Review of Veja SDU Sneakers

I’ve been wearing a pair of Veja SDU sneakers, specifically their SDU Mesh shoes, for a year, plus did extensive research of the company behind the shoes.  Here is what I’ve found.

The bottom-line is Veja’s line of shoes are serious competitors for joining your stable of sneakers.  The Veja SDU sneakers have an awesome vintage 70’s style. Plus Veja has super sustainable and socially responsible practices.  Their shoes use recycled material, are very high quality, and after a somewhat extended breaking in period, very comfortable.

Here are some key takeaways about Veja sneakers in general, as well as the Veja SDU sneakers in particular:

  • Price: Slightly expensive
  • Environmental Sustainability: Superior to almost all sneaker brands
  • Quality: Good, solidly made shoes with an extended break-in period
  • Social responsibility/impact: It is hard to find a company that puts more thought into their business practices.

Why Are Veja Sneakers So Expensive?

Veja’s sneakers are a bit expensive compared to the sneakers, coming in around $100 to $120 (see here for the price range and what is available on Amazon).  However, they are not much more expensive, and in many instances cheaper, than a top-line pair of Nike, Adidas, or other major sneaker brands.  I personally like to keep the price of my sneakers in the $80-90 range. That said, most dedicated sneakerheads don’t bat an eyelash at spending big money on a pair of Nike Air Max or whatever.

I think the price is reasonable given the superior environmental and socially responsible practices of Veja (which I’ll get to more below). 

How about the benefits of originality?  For me, that is a big plus of Veja sneakers.  Most likely you will be the only person rockin’ a pair of Veja SDU sneakers at the coffee shop.  Veja sold $37 million dollars worth of sneakers last year, Nike sold 1,000 times more sneakers (as measures in revenue).  That is a lot less people walking around in the same shoes as you.

It is nice to be original these days rather than wearing the same old brands on your feet.  Especially when those brands allow me to express my core values, such as environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

Picture of my beautiful ankles...oh, and the super environmentally friendly sneakers too.

Veja’s manufacturing process is 5 to 7 times more than competitor brands. This is because Veja uses environmentally friendly raw materials, fair trade principles, and because Veja sneakers are produced in factories with high social standards.  Veja does not advertise as a way to offset their higher production costs.

So when you buy a pair of Veja sneakers, you get a better made sneaker.  Veja is putting its money into the shoe versus the smoke and mirrors of advertising.

Sneakers Made From Recycled Material

Veja is doing an amazing job using recycled materials in their shoes.  Like many other products on Recycled & Renewed, these shoes repurpose plastic waste.  Veja SDU sneakers have mesh is made from recycled plastic bottles, with each pair using around 3 recycled bottles, as do numerous other of Veja’s sneaker types.

Though plastic recycling has some fundamental issues, using recycled material is superior to virgin materials from the perspective of global warming. The EPA estimates that recycling plastics removed the equivalent of almost 1 million cars in 2018.

Read our rundown of the top eco-friendly sneakers brands and what you need to know about the downside of recycled plastic in your shoes.

Veja also has shoes that incorporate recycled cotton, flannel, and recycled polyester.

And if you want a truly unique pair of shoes, you can even buy a pair of “leather” sneakers made from tanned Tilapia skin, yes, that is right, leather made from fish skin!

Environmentally Sustainable Ingredients

There are not many sneaker brands that can compete with Veja in terms of environmental sustainability.  They are hyper-focused on using sustainable materials for their sneakers.

For example, Veja uses sustainably grown organic cotton, bought directly from farmers in South America.  Veja purchases their cotton from South American grower cooperatives and works to ensure their growing practices are easy on the Earth.  

Veja’s growers do not use monoculture practices, unlike the huge industrial farming methods that likely supply cotton to your average sneaker company.  Monoculture approaches, which basically mean farmland is packed with the same plant year after year, depletes the soil, increases the need for pesticides, and generally degrades the environment.  

This pair of Vejas are also vegan. If that is an important part of your shopping criteria, there are plenty of other vegan sneakers out there to consider.

Veja SDU Sneakers’ Soles Are Good For Your Soul

Buying Veja shoes are good for the Amazon.  Yes, THE Amazon, not Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, though you can buy them there too.  Similar to the cotton in their shoes, Veja is buying their rubber directly from Brazilian seringueiros, wild rubber tree tappers from the Amazon.  Seringueiros use a technique that extracts rubber from the trees but allows them to regenerate.

