Ethical Product Review: Will’s Vegan Store Biker Boots

Will's Vegan Store biker boots // govegga.com

Badass black boots: It’s my personal belief that every lady needs a pair. Put ‘em on when you need an extra boost of confidence or a reminder that, yes, you can do whatever it is you need to do today!

I haven’t had a real good pair of badass black boots in a while, but that changed when I purchased these kick-ass vegan biker boots from Will’s Vegan Store (formerly known as Will’s Vegan Shoes — they’re expanding!). I had actually been eyeing the work boots but didn’t love that the tread was so deep; it seemed a little at odds with the more delicate, slender profile of the work boots. If I’m gonna get a pair of boots with big, deep, treads, I want a similarly badass design to match! So I turned my attention to the biker boots, a style that hadn’t previously been on my radar. With an autumn trip to Estonia and Finland coming up fast, I knew I needed a sturdy pair of boots for city tromping and bog hopping, so I took the plunge and bought a pair.

Truthfully, I was dubious. I have skinny ankles and calves, and I kind of thought my legs would look like little sticks poking up out of the wide openings (hence my initial interest in the narrower work boots). But as soon as I received these suckers and zipped ‘em on, I was in love. Yeah, they opening is a little wide for my legs, but that’s the style. Plus, all the more room for slouchy, cozy socks!

Just as I did for my dock boots, I figured I’d write up a Will’s Vegan Store biker boots review for anyone who may be considering a purchase. Please check out the dock boots post for a little more info on Will’s in general, including why it’s one of my  favorite ethical vegan shoe companies.

Will's Vegan Store biker boots // govegga.comHow do Will’s Vegan Store biker boots fit?

I have a few different styles of Will’s shoes (bought both new and used), all size 39. )For reference, I wear a size 7.5 U.S.) I do find the sizing a little uneven — while my dock boots were snug from day one, the footbed sandals are a little loose and long, unfortunately. The biker boots are somewhere in the middle. The width works fine for my narrow feet, but when I first got them, my heels would sort of lift out of the back because they were a tad large overall. The solution? Add some soft gel insoles. They both provide comfort and take up a little room in the shoe. Doing that (and tightening the buckles) made a huge difference, and they fit perfectly now.

I also tend to wear these with cozy thick socks (like these) for maximum comfort and  warmth. (Note on those socks: I looove them and thought I’d read they were ethically made in the USA, but now I’m not so sure! Sad face.)

How is the quality?

I think Will’s in general are well made, and the biker boots are no exception. I’ve had them for about six months and wear them multiple times a week, and they’re not scratched or showing much wear. I will say that the soles have pulled slightly apart from the shoe proper in a couple small spot, but that hasn’t affected their watertightness. I’ll update if something changes, however!

Are the biker boots comfortable?

After adding a gel insole to perfect the fit, the biker boots are super comfortable! Not that they were problematic to begin with, but insoles make most shoes better. I wore these almost exclusively during my trip to Tallinn, where I was walking 7-10 miles each day, with no issues. I did make sure to break them in first, but even then only got one tiny little blister on my ankle (?!) that hasn’t bothered me since.

How warm are the biker boots?

I’ve worn my boots on and off through this winter, and I’ve never been cold — even though they’re not insulated. If I’m wearing a thin pair of socks, I occasionally double up, but I do that with most of my shoes. :) I wore these for one night during a trip to Montréal last December, and my feet were plenty warm — even though the temperatures dropped to 5˚F that evening!

Will's Vegan Store biker boots // govegga.comAre they waterproof? How sturdy are they?

These are sturdy shoes. Will’s markets them as water-resistant, not waterproof, though I’ve worn them in plenty of yucky conditions (see photo at left!) with no ill effects. Plus, because they have super deep treads, they provide great traction. I’ve worn them in light snow and rain, and they helped me complete a very muddy, very slippery, very steep hike in Austin on New Year’s Eve without falling once.

Are there any downsides to the biker boots?

If you’re planning any sort of maneuver that requires stealth, seek alternate footwear! Here’s why: The biker boots squeak. Not a lot, but noticeably. I don’t quite know why, but I do know that whenever I walk down the hall during an (uncharacteristically) quiet moment at the office, I feel very conspicuous. No big deal when you’re strolling down a busy city street, but not ideal for moments that require silence and/or stealth.


What did I miss? What else do you want to know about these fab vegan biker boots?


