We’ve all noticed it- summer is turning into fall. It’s my favorite season, and in Humboldt county the nights seem to get colder and the days crisp, in what seems like the almost undetectable blink of an eye. Which means we’re in the midst of pumpkin patch trips, family photos, football games, parties, and holidays. It’s cozy season, but it’s also the season of glitter, glam, and New Year’s Eve. I celebrate the anniversary of opening my business on November 1st and my wedding anniversary on December 26th. To me, it’s truly the most wonderful time of the entire year.
I find that fall and winter are my favorite fashion months. Flannels and boots, rain gear and fuzzy socks, cozy pjs and furry slippers, dresses and heels (pretty much the only time I wear them). I’m inspired to troll Pinterest for the perfect outfit, and to shop for the perfect holiday gift.
This year, I encourage you to explore the wonderful and rapidly expanding selection of vegan shoes. I think that we can almost all agree at this point that vegan materials are a lot less Hannibal Lecter than animal skin. And when given the option for cute, good-quality footwear that is better for the planet, for animals, and for our own inner peace, why not choose the kinder option? Below I’ve included all of my favorite vegan shoes and brands. Happy shopping!
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Pawj California makes my absolute favorite vegan boots and slippers. As a die-hard Ugg Boot fan it was difficult giving up my new pair every Christmas during the cold and rainy Humboldt winter. But now I don’t have to! Pawj is a woman-owned and family-run company based out of Southern California with goals to make environmentally friendly and humane Ugg-alternative style boots. I’ve had several pairs that have lived through two winters and are still in excellent condition. Since they come water-resistant right out of the box, you never have to worry about stains or water spots. My personal favorites are the slippers and short boots, and I love that all of the styles come in a wide color range.
Jambu makes my absolute favorite duck-style boots. My search for a vegan option of the classic LL Bean-style boot ended here, and started my obsession with this brand. They are not an entirely vegan brand, but offer many vegan options! The classic duck boot comes in ten color options, is comfortable, water-resistant, and the perfect height for layering with cute, warm socks. I also love their snow boots (a great Sorel alternative) and their various selection of booties for more work-appropriate styles.
I’ll say it again for the people in the back- Lulu’s has an ENTIRELY VEGAN shoe selection on their website! Yes, you read that right. Now go check it out. Personally, I always find my favorite dressy shoes and heels here, but their range of choices is amazing, and everything is labeled and easy to decipher as vegan.
Since I do a lot of working out, I wanted to include my favorite vegan option for athletic shoes. Although Nike is no where near being an entirely vegan company, they did verify recently that their glues are now all plant sourced and therefore, all of their shoe styles that are synthetic with only man-made materials are now considered vegan-friendly. I personally have been wearing this style for years and haven’t found a more comfortable style for HIIT style workouts, cardio, and high rep lower-weight workouts.
I’m including these for all those fall-obsessed gals in Humboldt who love rockin’ Birkenstock sandals with cozy socks, leggings, and a Patagonia fleece. You know who you are (and you are not wrong). When I saw that Birkenstock was finally offering a vegan range, I bought this style immediately and am completely obsessed!
I struggle with sometimes near-debilitating headaches in the day or two prior to starting the “period” portion of my cycle. This specific pattern has repeated itself for the last eight months since I’ve been closely journaling about it, but I’m sure it started long before that. Apparently it has much to do with hormone fluctuation.
August’s headache turned into a migraine, which turned into a day of lying in bed drifting in and out of sleep, getting up to vomit occasionally. Over-the-counter pain meds do little to help, and I try to avoid taking them in the first place. CBD helps the most, but still only minimizes the pain slightly. Usually I just wait it out or go to work and try to ignore it. But a migraine of that degree is impossible to ignore.
I had been contemplating the use of a plant-based raw diet to help treat my headaches for a while, but after spending my husband’s entire birthday holed-up aside from a woozy and slightly blurry dinner out, I was convinced I needed to try something now.
My hypothesis was simple (and to some, probably oversimplified) and therefore easy to test. I didn’t want to get lost in the specifics and analytics so I pared it down to the basics, which I believe are sometimes best. If we take a pill and blindly hope to get results, why should I not eat good food to try and achieve the same (or a hopefully better) outcome?
I thrive on a plant-based diet but during those specific days my body is not getting something (micronutrients, vitamins, etc) it needs to function at its most optimal. If all I eat is an abundance of raw plant food for the five days before my period, maybe I’ll be so pumped full of nutrients that my headache won’t happen.
It’s worth a shot.
And it worked.
