The Search for Shoes

It is rare that I struggle to find products that are non-toxic.  Usually, if I do a little research, I’m able to find almost any product in a non-toxic version. But sadly, non-toxic children’s shoes are one of very few items that I have labeled as “almost impossible to find.” I spent 4-5 hours last summer searching for non-toxic summer shoes for my children. I remember feeling so frustrated. Well, I had the same struggle again just a few days ago.

Spring comes early here in Northern California. My kids are already in shorts and t-shirts and needing something besides our winter mainstay of rain boots for footwear. What bothers me about summer footwear is that there are no socks. In the winter, we always have socks on with our shoes. But summer time, our bare soles are in constant contact with our shoes. We sweat more, or we get them wet in the pool. Overall, we have way more direct skin contact with our shoes than in the winter. Because of this, I want to make sure that my children’s shoes aren’t leaking toxins into their bodies all summer long.

Toxins in Shoes

Many children’s shoes that have been tested are highly toxic. If you Google “toxins in children’s shoes” you’re bound to come up with some interesting reads. Here’s a good one. Many children’s shoes have cancer causing chemicals, allergens, and other toxins. I’m not going to go into a ton of details, but the majority of shoes are toxic, as you’ll see in a minute from my search for a non-toxic shoe.

I don’t mind spending extra money on shoes, because I usually only buy each child 2 pairs. One for playing on the farm and one for going out in public for running errands, church, etc. I much prefer quality over quantity. So if I can only afford to buy them 2 really good quality and non-toxic shoes, that is much better than tons of pairs of toxic shoes in my mind. I sat down a few days ago and began my online search for non-toxic shoes.

My General Findings

1 | Slim pickings. I searched and searched and searched. Some companies do some eco-friendly practices, but to find truly non-toxic shoes was almost impossible.

2 | There were significantly more companies offering truly non-toxic baby shoes than toddler and children size shoes.

3 | The very few companies that I found were actually in process of closing down or had closed down. Also, the shoes were very “earthy.” They weren’t normal styles that you’d find at other places. I really wanted to find my children some shoes that were just normal looking but were also safe.

What I Bought

Here’s what I ended up purchasing. For “farm shoes” I got them both Keen’s. This one and this one. Keen isn’t my favorite style, but I figured they’d both be wearing them out on the farm so it wasn’t a huge deal if I was in love with them. I liked that they could be water shoes as well. I am not convinced that they are completely safe for my child, but they were the best I could find for play shoes. The company does have some eco-friendly and non-toxic practices. Last year, I got Crocs instead. Again, I do not for a minute believe they are non-toxic, but I did find some very good research on the company about how they do purposely steer clear of some of the most toxic chemicals usually found in children’s shoes.

For nicer shoes, I got these from Livie and Luca for my son. I’ve bought several pairs of Livie and Luca in the past. They are very high quality shoes and hold up amazing. They aren’t as fully non-toxic as I’d prefer, but it was the best I could do. They use lead-free leather, non-toxic (I’m not sure what that exactly entails) glue, and no harmful chemicals in the tanning process. They are also a company that incorporates sustainable and eco-friendly practices.

For my daughter, I got these. Yikes. Did you see that price!? $85 for a pair of sandals for my 5 year old. Goodness. But this company is AMAZING. They are actually the only ones I found that I felt 100% sure about. The shoes are truly non-toxic and sustainably made. I really love the Little Spruce Organics website and many of the brands they carry are some of my very favorite and most trusted.

What makes me sad is how hard it can be to keep my family and myself safe. 95% of the time I can find budget friendly, non-toxic, and eco-friendly alternatives to things in our home. But shoes, I must admit, are one of the few places that I don’t think budget friendly alternatives exist yet. Hopefully, one day soon, there will be more companies I can trust for children’s footwear, but for now, it’s just a place I will budget extra money each year in order to keep my children safe as I can.

31 Responses to “My Search for Non-Toxic Children’s Shoes”

  1. I just started looking at moccasins because my kids pretty much only want to go barefoot and I need a good compromise for them on days we aren’t home. Were moccs not an option for you guys because of toxins or durability?

  2. Hi Lauren, thanks so much for this information. As a Mom of 5- & 3-y/o girls this is so concerning. I started a quick google search to see if there are options locally where we live in Austin TX. What do you do for toddler clothing, e.g., do you purchase only natural, organic fabrics like cotton? Thanks so much; I so appreciate your blog & insight.

    • Clothing is hard as well. The problem is a lot of companies are doing “organic cotton” but not doing safe dyes. So they pull people in saying the cotton is organic, but if it has been dyed, then most likely it’s still toxic. Cotton is definitely safer than polyester, rayon, and the such though so that’s what I stick with if I can. I haven’t found a great source for clothes. I tried Bert’s Bees, but they are owned by Clorox Bleach now, and I wasn’t impressed with the quality of clothes. Little Spruce Organics carries some great wool clothes, but those are pretty expensive. I do the PJ’s each year, but that’s about it.

  3. Lauren Hogarty

    I read this article a few days ago and I suddenly thought today that if you are ever in South Africa you could look at getting some shoes for your kids… we have some amazing companies and prices will be in your favour:

    https://www.groundcover.co.za/

    This company is in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands and has a great reputation for eco friendly products. I am not sure about their dyes etc.but you would know more.

    Really enjoying your insights! Thanks

  4. Jovana

    I have decided to create a non-toxic home by 2020 (a long-term goal). I am moving to a new country and am enjoying the purge of remaining plastics (almost 100% plastic free in the kitchen / living room / dining room), etc. I have also decided to purge about 80% of my wardrobe since I want to start investing into quality, timeless organic cotton / hemp pieces (dyed with toxic free dyes).

