Before I begin first let me try and explain the nature of my relationship with shoes. In the last 6 years I have only bought 4 pairs of shoes, one of which were purpose-bought for running and going to the gym (both activities which I seldom do). The other 3 I only bought because my previous everyday shoes were wearing out. I am approaching the point once again where on a rainy day, my feet get a bit wet because water somehow finds its way up through my soles if I stand in a shallow puddle. So I am in need once again of some new shoes.
I recently read 'No Logo' by Naomi Klein, which re-awakened my awareness of the working conditions and living conditions of the people who make the commodities we consume in the Western world. This was compounded with the factory collapse in Bangladesh in late April exposing the squalid conditions that our collective desire for cheap goods, combined with a "see-no-evil" mentality inevitably results in.
Through posting a status about my shoe situation, and my desire to purchase a new pair that were not produced in sweatshop, a friend linked me to an Australian website called Shop Ethical. On the site they have four categories for shoes, Skate shoes, Sports shoes, Men's Shoes and Women's shoes. Of the 83 shoe brands surveyed, only 6 obtained a tick for being 'ethical', and 4 of those were produced by the same company. Five out of the 6 were also women's shoes, so that won't do me. The one generic shoe brand that fits my general category for shoes from this search are all made in the style of 'Chucks', and can be purchased through the Fair Trade Shop. I was also directed towards Trash Footwear, situated in Raglan, New Zealand. These are triply ethical, not only are they not produced in a sweatshop, they are produced locally, and made from "Quality materials salvaged from landfill oblivion, re-incarnated in Raglan as unique footwear!". Although neither of these brands really has a style of shoe that I'm completely content with, I'll probably end up going with one of them to ease my conscience. I'll stop by my local Trade-Aid store some time just in case they know something that the omniscient Google doesn't.
In summary, it's not an easy task to find footwear if you're concerned with ethics, and in all likelihood, none of your local retailers will stock any ethical shoes.