The Shoe Snob Blog

Leather Soles vs Rubber Soles

Soles by Main D'or

Soles by Main D’or

There is long debate on the differences between leather soles vs rubber soles with regards to comfort/durability/elegance etc. So I thought it wise to create a post in order to discuss all of the points and shed some light on certain myths that need debunking.

I will break it up into the main topics that tend to be discussed labeling both pro’s and con’s for each in order for you to understand better the truth behind both options

Comfort

Leather Pro’s: Sole leather is often thought of as this hard material that does not allow for cushion/comfort. The problem with this train of thought is that it actually doesn’t take into account that while sole leather was made to be hard, one must not forget that in reality it is still just a skin and has the ability to mold and shape to your foot, allowing natural contour to take place (as it is a natural product). It therefore, combined with cork, can create a very soft and flexible foot bed actually creating much more comfort than it’s rubber counterpart. But this is also providing that arch support is correct.

Leather Con’s: The downside of leather is that if not done properly (or in the absence of cork combined with a thin sole), it can be very rigid and not actually providing much in terms of comfort if not accompanied by proper fitting lasts/certain shoe contructions etc. A thin-soled, blake stitched, flat last (no arch support) will be one of the most uncomfortable experiences ever. On the contrary, a double leather sole, Goodyear welted shoe made on a last with proper arch support will be among the most comfortable shoes around.

Rubber Pro’s: Rubber is often flexible right off the bat leaving minimal break-in period. Therefore you normally do not feel so stiff when a shoe is made on a rubber sole, even if handwelted. It also being quite sturdy makes it feel comfortable for some people. And naturally it has more shock absorption so when you step you don’t feel the hardness of the pavement as much as you might in the leather sole.

Rubber Con’s: Rubber (whether being claimed as natural or synthetic) does not have the ability to mold to your feet like a leather sole does. So while the insole might mold to your feet, the sole does not ever mold and thus the rigidity of that lack of taking shape can often feel quite uncomfortable over time. That being, a rubber sole will often feel comfortable in the beginning of the day but if you were to be on your feet in one all day long, the non-forming rigidity of the rubber starts to make your feet grow tired.

j-fitzpatrick-footwear-collection-15-feb-2017-1702 Capture_grande

Durability

Leather Pro’s: Leather’s strength lies in how many layers of leather you have on it. A triple leather sole will outlast any rubber sole. Consequently a good double leather sole with toe taps on it would too. So the more layers of leather you have the exponentially stronger it gets.

Leather Con’s: Opposite to its pro, the less amount of layers or thinner the leather sole is the more fragile it is. I have seen guys chew through top quality (think best brands out there) soles in a matter of months due to  how much they walked in all kinds of weather. Leather absorbs water so over time you can get it coming through your soles for the smallest of cracks or busted seam etc..

Rubber Pro’s: A good rubber sole is virtually indestructible (not really but close). Due to the nature of rubber and what it is intended for, you can really go hard on it and it will last. I put so many miles on cobblestones on my Stefano Bemer chukka boots and while I rarely wear them now, am still going on the first sole after 8 years (I must have put hundreds of miles on them through the streets of Florence). Rubber is very water resistant so you really don’t have to worry about your feet getting wet, ever.

Rubber Con’s: If it cracks, it’s over. And sometimes it can crack for no apparent reason. Or if you try to dry it (think leave your shoes on the heater) after being wet. I have seen what looked like good rubber soles, all of the sudden crack and then it are pretty much ruined as the cracks will only get worse.

Screenshot_20170306-122125 Screenshot_20170306-122543

Elegance/Formality

Leather Pro’s: A leather sole is the epitome of elegance and formality and is always the material of choice when making formal shoes. According to some trains of thought, the thinner and tighter the construction (think cemented or blind welt) the more elegant/formal the shoe, however I disagree with this. I do think that the tighter the sole (i.e. not protruding out from the shape of the last) the more elegant/formal but don’t find dainty looking thin soles to be elegant. On the contrary if one maker made the most perfectly elegant sole it would be Gaziano & Girling or even Carmina who make a very thin appearing goodyear welted sole that runs tight to the last shape.

Leather Con’s: If the sole is not cut tight to the last it just looks wonky and very inelegant IMHO. So the cut has to be done right in order to maintain the correct manner of elegance and formality.

Rubber Pro’s: Some snobs and/or traditionalists will say that Rubber soles cannot be elegant nor formal. While I would agree about 90% there have been some makers that have sourced rubber soles that when looking at them from a side view from  5 feet away you would not be able to tell if they were rubber or leather. So that debunks the myth there as rubber can be used in an elegant setting providing that the sole maintains a manner of thinness.

Rubber Con’s: 90% of the time rubber soles add a certain level of chunkiness to the shoe that just makes it plain informal

Screenshot_20170306-122654 Screenshot_20170306-122720 ridgeway-sole

  • Benjamin Edwards

    Why not add some pictures of well worn in leather soles?

  • Mighty Gadget

    As someone who walks a lot and lives up north I wish I could wear leather soles more often. It also makes me wonder why some work wear style boots opt for leather soles. I have put probably over 1000 miles on my Indys and apart from 3 new heels the cork sole shows barely any sign of wear.

