Vegan Doc Martens: Making a British cult classic kinder

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Pop-punk fans of all ages and orientations have found it hard to resist the timeless appeal of  Dr. Martens’ edgy boots, shoes, and bags. For decades, a fashion staple, Doc Martens and their Bouncing Soles had long been inaccessible for those who choose cruelty-free fashion. That is until the brand launched its vegan leather products range in 2011, winning the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. 

Here’s how Doc Martens reimagined their animal skin-based AirWair to vegan faux leather care wear.

What are Vegan Doc Martens’ options?

vegan dr martens

Today, plant-based and eco-friendly fashion lovers have a vast range of vegan boots, sandals, sneakers, and even handbags to choose from. Many of Doc Martens’ most popular styles are now crafted from leather alternatives. Even better? Unlike many other brands, their vegan shoes are priced comparably to their real leather products!

Doc Martens’ diverse range of veganised styles include:

Vegan Chelsea boots

One of Doc Martens’ most iconic boots, the vegan Chelsea boots are instantly recognisable for their easy pull-on style with elasticated side panels. Fashioned from synthetic materials, they’re available in bold black and cherry red colours as most regular Doc Marten shoes.

Vegan leather lace-up boots

A cruelty-free take on the very first Doc Martens boot, their famous 8-eyelet vegan lace-up boots look just like the real thing! These vegan leather boots are available in the Classic, Felix, Mono, and Metallic Emboss style. They come in a myriad of colours, including shimmery pink and cherry red with the occasional seasonal and limited colour runs.  They have the same sturdy structure and cushiony sole as their leather counterparts.

Vegan combat boots

A popular pair of boots for all seasons, Doc Martens Felix ankle vegan combat boots have a rebellious aesthetic. These beauties are impossible to look away from. Made from the brand’s signature water-resistant materials, these sturdy and supple shoes combine comfort, style, and compassion.

Vegan platform shoes

Looking for an entirely different pair of vegan footwear? A mod twist on OG Doc Martens lace-up and boots, their vegan leather platform shoes have quickly become beloved by a legion of younger fans. Their Jadon II Mono, Jadon Max, and Jadon II platform shoes come in glossy black and deep burgundy.

Vegan sandals

Doc Martens vegan leather offerings extend to sandals too! Their Voss strap sandals and Blaire Womens’ Felix and Gryphon gladiator sandals are made from tough and durable plastic material that looks just like real leather. Their minimalist style, padded buckle straps, and cushiony rippled soles make these a must-have for vegan customers. They only come in black.

Oxford shoes

It’s not just boots that Doc Martens is known for! Smart shoes, like Oxfords and Brogues, are a new favourite for many. Featuring the iconic yellow contrast stitching, the vegan Felix Oxford shoes are all but indistinguishable from the non-vegan versions.

What are vegan Doc Martens made out of?

vegan boots shoes

First, let’s define the term vegan leather. If traditional leather tanning is centred around animal skins, what in the world goes into vegan leathers?

Faux leather is made from synthetic human-made materials. These are often plastic-based materials.

According to Doc Martens product pages, their vegan boots and shoes uppers are created using a “non-leather synthetic material.” Not much more information is given, leading us to guess that plastics are a significant ingredient in all the brand’s vegan recipes.

Are vegan Doc Martens good quality?

dr martens blisters

For years, Doc Martens have been renowned for their ability to last. The British brand’s footwear’s longevity and timelessness has garnered many fans. Are vegan Doc Martens boots and shoes good quality?

To the touch, the vegan footwear feels smooth but not cheap. There is a generous thickness to the uppers that offers that signature Dr. Martens quality feel, and the soles are as they have always been: thick, bouncy, and hard to wear down. You care for them the same way as you’d care for non-vegan boots and shoes: wiping them with a damp cloth when needed and (because they’re not waterproof) avoiding wearing them in wet or rainy weather.

To look at, vegan Doc Martens are hard to tell apart from their animal products based counterparts. Only the beige pull loop at the back of each pair of boots gives the game away.

Are vegan Doc Martens comfortable?

As a teenager, I was a staunch Doc Martens wearer. While my school friends were teetering around in their platform Kickers, I mooched about in opaque tights and 8-eyelet boots, relishing every blister.

They took months to break in. I’m happy to report that the vegan Dr. Martens now available are a little kinder to feet and animals. They still pinch and rub a touch, but not to the same extent as their real leather boots. 

Or maybe in my older years, I’ve grown hardier and invested in better-fitting boots, sneakers, accessories, and hosiery? I certainly haven’t matured in terms of my lace choices.  I’m currently enjoying a rotation of bright red velvet ties and monochrome herringbone.

Is vegan leather really plastic?

Yes. The materials faux leather products are often crafted from are plastics like polyurethane, PVC, and polyvinyl chloride. Also known as synthetic polymers, these materials aren’t exactly sustainable or environmentally friendly.

Controversially, plastic-based leather manufacturing can lead to microplastic pollution in our oceans and air. Because environmental impact is often a concern in the vegan community, opting to choose eco-friendly fashion and accessories whenever it’s possible is a priority for many. 

However, the leather tanning process for animal skins is much much much worse. Extremely hazardous, traditional leather manufacturing releases many more chemicals and pollutants and has even been linked to cancer.

As ethical vegans, the aim is to cause the least harm possible. At the end of the day, choosing vegan leather shoes, boots, bags, and other accessories, even if they are made from polyurethane or PVC, save the lives of many animals.

Vegan leather plastic alternatives

The perfect solution to these problematic materials is plant-based leathers. Some brands are using fruit like apple leather, pineapple leaves, and pineapple leather to make their vegan shoes. Certain products are even made from innovative materials like cork, apple peels, and cactus skin.

Faux leather can also be made from recycled plastics, which have less impact on the environment.


Amy Buxton
Amy Buxton
Amy is a committed ethical vegan, raising a next generation compassionate human with her husband and their beloved dog, Boo. A freelance writer with a background in PR, she decided to use the COVID lockdown period to refocus her client base and has come to The Vegan Review as a senior writer and editor, before moving into her external content director role. "What we should be doing is working at the job of life itself" is Amy's mantra, courtesy of Tom from The Good Life.