The 6 Best Sustainable Winter Boots of 2021

Leave footprints, not carbon footprints, with these sustainable boots.

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Across the globe, consumers collectively buy around 19 billion pairs of shoes per year—which equates to a whole lot of waste when this footwear reaches the end of its life and, most likely, goes to landfill. With the need for us as a global society to act by lowering our ecological impact on the planet, there’s no better time than the present to reconsider our buying habits, particularly when it comes to footwear.

Obviously, the most sustainable boots are those that you already have in your closet, so before you invest, it’s worth seeing if any of your existing pairs could do with a visit to the cobbler. Buying secondhand from thrift stores is another great alternative. But if neither of these are an option, then this list can help you find a new pair. 

No pair of shoes has zero environmental impact, and different companies have taken different strategies to be better. We've included boots made from synthetic materials that have either been recycled to prevent them from ending up in landfill, or from all-natural fabrics that cause as little ecological damage as possible during their manufacture. We’ve also sought to prioritize companies who have sustainability certifications, such as being carbon neutral or using deforestation-free materials.

Ahead, you'll find the best sustainable boots to wear this winter.

The Rundown
Look smart, even in the depths of a snowy winter with these fully waterproof and insulated vegan Chelsea boots.
These comfortable and affordable boots use recycled materials in both the lining and outer shell.
Turn heads in these vegan snow boots, where durability and functionality haven’t been lost at the expense of style.
Ethically sourced materials combine with handmade designs that’ll stand the test of time.
Stay out in the cold this winter with these vegan snow boots designed to keep your feet warm down to -8 degrees.
Get winter ready with these rugged boots that’ll look as good out on the trail as they will in your favorite coffee house.

Best Overall: Will's Vegan Store Insulated Waterproof Chelsea Boots

Will's Vegan Store Insulated Waterproof Chelsea Boots

Primary Materials: PFC-free uppers, Primaloft insulation material made from 90% recycled fabric and soles made from recycled rubber | Certifications: Carbon neutral, PETA Approved Vegan | Colors: Black

Look smart, even in the depths of a snowy winter with these Chelsea boots. Fully waterproof, they’re the perfect match for slushy, snowy conditions underfoot, with a waterproof membrane combined with PFC-free uppers that keep your feet dry without the use of toxic, environmentally damaging waterproofing chemicals. Better still, their extremely cozy, vegan fur—made from 90% recycled Primaloft thermal insulation—ensures your toes stay snuggly and warm down to a remarkable 7.6 degrees. Their deep-lugged soles also provide traction and will stop you slipping, sliding, or falling.

Available in both men’s and women’s styles, these boots are from one of our favorite British brands, whose entire collection is designed to be a permanent part of your wardrobe and not reflect the latest whims of this season’s fashion. Certified carbon neutral since 2016, they’re 100% vegan but use recycled and innovative natural materials throughout their collection, and all products arrive in plastic-free recyclable packaging. Just remember, as they’re a UK-based company, you’ll need to convert your size accordingly to avoid ordering too large boots!

Best Budget: Native Shoes Chamonix

Native Chamonix

Primary Materials: Recycled PET outer shell, recycled polyester insulation | Certifications: PETA Approved Vegan | Colors: Black

Comfort and affordability don’t normally look this good, which is why these boots, with their fully waterproof styling and soft insulation, are ideal for folks on a tighter budget. Made from a densely woven recycled PET, they’re insulated using recycled polyester. Additionally, the patented Glacierguard thermal barrier, which reflects heat back into the boot, guarantees a very snug and warm boot, however miserable or snowy the weather outside may be. 

The unisex style means they’re available in both men’s and women’s sizes. They’re manufactured in factories in China and Vietnam where ethical working conditions are maintained. Best of all, these shoes can be returned at the end of their wearable life to be converted into squishy blocks as part of the Native Shoes Remix Project. This initiative has already seen shoes recycled and returned to life as flooring for five playgrounds, as well as being converted into seats and insulation.

Best for Women: Alice + Whittles The Weekend Boot

Alice + Whittles The Weekend Boot

Primary Materials: Nylon upper made from repurposed marine plastic, lug sole made with 45% recycled natural rubber, water based vegan glue | Certifications: None | Colors: Black, sage green, beige, cream

Turn heads, whatever the season, in these gorgeous vegan snow boots, where durability and functionality haven’t been lost at the expense of them looking stylish. Available in a range colors combinations, you’re sure to find the one for you, particularly as these boots have some serious sustainability credentials. 

These handmade women’s boots are 98% free of virgin plastic. The outer shell is made from water resistant nylon—which has been spun from marine plastic collected from the oceans by fishermen across the globe. The thick and heavy lug sole provides traction and contours your feet to make these boots comfortable even on rocky ground. It’s also made from natural rubber, 45% of which has been recycled and all of which has been sourced from sustainably-managed forests that are regularly audited by the Fair Rubber Association.

