Fiona is the editor of Plantpuree, a website that celebrates vegan living. With over 20 years in diet & fitness, fashion, and beauty, she brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective to her work and writing on veganism.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
The durability of your shoes is important, but what if they’re made from faux leather? For shoppers with animal cruelty and environmental concerns, faux leather shoes are a great alternative to traditional leather shoes. But how long do faux leather shoes last? And is the answer different if the shoes are well-made and well-cared for? Let’s take a closer look.
Table of Contents
How Long Do Faux Leather Shoes Last?
Sadly, there isn’t a straightforward answer. How long faux leather shoes last depends on:
1. The type of faux leather
2. Properties of the leather such as strength and thickness
3. How the shoes are made
4. How the shoes are cared for
5. How often the shoes are worn
Types of Faux Leather
The term faux leather is used to describe a variety of non-animal leathers – all of which look, feel and behave differently. These vegan leather materials can be grouped into 3 basic categories depending on their origin:
1. Fossil Based Synthetics – PU/PVC
2. Plant Based Leathers – Desserto Cactus Leather, Pinatex Pineapple Leather
3. Laboratory Grown Bio-leather – Muskin Mycelium Leather, Kombucha Leather
Because of their different origins and composition, each type of faux leather has unique physical and chemical properties which affect how long it lasts.
For example, in a 2021 study on vegan leathers, plant-based leathers like Desserto and Pinatex displayed greater tear resistance than PU Leather. However, PU leather performed better than any other faux leather when it came to resistance to bending. This explains why some faux leathers are more delicate than others and why some types of faux leather shoes last longer than others. 1
What Are Faux Leather Shoes Made From?
Footwear is diverse, with many categories including fashion, sports, and baby footwear. These types of shoes are generally made from many different faux and non-vegan materials which look very similar. And it is often difficult how to tell if the shoes are vegan or not without paying close attention to the shoe labels.
Faux leather shoes are made using a variety of materials, the most popular of which are PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
1. Polyurethane (PU) – A type of plastic that is durable and flexible. It is used to make the upper part of shoes and the soles.
2. PVC – Another type of plastic, PVC is cheaper than PU but not as durable. It is used to make the soles of shoes.
3. Microfibers – A type of synthetic fiber that is strong and flexible. It is used to make the upper part of shoes.
4. Rubber – A natural material that is durable and elastic. It is used to make the soles of shoes.
5. Plant Based Materials – Desserto cactus leather, pineapple leather, and mushroom leather are all plant-based materials that are used to make vegan shoes.
Plant-based leathers are a newer addition to the vegan leather shoe market, but they are quickly gaining popularity due to their eco-friendly credentials.
As the name suggests, plant based leathers are made from plants – usually a type of fruit or vegetable. For example, pineapple leather is made from the waste parts of pineapples and cactus leather is made from the leaves of cacti.
Piñatex Pineapple Leather Shoes
Piñatex, a pineapple-leaf fiber material that provides pineapple farmers with an additional source of income, is one example of a sustainable, vegan innovation. This new vegan leather, created by material innovation company Ananas Anam, is used by some of the biggest names in fashion, including Hugo Boss, Chanel, and H&M.
Vegea Grape Leather Shoes
Italian company Vegea uses leftover grapes from the wine-making process to create wine-grape leather. This leather is used by H&M in footwear for its Conscious Exclusive Collection.
Danish luxury brand Ganni have also collaborated with Vegea , using the leather to create a limited edition line of beautiful sandals and sneakers. More recently, Stella McCartney is rumored to be dropping a grape leather shoe collection in Autumn 2022. 2
Are Faux Leather Shoes Durable?
The durability of faux leather shoes depends on the properties of the faux leather used in their construction.
