We Tested Cariuma Sneakers in California: Here is the Low Down

LeafScore is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

×

Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.

Updated:

We wore a pair of Cariuma sneakers while escaping winter in Southern California. They look and feel great to put on, but are the sneakers built to last?

Cariuma canvas sneakers review
Our pair of Cariuma sneakers.

We love a good B corp at LeafScore and Cariuma, a sustainable sneaker brand founded in Brazil and based out of Singapore and the United States, fits the bill.

A member of our team wore a pair of Cariuma OCA Low Canvas Sneakers all around the Bird Rock neighborhood of San Diego for this review. The sneakers are immediately very comfortable thanks to the cork and bio-based foam insole. You want to wear them, and if you have much walking to do, they are a great fit.

We are fans of old school Converse sneakers, but Cariuma is a definite comfort upgrade. Walking all day in Converse can result in sore feet, but that is not the case with Cariuma. The companies smart approach to design helps to minimize how many pieces and processes go into making each shoe. This means less material use, less manufacturing time, and fewer possible points of friction in the shoes. This makes the shoes more comfortable for the end user.

The comfort buzz with Cariuma is justified, they live up to the coziness hype.

Our main concern after testing the sneakers is durability. Although the lacing system is built using debossed metal aglets, which is a sign of good manufacturing practices, our pair of OCA Low Canvas lost edge and lateral support faster than we would have liked to see. The deterioration wasn’t terrible, but it felt like the edges of the shoes at the midsole lacked reinforcement. The practical effect was a shoe that lost shape and felt like it was flattening. This could be good for someone with wider feet, or for skateboarders.

Cariuma sneakers
Unboxing our pair of Cariuma sneakers.

Cariuma also makes a strong effort to be sustainable.

Sure, not all Cariuma models are Vegan, but all of the leather Cariuma uses is traceable. None of this leather comes from an area where land has been deforested to raise cattle. The cows are steroid-free, grass-fed, and live (and die) in the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina. The leather suppliers are all Gold-Rated by the Leather Working Group (LWG) which means it is more sustainable than most leather used in the footwear and fashion industries.

All in all, if you’re intent on getting new leather sneakers, Cariuma is a top brand to consider as it is much more sustainable than almost every other brand using animal leather. The more sustainable choice, though, is a vegan canvas Cariuma shoe.

Cariuma has built traceability into its supply chain. Its manufacturing partner is WRAP Gold certified and is audited annually. The company’s Tier 1 suppliers (i.e., the folks who actually put the shoes together) are 100 percent traceable and screened once a year to ensure no environmental issues.

Cariuma has 85 percent traceability for its Tier 2 suppliers, meaning the companies that process raw materials and packaging and make the outsoles and footwear components.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology LCA study concluded that a conventional pair of sneakers typically resulted in 14 kg (plus or minus 2.7 kg) of carbon dioxide equivalents. In contrast, Cariuma’s IBI Slip-On was associated with three times fewer emissions at just 5.48 kg CO2e per pair.

Note, too, that the LCA is likely over-reporting the emissions associated with the IBI sneaker. This is because there is limited data for the biobased materials used to create these sneakers.

Staff Tested

Cariuma OCA Low Canvas

Highlights: Organic cotton canvas version of Cariuma’s signature sneaker. The most eco-friendly of Cariuma’s current collection. Available in 19 colors. Made with some recycled materials and a bio-based memory foam insole. Vegan! (Animal leather and suede versions also available.)

Overall Score
Durability Score
Toxicity Score
Sustainability Score
User Experience Score
Transparency Score

Out of the box

Cariuma sneakers unboxing
Cariuma sneakers inside the box.
  • Recycled cardboard box: As part of Cariuma’s eco-friendly approach, the company has switched to a green dual-purpose, single-box package made with recycled cardboard. Allbirds, 8000 Kicks and other sustainable sneaker brands also take this approach.
  • Carbon-neutral shipping: The sneakers are also shipped carbon-neutral thanks to DHL’s Go Green program (which involves reforestation projects) and Cariuma’s own carbon capture through its reforestation project in Brazil.
  • Eco-friendly return process: The company uses Happy Returns to manage product returns in bulk, which minimizes carbon emissions.
  • Excellent customer service: Returned packaging is also recycled and repurposed. So far, the company has built a reputation for responsive, friendly, and efficient customer service.

