Leather Soles vs Rubber Soles
There are a lot of things that are important when picking a new pair of shoes. You’ve got to think about the style, the fit, the comfort, the arch support and stability, and – of course – how good they look on your feet. These are all essentials, but another thing to think about is grip This is something that’s too often overlooked when shopping for shoes for both casual and formal occasions. Without grip, you’re likely to see yourself sliding through a little more than just DMs, and you might struggle to stay on your feet.
Your shoes need to look good, they need to feel good, but they’re not much use if they won’t keep you upright, are they? So join us as we look at leather soles vs rubber soles and discover what’s best for grip to keep you on your feet.
Story Of The Sole
The sole of the shoe has been around since shoes were first invented way back before Jordans and Chuck Taylors and when you could walk down the street (or dirt path, as it was at the time) without some kid guffawing at your old, battered, and beaten kicks.
The first outsoles used natural materials such as animal hides to protect the bottom of the foot from a harsh ground. This was a method favored by American Indians, and as the Middle Ages, they shifted to leather or jute, which is a vegetable fiber, for those not totally in-the-know on sole materials.
Leather became a popular and durable material for shoe soles, and through the Middle Ages, into the 17th century and beyond, it was the go-to material used for soles until the 20th century where shoemaking became mostly automated.
From here, rubber replaced leather as the chosen material for work boots and sneakers. While you still find leather soles in dress shoes, the majority of shoes have rubber or polyurethane soles because of how easy they are to produce. Sometimes, though, there is a combination of both leather and rubber.
Considered more ‘traditional’ leather soles are classic, durable, and stylish. They are perfect for dress shoes to wear to the office and for formal events, but they aren’t a catch-all material for excellent grip. Because of the inflexibility of leather, it can’t always stand up to other options and different demands, and many people who wear leather-soled shoes find the traction isn’t as great as they are used to.
In professional situations, at least those with carpeted floors, the lack of grip isn’t a problem and even on tiled floors, the right sole tread design should be enough to keep you slipping over in front of important clients, spilling your coffee and morning muffin all over the place.
You wouldn’t want leather soles anywhere else, though. Especially not if you need grip to slippery surfaces, uneven terrain, and sketchy rocks
For example, you wouldn’t want hiking boots or running shoes with leather soles, and not only because they are too heavy. The inability to mold leather into lugs to achieve the desired traction is a massive cross in the cons column for the grip factor of leather shoes.
Basically, if you’re doing something that demands you stay firmly on your feet, avoid leather soles. Despite this, some companies will combine the leather sole with rubber or PU to deliver suitable traction, but this is more common with dress shoes than it is with running shoes or hiking boots so you’re unlikely to find a hybrid design the next time you look for a new pair of runners.
Leather soles aren’t all bad for activities, though, and while they aren’t ideal for gripping all surfaces, sometimes you don’t need excellent grip, quite the opposite, in fact. If you’re partial to a bit of ballet, the sleek, smooth style of leather shoes is perfect for gliding across the stage gracefully without the fear of friction tripping you up.
If you look in your shoe closet (or shoe room, if you’re a true sneakerhead) it’s more than likely most of your shoes have rubber soles, and there is a good reason for this. Rubber is easier to mold and craft and it’s more lightweight, which makes it ideal for sport and athletics.
Whether you’re a runner, hiker, climber, or soccer star (if only in your head), the ease with which manufacturers can transform rubber into something that keeps you safe, sturdy, and stable on the track, trail, or field, or mountainside means you can trust the sole to keep you on your feet through all environments.
This grip is crucial for a variety of situations, and without it, you won’t get the traction necessary. With the ease in which you can mold rubber soles to certain styles and designs, they make the perfect material for getting optimal traction for a variety of sports and activities.
You will find rubber soles in everything from soccer cleats to hiking boots, and even everyday sneakers Unlike leather-soled shoes, they are more resistant to the elements, although the single-mold process means you can’t replace rubber soles once they reach the end of their lifespan as you can with leather soles.
Rubber soles are not ideal for all situations, though, and you don’t want to be the guy or gal with squeaky shoes walking into the conference room, but if you wear rubber sole 90% of the time, we’re sure you can sacrifice the remaining 10% to look like a professional at the office.
You’ve Got Sole, But You’re Not A Soldier
To an outsider, rubber is the undisputed king (or queen) of grip, but as you can tell, it’s not always that simple. As ever, it depends on the situation. Most of the time, you can’t get away with rubber soles in a professional office setting, but you also can’t get away with leather soles in more active environments.
That being said, we expect to wear rubber-soled shoes much more frequently than we do leather ones, so while we don’t always enjoy playing favorites, rubber takes the crown this time. So, if you’re looking for versatile shoes for every day activities that won’t leave you on your backside, a rubber sole is the choice for you.