Our Canvas Shoes & How to Clean (Even if They’re White!)

The Best Canvas Shoe Resource On The Web

Why are canvas shoes popular?


The reasons I think canvas shoes are so popular are because:

A) They’re casual. Canvas is not a highfalutin’ material. It exudes comfort and ease and casualness.

B) They have an outdoor or summer feeling to them and I think people really relate to that.

C) Canvas also incredibly comfortable. Because it’s a natural fiber, it will break in, it’ll mold to your foot, it’ll stretch to adapt to your foot, and it’s also really durable.

So you put all those things together plus the myriad types of things you can do with canvas -– people make canvas shoes for practically any activity you can imagine that’ll go with practically any outfit you can dream up.

It’s a wonderful material that has this great comfortable quality both physically and psychologically, and that’s why I think it’s so popular.

What do canvas shoes look like?


Canvas shoes look like, well, pretty much any kind of shoe because canvas is a material that people have been using to make footwear for thousands of years. So you’ll see it in footwear that’s casual footwear, for slip-ons, for lace-ups, for running shoes, for basketball shoes, for hunting shoes, for boating shoes… almost anything you can find.

Here’s an example of the canvas shoe that we make here at Xero Shoes.

This is a men’s shoe that we call the Hana, a casual canvas shoe that’s designed as a slip-on. You can also wear it as what’s sometimes called a slide or a mule by stepping on the heel.

It’s really, really flexible, so it lets your foot move naturally. It’s low to the ground for balance and agility. It’s really, really lightweight. Our sole has a 5000-mile warranty and it has this really unique lacing system that’s inspired by some of mankind’s oldest footwear that holds around your foot really comfortably as you use it for anything you can think of.

It’s technically a casual shoe, but we’ve had people run marathons in these. There’s also a women’s version, a similar product, that we call the Lena. So that’s another example of a casual canvas shoe.

If you want to look for a canvas shoe like the Chuck Taylor, which people wear for basketball and performance, or a casual shoe like the TOMS espadrilles, you can find those. There’s skating shoes made by Vans. There’s more beach-friendly shoes made by companies like Sanuk.

You’ll find canvas shoes of almost any type. And again, you just want to look for the one that’s right for what you’re doing, whether it’s an activity or just casual use or high performance.

Who makes the best canvas shoes?


If you want to know who makes the best canvas shoe, you really want to ask, “Who makes the canvas shoe that’s right for what I’m trying to do?” because it’s not that there’s a right or a best canvas shoe. T

here’s lots of different kinds of canvas shoes for everything from skateboarding to surfing — well, not really for surfing, but after you get off a surfboard — to walking, to running, to basketball, to CrossFit, to any activity you can think of.

So what you want to find is the activity that you like to do, and then look and see if you can find a canvas shoe that fits that activity

How do Xero Shoes Canvas Shoes compare to other brands?


Almost every footwear company that I can think of makes a canvas shoe – Keds, Converse, Sanuk, TOMS, Bobs (which is actually Skechers), Puma, Nike, Fila, Kook N Keech, M&M, Reebok, Jack & Jones.

I mean, literally, if I find the name of a shoe company I can almost guarantee that if they have a big enough product line they’ll make a canvas shoe.

So how do the Xero Shoes’ Hana and Lena stack up against some of those products?

Well, the Hana and Lena are designed to be casual canvas shoes that you would wear for, you know, just hanging out, chilling.

But, because they’re also made with our exclusive and patented FeelTrue soles that have a 5000-mile sole warranty, they are really, really durable and we’ve had people use these for half marathons, for weightlifting, for CrossFit workouts, for skateboarding, for almost any activity you can think of that you definitely wouldn’t classify as casual.

Oh, we have a lot of people who are slackliners wear the Hana when they’re slacklining!

So there’s lots and lots of things that you can do in the Hana and Lena.

Now, a couple of other differences that are really significant:

All Xero Shoes are made based on a foot-first design idea, so they’re wide enough to let your toes spread and relax; they don’t have an elevated heel, so that doesn’t jack up your posture; they’re low to the ground for balance and agility; they don’t have a whole lot of toe spring, which makes your toes artificially bend.

The soles are incredibly flexible, so your feet can bend and move and flex naturally.

And, our FeelTrue soles are also designed to let you get the stimulation, the feedback from the ground that your feet and your brain want.

So that’s what makes Xero Shoes unique compared to all the other canvas shoes that you’ll find.

What is canvas made of?


Some people find the question, “What is canvas made of?” a little weird because they think canvas is an actual material and not a fabric made from a material.

In other words, there are no canvas plants. You make canvas.

Canvas is made out of cotton or linen or, traditionally, hemp. And there are two different kinds of canvas. There’s “duck canvas” (it actually comes from a Dutch word that means “cloth”) and there’s plain canvas.

You’ll find both of those used in footwear from Converse, from Keds, from Puma, from Vans, from Sanuk. There are a lot of companies, including Xero Shoes, that make shoes out of canvas. It’s a wonderful material, and if you find canvas footwear I know you’re going to really enjoy it.

When were canvas shoes invented?


I don’t know if it’s possible to track down exactly when canvas shoes were invented, but the one that we’re most familiar with actually came from the US Rubber Company in, I think, 1892 (don’t hold me to that but I’m probably right 😉 ), when Keds decided to take a canvas upper and put it on their rubber outsole.

I’m sure if you look you might find other…well, you’ll definitely find other companies or other people who made canvas shoes before that, but that’s definitely the beginning of the really popular canvas shoe.

Who invented canvas shoes?


If you’re interested in the history of footwear and want to know who invented the canvas shoe, that’s going to be a tough one. Canvas is a material people have been making for thousands of years and footwear is also something that people have been making for thousands of years. So you will see canvas being used in shoes for thousands of years.

If you look more historically, you’ll find in the early 1800s is when you find mass-produced canvas shoes that were being made. So they’ve been around for a long time, in part because canvas is such a great material. It conforms to your foot nicely. It can be really durable. It’s not that expensive to make. There are different ways you can weave it. It’s a wonderful, versatile product, which is one of the reasons we’re proud at Xero Shoes to make our casual canvas shoes, the Hana for men and our Lena for women.

Hana casual canvas shoe   Lena canvas shoe for women

Where can I buy canvas shoes?


Because so many companies make canvas shoes, and have for years, you can find canvas shoes everywhere from Philippines to Sri Lanka to Singapore to the US to Brazil to… you name it. Anywhere there’s a store, you’ll be able to find them.

And of course, anywhere there’s the Internet you can find canvas shoes.

So for example, with Xero Shoes, you can find them on our website at xeroshoes.com. If you want to find a store near you, just go to https://xeroshoes.com/stores/ or just look at the store locator link in the top right of our website and you’ll find places that you can buy our shoes.

But honestly, it’s such a common material used for footwear that you’ll be able to find these online from Amazon and Shoebuy and Zappos and Shoes.com and anywhere else you can think of, as well as any shoe store or big box store like Target or Walmart.

You can’t miss them if you start looking.

What to wear with canvas shoes?


Once you put a canvas shoe on your foot, what do you do with the rest of your attire?

Well, anything you can think, really.

First of all, sometimes people wear canvas shoes with socks. Sometimes they wear them with bare feet. Total personal preference, and it has to do with the design of the shoe. If the material is just canvas and nothing else, it might be a little abrasive if you don’t wear socks. It also might pick up some more odor if there’s no lining material at all.

If there’s a lining material, then you probably have more options about whether you wear socks or not and you’ll also find out whether that’s better or worse in terms of breathability and in terms of picking up odor.

Of course, it’s easy to clean canvas, but we’ll come back to that in a second.

One thing to think about when you’re deciding what to wear with a canvas shoe is that canvas is not a really smooth fabric. It’s got some texture. So you’re going to want to find something probably in your outfit that matches that.

Khaki pants are great, blue jeans are great, a jean skirt can be great, a sport jacket with a little bit of texture can be great.

Pay attention to the type of material it is and make sure that something else in your outfit reflects that or echoes that.

What goes with canvas shoes?


What can you wear with a canvas shoe?

Well, of course, it depends on the shoe because there are canvas shoes for running and athletics like the ones from Converse, the Chuck Taylors, or from Keds… I’m 55 years old, so that’s what I grew up in, of course.

And then there are more casual canvas shoes like the ones from Sanuk. There are more let’s say slightly fashion-forward canvas shoes like this Hana from Xero Shoes, and you can see it’s a nice casual shoe that will go with a pair of jeans, it could go with a skirt, depending on whether you wear jeans or a skirt. I’m not making gender assignments here. You know what you like to wear.

