A great training shoe and one of the most eco-conscious climbing shoes available.
Light and high performance, the Furia Air is a vegan shoe that packs a serious punch.
Championed by Daniel Woods, the Phantom is built to conquer steep sport climbs.
It’s no secret that besides the transport, energy, or agricultural industries, fashion and footwear are some of the most damaging industries to our environment.
Not only is it thought that anywhere between 4% – 10% of CO2 emissions are caused by apparel and shoe manufacturing, the amount of water waste and chemical pollution caused by these manufacturing processes is nothing less than heartbreaking.
As climbers become increasingly aware of the impact of their buying habits, some shoe manufacturers have attempted to reduce their environmental impact, in order to win some brownie points with their eco-conscious consumers.
One way some climbing shoe brands are trying to reduce their impact on the environment is by creating vegan climbing shoes. While there are plenty of synthetic climbing shoes available, not all of these can be classified as vegan, as many still rely on glue and other adhesives that are derived from animals.
In this article, we will share some of our favorite vegan (and eco-friendly) climbing shoes, as well as some top tips you can follow to help reduce your climbing carbon footprint.
The Best Vegan Climbing Shoes
Based on our extensive testing and research, these are some of the best vegan climbing shoes we recommend.
OUR TOP PICK
Scarpa Furia Air
Our favorite vegan climbing shoes right now are the Scarpa Furia Air. One of the newest shoes to be added to the Scarpa line-up, the Furia Air builds on their popular Furia S model. This seriously lightweight performance shoe tips the scales at an unbelievable 150 grams, which makes it the lightest climbing shoe ever. Better still, is made entirely from vegan-friendly materials.
This super-soft, super-flexible, shoe gains its vegan status by using a combination of perforated Microsuede and Alcantara (a leather alternative commonly used in sports cars) that not only helps keep the shoe lightweight but also contributes to superior breathability compared to other synthetic climbing shoes.
The Furia Air comes with all the latest shoe technology you would expect from this Italian climbing powerhouse, including their unique toe and heel rand tech, all of which help maintain the shoe’s tension. This ultimately enhances the performance and precision of the shoe.
Combined with a minimalist ¼ outsole of Vibram XS Grip 2, the flexibility and sensitivity that the shoe delivers are second to none.
BEST FOR BOULDERING
Evolv has one of the biggest selection of vegan climbing shoes of any manufacturer. Their current shoe line-up consists of 23 shoes, 60% of which are vegan friendly.
One of the recent additions to their line-up that has caught the attention of keen boulderers and vegan supporters is the Evolv Phantom. Partly due to being championed by the legendary boulder Daniel Woods, partly because of its unique shape, this aggressive climbing shoe is making waves across the world of bouldering.
The Phantom built on many of the great features we loved on the now discontinued Evolv Agro. The new closure uses a 6 hook-and-loop system which allows you to dial in the fit across your forefoot and eliminate hotspots within the shoe. The Dark Spine has also been refined, with a less bulky 2mm outsole for increased sensitivity in the heel cup, while still providing protection to the calcaneus bone. The Phantoms upper, like the Agro, is made from Evolv’s synthetic material, dubbed Synthratek VK.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two shoes is the new shoe last the Phantom is built on. As Woods said himself “Its shape was unique and different from anything else I had seen. The shape forced the point of the toe box to the big toe, which is where you want to have all your power at… I do not climb in any other shoe… for me there is no need. This beast does it all.”
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
Five Ten NIAD VCS
We need to talk about Five Ten’s next-generation Anasazi shoes. The Anasazi name has become synonymous with hard technical sport climbing over the 20 years, and these next-generation models (all of which are vegan friendly) take this up a whole other level.
The new shoe we have been particularly interested in is the new NIAD VCS. The shoes borrow many of the winning features of the Anasazi VCS, a model that has been worn by everyone from Chris Sharma to Jimmy Webb over the last 20 years.
