Leather, made from cow hide, is a very commonly used material for shoes and other clothing materials. Animal activists have expressed concern over the use of leather and its effect on the cow population so there have been many advances in the use of synthetic leather. Synthetic leather is intended to feel and look similar to actual leather but without the animal rights concerns. There are benefits to wearing synthetic leather shoes compared to actual leather.
Synthetic leather is frequently used in vegan shoes and other brands that cater to those concerned with the the welfare of cows and other animals. Synthetic leather is frequently made of a combination of textiles and polyurethane to give the synthetic material an authentic leather feel. Genuine leather also has to go through extensive treatment to make it ready for shoe manufacture and the chemicals used to treat it have been found to damage the environment and take away the biodegradability of the leather, according to ENCAP, a branch of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Africa bureau. Synthetic leather shoes do not require as much preparation and use less chemical treatment in the process.
Traditional leather tends to be much more expensive than its synthetic counterpart. The reason for this is because leather requires much more preparation and is therefore more expensive to prepare. The cows needed to make leather require care, land and food and then the cow skin has to be treated before a shoe can even be made of leather. All of this contributes to the eventual buying price. Synthetic leather doesn’t require as much preparation or labor to produce and therefore synthetic leather shoes are usually significantly cheaper.
Synthetic leather shoes are designed to retain their form and are usually very durable. They are also more water-resistant than real leather, which can stain and suffer damage when exposed to rain or snow over time. Synthetic leather is designed to hold up against weather conditions and the wear and tear of walking and running over an extended period of time.
References and ResourcesDegussa: Sports Shoes
Natural Living For Women: Say No To Leather But Don't Give Up On Style
Ecoterre: Can Leather Be Eco-Friendly...Ever?
ENCAP: Leather Processing- Cleaner Production Fact Sheet and Resource Guide