Veja’s hypothesis is that by increasing the economic value of the Amazon, in a sustainable way as opposed to the economic value of cutting down the trees for lumber, you increase the likelihood of keeping the Amazon whole and thriving.  Veja has purchased 265 tons of organic cotton directly from South American farmers, the equivalent, in weight, of about 64 elephants.

Are Veja Sneakers Comfortable?

First off, as I alluded to above, these are stylish sneakers.  As a city kid who grew up in Philly, having an appreciation for a nice pair of sneakers is natural.  I wouldn’t say I’m a avowed sneakerhead, but I try to rock relatively stylish sneakers. Despite the fashion world’s flirtation with big, chunky, lame Dad sneakers, I definitely wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of all-white, battleship size New Balances.

Veja’s website talks a lot about their design process.  They are thoughtful about the look of their shoes.  As compared to the major sneaker behemoths out there like Adidas and Nike, Veja isn’t churning out dozens of new styles every season, throwing spaghetti at the proverbial wall to see what sticks.

In terms of comfort, my pair of Veja had some early issues.  I’ve worn these for 6 months now and for the first few weeks, if not 1-2 months, it was touch and go.  The pair I bought started off a bit stiff. The tip of the tongue was oddly rough and occasionally irritated my ankle.  

However, the Vejas have always performed well in terms of comfort while walking.  They’ve never felt uncomfortable in terms of the bottom of my feet. I’ve covered some pretty long walks in my Vejas without any issues.  In fact, during a recent weekend while visiting Raleigh, NC, I logged almost 17,000 steps and never gave a thought to the bottom of my feet (the other parts of my body are a different story).

The takeaway is you need some patience.  After some breaking in, the comfort level is excellent.

Veja Helps You Walk The Eco-friendly Walk

Most people are concerned about environmental issues nowadays. And if you considering Veja sneakers, you probably fall in this camp. But though there is a lot of talk about living a more sustainable lifestyle, not enough people are “walking the walk” and making choices the reflect what they say they care about.

Veja is doing business the right way by focusing on paying fair wages, helping to alleviate poverty, and empowering its suppliers and farmers.  This drives up the costs for consumers. But you can rest easy that your money isn’t contributing to environmental degradation, deforestation, a faceless corporation, or to fund a larger advertising campaign.

Veja also delves deep into their carbon footprint, getting into the specifics of their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Global warming is the supreme environmental issue facing humans today and if companies are not focused on reducing emissions and reaching a carbon neutral operating model, then they are not focused on the right things.

I challenge you to find a company more focused on their emissions, not sure Veja sneakers can be beat there. Not all B Corps are as transparent about their emissions. The company’s deep dive highlights where their most significant emission sources are and what they are doing to reduce them.

Veja even gives users a sense of the emissions associated with various shoes. Turns out a huge percentage of their emissions are associated with leather production and they have well defined plans to transition away from the most carbon intensive leathers.

Though Veja SDU sneakers are not one of the pairs highlighted with specific emissions, it is safe to say they have a lower carbon footprint than Veja’s leather options which have the highest emissions by far.

Veja’s logistics are handled by Ateliers Sans Frontières, or Workshops Without Borders (they don’t seem to be affiliated with Doctors Without Borders).  Ateliers Sans Frontières is a French non-profit that focuses on promoting the inclusion of people in society (homeless, young people without qualifications, disabled people) by offering them a job and social support.  There are hundreds of people who have gotten jobs and valuable experience who otherwise wouldn’t have because of Veja.

As I mentioned above, Veja buys its cotton directly from farmers in South America.  Also, VEJA works with NGOs that provide support to cotton producers.

Veja works with ESPLAR, which is the name of one of their most popular sneakers, an a NGO that assists growers.  Their agricultural engineers provide technical support to help them adopt environmentally sustainable growing practices and protect their harvests.

In Conclusion, Veja Sneakers Are For Real

Veja sneakers are one of my favorite products that I’ve stumbled upon over the last few years.  A great company making a superior product in a way that respects the Earth and our fellow humans.

I bought the shoes about six months ago with high hopes and Veja has delivered in terms of quality.  Plus, their business practices are ridiculously progressive, probably one of the best companies I have researched over the last few years.

I am now a committed Veja supporter and with the exception of purchasing other environmentally sustainable brands to test, will come back to Veja again and again in the years to come.

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