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Review of Will's Vegan Store biker boots // govegga.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I was not provided with free shoes from nor compensated in any way for a review. (Although I would happily try another pair to review!) I simply bought the shoes and wanted to share my thoughts in a Will’s Vegan Store shoe review. This post does contain an Amazon affiliate link, however.

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Ethical Product Review: Will’s Vegan Shoes Dock Boots

You can take one of two perspectives when it comes to finding vegan shoes. One, that it’s a frustrating endeavor because you have limited options — and especially limited budget options — and you will likely have to order online, with no chance to check sizing in person. Two, that it’s freeing! Rather than suffering from the paralysis of choice, with literally thousands of options at big-box shoe stores and hundreds of online shopping sites, you have a select few vegan shoe brands from which to choose. You can just put on your blinders, ignore the non-vegan options, and not have to stress out about which of 284 nearly-identical pairs of trendy black Chelsea boots is the “right” one for you.

I’ve decided, unsurprisingly, to take the latter perspective. Once I know that I want cruelty-free vegan shoes that are also made ethically, my options are, frankly, slim. Not many brands meet both those criteria, although I have seen more and more pop up over the last couple years. But one long-time purveyor of ethical vegan shoes has long been on my radar: Will’s Vegan Shoes, AKA Will’s of London. And this brand has a lot going for it.

Will's Vegan Shoes dock boots review // govegga.com

Here’s what makes Will’s Vegan Shoes great:

  • Ethics. All shoes are 100% vegan (and labeled as such!), and the company manufactures them under fair labor conditions in Portugal.
  • A commitment to the environment. Will’s just rolled out a new carbon-neutral delivery process, and they are moving towards using more eco-friendly materials in their actual shoes.
  • Free shipping. Not only do U.S. orders get free shipping from this UK-based company, but you can return or exchange your shoes FOR FREE if the sizing doesn’t work! This is a huge benefit. Shipping shoes across the pond can be expensive, often running between $15 and $20. Knowing you can exchange or return your shoes if they don’t fit is massively comforting. Plus, the shipping is fast — see below for details. (Note: Arguably, shipping shoes back and forth across the ocean is not super eco-friendly, so keep that in mind if you’re the type who likes to online shop just to “try things out” without an intent to keep the product.)
  • Stellar customer service. If you follow Will’s on Instagram or elsewhere, you’ll frequently see Will himself (yes, he’s a real person) responding directly to questions. Reviews confirm this observation: The team is truly invested in keeping customers happy and will do what it takes to get you shoes that fit and that you love.
  • The price. Although you may balk at spending ~$100 for a pair of shoes if you’re used to, say, Payless prices, ethical vegan apparel is not cheap. Yet the prices at Will’s are actually quite affordable compared to similar ethical shoe brands. And the free shipping mentioned above really helps reduce the cost.
  • The shoes themselves! Will’s has a truly impressive range of both women’s and men’s vegan shoes, a rarity in this already small world of ethical vegan shoe brands. Choose from the formal (faux-suede heels) to the casual (biker boots) to the eminently versatile (ballerina flats). I particularly love the more androgynous women’s styles, like the sleek work boots and dapper derbys.

Although Will’s had been on my radar for years, I never really *needed* to buy from them until last fall. At that point, my new commitment to buying ethically produced clothing meant I couldn’t settle for big-box store specials when I wanted a pair of leather-free boots, so I pointed my browser to Will’s with the intent of making my first purchase.

I’d been eyeing the super-snazzy dock boots for a while and finally pulled the trigger. Steven and I were preparing for our vegan cruise to Norway, where I knew we’d spend our shore days doing some (relatively light) hiking. I wanted to have an alternative beyond the vegan Jambu sneakers I was also bringing, and the stylish chestnut dock boots fit the bill. Here’s how my purchase turned out.

Note: I also recently purchased a (gently used) pair of Will’s sneakers on eBay (and got a great deal). They seem to be this style, but in a grey color that’s not in stock at the moment. So although my review here is primarily of the dock boots, I’ll also draw on my experiences with the sneakers for added anecdata!

Will's Vegan Shoes dock boots review // govegga.com

How do Will’s Vegan Shoes fit?

Given that Will’s is a British brand, its sizing doesn’t correspond directly to American sizes, so I had to guess and hope for the best. I usually wear a U.S. 7.5 and opted for a European 39 in the dock boots. I’ve seen a 39 equated to both a U.S. 8 and an 8.5, but it fits me perfectly, so take that as you will. This is true for both the dock boots and the sneakers.