Best for Men: Nisolo All-Weather Mateo Boot

Nisolo All-Weather Mateo Boot

Primary Materials: Water-resistant leather upper, rubber sole, leather lining and insole | Certifications: B Corporation, carbon neutral, Leather Working Group Certified | Colors: Brandy, brown, black

Ethically sourced materials combine with lovingly handmade designs that’ll stand the test of time and look outstanding throughout in these classy all-weather boots from B Corp Nisolo. Ethical and environmentally responsible practices are embedded in this company’s business model, with the vegetable tanned leather used in these boots certified according to the Leather Working Group—ensuring they meet the most rigorous standards of environmental responsibility. 

The boots are handmade in a family-run factory in León, Mexico. As a B Corp, Nisolo provides a living wage to all of its workers, from the factory through the rest of the supply chain, and has invested $3.5 million into the local economy in Peru where its other factory is located. 

They’ve also teamed up with U.S.-based social enterprise Soles4Souls to allow customers to send their used shoes back to the company. These are then donated to micro-entrepreneurs in low-income countries who can clean, repair, and sell them on again.

Best Vegan: Hunter Insulated Recycled Polyester Commando Boots

Hunter Insulated Recycled Polyester Commando Boots

Primary Materials: 95% recycled polyester upper, moulded TPU and rubber lower, rubber outsole | Certifications: PETA Approved Vegan | Colors: Black

Stay out in the cold this winter with these sustainable snow boots made using recycled polyester and designed to keep your feet warm down to -8 degrees. These are heavy duty boots, designed to face every activity and even the most inclement weather conditions and available in both men’s and women’s fits. Thanks to their tough outer layer and warm inner, you can guarantee that your feet will remain the perfect temperature whatever you’re doing, while you can rest assured that you’re stopping plastic from entering landfill. 

Hunter might be best known for its rain boots, but the company is shaking things up—and not just through its product selection. These boots form part of the new Hunter Protect initiative, which prioritizes environmentally-friendly and recycled materials in its manufacturing. The company has committed using only Forest Stewardship Council rubber in its footwear by 2025, and has joined Pack4Good to ensure that none of its product packaging is made from ancient or endangered forests.

Best Slip-On: Forsake Lucie Boot

Forsake Lucie Boot

Primary Materials: Leather and suede upper, rubber outsole | Certifications: Carbon neutral | Colors: Black, army green

Get winter ready with these rugged women’s boots that’ll look as good out on the trail in the snow as they will warm and cozy in your favorite coffee house. Designed to be fully waterproof thanks to their sturdy and durable leather upper, these boots are built to last throughout the seasons. An extremely comfortable dual density footbed also ensures they remain comfortable, however many miles you rack up. 

To help reduce its environmental footprint, this brand is committed to only buying leather from tanneries with a Gold rating from the Leather Working Group. A few more positives for the environment the use of ocean shipping rather than air freight to help keep emissions down when transporting products, and plus recyclable shrink wrap packaging. This small act has helped them reduce shipping volume by 30%, thus taking trucks off the road and reducing polluting emissions even further.

Final Verdict

Our top pick is Will’s Vegan Store’s Chelsea Boot (view at Will's Vegan Store). They will be as at home trudging through the snow as in a smart restaurant.

For stylish leather boots that will see countless winters, invest in a pair of Nisolo’s All-Weather Mateo Boot (view at the Garmentory); you’re guaranteed quality from a brand that lives and breathes ethical sustainability.

What to Look for in Sustainable Winter Boots

Materials

One of the sole purposes of winter boots is to protect your feet from snow and other damp and cold weather. Waterproof materials, such as leather and recycled synthetics, are essential for keeping you dry and comfortable. An insulated lining is also a top choice. Not only will this feel snuggly on your feet, but it can help to trap the warmth in your boots, thus preventing any “I can’t feel my toes” moments. 

You also want to pay attention to the soles of the boots. Rugged lug soles with thick grooves are designed to provide traction, even in slippery conditions. While you might fall head over heels with a new pair of winter boots, you’ll want to ensure they’re a practical choice that won’t actually see you falling to the ground. Natural rubber is a great eco-friendly choice for soles, particularly if it has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as coming from a sustainably-managed forest that protects biodiversity and the lives of local people. 

Durability

Buying new boots less frequently and wearing them for longer is the most eco-friendly approach you can take. To ensure your boots will last the distance, opt for those with thick, rugged soles and uppers made from durable materials such as leather, which, if cared for well, can last for years. If your boots do start suffering from wear and tear, particularly in the soles, then visiting your local cobbler to get them repaired is an environmentally-friendly way of lengthening their lifespan.  

End of Life

When the inevitable does happen and your boots are finally past mending, you’ll want to know that they won’t end up in landfill. You’ll need  to think about this when you’re in the buying phase, as many shoe companies offer take-back schemes. These are where you can return your boots to the manufacturer for credits on a new pair, and they’ll either fully restore your much-loved footwear, ensure it is recycled, or turn into something new.

Why Trust Treehugger?

To make this list, we researched the market and focused on boots that are sustainable and ethically sourced, ensuring that your next purchase is as environmentally sound as possible. We considered each pair's materials and certifications, as well as the producers ethical practices and any recycling opportunities.

Author Steph Dyson has written widely about sustainability. From clothing and lifestyle to gadgets and technology, she’s on a mission to track down the most environmentally sustainable and socially responsible brands and products.

View Article Sources
  1. Common Objective. “The Size of the Global Footwear Market.Common Objective, Common Objective, 14 May 2018.