Each year, it takes me weeks, if not months to painstakingly choose my winter boots. Experience has taught me that boots can either make winter work outdoors pleasurable or an absolute nightmare. Year after year I wonder why nobody is manufacturing heated boots, surely the first person to do so will be an overnight billionaire just from sales to gardeners and horse-riders? I will spend any amount of money to ensure my feet stay warm and dry over the winter and I’ve learnt that the key to a good boot is not so much in the lining but in a really chunky sole, the more space between my feet and the cold, bleak earth the better. The other absolute must is maximum waterproofing – leaky boots are not worth bothering with.
This year I made my winter boot picking a squillion times harder by choosing to buy vegan ones, give me strength… I’ll start by giving you a list of non-vegan boot manufacturers as it’s longer than the vegan one. If you’re buying vegan and were hoping to purchase from any of the following companies (as I was) you’re out of luck:
Karrimor (there’s no telephone number available to contact Karrimor so in truth I can’t say either way. I swore off buying Karrimor boots though after my second pair leaked like a sieve and fell apart in weeks. Anybody from Karrimor, please feel free to contact me to tell me the boots are vegan and I’ll stand corrected)
Merrell (they have Vegan trainers but no boots)
The North Face
So, what’s the problem?
Although many of these companies use synthetic materials in the construction of their boots, the problem is the adhesive used to stick the things together. Either the boots are made overseas and the manufacturer can’t guarantee the adhesive doesn’t contain animal products, or the companies flat out admit the adhesives that don’t contain animal products just aren’t good enough to replace those that do. It seems, as you would expect, a winter boot needs to be made of tough stuff and a good, durable non-animal product just hasn’t hit the market yet.
The only boots I could find bearing the Vegan Society Approved logo are by Veganline (there could be more, but the search facility is down on the Vegan Society website at present). A quick scoot through the Veganline website shows they stock safety boots but not winter boots.
Which means any other brands who say their boots are vegan haven’t gone through the process of being awarded a Vegan Society Approved trademark, so with that caveat in mind, I give you your fairly limited options. I have to admit I was enquiring mainly after women’s boots so some of the following are women’s, some are unisex;
Eco-Vegan-Shoes – are as they sound, a company dedicated only to manufacturing vegan shoes. They make the All Terrain Pro Hiker which looks ok but is only water resistant, which is a bit of a deal-breaker for most gardeners… Vegan Hiking Boots €169
Hunter – tell me all their rubber boots are vegan and that where they use leather or shearling in a product, it’s clearly stated on their website. Despite their forays into fashionwear over the past few years, I still find Hunter wellies are a nice, light-weight welly for the summer months but find their relatively thin sole and upper makes them useless in cold weather. Hunter Boots Website
Lowa – makes the Lyxa GTX for women, which is they assure me is vegan, they’ve even traced back the dyes used to ensure they contain no animal products. This boot is waterproof which is a huge bonus but by their own admittance is a three-season boot, meaning it’s not designed for the depths of winter. Lyxa GTX Mid Ws £130
Vegetarian Shoes – do a vegan hiking boot, but again, it’s water resistant and you’re advised to use polish or dubbin to increase the water resistance of the boot. Much as I love the ethics of this company, I’m probably not going to invest £179.95 in boots I then have to treat in order to make them stand up to the task, sorry guys… They also do a cheaper boot called the Ice Patrol, which comes with removeable sole grips for slippery conditions, so check them out if the hiking boot isn’t floating your boat. Veggie Trekker MK 5 £179.95
Will’s Vegan Shoes – is another company with great values; shoes are made ethically, they’re carbon neutral, the packaging comes from sustainable sources, the supply chain is carbon neutral and best of all, their hiking boots are waterproof! But they’re not insulated, goddammit!! In fact, in the product description they make a point of recommending you wear insulating socks or your feet may get cold, which sets of serious alarm bells for me as my feet are permanently cold from October through to April. If you’re blessed with warm feet and you’re willing to roll that dice, you’re braver than me. Waterproof Hiking Boots £110
Which leaves me with two clear favourites:
The Original Muck Company – their customer service team assures me their non-leather boots are vegan. (I'm double checking the adhesive issue though and am waiting for written confirmation their adhesive doesn't contain animal products so watch this space) Their Women’s Arctic Ice AG Short Boots look to tick all my boxes; vegan, waterproof, warm, chunky soles, and reassuringly expensive for what is essentially a welly boot. Women’s Arctic Ice AG Short Boots £160
Ilse Jacobsen – anybody who gets Sarah Raven’s gardening mail order catalogue plopping regularly onto their doormat will have seen photos of Sarah herself modelling these boots. A quick look on the Sarah Raven website shows low stock of these boots at reduced prices, suggesting either new stock is coming or the line is to be discontinued. You can’t order directly from the Ilse Jacobsen site as they don’t deliver to the UK, but these are the boots I’m interested in sourcing and you can see that helpfully, the description states they contain no animal by-products. I think their waterproof credentials are sound but I do worry a little they may not be quite warm enough. Hmm, decisions, decisions.The problem is, t's not only vegans who want to avoid animal products in things like footwear, vegetarians generally aren't keen on animal products being used either. It's about time mainstream manufacturing companies sorted out this issue. I only spoke to one company representative who sounded surprised by my query (at Toggi), the rest had obviously fielded the query before, had a prepared answer and most sounded fed up they couldn't give a definitive answer to the adhesive question. The more people demand something, the quicker it will be available so please remember to share and comment on this article to help prove demand is out there. Which boot would you choose? Comment below and let me know! Also, please tell me if you’ve found any other good vegan/vegetarian-friendly boots I should know about.