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: 7 minutes
Wondering how to read shoe symbols and quickly spot if your shoes are vegan or animal leather? In this guide, we explain what all the shoe and material symbols mean – and how to tell if shoes are vegan at a glance.
Table of Contents
Vegan Certification for Shoes
Before we get into explaining all the symbols in shoes, you should know that the fastest way to identify vegan shoes is to check for a vegan certification label.
Vegan Certification organizations such as PETA, Intertek and the Vegan Society have lists of approved vegan products, which include shoes.
In order to be certified by PETA, brands must first complete a short online questionnaire. In addition, all of the company’s manufacturers and suppliers are required to submit their own statement of assurance.
Shoe brands approved by PETA include Nae Vegan Shoes and Veerah.
The Vegan Society
The Vegan Trademark logo applies to products as opposed to brands. To be certified, a company must submit signed written statements from their manufacturers confirming their compliance with the Vegan Trademark Standards.
Partnerships include New Look’s Vegan Footwear collection and Eco Vegan Shoes.
To obtain the Intertek Vegan Mark for products they go through a more rigid testing process than PETA or The Vegan Society which involves:
- Declaration by applicant
- Screening of animal fiber
- Screening of synthetic material by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR)
- Chemical test on animal tracer
Certified footwear brands include Rockfall.
If a pair of shoes is certified by PETA, Intertek or the Vegan Society, you can be sure they are vegan. However, not all vegan shoes will have this certification, so it’s important to know what materials and symbols to look for on the shoe label.
Meaning of Material Symbols in Shoes
The labeling requirements for countries and regions such as US, UK, Europe, Canada and Australia are very similar and require manufacturers, distributors and retailers to identify the materials used in the composition of the shoe either in words or pictograms.
Footwear will be labeled to show the main materials used for the upper, lining and sock, as well as the outer sole. This will appear in either pictogram (symbol) or word form.
Materials described in words such as leather, suede, coated leather, wool or silk are clearly not vegan. However, there are some key symbols you can look for that will also help you identify if a shoe and it’s components are vegan.
Pictogram Symbols on Shoe Labels
There are several symbols that might appear on shoe labels that will help you determine if animal leather has been used in the construction of the upper, inner or sole. If any of these symbols are present, it’s a good indication the shoe is not vegan.
The shoe symbols – tell you ‘where’ the vegan or non-vegan material is within the shoe.
Shoe Material Symbols
The four material symbols – tell you ‘what’ the material is and indicate whether or not it is vegan. Knowing what materials your shoes are made from will also tell you how to care for them.
If you see the textile and synthetic symbols – then the shoes are likely to be vegan. However, if you see the animal hide-shaped symbols then this indicates leather.
Examples of Vegan Shoe Labels
Examples of Non-Vegan Shoe Labels
Shopping for Vegan Shoes
For a great overview of how to tell if shoes are vegan – watch TikTokvegan fashion influencer and Mom, Sarah’s demonstration:
Ask about Animal Ingredients in Glues and Dyes
In addition to checking for vegan certification and symbols on the shoe label, there are a few other things to keep in mind when trying to determine if a pair of shoes are vegan.
Some adhesives and dyes used in shoes (and other products) contain bone char, which is made by burning the bones of cows. Therefore, it’s essential to check that the glue used in a pair of shoes is not only vegetarian but also vegan. You can usually find this information on the company’s website or by contacting customer service.
Contact the Manufacturer
If you’re still not sure whether a pair of shoes are vegan or not after checking all of the above factors, your best bet is to contact the company or manufacturer directly and ask them about their policies regarding animal products. Many companies are happy to answer questions from potential customers about their products, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re unsure about something.
The most important thing to look for when trying to determine if a shoe is vegan is the use of animal-derived materials. The most common of these are leather, suede, wool, and silk, as well as animal by products used in dyes and glues. While some brands will clearly label if their shoes are made with these materials, others may not be as forthcoming. However, there are some key symbols and terms you can look for that will help you identify if a shoe is vegan. If you’re unsure, you can always contact the company directly and ask.
What Is Vegan Leather? (Should You Make The Switch?)
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, Crocs have been completely vegan since 2021 and now classifies itself as a 100% vegan brand.
No. According to Vans – they can’t confirm they are vegan as they are still in the process of working with their supply chain to validate all their products are free of animal-derived ingredients
No. According to PETA, the production of wool involves the suffering of lambs and sheep. In order for wool to be obtained, sheep must first be sheared. This process is often done with electric shears, which can cause cuts and abrasions. The shedding of wool also typically occurs during the hot summer months, when sheep are already stressed from the heat.