More Cariuma Sneaker Options

Cariuma Caturi

Leaf Score

Highlights: Cariuma’s Caturi mountaineering style winter shoe is water-repellent and super cozy. It is lined with ultra-plush vegan shearling lining,…

Cariuma

Cariuma SALVAS

Leaf Score

Highlights: Leather lace-up sneakers with cushioned, ankle-hugging heel collar, made with LWG-certified Gold Rated leather that’s more eco-friendly than most…

Cariuma

Cariuma IBI High

Leaf Score

Highlights: Eco-friendly lace-up high-tops made with recycled, organic, and natural materials by a sustainably minded company. Comfy, lightweight, machine washable,…

Cariuma

Cariuma OCA High Canvas

Leaf Score

Highlights: High-top style sneaker made with either cotton canvas (not organic), suede, or leather upper. Vegan options, Pantone colors and…

Cariuma

Cariuma OCA Low Canvas

Leaf Score

Highlights: Organic cotton canvas version of Cariuma’s signature sneaker. Available in 19 colors. Made with some recycled materials and a…

Cariuma

Cariuma Sneakers – IBI Slip-On

Leaf Score

Highlights: Eco-friendly sneakers made with recycled, organic, and natural materials by a sustainably minded company. Comfy, lightweight, machine washable, and…

Cariuma
Cariuma’s IBI Slip-On. Courtesy of PRe Sustainability.

Cariuma’s IBI Slip-On also boasts a ton of sustainable features:

  • An upper and lining made of bamboo and recycled PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  • Outsole made from sugarcane based EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) 
  • Insole made from organic cork and bio-based polyurethane from mamona oil
  • Threads and logo labels made from recycled PET sourced from plastic bottles.

The LCA process also created a model for the company’s designers to use going forward. By toggling material inputs and processes in the model, designers can now see how different choices impact the carbon footprint and overall environmental impact of new designs under consideration.

Cariuma shoes sole
A look at a Cariuma shoe with the sole removed.

Cariuma – Room for improvement

While Cariuma stands out as an ethical and sustainable footwear brand, the company still has room for improvement.

The most obvious blemish on its eco-friendliness report is its continued use of animal leather. Yes, Cariuma sources and processes this leather in a more ethical way than most shoe companies but the carbon footprint, overall environmental footprint, and ethical impact of animal leather remains high.

Cariuma also sells hoodies and t-shirts (view on Cariuma) that were, up until recently, seemingly made with conventional cotton. This seems like an odd choice for a brand that wants to market itself as sustainable. Conventional cotton is one of the most resource hungry fibers and it is counterintuitive for Cariuma to use this material while also trying to combat climate change and deforestation. Since I started work on this article, Cariuma updated its website to say that the t-shirts and hoodies are made with organic cotton, though there’s no indication of certification.

Similarly, Cariuma sells backpacks made with water-repellent material. This material is recycled, which is great, but the company doesn’t specify what makes it water-repellent, which may mean some forever chemicals (PFAS) are involved. The lining of these backpacks is also ‘anti-bacterial’, which may mean they’re manufactured with chemicals such as triclosan that can pose a risk of bacterial resistance and harm to wildlife.

I’ve asked Cariuma for clarification on the materials and chemicals used in its non-sneaker products and  for its waterproof vegan footwear but didn’t receive any additional information. I’ll update this review if and when the company sends me more details.

