Last updated on April 24th, 2023 at 02:44 am
- Scarpa Fuira Air
- Evolv Phantom
- Five Ten NIAD VCS
- La Sportiva Cobra Eco
- Tenaya Oasi
- La Sportiva GeckoGym
- Evolv Defy
It’s no secret that transport, energy, agriculture, apparel, and footwear are some of the most damaging industries to our environment.
But did you know that it is thought that apparel and shoe manufacturing contribute anywhere between 4% – 10% of the CO2 emissions? Not only that, but the amount of water waste and chemical pollution caused by these manufacturing processes is nothing less than mind-boggling.
As we all become increasingly aware of the impact of our actions and buying habits, some shoe manufacturers have attempted to reduce their environmental impact in order to win some brownie points with the eco-conscious climbers.
One way that climbing brands are trying to reduce their impact on the environment is by creating vegan climbing shoes. Synthetic climbing shoes have been around for a while now, however, not all of these can be classified as vegan as many rely on adhesives or inserts that are derived from animals.
THE TOP THREE
Here’s a list of every vegan climbing shoe available in 2023.
Every Vegan Climbing Shoe
– Black Opium
– Neo Vel
– Venga Youth
– Skwama Vegan
– Redline Strap
– Shark 2.0
– Strike QC
– Strike LU
– Leopard II
– TN Pro
– Up Rise
– UP Duel
– Up Lace
Unsure which shoe is right for you?
Allow me to share with you some of my favorite vegan climbing shoes, as well as some “eco-friendly” alternatives. I also want to share some ideas that can help us all reduce our 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.
Scarpa Fuira Air
My favorite vegan climbing shoe right now is the Scarpa Furia Air. It’s one of the newer shoes to be added to the Scarpa line-up and 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 made.
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 most commonly used in sports car interiors. These materials not only help keep the shoe lightweight but also contribute 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 Scarpa’s unique toe and heel rand tech, all of which help maintain the shoe’s tension and laser precision.
Combined with a minimalist ¼ outsole of Vibram XS Grip 2, the flexibility and sensitivity that Furia Air delivers are second to none. This is a serious sending machine perfect for sport climbing or bouldering.
BEST FOR BOULDERING
Evolv has one of the biggest selections of vegan climbing shoes of any shoe manufacturer. In fact, their current shoe line-up consists of 23 shoes, 60% of which are vegan-friendly.
One of the more recent additions to their line-up that has caught the attention of bouldering fanatics and vegan climbers alike is the Evolv Phantom. Partly due to being championed by the legendary boulder Daniel Woods, partly because of its unique shape, this super aggressive climbing shoe is turning plenty of heads in the world of bouldering.
The Phantom is built on many of the great features I 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 heel has also been refined with a less bulky 2mm outsole for increased sensitivity, yet offers 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 forces 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.”
If that endorsement from a V17 crusher doesn’t convince you of the Phantom’s awesomeness, I’m not sure what will.
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 take this up a whole other level.
Okay, so technically these aren’t completely vegan-friendly, as they do have a partial-suede insole under the toes. This helps the shoe custom mold to your feet and creates a softer footbed for your little piggies.
If you can see past this minor leather addition, then the NIAD VCS has plenty of brilliant qualities. 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 shoes 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 can be found in the heel and toe. The improved heel rand helps transfer more tension throughout the shoe while the new toe patch is a brilliant addition that makes the shoe more suited to modern styles of sport climbing.
All in all, this is a great shoe for beginners finding their feet on a diverse range of climbing styles and terrain.
La Sportiva Cobra Eco
I admit the Cobra Eco can’t be classed as a vegan climbing shoe as it uses an unlined suede leather upper. That said, I would go out on a limb and say that the Eco Cobra might be one of the most environmentally friendly climbing shoes currently available.
The Eco Cobra is one-half of La Sportiva’s eco-friendly climbing shoe line-up and one of my favorite slip-on climbing shoes ever made. While you probably won’t want to use the Cobra on your tricky 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, eagle-eyed viewers might have spotted the Cobra making an appearance at the Tokyo Olympics. Many pro climbers favor the Cobra for speed climbing, thanks to its minimalist construction, flexibility, 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.
Okay, so the shoe uses suede leather, however, 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 few climbing shoe manufacturers to participate in the 1% for the planet scheme.
BEST FOR COMFORT
Tenaya is making serious waves in the climbing world thanks to its ridiculously comfortable performance shoes. The Tenaya design team is borderline obsessed with feet biomechanics, which has allowed them to create a shoe that not only feels great but performs exceptionally well too.
Of all their great shoes, the Tenaya is considered one of the best. It’s got all the tools you need to crush hard on both boulder problems and sport routes, without being overly extravagant.
While the Oasi might look like a pretty basic shoe, don’t be fooled. There’s some clever design technology at play here. The shoe uses SXR Dynamics, which essentially allows the Oasi to adapt its shape depending on the terrain you are climbing, and all of their shoes are designed to adapt to varying foot width, so unrivaled comfort is almost a guarantee, regardless of your foot shape.
The icing on top of the cake is that the Oasi uses a microfiber upper and a cotton lining, so it’s classed as a completely vegan-friendly climbing shoe!
BEST FOR STYLE
La Sportiva GeckoGym
If you are a fan of La Sportiva shoes, but not crazy on cow leather, then this could be the shoe for you.
Unfortunately, La Sportiva has a very limited selection of vegan shoes. The GeckoGym, along with the new Skwama Vegan, are the only vegan La Sportiva climbing shoes available right now.
As the name suggests, the shoe is designed for indoor use, with many of the shoe’s features designed to help give beginners an introduction to the world of gym bouldering.
If you are thinking that the GeckoGym shares a remarkable resemblance to the La Sportiva Tarantula, it’s because it does. These shoes have plenty of noticeable similarities; they use the same last shape, the same heel design, split tongue, velcro closure, and FriXion rubber.
Perhaps the most noticeable advantage of the GeckoGym over the Tarantula is that it is machine washable. This is actually a pretty cool feature, and one rarely found on climbing shoes.
BEST FOR BUDGETS
Since I have mentioned the La Sportiva GeckoGym, I think it’s only fair to give the Evolv Defy a quick shout too. These two shoes are pretty comparable; both are designed for beginners, built on a neutral last shape, double-velcro closure, and have a similar balance between rigidity and sensitivity.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two shoes is the rubber. The GeckoGym uses La Sportiva FriXion white, a non-marking compound that is designed for gym walls. The Defy, on the other hand, uses Trax SAS rubber, which I personally think is a great compound. It has a really nice balance between durability and friction and works equally well on both indoor and outdoor climbs.
Of course, like many of Evolv’s shoes, the defy is 100% vegan-friendly.
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 consistently 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, that said, there are some undeniable benefits to using leather on climbing shoes. For starters, the amazing natural properties of leather make it significantly more breathable than its synthetic counterparts. This allows it to dispel moisture within your climbing shoes, so will handle your smelly feet better than their vegan alternatives.
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. Practicing better footwork will help extend the lifespan of your shoes too. If the rubber starts to wear badly, consider a resole before moving on to the next pair.
When the time does come to retire your shoes, don’t just throw them out either. There are plenty of things you can do with old climbing shoes!