For those who do not know, I am a huge fan of Vegetarian Shoes, a company out of the UK that I originally ran across over a decade ago when my then girlfriend and I went into a store called Bovvers in Buffalo, NY (long since closed) looking for cruelty free Doc Martin copies. The guy there told us about a great company they occasionally ordered from called Vegetarian Shoes, but they were out of stock. After a couple of visits they still didn't have them in stock so she eventually settled on a pair of velvet Docs, but I became really intrigued by this company. It wasn't until years later that I finally bought something from them. In 2005 I finally bought black shoes for work (3 hole Doc copies) and a pair of Veg Supremes. I'll talk about their Doc copies more in a later article, and the Veg Supremes will get talked about in detail below, but what finally pushed me over the edge to buy their products was a search for the most ethical shoes possible. I had started to become interested in the connection between athletic gear and sweatshop labor and decided it was time to step up my game since alternatives were finally out there. All of the sneakers below are ethically made in Portugal in a sweatshop free environment and they are all vegan. These two factors are a huge deal for me and sold me on my first pair of sneakers even though they weren't the prettiest. Over the last 5 years the appearance of their shoes has improved by leaps and bounds. They also continue to experiment with different materials and designs, which I feel makes my experience with their shoes worthy of sharing. They are slightly unconventional and lack the vast popularity of Nike, Addidas, Vans, or Emerica and you can't just walk into a store and try them on so I think I can give some helpful insight. I am going to say right off the bat that the insides are fairly flat and do not offer a great deal of arch support. Any of these shoes can be complimented with insoles if you jog, stand all day, or otherwise engage in behavior where arch support is a huge plus. That being said, read on:
I wanted to start with the sneakers I currently wear the most. I ordered these in the spring of this year and have been wearing them for the last 6 months or so. At the time that I got these sneakers they were, in my opinion, the nicest looking kicks that Vegetarian Shoes had ever made and that Mooshoes offered. Brown and tan weren't really my thing but I think they are a great design and they actually look really good on my feet. I wear these shoes for walking, jogging, biking, and general wear. They're currently my "good shoes". The soles were a new style for Vegetarian Shoes and have a series of saw toothed ridges as you can see in the photo. These ridges are great for flipping the pedals on my bike so that I can get my feet into my toe clips quickly. The disadvantage of the saw tooth sole design is that they started to wear down extremely rapidly the one time I wore them to skateboard in - the grip tape making light work of the soles. Now the name X-Trainer would lead one to believe that they are designed for more active wear. The padding and comfort overall is great, though the puffy heal pad will take a little while to break in. Like all of Vegetarian Shoes products they are lacking in arch support. I highly recommend buying foam inserts if you're going to be jogging in these. Note: Dr. Scholls tests their other products on animals so make sure to avoid their inserts if you are going to buy insoles.
Appearance: 4/5 stars
Comfort: 3.5/5 stars
Durability: 3.5 stars (I'm not prepared to give them a 4 just yet because I've only had them for 6 months.)
So now I'm going to rewind to the shoe that started it all for me with Vegetarian Shoes. Up until 2005 I was jumping between Ed Templeton's from Emerica and I Paths. My Ed Templeton's were a huge disappointment. They had a vinyl rim around the toe area much like the navy blue rim on the toe of the shoes above. My Templeton's were a beautiful looking shoe until that rim started crack the 2nd week I had them. They were a short lived shoe. My quest for vegan shoes then led me to a choice between Geoff Rowley's and I Paths, and since I Path were a smaller company I went with them. The black and gold pair I had were beautiful and durable for skating - a solid shoe. However, 2004/2005 saw the most skating I had done in my adult life and I burned through them pretty quick. Though I loved my I Paths I had decided I wanted to support a company more in line with my own ideals so I took a step down in appearance to rock these bad boys. I did skate and bike in these but the biggest amount of abuse they received was getting tread upon by others at shows. I wore my pair for a year and a half and though the soles (which have a relatively flat design) started to wear out I would have likely gotten at least another 3 months out of them hadn't my pit bull made a chew toy out of one of them one day when I was at work. My friend Kyle had the exact same shoes and he wore them every single day for like 2 1/2 years - traveling mostly by foot/rapid transit, and abusing the hell out of them by being a mosh warrior. Not the most stylish shoe, but they were comfortable enough and they were exceptionally durable. Since the time that I owned them they released this design in an assortment of superior color schemes.
Appearance: 2-3.5/5 stars (the color scheme really dictates whether the design is cool.)
Comfort: 3/5 stars
Durability: 4/5 stars
When my Veg Supremes got retired due to the aforementioned dog mauling I replaced them with a pair of these. They were definitely a step above the Veg Supreme's I had in terms of appearance and breathability. Unlike the Veg Supreme which is an all Vegetan shoe, the Trail Legend is largely a lightweight breathable synthetic mesh. I chose the above photo to show off the crazy soles on these shoes. It honestly took a couple weeks of wearing these to wear down those rounded nubs a little and no longer feel like I was wearing some sort of space shoe. Once I wore them in though they became incredibly comfortable. I wore them for jogging until I wore the soles down so much that the concussion of running was making my feet hurt. They are actually totally shredded at this point but I'm still wearing them. They are still the shoes I put on when its raining and I'm going to be biking and that I wear to shows that I know I'm going to be dancing.
Appearance: 3.5/5 stars
Comfort: 4 (3)/5 stars (The first couple weeks they feel sort of weird but once you wear them in they're awesome.)
Durability: 3.5/5 stars
I just got these. I bought them to skate in and I've only given them one day of casual wear. Its too early to give them any ratings but I'm going to give some initial impressions. In photos I thought these were a pretty cool looking shoe. To be honest though, when I got them I was a little disappointed. The white soles are huge and they contrast so sharply with the all black upper that I think they look kind of weird on my feet. They were fairly comfortable but its obvious that the uppers are going to take a little longer to wear in than their other shoes. The layering of the fake suede over the fake leather is thick and distinctively creases/hinges when you bend your foot. This was a sensation I am not particularly used to. It also happened to rain the day that I wore them and I discovered that the flat soles (which are the same as those of the Veg Supreme shoes) were not particularly good for flipping my pedals to get into my toe clips when they were wet and slick. However, I think these soles will be much more durable and grippy for skating. The layered design will also probably hold up better against skate wear/ollies. Its too soon for ratings so it gets a "Not Applicable" rating in the meantime.
I wanted to end with this photo to show the evolution of Vegetarian Shoes sneaker line. It should be noted that I'm extremely utilitarian. I normally do not own more than one pair of good sneakers, one pair of beater sneakers, and one pair of dress shoes at any given time. I saw these sneakers, the X Trainers I already own in a black and white color scheme, and I immediately thought, "I have to own these sneakers." Up until this point, there has not been a Vegetarian Shoes sneaker that I was so stoked on that I wanted to ignore my normal drive to embrace utility and not be a huge consumer. Needless to say, these X Trainers will be my next purchase, and I'm very excited about them.
To see the full line of what they make:
Select styles of Vegetarian Shoes are available in the US through Mooshoes:
Select styles of Vegetarian Shoes are available in Germany through Crucial Response: