Nisolo is a direct-to-consumer fashion brand offering high-quality leather shoes and accessories. Aside from retailing exceptional goods at fair prices, it prides itself as an eco-sustainable and ethical brand that provides fair wages to shoe artisans in Peru, Mexico, and Kenya. To back this claim, Nisolo publishes their lowest wages for transparency.
The company was founded in 2011 and as of their latest impact report, now takes on 117 full-time employees. It is a certified B corporation that “meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency” according to third-party verifier B-Lab. Nisolo has since been featured in big fashion magazines like Vogue, GQ, and InStyle.
Handmade and Ethically Sourced Footwear
There’s something truly special about investing in handcrafted footwear. While I was searching for my first pair of handmade shoes, I was awed by their quality as compared to retail choices but was taken aback by the hefty price tag. Thankfully, real direct-to-consumer fashion brands like Nisolo exist and offer handmade goods at a more competitive price point.
Before you commit to ‘the one’, there are lots of things to consider when buying handcrafted footwear such as design, fit, price, and the quality of both the craftsmanship and material used. If a brand’s social responsibility is important to you, you might want to look closely at Nisolo’s offerings. This brand review should help you weigh out their best selling shoes.
The Essentials Collection
In 2019, Nisolo decided to slash off prices of their bestsellers list permanently. This move is practically unheard of in fashion, and we’ve witnessed other brands steadily increase their prices over the years.
The Nisolo explanation is simple. As the production grew, manufacturing in volume allowed them to cut on proportional costs. Instead of pocketing the savings for profit, they’re passing the rewards back to customers. Now they’re able to deliver the same quality and sustainability commitments at an affordable price of $175 and under for select pieces.
For men, we recommend the Emilio Chukka Boot ($160) available in oak, brandy, and black. These ankle-high boots feature an elegant leather outsole with a sleek sole and a rubber heel cap. The stitchings are kept close to the edges of the flap for a fine and classy feel. This shoe fits true to size, but we recommend ordering half a size up for a roomier fit.
This boot is designed for all seasons but it is unfortunately not all-weather protected like their higher end pieces. Try to keep them out of wet conditions to help them last longer.
For women, the Paloma Open Toe Mule ($160) is a fashion-forward pick. Adding a fun open toe twist to the classic mule, this pair is available in sand or black and has a 2.5” block heel. We like it either dressed down casually with capri pants or paired with a knee-length dress for date night. The soft leather insole is guaranteed to provide all-day comfort.
If you have narrower feet however, this might not be your best option. The Paloma are a bit roomier in width so you might end up slipping through the front peep toe too much.
More Bestsellers for Him
If you’re looking for a versatile dress shoe, the Calano Oxford ($160) might fit the bill. Featuring a sleek leather upper with a lace-up design, this shoe can take you from the office to the bar for Friday drinks. It has a comfortable 1-inch heel height and an internal leather lining cushion with good breathability.
These shoes come in three variants of brandy, oak, and black. We adore and recommend the brandy for its all-round classic shade. Aside from being fashionable, the Calanos are built to be durable. The welt construction allows for easy resoling if the need arises in the future.
They do fit snugly at first and are supposed to stretch more comfortably with a few wears. Nisolo does warn consumers about this so be prepared for some discomfort while you’re still breaking in your shoes.
Andres All-Weather Boot
Designed to take you the extra mile, the Andres All-Weather Boot ($260) is Nisolo’s most anticipated boot of all time. Made from water-resistant, natural oil-based leather upper, this boot can take you from city strolls to rough countryside terrains. The gusseted tongue also provides an extra layer of protection against cold or wetness to keep your feet warm and dry.
This is a bit more expensive than their other styles but the versatility, durability, and comfort of the Andres make it worth it. It comes in a total of five shades of black, brown, waxed brown, boot brown, and dark olive.
The Andres All-Weather Boot features a 1.25” high boot with a Vibram 430 Mini Lug Sole that provides excellent grip. As a tall boot, the Andres can feel stiff and uncomfy the first time. Give it a few uses to break the leather in and it should eventually fit like a glove.
Diego Low Top Sneaker
The Diego Low Top Sneaker ($150) is our top choice for the modern sneakerhead. With a leather upper, soft leather insole, and a Vibram rubber sole, it’s a trendy pair that is as comfortable as it is stylish. There are two sets of laces included for all Nisolo sneakers – one in plain cotton and another waxed cotton to suit your taste.
This shoe is available in four shades of bone, tobacco, dark olive, and black. The Diego in bone is a personal favorite and a great pair to bring when travelling and exploring cityscapes. These are not made for all-weather wear, however, so they are harder to maintain and keep clean. Nisolo recommends you get the leather care kit bundle to protect this shoe.
For warm-weather travel, the fun and stylish design of the Huarache Sandal ($150) is a perfect match. Designed with interwoven strips of soft nubuck leather, this pair will work well with any of your summer outfits. The soft leather insole with microporous cushioning also provides maximum comfort.
The Huarache comes in two shades of brandy and tobacco. Nisolo recommends ordering true to size, or half a size down if you want a snugger fit. The shoe is meant to expand after the first few wears so do expect some initial discomfort while you break them in.
More Bestsellers for Her
The Chelsea Boots ($228) are a style staple in every woman’s wardrobe, and Nisolo’s version is one of the best we’ve seen. Featuring a sleek pointed toe and a unique triangular elastic side panel, this gives the shoe an extra flattering look and allows more flexibility for a comfortable fit.
The Chelsea Boots are available in all black, brandy, nutmeg, and black with a wooden heel design. It’s designed with a soft leather insole and a comfy 1.25″ heel with a rubber heel cap and is part of Nisolo’s commuter collection with its water-resistant leather upper. This would go perfectly with any outfit – from a casual errands day to power dressing in the office.
These are more expensive than other Chelsea Boots in the market, and the sleek narrow toe may be uncomfortable for those with thicker feet. Nisolo is currently undergoing a redesign to enhance its Chelsea Boots to be more accommodating.
Amalia All-Weather Boot
The Amalia All-Weather Boot is the feminine partner of the bestselling Andres. Featuring the same material build that’s designed to withstand any terrain or activity, the Amalia will keep your feet snug and protected regardless of when and where.
The Amalia is available in three shades of brown, brandy, and dark olive. You can practically wear them anywhere, but we adore this style especially for outdoor OOTDs. Because of the durable build, they might be a bit heavy on the feet for more casual activities.
Think of the Elayna Sneaker ($150) as a classic shoe reimagined. With the addition of small details here and there like some rose gold eyelets, waxed cotton laces, and a slightly thicker pristine Vibram Sole – the Elayna Sneaker is a distinguished cut above the rest.
The Elayna fits true to size and is available in three minimalist shades of bone, natural vachetta, and moss. It features a soft leather insole that will be comfortable for walks but is not designed for sports or high impact activities. These are a great pair to use on a date out with girlfriends, either at a cafe or museum hopping.
Material and Construction
Apart from finding your style, two of the most important things to check when investing in handmade shoes are the material and construction. Finding a shoe that is made of high-quality materials with master craftsmanship is how you can get the most of your money.
Nisolo uses nubuck, full-grain, top-grain and vegetable-tanned leather. Nubuck leather is known for its durability and softness, while full-grain leather is considered as the gold standard of all leather materials. Not only are the materials of high quality, but they are also ethically sourced in-country to reduce the environmental impact of transport.
Nisolo craftsmen use Goodyear Welt construction for some pieces, and Blake Stitching for the majority of their shoes. Both methods can be easily resoled. Goodyear welting uses several layers and is usually the choice for shoes designed with durability in mind. Blake has fewer layers, which allows the sole to be more flexible both for style and comfort purposes.
Press and Real Customer Reviews
We’ve scoured the internet for reviews, and Nisolo has a pretty solid fan base. Even Vogue gives a thumbs up to Nisolo, deeming them “Sustainable, ethical shoes that are actually chic.” InStyle gave the Chelsea boots a glowing review, remarking, “In the age-old face-off between what’s functional and what’s cute, rarely do we find something that’s both.”
Of course, not every feedback is positive. Some followers think that they’re overpriced despite being a D2C business. Nisolo maintains that their goods are fairly priced not just for consumers but also for producers. They envision a fashion industry that values people over profits.
Fair prices, great craftsmanship, beautiful designs, and worthy causes to support – Nisolo is a great brand to invest in for your pairs of handmade shoes. However, if you want to weigh out your other options, here are a few brands that you can consider.
Another direct-to-consumer fashion brand, Beckett Simonon offers high-quality leather dress shoes, boots, sneakers, and accessories for men at fair prices. Unlike Nisolo, they offer free exchanges and returns within the US, and you can cancel your order at any point for secure shopping experience.
Championing eco-sustainability, do note that they only manufacture on a pre-order basis. This means that there is a longer wait time for Beckett Simonon shoes.
For shoppers outside of the US, Undandy is another D2C fashion brand offering free returns and exchanges worldwide. A leader in handcrafted customizable dress shoes, you’re able to choose your colors, fabrics, and even personal design from this Portuguese shoe brand.
How to Buy
Nisolo has only one showroom located in Nashville where they regularly host sales and shopping events. They are unfortunately closed at the moment due to the global pandemic.
You can order your Nisolo shoes online if you live within the United States. They charge a flat rate shipping of $4.95 on all domestic orders shipped via FedEx, except to Alaska, Hawaii, and any U.S. territories that are charged at a flat $30 Ground shipping rate.
International ordering is not available yet as of the moment. Expedited shipping is also available for additional costs. Nisolo offers Ground (2-5 days) for $8.95, 2-Day Shipping for $29.95, and Overnight Shipping for $49.95.
If you choose the wrong size or change your mind, all unworn and unaltered items may be returned within 30 days of the original purchase date. Exchanges are processed 5-7 business days and are free including the fee to ship back the items and the shipping cost for your new shoes. A restocking fee of $5.95 applies should you choose a refund.
Promos and Discounts
One of the best promos and sustainability initiatives of Nisolo is the Shoe Reclamation Program. In a collaboration with Soles4Souls, they collect old pairs of shoes to clean, repair and resell the shoes in developing countries. In exchange for your old shoes, you will receive a $40 discount code toward your next Nisolo purchase of $125 or more.
Nisolo also believes in the power of the word of mouth. Via their referral program, you can grant your friends $35 off their purchase of $125 or more as long as they’re a new customer. You will also get a $35 off discount for a purchase of $125 when they use the code.
Nisolo wants you to be able to enjoy the shoes at your own pace. In case you need to make payments lighter, they also offer interest-free instalments via Affirm.
Nisolo is a top-notch fashion brand, not just in terms of product quality and craftsmanship, but also in their significant contributions to making the world of fashion more sustainable. All in all, we rate the Nisolo a 4.8/5 for excellent-quality leather goods that are fairly priced, fashionable, and supportive of a worthy cause. Visit Nisolo to check out more of Nisolo’s offerings.