If You Buy 1 Pair of Shoes This Fall, Make It These 100% Cotton Veja Sneakers (While They're On Sale)

Same shoe, new material

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Veja Wata II review universal
Rachel Bowie

The news hit my inbox in mid-spring: Veja, the sustainable (and luxury) French footwear brand, was launching two brand-new 100-percent cotton sneakers, called the Wata II (originally $155, now $120) and the Wata II Low (originally $145, now $135)—a more affordable riff on the brand’s sustainable leather styles and a replacement for the Nova, their original cotton and vegan sneak, which launched in 2020.

To be honest, Vejas (at least, the leather variety) have always been on my radar, but I didn’t invest until a random day back in 2018 when a little-known (I joke) celeb named Meghan Markle embarked on a royal tour Down Under and was pictured aboard a boat in Sydney, Australia wearing the iconic V-10 style.

I’d seen many celebs before Markle—Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon and Emma Watson, to name a few—donning what is considered to be one of the first sustainable sneaker brands, but there was something about the styling of that royal boat ride that caught my eye. Perhaps it was the sleek lines of the “V” logo or the crisp and bright white next to Markle’s black leggings, turtleneck and windbreaker. Together, it made the sneaker feel both minimalist and stand-out. I splurged on my own pair of V-10s and never looked back.

In fact, I’ve worn them with everything from jeans to dresses for the past five years. Also, around the world. One of my favorite pics ever is a blurry one snapped of me on a Madrid playground with my one-year-old in which I’m wearing a floral dress and my Veja sneaks.

Back to the news alert about Veja’s new eco-friendly launch. Would the Wata II line hold a candle to the brand’s sustainably-sourced leather counterparts? With its robust color palette, could it become as versatile as other iconic and beloved canvas sneakers? (We see you, Chuck Taylors.)

We put them—the Wata II Low sneaker, specifically—to the test over three months this summer, wearing them up, down and across Manhattan and Brooklyn—the best place to compare and contrast footwear when it comes to fit, comfort…and style.

veja meghan markle v10
Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Rachel Bowie

How Do the Wata II Low Sneakers Fit?

When choosing the right size of Wata II Low sneakers to test, I matched the size of my leather V-10 Vejas and went with a 38. (I’m typically a size 7.5—a European 38.5—but Vejas are only available in full sizes and, after some trial and error with the V-10s, I found sizing down to make the most sense.)

The pair I tested in Cosmos/Pierre (a rich, violet-like hue) looked gorgeous right out of the box. I removed the packaging and popped them on, first without socks—I wanted to feel the fit!—then with a pair of peds. My feet are pretty average (not narrow, not wide) and the cut of the shoe hit just below my ankle bone in a style that felt quite similar to Converse and was very flattering with the cropped pair of skinny jeans I had on. I had to adjust the laces a few times to get the fit right, but soon enough the sneaker felt true to size. (Adding the ped actually helped significantly when it came to fit.)

It is worth noting that Vejas quite famously have a bit of a “breaking in” period to achieve their proper shape. The same was true with the Wata II Low, but I like the structure that comes with the style. Much like the V-10s, after a few weeks of wear—on my commute or running errands around Brooklyn—they kept their shape and continued to feel sturdy, but also had melded comfortably to my foot. (The only area with occasional rubbing during the break-in period was right around the ankle—but that stopped after a few days of wear.)

veja wata ii low review

How Does the Canvas Sneaker Compare to Veja’s Leather Styles?

This isn’t Veja’s first foray into canvas styles, but the Wata II has perfected the use of cotton as a material, which Veja has been responsibly purchasing for the better part of two decades.

The construction of the Wata II and Wata II Low is what makes them unique from other Vejas in their line: Made in Brazil from 100 percent organic cotton, the material is produced by Brazilian and Peruvian farmers’ associations that adhere to fair trade principles, meaning both the workers and the environment are respected throughout the production process. (Veja also purchases the cotton at 50 percent more than market price.)

The leather styles are no different in terms of their sustainability efforts: The brand has long fought to ensure that the materials they use are eco-friendly. As of 2020, the brand confirmed that of all the textiles and leather used in their designs, 85 percent are considered environmentally preferred raw materials.

Back to the key differences between the cotton and leather designs: In my experience, it comes down to the aesthetic. The cotton styles feel more throw-on-and-go; their form is more flexible and, while still polished, they achieve a look that feels quite laid-back. The same can be accomplished with the leather styles, but the form of those Vejas—like the V-10s—feels more structured. With the Wata II line, there is also a broader color palette to play around with.

Still, with either choice, you can feel good about your footprint—environmentally and fashionably speaking.

How Do You Size Correctly for the Veja Wata II Low Sneakers?

As I mentioned above, I have found that Veja sneakers fit pretty true to size. My foot shape is average and I have medium-height arches. Since Vejas only come in full sizes, you may have to experiment with what works best for you when it comes to sizing up or down. Given that I’m a 7.5, I found that sizing down with the Wata II Low ensured the most proper fit and meant that the shoe wasn’t slipping on and off.

Again, don’t forget about the break-in period: The fit of the shoe will loosen in all the right places and adjust after wearing them for a handful of weeks.

Are Veja’s Cotton Sneakers Worth It?

Yes—I’d even say it’s the type of shoe you’d want to have in a variety of colors. (I think the Wata II in green would be so fun for fall, especially since they're only $135 right now.) It is worth noting that Veja’s sneakers, both leather and cotton, are best for running errands, commuting around town or dressing for a night out vs. working out. But, as with all things Veja, it’s nice to sport a pair of kicks that makes you look and feel good about your shopping choices.

Rachel Bowie Headshot

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...

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