According to The Material Innovation Initiative, the durability of each leather is based on 3 key factors:
- Crack resistance
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and ASTM International have established guidelines to measure these factors. These standardized test methods create a common language for manufacturers of materials and brands to ensure that materials meet product standards and consumer expectations. 3,4
On their websites, vegan leather producers like Ananan Anam, the organisation behind Pinatex, frequently include technical documents that demonstrate how well their leathers hold up to these international standard metrics. 5
If you are familiar with the footwear brand, you might be satisfied that the leather is as durable as described in the product description. If not, you could email the company and request the metrics or standards that they use for their testing. Walk away from a brand if it isn’t completely transparent.
Fortunately for us, the Freiberg Institute conducted an excellent study in which they compared the performance of a variety of materials used in faux leather shoes.
Technical Performance of Faux Leathers
The performance of particular faux leathers is interesting in relation to their durability, but so is how they compare to each other. According to the findings of the Freiberg tests, three types of leather that are already used in faux leather shoes—PU, Desserto Cactus leather, and Pinatex Pineapple leather—perform well on a variety of tests. However, PU leather significantly beats Desserto and Pinatex on resistance against bending. 6
Even so, knowing that vegan leather, such as Desserto Cactus leather, performs well against International Standards for strength and tear resistance still only tells us a portion of the tale. When considering how long faux leather shoes might last, we still need to take into account how the shoes are made, cared for and how often they are used.
How Are Faux Leather Shoes Made?
The materials used to make faux leather shoes are only part of the story – how the shoes are made is also key. One of the most important things that affect how much a shoe costs and how long it lasts is how it is constructed.
Two reasons why it is essential to buy shoes that are well-constructed:
- Shoes that are well-made are often more comfortable, and
- They’re simple to resole, reheel, and repair so that they last longer.
High quality vegan shoes made by brands such as Nae use the Goodyear Welted shoe construction method, which is widely considered to be one of the best construction methods for high-quality shoes. This construction method stitches the upper part of the shoe to the sole, making for a very strong and long lasting bond. 7,8
Other vegan shoe brands such as Wills Vegan shoes use a cemented construction method where the uppers of the vegan shoes are bonded to the outer sole with a strong vegan glue. The quickest method to tell such shoes apart is to look at the outsole. If there are no seams, it implies the shoes are cemented. This method of construction is considered to be inferior to the Goodyear Welted method. 9
How to Care For Faux Leather Shoes
Just as important as how faux leather shoes are made is how well they are cared for. Well-treated shoes can last for years, while ones that are not properly cared for will quickly deteriorate.
High-quality leather shoes should last for years with proper care. Here are some tips on how to care for vegan leather shoes:
– Keep the shoes clean by wiping them down with a damp cloth. Do not submerge them in water.
– Avoid exposing the shoes to excessive heat or sunlight.
– Do not store the shoes in a damp place.
How Often the Shoes are Worn
The more shoes are worn, the more quickly they will wear and tear. This is especially true if the shoes are used for activities they are not meant for. For example, pounding your vegan heels for two miles on your daily commute is not going to end well for your shoes.
To extend the lifespan of your shoes, use them for their intended purpose. Your high-quality vegan Stella McCartney’s should not be your go-to shoe for everyday activities. If you need a walking shoe, buy a walking shoe.
The best way to prolong the life of your shoes is to only wear them when appropriate and to take care of them when you are not wearing them.
So, how long do faux leather shoes last? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. The type of faux leather material is definitely one of the most important ones – some materials are more durable than others. You also need to consider the quality of the brand and how well the shoes are constructed. And finally, you have to think about how often they will be worn.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, vegan shoes are not just plastic or PVC. In fact, there are a variety of materials that can be used to make vegan shoes, including high-quality plant-based leathers such as Pinatex leather made from pineapple waste, cork, and Desserto cactus leather.
According to Converse, not all their shoes are vegan but the majority are including the popular canvas Chuck Taylor All Stars. Check the product page of the shoe you’re interested in to see if it’s made with any animal-derived materials or contact Converse customer service for more information.
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