Before we begin, allow me to share this visual approximation of myself, shoe shopping:
Simply replace the hair brush with a suede-covered shoe and BAM! The resemblance is uncanny. (FYI: This is also my “FEED ME, I’M HUUUU NGRY!” face. You’ve been warned.)
Shoe shopping is bad enough on its own, but it’s especially tedious as a vegan. Is it just me, or are there fewer vegan options available in local, brick and mortar shoe stores than just a decade ago? Maybe it’s not fair to make comparisons, since I grew up in New York and now live in the Midwest, but still. EVERYTHING IS LEATHER!
When the soles finally bottomed out of my cheap synthetic sneaks, I hit up the chain stores in search of a replacement. I searched far and wide, north of the city and south, throughout all of spring and summer and even into the fall. Finding but a handful of options, I finally settled for a pair of cheap $20 synthetic sneaks from Target. I wore them maybe a dozen times before I realized that the chafing and pinching and general discomfort wasn’t going to go away with use. Back to the drawing board. And, in the meantime, sneakers duct taped together. That’s how I roll, people.
Anyway, an interview with Zappos’ C.E.O. Tony Hsieh on The Colbert Report piqued my interest. They have a generous return policy which includes free shipping – both ways – as well as a year to return unwanted, unused items for a full refund. Unbelievable, right? I’ve always been a little suspicious. Too good to be true and all that jazz. But I seriously needed some new shoes, and the free shipping dealio is perfect for someone who rejects 90% of the shoes she tries on (which is why I’d been avoiding online stores up to this point), so I decided to try it out.
I started by searching for vegan sneaks – easy enough, since there’s a dedicated category for vegan shoes on the site (look in the left-hand column, under “specialty”) – and quickly narrowed it down to three choices: the ASICS GEL-Euphoria® Plus; the Kalso Earth Glide Vegan; and the Saucony Originals Jazz Low Pro Vegan. Since I’m unsure of my shoe size, I bought two pairs of each, in a size 7 and a 7.5. All told, my order came out to $407.98. (Eeeks!)
Long story short: I ended up keeping two pairs (a size 7 in each the Saucony Jazz and Kalso Earth) and returned the other four (the larger Saucony Jazz and Kalso Earth, as well as both pairs of Asics, which weren’t terribly comfortable and seemed to be poorly made). I hung onto all six pairs of shoes for more than a month before reaching a decision (so anal!), and even wore the Kalso Earth sneaks around the house for few days to try ‘em out. (The “negative heel” “technology” took a little getting used to.)
When it came time to return over half my order, all went smoothly. The process is automated; simply log into your account, access the order you’d like to return, and then follow the instructions from there. Zappos sent me a return shipping label via email immediately and issued a refund promptly – I think the money was back in my account less than a week after I dropped the package off at UPS. The entire refund came to $274.99, no quibbling necessary. Yay!
So yeah, this skeptic is sold. Assuming they add some more vegan shoes to their selection (it’s okay but hardly outstanding), I’d definitely shop there again. The only major downside is that you have to have enough money to put up for the initial order, which of course not everyone does. And the free return shipping is option is only available in the US, so there’s that.
Anyway, I reviewed both of my new purchases on Amazon – so rather than reinvent the Vegg, I just copied and pasted ‘em below. You know the deal: hop on over to Amazon and vote my reviews helpful, pretty please with Dandies on top, and only if you’re so inclined. As you can imagine, my vegan reviews don’t always fare well on mainstream sites. Slaters gonna slate.
As far as shoe shopping goes, I’m the fussiest person you’ll ever meet. I have trouble finding shoes that don’t pinch my toes or make my arches ache. I’m pretty certain that my feet are slightly different sizes. And I’m vegan.
When I spotted the Saucony Originals Women’s Jazz Low Pro Vegan Sneakers online, I decided to give ‘em a try. Reasonably priced as far as brand name sneakers go, they’re a great deal! (Although some of the other comments lead me to believe that I overpaid, just a bit!) Comfortable, with decent arch support and cushiony padding, the Jazz Low Pros are one of my favorite pairs of sneaks. (Though the #1 spot belongs to the pricier Earth Glide-K, also vegan.)
While the soles are made of rubber, the uppers are canvas and hemp – which means that they’re really not suitable for wet weather conditions. I made the mistake of wearing these dog walking one morning, before the dew on the grass had dried, and the water soaked through the canvas in a matter of minutes. They’re perfect for dry weather activities, though: school, movies, running errands, pounding the pavement, etc. At least one person commented that these run a little small, but I haven’t had that problem.
The only downside is that I kind of feel like a hipster in these shoes. But at least I’m a vegan hipster! The only cruelty being of the self-deprecating kind.
I’m a super-fussy shoe shopper: nearly all of the shoes I try on, I reject due to fit or comfort. I have trouble finding sneakers that don’t pinch my toes, and I’m pretty sure that my feet are slightly different sizes. Also, I’m a vegan. (Is it just me, or are there fewer vegan options in the mainstream, brick and mortar shoe stores than there were a decade ago? Thank dog for the internet!) And I love, love, LOVE my new Earth Glide-K sneakers!
Initially I was a little unsure about the “Negative Heel Technology” – indeed, the first time I tried these sneaks on, they felt awkward and bit unsettling. The added height near the toe of the shoe forces your body backward, onto your heels, so that even just standing in place feels weird. However, after a few days of use, I quickly got used to this new feeling, and it’s really no longer an issue for me. While it’s doubtful that I’ll ever use these sneaks in aerobics or kickboxing workouts – I have enough trouble keeping my balance as it is – they’re perfect for walking and running. Whether the unusual design actually helps you to burn more calories as claimed…well, that’s another matter. (I remain skeptical.)
As for the positives, there are many! The shoes are super comfy, with excellent arch support, cushy padding and soft mesh uppers. They’re also very lightweight, such that you almost forget you’re wearing shoes. They could do with some more stylish color options, but the silver-on-white isn’t half bad. I even like the laces – the fat, round, corded style is much more likely to stay tied than the flatter varieties. I also love that they’re vegan – no cow or kangaroo corpses required!
I’ve seen a number of complaints that these shoes run a half to a full size too small, but I haven’t had an issue with fit. I tried both a size 7 and a 7.5, and 7 fit me perfectly. (I’m usually a women’s seven. For what it’s worth, I purchased a pair of Saucony Originals Jazz Low Pro Vegan Sneakers at the same time as the Earth Glide sneakers. Same size – seven.)
I’ve only owned these shoes for a month or two now, so I can’t really speak to durability. However, they seem to well-made and designed with care. For example, the toe of the shoe doesn’t have that awkward, weak seam common to so many sneakers where the sole joins with the (usually leather) upper. That said, if I run into any problems, I’ll update this review.
As much as I love these shoes, the negative heel isn’t for everyone. Definitely try these on before buying them – or, better yet, wear them around the house for a week so you can return them if you change your mind. That’s what I did!