sneaker week

The Official Guide to Vegan Sneakers That Are Actually Cool

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Retailers

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When I decided to go vegan in college, the first thing I feared for was not my plate but my shoes. Sure, there are enough cheese alternatives that, if you close your eyes and lie to yourself about, taste (almost) like the real deal. But the vegan-sneaker selection at the time looked crunchy and environmental.

Thankfully, in 2021 the alternative-leather market experienced a boom. Nike released the Next Nature Air Force 1s, Adidas released Stan Smith Mylo (made from mycelium), and Gucci dropped the brand’s first vegan-leather sneakers. It looked like pineapple, mushroom, and apple leather were poised to take over. While that didn’t exactly happen — real-leather kicks are still as popular as ever — it did create a domino effect that meant the vegan alternatives to your favorite sneakers are no longer ugly.

The key factor that sets a vegan sneaker apart is that the shoe doesn’t look vegan. And the leather-alternative market has made leaps and strides in recent years, so this is entirely possible to achieve from a material perspective. It just comes down to the design. Despite what some vegan-sneaker drops would have you believe, not every vegan wants to look like they’ve just stepped out of a PETA protest. Some of the bigger brands have nailed it by releasing non-leather editions of their favorite styles, while smaller vegan-shoe brands like Rombaut (which launched in Paris in 2013) have developed their unique style and branding.

Ahead, we round up some of the newest and best vegan sneakers currently on the market, breaking them down by cool factor.

Material: These are mostly recycled plastic but the sole does include Bloom Algae, which is essentially overgrown algae that gets dried and turned into footwear foam.
Cool factor: 4 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

To the untrained eye, Rombaut’s Nucleo Lavender sneakers could look like a dad shoe. But they strike the perfect balance between being slightly ugly and completely wearable. The colorway is versatile, the sole is chunky, and the touch of silver at the back is unexpected.

Material: This style is made from cotton and viscose (although Virón does have a version made from corn leather) with a 70 percent recycled rubber sole.
Cool factor: 4 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

Virón is another vegan-shoe brand based in Paris, producing apple-skin and corn leather in Portugal. While it’s known for its excellent boots, loafers, and thick mary janes, these low-top canvas sneakers bring a classic design to Virón’s signature chunky shape. The best part about these sneakers is that the white sole is wide enough not to get lost under your favorite baggy pants.

Material: Mostly mesh with a FlyteFoam and rubber sole.
Cool factor: 3 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

Asics’s ongoing collaboration with Kiko Kostadinov has recently made it hard to get your hands on a pair of sneakers from the brand before they sell out. But some of their new (and still available) designs are vegan without marketing themselves as such. These red gel sneakers and their Otto 958 x Gel-Flexkee 958 design aren’t the coolest designs the brand has on offer, but they do have that Asics feel while being made from non-leather alternatives.


Material: To create this leather look, Veja coats an organic-cotton canvas with plastic, corn starch, and castor oil.
Cool factor: 3 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

Veja is one of the best in the business regarding vegan sneakers. Its non-leather range is extensive and it does all the basics well. You won’t find elaborate shapes or colors, but Veja’s Urca style is well-made and extremely wearable.

Material: Mostly plastic and rubber.
Cool factor: 4 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

Rapper BB Trickz has already given her stamp of approval on this style, instantly upping its cool factor. Salomon is another staple sneaker brand that you may not know has a selection of vegan styles — but you have to check the fabric section to find them. The Speedcross 3 sneakers come in various fun colors and even have a Sandy Liang mary jane collab coming out this year (again, instantly upping the cool factor).

Material: The “vegan corn napa” is made from cotton and plastic. The “vegan suede” is just made from two different types of plastic.
Cool factor: 3 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

Saye, a Spanish vegan-sneaker brand, knows how to pull off vegan suede. These blue and yellow low-top sneakers are soft and retro-looking. Plus, buying from a small brand means you’re unlikely to run into anyone with the same pair.

Material: Deadstock velvet with a recycled rubber sole.
Cool factor: 4 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

Collina Strada’s frilly collaboration with Virón is a magnet for the coquette girls who aren’t too scared to pull off a velvet bow. They aren’t your everyday sneakers, but you will get compliments whenever you wear them. And the good news is another vegan Collina sneaker is already on the way. Puma will be launching two new vegan-certified shoe styles with the brand this summer.

Material: These shoes are made from “synthetic leather” (which is plastic) and textiles. But both come from recycled materials.
Cool factor: 4 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

Bless Billie Eilish for keeping her collaboration with Nike continually vegan. The star has previously stated that she’s been vegan for over seven years, so her latest recycled synthetic leather Air Alpha Force 88 drop with Nike will be no surprise to her fans. But these may be the best shoes the collab has brought us yet — a low-top design in a fire-red shade with a forefoot strap.

Material: These are mostly plastic with some recycled polyurethane (a flexible foam) and rubber.
Cool factor: 5 / 5 vegan cheese slices.

We had to mention Rombaut twice because it undeniably makes some of the most innovative vegan shoes available. These silver barefoot sneakers won’t be for everyone, but they are for fans of all things extraterrestrial. With a slip-on design they slightly resemble water shoes, but that only adds to the weird-cool “just stepped off a UFO” factor.

Material: This vegan alternative to animal leather is made from grape waste.
Cool factor: 3 / 5 vegan cheese slices

Stella McCartney is a lifelong vegetarian who has never used leather, feathers, skin, or fur in her brand since it launched in 2001. The commitment is admirable, and her sneakers scream luxury in chic shades of brown and white. Even the material itself being made from grape waste channels expensive wine mom. The only thing that isn’t as cool is the $745 price tag.

The Official Guide to Vegan Sneakers That Are Actually Cool