These (Vegan-Friendly) Boots Are Made for Walking

Kat Mendenhall created vegan-friendly boots. Photo by Lindsey Miller.

Kat Mendenhall is a native Texan from a family of cattle ranchers, so it’s no surprise that she has a strong affinity for high-quality cowboy boots. She’s also a vegan, and when she realized her love for leather cowboy boots conflicted with her cruelty-free lifestyle, she took to the Internet to purchase replacement footwear.

But there was nothing available. Discouraged and unable to find vegan boots of the caliber she was used to, she decided she’d just have to make her own.

That’s when she discovered that the vegan cowboy boot niche needed filling, and began reaching out to bootmakers across Texas to explain her vision: beautiful cowboy boots that were cruelty-free and handmade in Texas.

Mendenhall discovered veganism six years ago. She’d been suffering from fatigue, but her doctor couldn’t make a clear diagnosis. In a search for answers, she stumbled upon Alicia Silverstone’s bestselling vegan guide The Kind Diet. When Mendenhall cut out meat and dairy, her fatigue and bloat evaporated, and soon her new lifestyle lead to a career change. In 2013, after 25 years in telecommunications, Mendenhall signed up for a six-day course through Main Street Vegan Academy in New York, which would certify her to become a vegan lifestyle coach and educator.

This course was her first time around other vegans. As she learned, she began to feel uncomfortable wearing her leather cowboy boots—up till then, they were a wardrobe staple she didn’t think much of. That’s when she discovered that the vegan cowboy boot niche needed filling, and began reaching out to bootmakers across Texas to explain her vision: beautiful cowboy boots that were cruelty-free and handmade in Texas.

Some of Kat Mendenhall's vegan-friendly boots. Photos by Lindsey Miller.

Some of Kat Mendenhall’s vegan-friendly boots. Photos by Lindsey Miller.

“They told me, ‘You’re wasting your time,’” she says. After consulting more than 20 bootmakers, she finally found one willing to give it a try. He was skeptical of the material, at first, but Mendenhall had done her research. The boots are made from a PVC-free, environmentally friendly patent microfiber material that should not be confused with faux leather or pleather (which can contain PVC and is known for being easily worn out).

“When the bootmaker made the first pair with the vegan leather, he found that they were just as water-resistant, durable, and breathable as animal leather,” Mendenhall says. “He was shocked that the material worked just like leather.”

It’s worth noting that Dallas is home to an active vegan community.

Kat Mendenhall Boots, based in Dallas, officially launched in March 2015. Mendenhall has recently added vegan leather belts to her online shop, and plans to add purses and bags in 2016.

It’s worth noting that Dallas is home to an active vegan community. Vegans and animal allies turn out in growing numbers for the annual Texas State Veggie Fair. The Humane League has an office here, and many Dallas restaurants have begun catering to vegan diets (and some, like Spiral Diner and Cosmic Cafe, leave meat off the menu entirely).

Some of Kat Mendenhall's vegan-friendly boots. Photos by Lindsey Miller.

Some of Kat Mendenhall’s vegan-friendly boots. Photos by Lindsey Miller.

High-fashion vegan products are rising in popularity, too: big-name designers such as Stella McCartney and the Kering group are incorporating more cruelty-free, environmentally friendly practices into product creation, and all-vegan brands such as Vaute Couture, Gunas, and Matt & Nat have gained solid reputations with vegans and nonvegans alike. Mendenhall speculates that people tend to reject animal products once there’s a cruelty-free alternative that looks just as good (the way animal fur, now widely regarded as unnecessary and cruel, was replaced by faux fur, for example).

 “They’re for cowboys, cowgirls, city slickers, vegans, non-vegans,” Mendenhall says. “I want to appeal to any consumer who appreciates a handcrafted, quality, artistic product.”

“The best compliment I get is when people think my boots are real leather,” Mendenhall says. She’s been wearing the same pair for a year, and says that people are always amazed at how new they still look. “I’ve worn the heck out of them,” she says, laughing. “These aren’t throwaways. This material is meant to last. It’s an investment.”

So far, she’s had orders from all over the United States and as far away as Australia. Currently, she has eight fully customizable boots for sale. The boots range in style from low-cut vegan ostrich to high-shaft lipstick red. They’re specially made to fit your feet, and there are high heels, low heels, steel toes, and different designs and colors to choose from. Prices start at $395.

“They’re for cowboys, cowgirls, city slickers, vegans, non-vegans,” Mendenhall says. “I want to appeal to any consumer who appreciates a handcrafted, quality, artistic product.”


For a daily dose of what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth innovation, subscribe to our Dallas Innovates e-newsletter.

Comments are closed.