Suffice it to say, no matter what outfit you find, you can probably find a canvas shoe that will work with it, although canvas typically leans to be slightly more casual than formal.

What are canvas shoes used for?


Again, canvas shoes can be used for pretty much any activity. Or more accurately, there are companies who make canvas shoes that you can use for practically any activity.

For basketball, for skateboarding, for running, for walking, for hiking, for hunting, for boating…

You name it, you can find a canvas shoe that’s going to work for the activity that you enjoy.

What are canvas shoes good for?


People will often ask me, “Are canvas shoes good for ___ ?” and then they fill in the blank with things like “the gym” or “casual use” or “the rain” or badminton or walking or the winter or skateboarding or running or… you name it.

Well, the answer is there are casual shoes for all of those things.

Because it’s a usually cotton or hemp material, for winter they’re not necessarily the best.

It’s a breathable fabric. It will let in heat and cold. So you might need to just add a pair of socks if you’re going to wear these for the winter.

For rain, you can get water-resistant and waterproof canvases. You can also treat a canvas shoe with a spray that will make it water-resistant or waterproof, but they’re not the kind of thing that you want to wear when you’re just standing in a puddle. The Hana from Xero Shoes has a lining that helps keep your foot dry. And then the canvas itself dries quickly. But, even still, it’s not a “rain shoe.”

For all those activities I mentioned, you can find canvas shoes to wear while you do them.

How to wear canvas shoes


A quick note about how to wear canvas shoes.

Canvas is a natural material made from cotton or from hemp or from linen. And because it’s a natural material, it will break in over time.

Now, when you get a canvas shoe it may be a little bit stiff, partly because of the dye used on the canvas for color (including white), or because it’s been treated for water resistance or waterproofness.

But if you give it a little bit of time to break it in, it will become incredibly, incredibly comfortable. It can mold to your foot.

It’ll typically stretch a little bit, sometimes more in one direction than in others depending on the weave of the canvas.

So, suffice it to say, give it a little bit time to let it really adapt to your body and for your body to adapt to it and you’ll end up with an incredibly comfortable, versatile shoe that you will love and can last you for years.

How should canvas shoes fit?


If you want to know how canvas shoes should fit, my answer is: “In the way that it’s comfortable for you.”

There’s not one way for a shoe to fit. Some people like shoes that hug their feet. Some people like shoes that are really loose and practically falling off their feet. So you want to do what’s right for you.

If you have a canvas shoe, know that it will stretch, it will mold to your foot somewhat, but don’t rely on that exclusively.

Keep in mind that canvas won’t stretch in every direction necessarily… it depends on the construction of the shoe.

For example, the Hana from Xero Shoes will stretch really well across the ball of the foot but not so well around the length of your foot just because of the design of the shoe.

So you don’t want to start with something that is really uncomfortable and have the imagined idea that it’s eventually going to get comfortable. You want to start out comfortable knowing that it will get more comfortable.

How do you soften canvas shoes?


Because brand new canvas can be a little bit stiff, people often ask, “How can I soften it? How can I soften it faster?”

Well, my suggestion really is just wear the product. Wear the shoes.

If you’re going to be typically wearing the shoe in bare feet, what you might want to do while you’re breaking it in is add a thin pair of socks. That way the stiffness won’t bother you so much and it’ll give a little bit of extra width in every direction that will help the product stretch and mold to your foot.

You can also try getting the canvas shoe wet, and then putting your foot in it and going for a walk.

Suffice it to say, you don’t want to do this too fast. You can’t speed up the process of breaking in a canvas shoe too much.

So you don’t want to necessarily just wear these 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the moment you get them. You might want to wear them in small doses as they break in and become one of your favorite and most comfortable shoes.

How do you clean canvas shoes?


Cleaning canvas shoes is not hard if you just realize that canvas is a fabric.

So you want to treat it like other fabrics. You don’t want to be too abrasive with it.

Soap and water is typically what you need, and maybe a toothbrush or a good cloth.

Just get the material wet, take the soapy water, brush it on there, and dip it off or spray it off.

You don’t want to submerge the canvas. That can make the fibers get weak.

Similarly, with bleach, you want to be careful. If you have a canvas shoe that’s already been dyed, bleach can make the dye disappear and make it white. If you have white canvas shoes, then you might say, “Well, how about a little bleach?” I would try a very little bit.