Compare models

OCA LowIBI Slip-OnCaturiSalvas
Leaf Score5 (For organic cotton option)432
Sizes5-135-135-135-13
Price$79-$139$98$169$129
Colors  29 options9+ optionsBlack, Camel Suede5 options
Water repellentNoNoYesNo (though leather)
Lined for winterNoNoYesNo
VeganVegan optionsYesYesNo
MaterialsLeather, suede, organic cotton canvas, cork, bio memory foam and organic mamona oil insole / memory foam and leather insole, recycled plastic lining, threads and labels, recycled plastic and organic cotton laces, rubber soleBamboo and recycled PET upper; memory foam, cork, and Mamona oil insole; Green EVA (sugarcane) outsole; lining, threads and logo labels made from recycled plastic bottles  Vegan suede, ultra-plush vegan shearling lining, natural rubber sole, recycled plastic laces, bio-foam insoleLWG-certified Gold Rated leather upper; recycled mesh lining; natural rubber sole; cork and bio-based foam insole; recycled plastic and organic cotton laces
Eco-friendly featuresSome GRS certified recycled materials, organic cotton vegan optionSome GRS certified recycled materials, carbon neutral outsole, 3x fewer emissions than industry average  Some GRS certified recycled materialsSome GRS certified recycled materials, more eco-friendly leather than standard
 View on CariumaView on CariumaView on CariumaView on Cariuma
OCA LowIBI Slip-OnCaturiSalvas

FAQ

Is Cariuma vegan?

In short, no. Cariuma is not a vegan sneaker company. It is, however, moving in that direction. In 2020, 43 percent of the Cariuma collection was vegan. In 2022, this increased to 65 percent.
Cariuma still uses animal leather, however. And, as we know, animal leather has a huge environmental footprint. This is because even when farmed ‘ethically’, the animals often used for leather (namely cows) emit methane (a greenhouse gas), require vast tracts of land for grazing, require massive water inputs, and the leather itself is not ‘natural’ as it is processed using a slew of toxic chemicals that prevent it biodegrading.
Note, too, that Cariuma offers vegan ‘leather’ footwear that is water-repellent. These shoes are made with unspecified ‘vegan leather’ and it’s not clear how they repel water.

What makes Cariuma shoes water-repellent?

It’s not clear how the vegan Cariuma shoes repel water. This may be through a polyurethane coating or other treatment. I’ve asked for clarification on the use of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and will update this review if I hear back. For now, I would avoid Cariuma’s products that aren’t made with organic cotton, bamboo, or recycled PET.

Are Cariuma’s operations eco-friendly?

In addition to using a fair number of more eco-friendly materials to make its products, Cariuma’s warehouse is air-conditioned using solar power and is lit using LEDs, with a cooling tower to minimize energy use. The building is also LEED Gold certified and ISO14001:2015 Certified (Environmental Standards), making it a pretty darn sustainable place to store eco-friendly sneakers.

Is Cariuma’s tree-planting program just greenwashing?

Cariuma’s ‘plants two trees’ approach isn’t just greenwashing. This is no clumsy monocrop project that could do more harm than good. It is an incredibly well thought out reforestation program in Brazil that demonstrates a more fulsome approach to sustainability. And it’s clearly very dear to the founders of the company, both of whom are Brazilian.

How many trees has Cariuma planted?

With every pair of sneakers sold, Cariuma plants two trees to aid reforestation in Brazil. It has been committed to this since June 2020, with planting beginning October 2020. Up to December 2022, Cariuma has planted more than two million trees.

Is Cariuma a B Corp?

Yes! And not just any B Corp.
Cariuma’s Benefit Corporation score is high for the footwear industry at 94.2. Companies need a score of 80 to qualify for B Corp certification and ordinary companies that complete the assessment have a median score of just 50.9. To maintain B Corp status, companies need to demonstrate ongoing progress in sustainability and ethics. Cariuma’s approach does just that, with a ‘constant evolution mindset’ to continually improve its products and processes.

Are Cariuma shoes zero-drop?

Nope. Cariuma designs sneakers with insoles that offer decent, but not over the top, arch support. These insoles aren’t zero-drop; they raise the heel ever so slightly. If this isn’t to your taste, don’t worry: you can remove the insoles and replace with insoles of your choosing.

Can you wash Cariuma shoes?

Cariuma shoes are typically machine washable, though washing them too regularly will reduce their lifespan. A quick spot clean is all that’s necessary most of the time.

Free eBook: Simple Steps to a Greener Home

Concerned about climate change? Learn actionable tips for making each room in your home greener.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leave a Reply

If you have a question about the subject matter of this post, ask it in the comments below. To better serve our readers, we have started answering some reader questions in dedicated blog posts.

Back to top