Dress slow: 17 steps to slow fashion that don’t cost a fortune

The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. It produces more carbon emissions than air travel or maritime shipping combined and is responsible for 20% of the world’s water pollution.

The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. It produces more carbon emissions than air travel or maritime shipping combined and is responsible for 20% of the world’s water pollution. 

But how can you escape the grasp of fast fashion and slow down when it comes to the shoes you wear? Start simple with one of these 17 easy steps.  

You don’t have to be perfect. Start small. 

Before we dive into the tips, we have an important message:  

You don’t have to be perfect right away, shopping only locally and wearing one pair of shoes. Each of us can make changes that are comfortable for us. A lot of imperfect people trying are more helpful to the planet than a handful of perfect ones. 

Reading tip: Fast fashion and textile production – what is the impact on the environment? European Parliament infographic

1) The most eco-friendly choices are those you already own

You don’t have to empty your entire shoe closet and replace it with shoes from local designers. Just throw on your favorite pair of comfy sneakers. There’s nothing greener than what you already have at home.

2) Pass on everything that doesn’t fit you 

Go through all of your shoes and consider: How many times have you worn them in the last year? Ten times at most? Time to pass them on. Give them to friends, donate them to a charity, or offer them at the next clothing swap you attend. 

Reading tip: The rise and rise of Clothes Swapping. An article about fashion exchanges (and more) from the Vendeur magazine

3) Find your own style

Take a piece of paper and describe your style. Is it modern or retro? Do you wear cheerful colors or prefer black? Do you like sneakers, ballet flats, or shoes with laces? And what shoes do you avoid wearing?

Clarifying your own style can help keep you on track. When you get excited about a pair you found on sale, you can quickly assess whether they match your tastes. And trust us, the majority don’t. 

4) Beware of fashion trends

Platform sandals come and go, but comfortable casual shoes or ballet flats stand the test of time. Seasonal styles usually end up at the back of your closet or sitting unsold in second-hand stores.

Stick to timeless classics, simple cuts, and quality materials.

5) Repair the broken

Winter boots coming apart? Don’t rush out to buy new ones if you’re comfortable in them. Take them to a shoe repair shop. Instead of spending money at a store, support a skilled cobbler and give your beloved shoes a second lease on life. 

6) Think twice before you buy

Sometimes it’s love at first sight – and a month later, your greatest love is now cast aside in the corner of your closet. 

When you fall for a new pair of shoes, save the link or take a photo of them instead of buying them right away. Go back and look at them a month later or at least 14 days. Have you forgotten about them in the meantime? It probably wasn’t that great a love in the first place. Do you think about them regularly and really need them? Then, go for it! 

Podcast tip: Beyond Marie Condo! An episode from the Wardrobe Crisis with Clare Press podcast. 

7) Look for easy combinations

We won’t try to tell you to go for brown casual shoes and black ballet flats – maybe you’re one of those talented individuals that can easily incorporate red shoes or have white sneakers as a staple. But always imagine at least five outfits you can put together when shopping for shoes.

8) Second-hand? Yes but…

We’re big fans of second-hand fashion, but it’s more challenging with shoes. Everyone’s feet are different, and everyone wears shoes differently. It’s also rare to find a pair of healthy barefoot shoes in a second-hand store.

So, what can you do? Here are a couple of solutions:

  • Only buy second-hand shoes from brands you know well, ideally with minor wear. 
  • Get shoes made from second-hand materials. For example, we can take your old jeans and create a pair of stylish Ahinsa shoes.

“Worn down shoes aren’t the ideal way to go, especially for children. Not only because a different tread can affect the way you walk, but also because of hygiene, mold, and so on,” says physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera.

9) Local brands ≠ local production

Local production is closely linked to slow fashion for several reasons:

  • Transporting materials and the shoes themselves leaves a large carbon footprint behind. 
  • Czech and Slovak designers produce quality pieces that can last for years. 
  • In the Czech Republic, it’s easy to keep an eye on production conditions. By comparison, in China or Bangladesh, it’s common for shoes to be produced using modern-day slavery, child labor, and hazardous substances, which are then dumped into the environment. 