The definition of a plant-based raw diet is different depending on the source, but after doing my own research I concluded that I would not eat anything processed, refined, pasteurized, treated with pesticides, or heated over 118 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the temperature where the natural enzymes and some nutrient content is essentially cooked out of most raw foods.
Some people who completely subscribe to this way of eating get creative and sprout grains and beans and dehydrate foods. I did not want to complicate an already unknown territory, so I decided to just get creative with uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, eating a ton of them to make sure I could workout and function normally. This experiment, to me, had and has absolutely nothing to do with weight loss or dieting. I want to make that clear. It’s about using food as medicine, with an intention toward healthy and sustainable lifestyle change, if applicable.
One major takeaway from this experiment: Even if you think you’re eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, until that’s all you’re eating, you’re probably not. You may be eating more than the general American public, but that’s still probably not much. I ate intuitively, meaning, if I was hungry, I ate food. So I did not track macros or calories. I meal-prepped and grocery shopped so that I was over-prepared for the five days. And then I just went about my normal routine. The only adjustment I had to make to my typical schedule was drinking my breakfast smoothie before working out, whereas before I’d workout on an empty stomach. I noticed I’d get hungry mid-way through. But after that adjustment was made, I never got hungry again, and I was able to deadlift and squat more weight that week than I ever have before.
I journaled every day so that I can share my menu with you, and I will include links to bloggers and recipes below, when applicable. The only exceptions that I made during this time to my raw outline above were coffee and my birthday “cheesecake.” I allowed myself one cup of black coffee a day, and even though my cheesecake is considered raw, it did contain maple syrup as a non-raw ingredient. I wasn’t about to waste my delicious cake, and if I chose to omit coffee, the five days would likely have been more representative of caffeine withdrawal than anything else.
I know that many of you will be curious about cost. I plan on sharing exact costs of a regular meal prep week versus a raw week in the future, receipts included. When my entire shopping cart is produce, the cost tends to be slightly less expensive or around the same as my typical shopping trips per week- on average this is about $150 at my local COOP. This includes all of my food for the week and generally around 3-4 dinners that I will make for my husband and I. The expensive items like nuts, seeds, oils and butters (if applicable) can add a lot of cost, but can be purchased in bulk or at Costco and will generally last much longer than just one week, typically closer to two or even three.
My five days of raw plant-based eating were amazing. I felt the best and most energetic I’ve felt in years- no exaggeration. I didn’t get a headache at all for the entire five days I did it, not even a slight or small one. I slept better and felt more focused too. I will say that prior to this, my regular eating habits had been established as fairly “healthy.” I haven’t eaten any animal products in over three years, and cut refined sugars out several months ago. So my “detox” period was essentially non-existent (aside from coffee which I chose to keep.) If you tried this coming off of a more traditional diet, I would imagine it would take much longer to reap the benefits because a detox period would be necessary.
I will be doing this again as part of my regular routine. The day I stopped eating raw food I got a slight headache and felt markedly more lethargic and “foggy.” I immediately decided that moving forward I’d make a conscious effort to regularly only prep breakfasts, lunches, and snacks that are raw. And that every month for a week prior to my period I will continue this journey. I do not know what the future holds, or if I will ever go entirely raw, but the results were so amazing that I can’t even imagine not continuing, and improving. I won’t lie- it was daunting for me at first. I felt like I was going vegan all over again, unsure of what to make and how to do it. But there are so many amazing resources out there to help, and this process has only expanded my food and nutrition knowledge. I hope my five-day food diary can help make plant eating easier for you!
Diary Day 1:
Breakfast: Tropical Smoothie Bowl
Recipe: 1 Cup coconut water, 4 frozen bananas, 1.5 Cups frozen pineapple, 2 Tbsp hemp hearts blended until smooth. Top with blackberries, almonds, cashews, and unsweetened coconut flakes.
Lunch: Lettuce cups with 1 avocado, pumpkin seeds, broccoli sprouts, and salt and pepper.
Snack: 1 plum and some mixed nuts.
Dinner: Mixed green salad (spinach, romaine, arugula) with bell pepper, mushroom, cucumber, broccoli, pumpkin seeds and avocado.
I also made a hemp seed and cashew dressing using the Fully Raw by Kristina app. Out of respect for her and her amazing recipes, I will not post it, but will encourage you to purchase the use of her app!
Dessert: Foodwise Kitchen Chocolate/Vanilla swirl raw vegan cheesecake.
Diary Days 2-5
These are meal prep days, so everything but dinners are the same.
Breakfast: Chocolate Energy Smoothie Bowl
Recipe: 1 Cup coconut water, 4 frozen bananas, 2 Tbsp hemp hearts, 2 Tbsp raw almond butter, 4 pitted dates, 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder, blended until smooth. Top with blackberries, strawberries, and unsweetened coconut flakes.