The good news, of course, is that Will’s generous return policy takes some of the stress out of the size conversion. If your shoes don’t fit, you can exchange them at no charge.

How is Will’s Vegan Shoes quality?

Both my dock boots and sneakers seem well-made and thoughtfully designed. Neither pair is remotely flimsy or cheap; and the faux leather on the dock boots is really nice — none of that flaky stuff you find on cheap vegan shoes. I bought the sneakers (gently) used, and they really have no marks on them. I’ve now had the dock boots for about five months and they’re also in great shape, although admittedly I don’t wear them all that regularly. But they certainly didn’t sustain any damage from my Norwegian hiking endeavors!

Are Will’s Vegan Shoes comfortable?

Here’s where my answer gets a little complicated. Yes… ish. I made sure to break in the dock boots before our trip since I knew they might irritate my ankles, and that definitely helped. Neither pair is remotely uncomfortable, and I did not get blisters from them, but I do notice I’m wearing them, if that makes sense. With some shoes, they’re so comfy you feel like you’re just wearing an extension of your own feet. That’s not the case with my Will’s shoes, and I think it’s because the soles are quite flat and very inflexible; I have high arches and prefer soles with a little more shape to them. I’ll probably need to add inserts to both pairs just to make them a little comfier. I also noticed that both pairs of shoes are quite stiff — I think the high-quality materials they use are just a lot sturdier than the cheaper shoes I’m used to!

Where can I buy Will’s Vegan Shoes?

I’d start with their official site for a list of all available styles, the best prices, and that unbeatable free shipping. But I have occasionally seen them at other vegan shoe retailers, although most don’t carry every style. If you are in the UK, I believe some brick-and-mortar shops stock them as well. There are even some styles on Amazon, but I would exercise caution there — it’s unclear who’s actually selling them. Finally, check out eBay — like I mentioned, I got my sneakers there and got a great deal!

Where can I find other Will’s Vegan Shoes reviews?

Other than the short reviews on each product page on the official site, truly informative and comprehensive reviews are sparse. Mihl of Seitan is my Motor has a review of three separate styles, which I found quite helpful when considering my purchase, and The Spooky Vegan reviewed two styles here. Vegan Miam has a great review of both the desert boots and work boots, and it includes an interview with Will himself.  I also just found this “test” of the brand over at Gentleman Buddha, which includes five separate pairs.

The lack of plentiful comprehensive reviews is one reason I decided to write my own. If you’re going to invest in a quality vegan product, you should be able to read other folks’ experiences! I hope this is helpful to other potential Will’s customers. :)

Would I buy Will’s Vegan Shoes again?

Yes, definitely! The Will’s Vegan Shoes dock boots are beautiful, well-made, ethical footwear, as are the sneakers. I think I just need to figure out how to make the flat soles work for my feet! I’ve got my eye on a few other styles as well, and I’ll continue to monitor eBay for more affordable gently used pairs.

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Will's Vegan Shoes Dock Boots Review // govegga.com

Disclaimer: I was not provided with free shoes from Will’s nor compensated in any way for a review. (Although I would happily try another pair to review!) I simply bought the shoes and wanted to share my thoughts in a Will’s of London shoe review.

Ethical Product Review: Oka-B Taylor Flat Review

I am not exactly a shoe fiend. Sure, I like shoes, I admire different styles, I enjoy wearing everything from cute heels to kick-ass boots, but I’m not the type of person who gets buried under an avalanche of footwear when opening her closet. I prefer to keep things minimal and to identify gaps in my footwear wardrobe before buying another pair. My desire to purchase only ethically made, cruelty-free, vegan footwear* certainly helps; there are fewer options that fit those criteria, especially affordable ones.

So when I realized I was sorely lacking in work-appropriate shoes for summer, the search for a pair of flats commenced. I have very few light-colored shoes (beige or tan), so I focused my search on that color.

Oka-B Taylor flats in blush. Image copyright Oka-B.

Oka-B Taylor flats in blush. Image copyright Oka-B.

