Recognizable brand Okabashi is on a mission to develop sustainable footwear options, and has a recycled and vegan collection of shoes to prove it.

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More and more brands are offering alternatives to energy and resource-consumptive virgin materials. Inasmuch, recycled materials are taking a starring role in all kinds of products. The flip flops, slide sandals and ballet flats at Okabashi got their start decades ago when the company began experimenting with recycled materials. Fast forward to 2022 to find them combining over 100 tons of scrap material and recycled shoes with soy to create their signature footwear collection.

Related: Regenerative shoes that are made out of hemp, washi and more 

Okabashi is proudly an American brand, with all shoes being made in Buford, Georgia, since the company’s launch in 1984. With the U.S. as its home base, Okabashi is part of the small 1% of shoe companies that still manufacture in the states. Using local resources and manufacturing means over 90% less travel time than a typical shoe that is manufactured overseas. The company reports, “Compared to operating overseas, we save an estimated 134,000 gallons of fuel per year by not shipping our product from Asia to the US.”

Health and wellness is at the heart of the shoe designs. In fact, Okabashi is a Japanese word that represents wellness. It has even worked reflexology into the design in an effort to support the entire body, including the internal organs. The company promotes wellness for the environment, too. Through the use of recycled materials, it’s able to save water, transport emissions and energy used in processing. 

Shoes near a lake and towel

The company offers a two-year warranty on all shoes and encourages customers to return the shoes to the factory at the end of life. Not only are the shoes then recycled, but customers receive a 15% discount on their next purchase. Durability is the goal, which is seen in the careful material selection that eliminates the standard foam cutout. Each new shoe produced contains around 25% of recycled materials from the in-house, closed-loop manufacturing process. All shoes are BPA, latex, rubber and phthalate-free. In addition, they are vegan and cruelty-free.

The footwear line is 100% recyclable (plastic symbol #3) so they can be kept out of the landfill wherever that recycling service is available. Okabashi aims to remove waste as part of the production, wear and disposal cycle. The factory is a closed-loop system and the shoes both incorporate recycled materials and are recyclable so there’s no reason that can’t happen. The company summarizes, saying “Approximately 3 billion pairs of petroleum-based flip flops are manufactured each year globally. Flip flops also make up roughly 25% of ocean plastic pollution.”

For both men and women, the collection is kept simple. Staples such as slides and flip flops take center stage. For women, there are also ballet flats in a few different styles. There’s also an adorable lineup of rain boots for kids and a pair of “Croc”-type Carter Camp shoes. The boots come in a wide variety of colors with accents of dinosaurs, sea turtles, pink hearts, sailboats, sharks and other animals.

Okabashi also balances business with philanthropy, donating thousands of shoes to those in need. In a partnership with Soles4Souls, over 8,000 pairs of shoes have been donated to natural disaster survivors and first responders. In addition, active duty military personnel, veterans, retired military, military spouses and dependents get 10% off their purchases every day.

Man modeling sandals made by Okabashi

Okabashi Men’s Coast Slide Sandals review

When the company offered to send a product sample, I immediately thought of my 18-year-old son who dresses in shorts, T-shirts and slides 90% of the year. He’s had similar sandals in the past so I let him choose a pair for review. He decided on the Men’s Coast Slide Sandals, which are a slide with a thick strap over the top of the foot rather than a flip flop strap between the toes. 

The order arrived quickly with minimal packaging for little waste. At first touch, they feel pretty rigid, but they actually have a bit of flex to them. 

My son’s first comment was that the footbed is very comfortable. There’s a heel groove and a noticeable arch support he finds supportive. He’s worn them around the house, outside with the dogs and even to the gym.

These shoes are incredibly versatile, especially since they are machine washable. The durable build feels like it will last many, many years. Whole sizes are available. Since my son wears a 10.5 we went with an 11 and he reports they are a bit loose. We probably would go with a size 10 next time instead. He has wide feet but doesn’t feel these pinch or grab anywhere. He says, “They are comfortable. What else do you want to know?”

+ Okabashi

Images via Okabashi

Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.