Snack #1: Cashews, almonds, dates.
Lunch: Lettuce Boats with walnut taco meat and avocado.
Almost six months ago I made the decision to go refined-sugar free. This means that I only eat natural sugars ( found in whole foods ) and sweeteners that are minimally-processed like maple syrup and agave. It became clear to me that eating refined sugars (that our bodies are not naturally meant to process) was causing me to have negative physical effects like bloating and lethargy but even more shockingly, I realized that the intense spikes in my blood sugar levels were causing mood swings and intense anxiety.
So far I am 100% happy with my decision, and because I was already meal prepping and making a conscious effort to reduce my sugar consumption prior, the transition has been mostly easy.
The only difficult part has been finding desserts and treats that comply with my vegan and now refined-sugar-free lifestyle. So I’m sharing my current favorites with you so that you can incorporate some healthier options into your weekly routine, or once again enjoy delicious foods that maybe you thought you had to quit to be “healthy.”
Treat #1: Not Your Sugar Mamas Chocolate Salted Caramel Chocolate Bar. With a gooey “caramel” center, this dark chocolate bar sweetened with maple syrup and coconut is the perfect movie night treat! Organic, gluten, dairy, and refined-sugar free. I find this bar at my local COOP, but you can also order them online.
Ingredients: Organic Raw Cacao Powder, Organic Raw Cacao Butter, Organic Coconut Nectar, Organic Grade B Maple Syrup, Organic Raw Almond Butter, Organic Raw Coconut Oil, Organic Vanilla, Himalayan Sea Salt
Treat #2: Autumn’s Gold Grain Free Maple Almond Butter Granola. Literally the most delicious granola I’ve ever tasted- great on yogurt and oats, or by itself! Vegan and gluten, grain and refined-sugar free. I purchase at Costco, but you can also buy online.
Treat #3: Vixen Kitchen Naked Vanilla Paleo Vegan Gelato. Personally, I try to stay away from any foods with sugar substitutes like stevia, which can make “sugar-free” ice cream hard to come by. Vixen Kitchen is woman owned, locally (Garberville, CA- my neck of the woods) made, organic, vegan, and gluten, soy, and refined-sugar free. My favorite flavor is vanilla, but you can find a variety on their website. I purchase at our local COOP.
Ingredients: Purified Water, Organic Raw Cashews, Organic Maple Syrup, Organic Fair Trade Vanilla Extract, Organic Vanilla Bean, Celtic Sea Salt
Treat #4: Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate Chips. Making cookies (or anything that calls for chocolate chips) can be extra daunting without a great sugar-free chocolate chip option. Organic, vegan, sugar, nut, gluten, and soy free, these one-ingredient dark chocolate chips are a life saver for baking! I purchase at my local COOP, but you can also find them online and at Thrive Market.
Treat #5: Emmy’s Organics Organic Coconut Cookie Dark Cacao. Organic, gluten, and refined -sugar free, these cookies are delicious. If you enjoy a coconut/chocolate combination then you’ll be obsessed with these Mounds-reminiscent treats. I purchase these in a large bag at Costco, but their website has several sizes, flavors, and combinations you can order if you like variety!
My name is Amber Reiners and I own Stonesthrow Boutique, a woman’s clothing and accessories store here in Eureka, CA. Owning a boutique has been my dream since I was old enough to have career aspirations! I didn’t feel confident enough to pursue fashion after high school, nor did I have the knowledge or capital to start a business, so I ended up getting a degree in education and working as a teacher for five years. Throughout high school and college I enjoyed working in retail but didn’t see myself having a career working for a large chain store or corporation. While I was working as a teacher my mom opened a franchise boutique back in my home state of Minnesota. I worked for her on weekends during my last year teaching and that’s when I realized how much happier I would be if I pursued my dream of owning a store. I moved from Minnesota to California in the spring of 2015 and by that September Stonesthrow Boutique was open for business!
2) What do you sell at your store? Do you try to incorporate any cruelty-free / environmentally responsible / ethically sourced fashion?
We sell clothing, handbags, shoes, jewelry, and other small gift items like cards and candles. Some of our brands are proud to advertise that they are environmentally responsible and cruelty-free, while others make it harder to know. While I don’t know that any of the brands we carry right now have unethical practices, sometimes there isn’t a lot of information regarding this topic available. Often times the representatives we work with from the companies themselves do not know much about the factory where the clothing is made so we have to do our best to find information ourselves, or look for brands that readily share their practices. I’m really excited about some of the new graphic tee brands we are bringing in this summer! One is called Educated Earthling – their shirts have great messages, but they’re also ethically-made in the USA using water-based inks, with 100% recycled and plastic-free packaging. A portion of their proceeds are donated to environmental organizations as well.
