Unlucky for vegans, shoes are often the last holdouts of non-vegan clothing items in our wardrobes. It can also be difficult to find good vegan shoes. On my hike I wore trail runners, and I would recommend them to any thru-hiker. Lucky for us, it is much easier to find vegan sneakers than vegan hiking boots.
Boots are heavy, clunky, and take significantly more effort to walk in compared to shoes. I once read that one pound of extra weight on your feet is the equivalent of seven pounds of extra weight on your back. Don’t know if that’s really true, but you can definitely notice the difference if you switch from boots to trail runners. I find lighter shoes to be easier to hike in and more comfortable.
I wore New Balance trail runners, which is their “MT” or “WT” model line. They’re all synthetic, no leather here! I really liked these shoes, and I went through three pairs of them! New Balance still makes a lot of their shoes in the US, too (no sweat). But you can check out any other brand of trail runners as well, there are many varieties and largely made without leather. People wore all different brands of shoes and boots on the trail.
For hiking boots, I think there is still some of the old-school thinking that still defines boots for many people; that is, they need to be all leather. This unfortunately results in many fewer vegan options. Garmont used to make a vegan boot but it’s since been discontinued. The folks over at hikingboots.com have a post listing some vegan boot options.
But seriously, unless you are winter hiking or have really bad ankles, I strongly recommend trying out some trail runners on your next hike! As a further note, mine were not waterproof and it wasn’t a problem at all.
edit: New Balance addresses vegan shoes here. Though many of their shoes are synthetic, they sometimes use nonvegan glue, depending on what is available. I found these shoes to be the best bet for my needs, and I was ok with using them. If you know of any 100% vegan trail runners, leave the name in the comments!