shoe materialsIf 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!



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.

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.


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



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



outer shoe materialThe 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.


leather shoe materialThe 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.


textile shoe materialThe 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.



other materials shoe symbolThe 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!

Shoe Materials – what do all those symbols mean?

9 thoughts on “Shoe Materials – what do all those symbols mean?

  • January 18, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    thanks very much for this.
    please may i ask though, how can we be absolutely sure that “other materials” will always be vegan?
    yours gratefully

    • January 18, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Thanks for your question! ‘Other materials’ does sound vague as, quite often, they’re never fully listed as to what they are. To be completely sure try shopping at websites that offer vegan shoes, that way you know there’s no animal material used. Here’s a few to try,, and Hope this helps 🙂

  • August 23, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you for providing this information. Could I please ask, is a leather upper a natural material or synthetic?

    • August 23, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      Hi Kathy – thanks for your question! A leather upper is made of leather only in the upper part of the shoe which, yes, is a natural material. The rest will more than likely be made from man-made/synthetic materials. Hope this helps 🙂

  • August 27, 2016 at 6:43 am

    Hi Jo,
    Thank you very very much, I prefer to buy vegan shoes and yesterday I bought a pair, but I was not sure about the ‘diamond’ sign. Now, I’m happy it’s synthetic not leather.

    merci beaucoup 🙂

    • August 27, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      Happy to help! Enjoy your new shoes 🙂

  • September 16, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Hi, very useful information, thanks. May I ask you, do textile shoes get wet easily? Can I wear them on a rainy day for example?

    • September 16, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Megi – thanks for your question! If your shoes are a synthetic leather, then yes, you can wear them in the rain as they’re made with a PU coating (polyurethane), making them water proof. Hope this helps 🙂


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