3) Do you have inquiries from customers regarding accessibility to these types of fashion choices? Do you think people make the connection between fashion and animal byproduct use at all?
Unfortunately it is very seldom that customers ask about cruelty-free / environmentally responsible / ethically sourced fashion. On the rare occasion that it does come up, we show them the options we have in-store that meet this criteria and let them know that we are always looking to bring in more brands with similar missions and values. I do not think the majority of consumers realize how impactful these issues are within the fashion industry, or how much waste is produced by it each year. We do have customers ask if our handbags or shoes are made with real leather from time to time. Some people ask because they don’t want real leather while others ask because they only buy genuine leather. Polyurethane (aka “PU” or “vegan leather”) has improved dramatically in look and quality and we make an effort to show customers that high-quality accessories can have the same look and feel of real leather without the negative impact on animals and the environment. But some people are harder to convince than others.
4) Do you believe that you can provide the same quality and style not using animal products? Particularly with shoes, purses, accessories, etc.
Yes I think so! We only have two real leather items in the store and they are great quality, but the similar items we have that are vegan leather are also high-quality, but with a much lower price point. I think brands are starting to realize they don’t need real leather to make nice products and consumers are starting to catch on as well. As stylists we continue to educate customers on the materials and benefits of choosing responsibly sourced, cruelty-free items, and that also makes a difference.
5) Is it difficult to find high-quality fashionable alternatives to lines that typically utilize animal products?
Not for us since the majority of what we carry isn’t designer or high-end labels, which is often where animal products are incorporated into fashion. I’ve been looking to replace the remaining non-vegan items at Stonesthrow with cruelty-free alternatives, and the process has been easier than expected. I’m attending a big trade show in August, and I’m looking forward to talking with the representatives from a specific brand we work with to let them know we would be greatly interested in seeing them offer vegan alternatives (or even better, shifting toward only vegan products throughout the company). I also enjoy taking the opportunity to seek out new, ethical, environmentally-friendly and cruelty-free lines at trade shows.
6) Do you notice a shift in the industry to offering more socially and environmentally responsible alternatives? Ie: banning fur
Yes I definitely notice a shift! I think the general population has become increasingly aware of being more socially and environmentally responsible in recent years and that is reflected by the fashion industry. Major labels such as: Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney and Giorgio Armani have been fur-free for a while and more recently other notables including: Versace, Michael Kors, Gucci and Prada have followed suit. These luxury labels set the trends so I believe it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the industry catches on.
7) Do the cruelty-free fashion options cost you more to purchase, therefore causing the price to go up for customers?
Cruelty-free doesn’t usually cost more because the materials are less expensive than animal materials to produce. Some smaller brands do charge more for being made in the USA, being environmentally-friendly, or using less wasteful packaging materials, but fortunately it’s not typically enough of a cost increase to make a difference in whether or not we order from that brand, or resell to customers at a standard price point.
8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Not to worry about what others are doing, especially your competitors. Just focus on making yourself and your business the best you can, and everything else will fall into place.
9) What has been the biggest challenge / biggest reward from owning your own business?
The biggest challenge I face as a small business owner is learning how to manage my time. I serve so many roles in my company and it can be challenging to get to every task in a given day, or to allocate my time to what needs the most attention. Ironically, I also struggled with this as a teacher! It gets easier as time goes on and I gain experience. I’ve also become better at delegating tasks to my employees and asking for help when I need it. Another challenge specific to the fashion industry is predicting trends ahead of time. Much of our buying takes place at a trade show two or three seasons before the products are in-store for purchase. In August I will be picking out styles that will be shipped to the store before the holidays and in early spring.
The most rewarding aspect of owning a business is seeing people wearing things they purchased from my store. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a girl out in public looking great in something she got from Stonesthrow, or when customers come back to the store later to tell us how much they love what they purchased. When you like what you’re wearing and look good in it, you feel good too. We don’t just dress people, we help them feel comfortable in their skin and proud to present themselves to the world. That’s why I do what I do.
10) What is one book that changed your life? Briefly describe why.
My favorite book (and one that changed my life) actually falls into the young adult genre. It was first read to me by my fifth grade teacher, and I’ve read it at least a dozen times since then. It’s called Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. The title comes from the phrase in the book: “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” This reminds me to put myself in someone else’s position before judging them or making assumptions about how they feel, which helps me as a business owner and also in my personal relationships.