The shoe’s neutral last feels at home on vertical faces and technical climbs, although from our testing, it can handle pretty much everything we throw at it. While the sole is fairly stiff, the Stealth C4 compound lives up to its reputation of being sticky and sensitive.
The biggest upgrades of the next-gen model shine through in the heel and toe areas. The improved heel rand helps exert more tension while the new toe patch is a brilliant addition that makes the shoe more suited to modern styles of sport climbing.
BEST SLIPPER CLIMBING SHOE
La Sportiva Cobra Eco
Okay, so this one isn’t technically a vegan climbing shoe, as it uses suede leather on the upper. That said, I would go out on a limb and say that the Eco Cobra might just be one of the most environmentally conscious climbing shoes ever made.
The Eco Cobra is one-half of La Sportiva’s eco-friendly climbing shoe line-up and one of our favorite slip-on climbing shoes currently on the market. While you probably won’t want to use the Cobra on your tough sports projects, it offers a no-frills approach to shoe construction, giving you the basic tools you need for running laps at the gym or an easy day at the crag.
That said, keep your eyes peeled for the Cobra making an appearance at the (now postponed) Tokyo Olympics. Many pro climbers favour the Cobra for speed climbing, thanks to its minimalist construction and moderate camber.
If you are serious about using a climbing shoe that has a minimal impact on the environment, then this could be the best option for you. For starters, 85% of the shoe is made from recycled materials. This includes the outsole rubber, with La Sportiva FriXion Eco being recycled from the offcuts of their FriXion Black compound, while still maintaining the same level of friction and durability.
Yes, the shoe uses suede leather, but La Sportiva ensures that the materials are prepared in an environmentally friendly way, using metal-free tanning and water-based adhesives.
La Sportiva is pretty big on sustainability, perhaps more so than any other shoe manufacturer. Their factory and headquarters all run off renewable energy, and some of their waste rubber is used to benefit local social-economical projects like building local playgrounds. They are also one of the very few shoe manufacturers to participate in the 1% for the planet scheme.
Vegan Climbing Shoes VS Eco-friendly climbing shoes
There’s a big difference between vegan and eco-friendly climbing shoes. Vegan climbing shoes don’t use any materials that are sourced, or tested, from animals. This includes the fabrics, glue, or dying materials used throughout the manufacturing process.
While these shoes are certainly ‘animal friendly’ their environmental impact, whether measured in CO2 emissions, energy consumption or chemical processes, are similar in both non-vegan and vegan climbing shoes.
Eco-friendly climbing shoes, on the other hand, look to reduce their environmental impact across the board. CO2 emissions, chemical processes and waste materials are all reduced. Admittedly, it’s pretty disappointing how limited the selection of eco-friendly climbing shoes currently is. Really, La Sportiva is the only company offering eco-alternatives in the form of the Cobra Eco and the Mythos Eco.
So, leather climbing shoes are bad, right?
Leather climbing shoes certainly aren’t the most environmentally friendly option by any stretch of the imagination. The Higg Materials Sustainability Index measures the environmental impact of manufacturing materials and has consistent found that cow leather is one of the most detrimental materials in terms of water use, eutrophication and energy use.
There’s no doubt that the use of leather isn’t exactly environmentally friendly, however, there are some benefits to using leather on climbing shoes. For starters, they are usually more breathable than their synthetic counterparts, so will probably handle your funky feet better than their vegan alternatives. But perhaps the biggest advantage of leather climbing shoes is their superior ability to conform to the shape of your foot. The break in period for leather climbing shoes is significantly quicker, and the custom, glove-like fit is second to none.
What can I do to reduce my Environmental Impact?
As with anything, the most obvious answer to this question is to reduce your consumption and waste.
Vegan climbing shoes are a great start for reducing the environmental impact of your climbing gear, but if you really want to become more environmentally conscious, then simply make your gear last longer. Make sure you store your shoes properly and keep the rubber sticky to prolong their life. If the rubber starts to wear badly, consider a resole before moving on to the next pair.