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Shoe materials – what do all those symbols mean?

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If you, like me, prefer to know what your shoes are made of and are unsure of what those symbols on the sticky label on the sole of your shoe mean, then here’s a handy guide to help you out. Also, I know a lot of people prefer to buy shoes made of man-made materials (vegan shoes), so hopefully this will help distinguish the materials apart so you know exactly what you’re buying. I was vegan for a number of years and chose to only buy synthetic shoes but I was surprised, at the time, what a large percentage are made of animal skins and found it quite difficult getting the styles I liked in a synthetic material. Of course nowadays it’s much easier to find shoes marked vegan online. I will definitely be looking into the best places to buy vegan shoes so stay tuned!

suede pink shoes


So, how do you know if shoes are vegan?

Some people are able to know by smelling the shoe, as leather has a distinctive aroma, but I wouldn’t go on your nose alone just in case! Normally shoes have two labels, one stating the origin of the manufacturing and the other detailing what materials they’re made of. If the label says either ‘synthetic’, ‘man-made materials’, ‘textile’ or ‘other materials’ then you should be safe in the knowledge that no animal skin has been used. Just make sure the material icon alongside the shoes icon on the label doesn’t have the leather symbol.

van suede shoes


Lets break down the label – the left column

The label is normally broken down into two columns, as shown. The shoe icons on the left-hand-side show the three parts of the shoe, upper, lining and outer.

The upper part, as shown, shows you the most visible part of the shoe, at the front and top.

The lining/sock part, as shown, describes the material used for the inside of the shoe, which gives support and comfort to your feet.

The outer part, as shown, is the material used on the bottom of the shoe which protects your feet from the ground.

Lets break down the label – the right column

The column on the right-hand-side details the materials used for that specific part of the shoe.

The leather symbol represents the skin or hide from an animal. Although this icon is specific about leather being used there are many kinds of leather, eg nubuck and suede. If you see this symbol on your shoe then you know the skin of an animal has been used to make it.

The textile symbol means that a fabric has been used. This is one of the symbols to look for if you’re looking for a vegan shoe. This means the materials used are all man-made or natural.

The other materials symbol normally refers to the outer sole of the shoe of which, again, is a man-made material. There are many materials used for the sole of shoes, eg PVC, wood and rubber. So if you’re looking for vegan shoes then you know there’s no animal skin used for this.

I hope you’ve found this informative and interesting. Please leave any comments below. Thanks for reading!

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