Again, you want to be careful because it’s a natural fabric, so you don’t want to destroy the natural fabric.

Because it’s a natural fabric that’s one reason why: A) canvas gets dirty, and; B) canvas can smell (because it’s going to absorb the things that it comes in contact with).

So if you have canvas shoes and they do start to smell, you can just wash them. You can try wearing socks instead of going in bare feet. You can use a product like 2Toms Stink Free.

Do Canvas Shoes use Velcro or Laces?


Because canvas is such a versatile material, you’ll find lots of different styles of shoes and lots of different ways that they close. For example, our Hana… and while it has a lace, it’s actually a slip-on.

Our Lena… again, it has a lace. This one’s not quite as much of a slip-on, though some people will step on the heel and just wear this as a slide or a mule.

You’ll also find Velcro closures and zippers. Canvas doesn’t limit footwear design to a particular style or a particular closure type.

You’ll find all different types and you’ll find the one that works for you.

Do Canvas Shoes Fit Women, Men, or Kids with Wide Feet?


Because so many footwear designers use canvas as an upper material, you’ll find canvas shoes for men, for women, and for kids.

If you have wide feet, you’ll find that canvas shoes can work for you especially because canvas can stretch.

Xero Shoes, as an example, are made not for only people with wide feet but basically for all human beings. Because your toes are supposed to spread and relax — that’s what makes them function correctly — we make Xero Shoes wide enough so that you can get that natural movement.

Now, if you have a narrow foot, they’ll still work because the lacing system will hold your instep in place and let your toes just relax.

Suffice it to say, no matter what your foot size or shape or your gender, you can find a canvas shoe that works for you.

Can canvas shoes be waterproof?


Yes and no.

Natural canvas is not a waterproof product, but there’s two things that you can find to make it waterproof.

One is a spray that any shoe store or even Target or Walmart will have that you can spray on a shoe that will make it waterproof.

And there are actually a type of canvas called “duck canvas” that’s more water-resistant than plain canvas.

There are also some new canvas treatments that come just straight from the factory that make the product water-resistant, not necessarily waterproof.

If you want something totally waterproof, it’s not going to be just the canvas most likely that’s creating the waterproof effect but a lining inside the canvas.

So you’re most likely going to find water-resistant canvas that you can treat it and make it closer to waterproof, or you can find something that is designed to be waterproof with a heavy treatment and a backing layer as well if you need that function.

For 2018, Xero Shoes plans to start using a water resistant canvas on our Hana and Lena shoes.

Are canvas shoes vegan or vegetarian?


If you are vegan or vegetarian and want footwear that is as well, then you will love canvas shoes because canvas is a vegan- and vegetarian-friendly product.

Check out the question (and answer) on this page about what canvas is made of and you’ll see why.

Are canvas shoes made in the USA?


Canvas shoes are made in all parts of the world. There are canvas shoes made in the USA. There are canvas shoes made in Asia. There are canvas shoes made in South America and canvas shoes made in India and China and… you name the place and you will find canvas shoes made there. It’s such a versatile and durable and wonderful fabric that people have been making shoes with it for thousands of years in all parts of the world.

What are the best canvas shoes?


The best canvas shoe is the shoe that you want to wear for the activity that you’re going to perform in that shoe.

So there are canvas shoes for running, for walking, for hiking, for hunting, for boating, for pretty much everything you can imagine.

So what you want to find is the shoe that’s appropriate for your activity, and then of course you want to find something that fits your foot.

Most shoes, whether they’re canvas or not, are actually not made to fit your foot. They’re too narrow. They squeeze your toes together. They’re too thick. They don’t let your foot bend and move and flex and feel the way that it’s supposed to.

So be on the lookout for something that’s designed for the activity that you want to do and then also designed for your foot so that your foot can work and move naturally. That’s my advice on finding the best canvas shoe.

Xero Shoes, as an example, are made with a “foot-first” design — wide toe boxes that let your toes spread and relax, no elevated heel (so your posture isn’t adversely affected), super flexible to let your foot move naturally, low to the ground for balance and agility… and the sole gives you just-right protection while still letting you Feel The World… naturally.

Still looking for a great casual canvas shoe? Check out the Xero Shoes Hana (for Men) and Lena (for Women).