Buying Shoes

So what goes through my mind when I buy a pair of shoes? I have leather, synthetic and cotton shoes, how do I decide which ones to buy? A "good vegan" would certainly say to buy anything but the leather. I am not really a "good vegan" so here is how I think about it.

Leather is bad from the animal's point of view, no doubt about it. Unless you run across a dead animal (that died of natural causes) and used its skin for shoes, some animal was killed to get the leather. Even if I did run across such an animal I am not about to tan the hide and start making shoes anyway. On the other hand leather is an excellent material for making shoes. And leather shoes tend to last longer, at least for me.

Cotton is probably the most common natural plant-based fabric used in shoes. No animals need to be killed to make cotton but, non-organic cotton is a heavily sprayed crop and many animals are in fact killed in the process of growing cotton (this is probably true of other plant-based fabrics as well). So how many insects are killed to make a pair of shoes? Clearly more than one pair of shoes are made from one cow. How many insects = a cow. Which suffers more when killed? Do insects "suffer" at all? I certainly feel more sympathy for a cow than an insect - should I?

What about synthetics? No animals are killed for these fabrics and materials. A "vegan dream come true" - perhaps. Petroleum products certainly cause pollution in their manufacture. Does this pollution kill animals or cause them to suffer? Probably, but leather tanning also generates a lot of pollution. I also hate most "plastic" shoes. What about human suffering?

Is it better to buy a leather shoe made in the USA by relatively well paid workers than an equally-priced synthetic shoe made in the far East by "exploited" workers? What about shoes that have only a little leather "trim"? What about my feet, should my feet suffer in shoes that don't fit well but are non-leather? (they often do) Should I buy a shoe made of a material designed to replace leather that really does a lousy job. Will buying leather shoes now slow the research on non-leather replacements? In 100 years will anybody care?

If only there was a well-constructed shoe made of non-animal, non-polluting materials by contented workers that was reasonable priced, durable and comfortable my choice would be easy. Oh, well....