That’s why you should choose local producers. But be careful! A Czech brand doesn’t necessarily mean Czech production. Make sure you ask brands where and under what conditions their shoes are made. At Ahinsa shoes, we only use European materials (except our Malai coconut material) and sew them right in the Czech Republic or Croatia. 

 Reading tip: Best and worst rated brands of 2021. An online survey by Good on you published in the Slow Femme magazine 

10) Quality costs less than quantity

You might be thinking: All this is nice, but shoes by Czech brands don’t cost 20 EUR – they cost 120 EUR. And you’re right. It’s impossible to charge 20 CZK when you use quality materials and pay workers what they deserve. 

But if you learn to buy less, but quality, you can save up for local shoes in no time – and they’ll end up costing you less. Here’s how. 

If you only wear a pair of 20 EUR shoes 20 times, how much does it cost each time you wear them? And how much does it cost to wear a pair of 120 EUR shoes 500 times? 

Quality shoes may cost more when you buy them, but they’ll last longer and won’t fall apart right away. 

Reading tip: Cost Per Wear: How It Can Help You Save Money This article focuses on cost per wear (i.e. the price of an item each time you wear it).

12) Materials: Natural, recycled, or just plain good quality

What materials are the most eco-friendly? It’s not always simple to figure out – it depends on not only the material itself but also production and shipping conditions and how long it lasts. 

Among the most sustainable are natural materials like linen and hemp, which require minimal water to grow. Materials that can reuse something that already exists are also great. For example, we create Ahinsa shoes from coconut waste and recycled textiles. 

But most importantly, we do our best to avoid creating new waste. That’s why we guarantee our shoes for three years and choose materials that will last you for years, such as our CF+ vegan leather that doesn’t scuff or scratch. 

Podcast tip: The sustainable angle's Nina Marenzi - Future fabrics. An episode of the Wardrobe Crisis with Clare Press podcast.

13) Fits like a glove – healthy and comfortable

They say every woman has at least one pair of shoes she can only sit in. But we think that’s the silliest statement in the world.

When your shoes don’t fit, it’s not just you who suffers. Your shoes also suffer and won’t last as long. Your foot puts a lot of pressure on your shoes (and vice versa). Over time, your shoes will come unglued and crack until you eventually have to throw them away.  

Look for durable shoes that give your feet plenty of room. 

 Reading tip: 14 myths about barefoot shoes Why are they more than just “thin-soled shoes”?

14) Who made my shoes?

Sustainability is a society in which people live respectfully. Is this possible if our shoes are made by people on the other side of the planet being paid less than a living wage? 

The problem is that big brands often have no idea who makes their shoes. They outsource production to Chinese or Bangladeshi factors and only ask about the price. The factory then shifts production to its own subcontractors, making it difficult for a big brand to see the end of the chain and ensure good conditions (even if they wanted to). 

That’s why you should buy from companies that tell you exactly how they make their shoes.

Reading tip: Who made my shirt? An article about cheap clothing production from the Anke Wonder blog. 

15) Waterproof

Hooray! Your new shoes are home. 

But wait a minute before you put them on. You need to take good care of them, which means thoroughly waterproofing. Our eco-friendly, biodegradable waterproofing spray is one of our favorites. It soaks into the fibers and protects your shoes from water and dirt, so they last longer. 

16) Clean gently

The gentler you are with your shoes, the longer they last. 

Never put your shoes in the washing machine unless the manufacturer clearly states it’s safe to do so. The spin cycle can damage your shoes and make them wear out faster.  

All your shoes need is a clean cloth, water, and sometimes a bit of environmentally-friendly cleaner. Or maybe just a night outside on your balcony to air them out. 

17) Put your health first

You should also always be thinking about the sustainability of your life. 

Narrow-toe sneakers may be the style, but they deform your feet and can cause damage to your whole body. They might make a nice outfit today but give you health problems ten years from now. 

Think of yourself and treat your body the way you want to treat nature: Sustainably. 

Choose shoes that: 

  • Respect the shape of your foot
  • Give your toes plenty of room
  • Are lightweight and flexible
  • Adapt to your movement

Change your footwear today. Wear healthy, ethical, and eco-friendly shoes designed by physiotherapists.