for a few years, she landed into sustainable fashion by collaborating with start-ups before eventually joining Good On You, where she currently manages relationships with partners. When she's not dealing with ethical fashion brands, you can probably find her gazing at the beautiful landscapes of Lake Como, where she lives, or wearing hiking boots to get to the top of the mountains—or she may be on a van trip to somewhere beautiful.

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