There are a handful of brands that make classic looking sneakers, but few companies can say they’re a sneaker brand that puts sustainable materials and environmental friendliness at the top of the priority list.
In this article, we’re checking out Cariuma sneakers. What makes this Brazilian brand different? Why is having a sustainable shoe important? And do Cariuma shoes check the boxes of affordability, durability, timeless style?
We’d say so. Keep reading to find out why you might want to add a pair or three to your rotation.
What You Should Know About Cariuma
Cariuma is a sustainable footwear brand made in Brazil taking an eco-friendly approach to manufacturing while using the best raw materials. Luckily, many of their shoes have a modern and timeless style, which makes it easy to see why the brand’s sneakers have had waitlists in the thousands.
Yes, you read that right. Cariuma is also a brand beloved by supermodels, but fear not: You can make Cariuma sneakers work for you quite easily.
The brand built its grassroots following after its co-founders left corporate jobs to focus on building ethical, sustainable footwear. Cariuma is built on the idea that “good things take time,” which is reflected in its eco-friendly approach. 43 percent of Cariuma models are 100 percent vegan shoes, a pretty admirable figure in its own right.
These are sneakers you can feel good about. Cariuma works with ethical factories, uses natural materials, and adheres to fair labor practices. This attention to detail shines through when you consider the care and quality you get in each pair.
We’ll take a closer look at the specific model we tried out later in this article.
Why Cariuma Sneakers Stand Out
Cariuma’s sneakers stand out for all the right reasons.
This isn’t a brand making overhyped, gaudy sneakers that sell out in seconds. Cariuma blends style and sustainability with affordable prices (very affordable, to the tune of under $100 for pairs like the Cariuma OCA Low).
Your purchase of a pair of Cariuma sneakers helps plant two trees in the Brazilian rainforest. It’s that kind of direct action that can be tough to come by in the fast-paced sneaker world. Again, these are sneakers you can feel good about buying (and wearing).
But these kicks wouldn’t be anything without adding some serious style points to your wardrobe. Cariuma sneakers are timeless and easygoing, including today’s featured model, the OCA Low.
With any brand worth its salt, Cariuma backs it all up. By that, we mean they offer free returns and they ship to 49 countries. The shipping process also includes gift packaging made with recycled and recyclable materials.
It’s that A-to-Z focus on sustainability we appreciate, and it’s easy to see why the sneakers are much-loved (and waitlist-worthy).
Cariuma’s Styles and Materials
Cariuma offers a small selection of versatile silhouettes of both the low-top and high-top variety, including the sporty Catiba Pro and the lightweight knit Ibi sneaker. It’s the Cariuma OCA Low that’s really caught our eye, however.
Since we checked out the OCA Low in person (#IRL), we’ll be speaking mostly about those. But I encourage you to check out the site and browse the other models to see what strikes your fancy.
OCA Low style and colors
The OCA Low is a great option for a minimalist, lean wardrobe. It’s a clean, sleek shoe with minimal flare and a few subtle distinguishing details (which I prefer).
I went with the grey suede, a nice alternative to your fully white option. If you don’t yet have an all-white sneaker, I’d suggest you go with the off-white canvas or triple white premium leather option.
When it comes to the OCA Low, you get a remarkable variety of material options. They range from canvas to suede to leather. Only the canvas sneakers are 100 percent vegan, but both leather and suede materials are sustainably and ethically sourced.
While you’ll find some of the same materials and colors across different styles of low-top and high-top sneakers, the Cariuma OCA Low provides the coolest color options (in our book).
The possibilities are nearly endless: It’s not an exaggeration to say there’s a color or style for everybody.
Shoe construction: uppers, insole, outsole
The uppers of these stylish low-top sneakers are made from a soft suede with an organic cotton canvas lining. Seemingly standard fare, yes?
These kicks are far from standard, in the best way. The insole is technologically savvy and comfortable, featuring a hybrid memory foam insole combined with a vegetable tanned leather footbed with added arch support.
The foam insole is 100 percent vegan and made with mamona oil and cork. Mamona oil is derived from South America’s castor plant, something you just won’t find in an average pair of sneakers.
(By the way if you’re looking for fully vegan shoes, the Ibi sneaker is your jam. It’s made from sustainable materials like bamboo and recycled plastic. They look cool, too, so you won’t be sacrificing your style. Check out the details here.)
This design touch should help you avoid the feeling of wearing through your canvas sneakers, something that can happen with cheaper low-top shoes.
The outsole is fully stitched and made from a raw natural rubber, which is substantial, yet not heavy. The OCA features a cap toe design, which is not only a cool stylistic choice, but also helps to keep the toe from getting scuffed (which can easily happen with a fully leather or suede toe box).
I also appreciate the higher-end details on the shoe as well, including the metal eyelets and aglets (aglets are the shoelaces’ tips, which are encased in metal, vs plastic like most shoelaces).
How do they fit? How do they feel?
In most shoes I wear a size 9 or 9.5. I ordered a 9 in the OCA Low and they seem to fit true to size.
That being said, they fit almost too perfectly to my foot, whereas I’m used to a slight bit of extra room at the toe and both sides. So if you’re in between sizes, you may want to consider going a half-size up.
I walked around in them for a few days straight to get a good feel. They’re a very comfortable sneaker, which I attribute mostly to that memory foam and leather insole and soft suede with the padded collar around my ankle.
Stylistically, they’re easy to wear because the grey suede and contrasting white rubber outsole matches pretty much anything.
I imagine the menswear neutral canvas, suede, and leather colors would be just as easy to wear, though if you already have all those bases covered, don’t be afraid to venture into their more exciting color choices.
(That being said, the Off-White Canvas OCA Low are an excellent example of some of the best men’s sneakers under $100 that you’ll find today. Don’t take our word for it, though: 86 percent of customer reviews for the OCA Low clock in at 5 stars.)
There seems to be no needed break-in period with these. They were comfortable right out of the box, and they’ll probably get even more comfortable the more I wear them.
I can see the OCAs being my default sneaker in warmer climates and summer months. They’d go well with shorts and the lighter, more vibrant colors in my spring / summer outfits.
I’ll be sure to update this Cariuma review with my thoughts after wearing them a few months and years, so make sure to come back (or better yet, bookmark this) for future updates.
Why Cariuma Sneakers Belong in Your Wardrobe
If you’re looking for a sustainable sneaker that allows you to skip the fast fashion options, or you want vegan shoes that don’t necessarily look like vegan shoes… Cariuma is the perfect option. The sustainable shoe brand makes it easy for us to look great while doing something socially responsible.
This idea of sustainability is inherently built into the Lean Wardrobe philosophy (if you buy fewer but better things and wear them a long time, you’re naturally practicing sustainability to a degree).
But by wearing their products, you’re more actively supporting Cariuma’s stance and voting with your dollars. You’re saying that being sustainable (while being stylish) matters. And that’s a good thing.