Eventually I settled on the Taylor ballet flats by Oka-B, and here’s why. Oka-B is a woman-owned company that produces affordable shoes in the United States and has a real focus on sustainability. What I really love is that they’re recyclable: You can send your worn-out Oka-B shoes back to their factory, where the company will recycle them and use the material in new products. This sort of closed-loop production really gets me excited. What makes this possible is that the shoes are made of a patented plastic blend. Yes, I know — plastic shoes. I realize that for many folks, this might put you off if you try to avoid plastic altogether or if you’re worried about sweat. I am #blessed with feet that are never particularly sweaty, so I wasn’t too worried about any stink. And the plastic does have an upside: You can wash these babies in the sink or in the dishwasher with water and soap.

Although there are Oka-B reviews (and some Taylor flat reviews more specifically) floating around the internet, none are particularly comprehensive. So I ordered the Taylor flats in blush and tried them for myself. Here’s my experience.

How do Oka-B Taylor flats fit?

The best I can say is, “They fit OK.” Unfortunately, Oka-B does not offer half sizes. This is a real bummer for those of us whose feet fall smack-dab between two whole sizes! I typically wear a 7.5, so first I ordered a 7. I’d read that the shoes can sometimes stretch, and I have narrow feet, so that seemed like a safe bet.

It was not a safe bet. I should not have taken that bet. Oh man. The first time I wore these all day long, I was in pain by 5:00. They squeezed, they pinched, and I was in agony. Instead of stretching, they seemed to contract, while my feet swelled in response. The result was… not good. That night, I gave the pair a thorough cleaning and immediately exchanged them for an 8.

Oka-B Taylor flatsAhh, [relative] bliss. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, the 8s are just a smidge too big for my feet, just a little bit too loose. They’re serviceable, though, so I kept this pair. But when I’m walking downhill they sometimes slip off my heels, and overall they just don’t feel perfect.

If Oka-B would only offer half sizes, this would not be an issue. I hope they consider doing so in the future!

How comfortable are Oka-B Taylor flats?

My experience with the Taylors has been mixed, even aside from the sizing issue. Although the site’s ad copy touts “soothing massage beads” and “premium arch support,” anyone with high arches (me!) will unfortunately not notice these perks. My arches sit well above the massage beads, although they do look comfortable. To be clear, though, these shoes are definitely more comfortable than cheaper ballet flats I’ve owned in the past, the ones with totally flat footbeds and no cushioning to speak of.

Unfortunately, I also experience toe pain with these shoes. Although these flats are somewhat flexible, the tops of the shoes dig into the bone of my right big toe. Though the pain isn’t acute, after a full day of wear, I’m definitely ready to take my shoes off. This seems to be a very specific problem though; if you read the reviews for the Taylor, many people find them absolutely comfortable.

One aspect I do like is the sole: These shoes have nice grippy soles; no slipping here!

Are Oka-B Taylor flats a good value?

With a list price of $40 (less on Amazon), I’d say the Taylors are a great value for made-in-the-USA vegan shoes! They come in a ton of colors, so if you find a size that fits, you could get a few pairs.

Oka-B Taylor flats

Would I buy them again?

Honestly, no. The size is not perfect and my stupid toe anatomy means these are comfortable only up to a point. (A day in the office is fine; two days in a row, not so much. And I would not walk long distances in them.) I’m disappointed; I’d hoped they’d fit well so I could buy a second, more colorful pair at some point.

I might experiment with another Oka-B style. I think I might be able to get away with a 7 in the open-toed wedges, for example.

Would I recommend the Taylor flats?

I recommend at least giving them a try. Thousands of positive reviews should count for something, and perhaps you can find a size that fits. (Want to try them for yourself? Get $10 off your first Oka-B order using this link!)

Note that Oka-B has a sister company, Okabashi, that makes casual sandals; I have a three-year-old pair that’s still going strong. So the quality seems good! (Get $5 off your first purchase at Okabashi using this link!)

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All in all, I’m glad I tried the Taylor flats, even if they weren’t a perfect fit for me. Let me know if you’ve tried them or other Oka-B styles!

*I’m not perfect. Desperate for shoes to match a specific dress for a wedding, I’ve purchased heels that were likely not made ethically. Vegan, yes, but not necessarily cruelty-free if you consider unfair working conditions a form of cruelty (and I do).

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Oka-B Taylor flats: an ethical shoe review on govegga.com~~~

Disclaimer: I was not provided with free shoes from Oka-B nor compensated in any way for a review. I simply bought the shoes and wanted to share my thoughts in an Oka-B shoe review. This post does contain affiliate links, which come at no additional cost to you.

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