    It’s been a huge wake up call for me. I read a very enlightening article about how organic clothes are really not organic unless followed up with ethical and eco bleaching and dying practices.

    I understand your pain on finding non-toxic shoes but I just wanted to mention something interesting. I was looking for organic cotton, no-glue (para-tertiary butyl phenol formaldehyde resin free shoes) but could not find anything… reasonable with any of those tags.

    I managed to find an interesting website with a shoe option (after looking through hundreds of pages) and managed to find a UK brand call Po-Zu: http://po-zu.com/

    Their linings are natural organic cotton, no-glue, pure rubber soles, coconut husk and natural latex foot bed. After I found this website, I knew some of the “keywords” to look for.

    One quick tip is to look for IVN certified leather shoes for kids. We have a brand where I live and the whole shoe – inside and out – is IVN certified leather. Unfortunately, they do not have a web shop or sell abroad :(

    I will continue looking and hopefully if I find something with organic lining , etc, I will leave you a message.

    We live in a scary world now, where finding non-toxic alternatives is becoming hard to find, but thank goodness, there are options. 😀

  5. Amanda Lang

    Hello! I am always searching for non toxic products for my little ones too, hence why I stumbled upon your site. We’ve been buying these shoes for my daughter and they are WONDERFUL. So many things to gush about, made in the USA, non toxic/conscientiously sourced materials, montessori/independence promoting etc. I only wish we’d found them sooner. Now I’m pregnant again, I’ve already bought some “crib shoes” as I know they’ll work 9 million times better than socks. :) http://www.softstarshoes.com/how-we-make-them

  6. Amber Rabbitt

    Thank you for your research! It is very hard to fing truly non-toxic shoes among everything else! Have you checked out soft star shoes? They have options for vegetable dyes too.

  7. Hi Lauren,
    My little one is only 3mo old right now and I’ve purposely avoided buying any shoes up to now because a) unnecessary and b) all of the above concerns. However, I noticed you said there were more options for baby shower out there than toddler. Could you perhaps point me towards some of these brands? Thank you so much in advance

    • I have looked into their shoes also. They look like they do some good things. I’m not convinced that their products are 100% safe. They are a bit vague when they describe what shoes are dyed with and made from, but they are definitely doing a better job than many companies.

    • I have looked into their shoes also. They look like they do some good things. I’m not convinced that their products are 100% safe. They are a bit vague when they describe what shoes are dyed with and made from, but they are definitely doing a better job than many companies.

  8. Kristine

    Hi Lauren!
    I’m grateful to come across your page. It is so encouraging. And informational. I had no idea “so many” other ma’s were looking into nontoxic, non chemical dyed shoes and the like and were willing to put in the investment$ and go for quality over quantity! (I’m from/living in NorCal too!) Reading the comments was comforting (but not about the lack of options). I had been feeling quite, quite alone, especially in my family where it’s so easy for me to hear, “well I would like to. but you know we can’t afford it, ma.” Or, “do you really think that’s a good choice with money?” “There’s always going to be chemicals.” How do I continue to respond? I am sad that it is a dream for many parents to have nontoxic choices, rather than a true reality, and I do get that in the immediate moment, spending $7-18 on a toddler or kid shoe is “much better” than 60 or 70 something! The price can make many many families cringe. But…so can the carcinogenic reality!

    I’m going to peruse all those links from above. Overseas companies that Ship to the USA now are so wanted to me! I’m so relieved to see this information, care, attention, and conscientiousness. I had felt really alone in my care.
    How do you share this with your family and friends? Anyone really not on board? Do you receive presents for your children that are shoes and clothes that you know you won’t be putting on them?

    do you have any suggestions about how we can stimulate the growth of a company who would make some nearly 100% safe shoes or how as customers we can push along that demand?

    Some of my ideas: I’m going to search for Australian companies as I feel I’ve seen really good products for families come out of there, but I might be misillusioned. Also do you browse around on etsy marketplace for home sewn shoes or any vintage or heirloom products that are just wool?

    Long post, thanks!!

    • Hi! Great questions. First off, I don’t push it on anyone. If they are curious and ask me questions, I am more than happy to share. Mostly, I just do what I do because it’s really important to me. I do what is important to me, and if others want to hop on board, I love that. I did email grandparents a few years ago and let them know what kind of toys and clothes were important to me and why. I’m a minimalist by nature, and they know that, so they’ve all done amazing at respecting my wishes to just have smaller quantity of high quality things. Occasionally, someone (family or friend) will gift something to my children that I don’t feel safe with. I let my kids know why we can’t keep it, and then I donate it to Salvation Army. I think enough people know my lifestyle now though, they usually ask ahead of time. I stay very approachable about everything, and I never push things on anyone. I think my friends and family really respect that, and it helps them respect my wishes when it comes to products in my home. I don’t usually browse home sewn products. Most of the time, I’ve found they aren’t really my style. Hope that helps!

  9. Valerie

    What about Sanuk? Also, I got my daughter some Livie and Luca sandals and they say “made in China” just like everything else. Are they no longer non-toxic? Everything made in China is full of chemicals.

    • Livie and Luca isn’t my top pick, but I do purchase them when I can’t find anything else that will work. Although shoes made in China often times has toxic ingredients and not good working conditions, there are factories that are fair trade and toxic free. I’m not sure what kind of factory Livie and Luca has.

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