Plant-based parenting: Lose the blues of choosing their shoes

Compassionate child-rearing champion Jeniffer Dutton presents the incomplete guide to vegan-friendly first walkers for little sprouts.

Watching your baby find their feet is a magical milestone. But when it comes time to shoe the spawn, it can get tricky. Adverts boast “pure lambskin” and “genuine suede”. So many first shoes for babies are made from the skin of other babies. No thanks.

Of course, the most convenient ‘first walker’ footwear option is… nothing. Everyone loves admiring chubby feet tottering around. But often a naked foot needs covering with more than just a sock because of gravel, bees, prickles, or the weather.

Instead of animal skin, vegan shoe uppers are usually fabrics like cotton canvas, bamboo, or made from various synthetics — polyester, spandex, etc. The soles are rubbers, foams, gums, canvas, or cork ‘leather’. Due to the materials, many vegan-suitable first walkers are machine washable; bonus! Like all consumer goods, vegan footwear spans the full price spectrum, from cheap and cheerful, to distinctly not cheap. I’ll point out I have no brand connections, the following suggestions are from my own beat wrapping vegan feet.

If you’re of the ‘soft sole foot philosophy’ in a first walker shoe (where the bottom is thin and flexi) then fabric booties with a reinforced base are a good start. Lola & Me Organic Babywear and Lil Soles do cotton slip-ons with a fabric or cork sole. Gertrude and The King is an Aussie outfit with pull-on, buckle, and lace-up soft soles. Little Pitterpat does both all-fabric numbers and canvas bottoms. It’s worth checking your local handmade goods craft market; I found a seamstress doing leather bottom booties who produced cork soles on request. These sorts of thin shoes allowing little toes to grip and feel to develop balance are perfect for those first stumbly steps.

As kids adventure outside, sturdier soles are often called for. Some online options include Attipas, 2 Tiny Feet, and Littlelys. Number One Shoes has a range of infant leather-look booties with medium firm soles. Nike has ‘sunrays’ — a rubber wet-to-dry sandal with a toe cap and double velcro closures, practical for the chubbier-footed. If your wallet can accommodate, premium options include the internationally renowned Vivobarefoot, big on the science of foot development. Even Kiwi giant in the children’s shoe scene, Bobux, now has the ‘Seedling’ line of animal-free, lightweight shoes.



New Zealand’s winter shoe of choice, the humble gumboot, is ridiculously cute on a child but tends to be too heavy and clunky for a first walker. They’re often shimmied out of in the transition between crawling and toddling. Jandals have a front lip ripe for tripping over and are too easily flung off. Save the gummies and jandals for slightly older toddlers.

Like all aspects of parenting, something one swears by, another will swear at. Shoes that worked well for my daughter were a joke on my son. Her feet are pliable and passive, and his feet are arching protestors. She let her shoes be, making slip-on suitable. He is determined to remove any pesky foot prisons, meaning velcro closures or laces are a must. The shape of your child’s feet and the quirks of their personality will influence what’s a success or flop.

If your veganism includes environmental concerns of a lighter planet footprint, pre-loved shoes are a win. Explore Facebook Marketplace, Trade Me, and your local charity shops. Depending on what your heart says, some folks feel comfortable wearing leather if it’s not new, but that’s a whole other discussion. Cost is a relevant factor, as children have this rude habit of growing with abandon. Acquire an item one day and mere weeks later it’s already on the squeezy side. Gah! This high turnover rate is why sibling second hands, inter-family or friend loans, and pre-loved finds are sometimes the best fit.

However you proceed, treasure those pudgy little paws. Stumbling becomes walking becomes running, and then you need to lace up your own vegan kicks to keep up!

Aotearoa Vegan and Plant Based Living Magazine
This article was sourced from the Summer 2023 edition of The Vegan Society magazine.
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The articles we present in our magazine and blog have been written by many authors and are are not necessarily the views and policies of the Vegan Society.

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