What Sole Type is Best - Leather or Rubber?

We often say in our fitting appointments a leather sole is what your Grandad would have probably described as a ‘proper’ shoe - traditional, sleek and classic. But is it really the best sole you could choose for your shoes? Well… Let’s find out.

Leather is often thought of as a hard material that does not allow for cushion or comfort however when combined with cork, it can create a very soft and flexible foot bed. The quality of a leather sole is really dependent on how they’re made and how many layers of leather there are in it, a triple leather sole can often outlast a rubber sole, so the more layers of leather incorporated, the exponentially stronger they get. And equally, the less amount of layers used to construct the leather sole the more fragile they will be. The downside of leather, is that if they’re not made properly, with the correct mixture of cork, they can be very rigid and not provide much comfort or support.

As leather is a natural material, they will absorb water over time if worn regularly in damp conditions, so this style is best saved for the office or formal events. However although you’ll find a leather sole will not wear well if worn consistently in all weather types, they are easier to resole than a plastic or rubber sole. This is a particularly big advantage in a time when we’re placing a higher importance on sustainable living. A pair of Hand Dyed Shoe Co. shoes should last you years if taken care of, with shoe creams and shoe trees. We also offer a restoration service to enable you to return your shoes to us to be resoled, redyed and given a little TLC before we return them to you in an almost new condition.

The real stand out feature of leather soles is the classic elegant silhouette, hence they are usually the material of choice when making formal shoes and are traditionally considered to be a quality shoe.

Many people who wear leather-soled shoes find the initial traction is not as great as you would find on a rubber sole, until they’re worn in, it is therefore best to wear the sole in before any big occasions if you’d rather a stronger grip.

People often find a rubber sole to be flexible and comfortable from the very first wear, rubber naturally has more shock absorption so when you walk you don’t feel the hardness of the pavement. Rubber is also very resistant to the elements so great for everyday wear, for someone who walks to the office or commutes in all weather types.

Rubber does not have the ability to hold to your feet in the way a leather sole would, so while an insole might mold to your feet, the full sole will not which can lead to a feeling of rigid shape.

Most of the time a rubber sole will add a certain level of chunkiness to the profile of the shoe that will make the shoe look more casual. Rubber is used for sport and athletics trainers as it is lightweight, it’s this synergy with sports that has gives rubber a more casual feel when on a formal shoe.

Some single-moulded rubber soles are not able to be replaced once they reach the end of their lifespan, however at Hand Dyed Shoe Co. we use Dainite soles as they have been creating quality soles since 1910 and have a studded sole patten that ensures dirt does not remain in the sole, and we can replace these with our restoration service.

A good rubber sole is highly robust and durable, and will last a thousand miles.

So what is our preference? Well we like to have the best of both worlds. The half way house we haven’t yet mentioned.

A half rubber sole offers a slim profile for the elegant and traditional appeal. And while the mid section remains leather and can be hand dyed in any colour to complement your design while the rubber toe feature offers grip and durability to be worn in all weather types.

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1 comment

Leather all the way in my humble opinion.

Darren Wood September 29, 2020

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