There are plenty of good reasons to choose vegan footwear whether you are vegan or not. If you are all about shopping consciously with concerns for the welfare of the planet and its beings, then vegan shoes are a step in the right direction.
Many shoes that might appear to be vegan, cotton canvas sneakers for example are likely to have been made with glues made from gelatine so unless it is marked as a vegan product you are wise not to assume that it is free from animal products.
There are clear environmental benefits for cutting out animal products from your wardrobe. Basically, the problem is that all the animals that are bred for meat and fashion fart a lot.... livestock are the largest source of greenhouse gasses globally. Animals bred for mass agriculture also need to eat grains which in turn require a lot of cleared land and water irrigation which then leads to a loss of biodiversity and commonly water pollution.
Leather when used for fashion needs to be tanned and the most common tanning process worldwide also happens to be the most toxic. Now this is seriously poisonous stuff. It relies on a toxic slush of chromium salts and tanning liquor which poses many dangers to the environment and the people who work in the tanning industry. Also most of these tanneries are in Asia where there is a lack of environmental and safe work protection standards.
The problem when looking for vegan shoes however is that many are far from eco-friendly.... Oh! the dilemma.
Most synthetic leathers are petroleum based and contain chemical additives, not only is their production harmful for the planet but PVC is linked to several health concerns. These High Street, vegan shoes are also often produced with unfair work practices. Made cheaply, usually in Asia where the makers are not paid a living wage and are working in unsafe conditions. Hardly cruelty free.
Thankfully we are seeing emerge some leaders in the industry providing not only vegan shoes but eco-friendly vegan footwear.