January 9, 2009 at 2:22PM
by Alexandra Zissu
Click here to see this feature displayed with photos of each shoe.
I've been so caught up with unhealthy toys and baby food and formula lately, I've been neglecting my (e)mailbag. If you've written me lately, I promise to answer your question shortly. Here's one:
I read what you wrote about what Crocs are made of. I get tempted by cheap things at Target and stores like that because the kids grow out of everything so quickly, but I don't know what they're made of either. Are there green shoes for kids out there? Will they break the bank?
-Anne, mom of two
Anne, I hear you. My weakness has been the Payless website from time to time, especially when our fabulous and endless supply of hand-me-downs comes up short, or the used shoes in her current size aren't exactly gently used. I'm all for secondhand gear - what could be greener? - but I don't like putting my kid in really dinged up kicks. I especially draw the line at holes! I wouldn't wear them myself. Still, I resist the urge to go as cheap as possible and vote with my dollars by buying from companies that appear to be walking the sustainable walk.
First up, have you seen Simple Shoes? They even have those adorable soft slippers for early walkers that everyone else makes in leather. Depending on which style you choose, they might be made with hemp uppers, certified organic cotton linings, recycled PET and latex elastic, outsoles made of recycled inner tubes, and packed with 100% post consumer paper pulp foot forms inside a post consumer recycled box that looks like a truck. That pair will set you back $30, which is actually extremely reasonable in the world of kids shoes. Why are the teeny tiny well made things with leather uppers so insanely expensive? They cost as much if not more than adult shoes!? Speaking of, as long as you're ordering Simple, check out their shoes for mom and dad. Cute stuff, and they have excellent sales.
Next up, Toms Shoes. Their Tiny Toms come in prewalker and toddler sizes, are quite adorable, and for every pair you purchase, the company gives a pair of shoes to a kid in need. Their website says they've given away over 60,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina and South Africa since 2006. They do use recycled rubber, but the canvas is regular old cotton. The price point isn't too bad -- $35ish will cover the kids. Ten bucks more will cover you.
For the littlest that need more than socks, check out IsaBooties. They aren't made of a natural fiber (a minus in my book) but they list on their site why they refer to the product as eco-friendly:
* are 100% animal-free;
* are formaldehyde-free;
* are made in the USA with fair labor;
* use fabrics that far exceed the Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety (ASTM F963-07);
* come in packaging that is recycled/recyclable and printed with soy ink; and
* are 100% machine-washable/machine-dryable just like socks offering a clean, healthy choice in footwear.
While we're on the topic of not wanting to buy cheap goods at places like Target, I'd like to highlight these adorable frog rainboots that cost under $20 sold at Target because they're PVC-free! So are the $34 rubber boots from Hatley (Canadian company, go figure). Just make sure you click on the "rubber boots" as the rain boots don't say what they're made of.
Patagonia also makes kids shoes - check the line out on Planet Shoes. The line doesn't quite sound as green as, say, Simple Shoes, but they're doing some interesting things on various shoes like stitching on the outsole construction to minimize the use of solvents and adhesives (and adding durability), using outsoles with 20% recycled rubber, and insoles with up to 15% recycled EVA, and materials like hemp.
Meanwhile, Payless itself is jumping on board and will offer a "green" line of shoes sometime early this year, including kids items, and all will be around $30 or under. They will use sustainable/eco-friendly materials (organic cotton, natural hemp, recycled outsoles) as well as green packaging. Obviously the rest of the company has a long way to go, but I'm certainly interested to see what they've come up with.