  • Roger Pinnock

    The 4 season reality of life in Canada makes quality synthetic soles a far more appealing option. I don’t agree that synthetic soles look less inherently elegant – unless one adopts a circular definition which simply equates leather soles with elegance. G&G’s Wensum is currently my fave synthetic sole.

  • Two of the biggest tradeoffs for me are: Rubber soles are slip resistant compared to leather which can at times be very slick. Second, rubber soles are much hotter as they don’t breathe.

  • zatara wood

    I’m glad I made you think about this issue. However, you’re thinking is still distorted on this issue as you are living in a bubble of delusion on the blogosphere, talking to Igent friends and factories who want to sell you product etc. Underlying all of this thinking about leather soled GW shoes is that an older technique or ‘traditional’ way of doing things is always better. In the case of leather soled goodyear welted shoes however, which by the way is relatively recent invention created for industrial production, the thinking is flawed as it churns out an impractical and worse product (at higher cost).

    Now there are two issues which are being conflated 1) Leather soles 2) The technique of Goodyear welting to manufacture shoes. IMO the second is actually worse in creating a heavy inflexible shoe which no one wants. Leather soles make these issues worse, whilst also having little shock absorption. However if you wear (usually Italian) blake stitched loafers with leather soles they aren’t nearly as bad. In fact some can be quite comfortable eg the classic Gucci loafer. This is because they don’t create a monocoque structure with layers of stiff material between the footbed and shoe sole.

    In regard to leather soles vs Rubber you are making a fatal error in not comparing like for like. A man who wears a leather soled shoe WILL CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOUR when wearing them thus rendering all your comparisons next to useless. In other words a man who wears a leather soled shoe will not walk long distances from the office back to their home, they may instead jump into a cab. They won’t choose to wear them in the rain, choosing a rubber pair that day, or perhaps wearing those ridiculous overshoes you’ve recommended. They don’t take them on holiday and wear them to walk around a city and so on and so forth. If someone did wear a leather soled shoe like this it would wear out VERY quickly. You obviously have come across men who have worn them in this way so youve seen the result as you say:

    “I have seen guys chew through top quality (think best brands out there) soles in a matter of months due to how much they walked in all kinds of weather. Leather absorbs water so over time you can get it coming through your soles for the smallest of cracks or busted seam etc..”

    The only solution if you do wear them in a ‘normal’ way in different conditions and walk a decent amount in them is to continually have resoles done on your shoes and have a large rotation. Isnt a shoe meant to be walked around in after all?

    • TheShoeSnob

      I love how much you spend on my blog. Keep coming back and building my SEO. Thanks mate.

      • zatara wood

        you seem to be a really passive aggressive guy Justin. last time you wanted to have a “confrontation” with me, now you are pretending that you welcome my comments. Youre probably now sinking a few too many pints in that local pub you enjoy while getting irate that someone would have the audacity to question an “expert” like you on shoes. A little voice in the back of your head must realise that there is some truth to what I’m saying to you. Listening to me could be the best bit of advice you ever had. Its actually not to late, even though you are divorced in your 20s, with a business that’s going nowhere, you still have time to turn things around. Suspect you’ve got too much of an ego though so youll keep making button boots for wierdos on the interweb. Zatara.

        • TheShoeSnob

          I like to mess with trolls up to a certain degree as it serves as entertainment but then I get bored. I still welcome you coming to me like a man in real life if you ever build the courage. Talking tough to me online slagging me off only shows how pathetic you are which really just makes me feel sorry for you. I would much more respect you if you had the courage to say what you do to my face. Fyi you sound like a stalker which is extra sad. I am not that famous to have stalkers already

          • zatara wood

            your conversation reads like a little boy who’s had one to many pints towards closing hour. im not interested in being “tough” or “respected” or saying something “to your face” especially with the likes of a 4’5 former shoe shine boy walking around regent street in button boots. what would that prove?
            I’m merely putting across my view, the validity of which doesn’t change based on the medium that I choose to express it. I could blow smoke signals with the same message, would it change whether it was true or not?
            if you don’t want to listen then fine. Keep going with what youre doing. Ill re-contact you in 10 years time and we can see what’s happened. By then you’ll be middle aged, have a failed business behind you probably with another broken relationship and an alcohol problem to go with it. Your business problem is simple, you are ultimately making something most people just don’t want. You’re stuck in a niche selling GW shoes to two main categories of people 1) older men who are used to wearing leather soled shoes from a certain generation 2) Igents / retro hipster types. Group 1 is dying out and don’t spend much money vs other demographics on clothing/footwear. Group 2 will move from fad to fad. Additionally in the category of shoes that you’ve chosen you’re competing with large established brands like Crockett and Jones with better production facilities, skilled staff in design, manufacturing, as well as across business areas. They have budget for marketing, prestige stores to sell through and real heritage to leverage. What do you have? You’re begging and borrowing to try and get something to happen. You sucked up to the guys at G&G to get some lasts designed for you. You outsource your manufacture to a Portuguese factory. even then your prices aren’t competitive as you yourself admit you cant compete with vertically integrated English shoe manufacturers who also have a retail distribution network. You sell online on the back of this ropey blog as well as from a tiny badly fitted little shop in the backstreets of Soho.
            The truth is that even a Crockett and Jones will be finished in 20/30 years time because of the trends I mentioned previously. They make take the form of a much smaller enterprise in the best case scenario. You’ll be done in 5-10 tops I estimate. If you change direction you might survive.

          • TheShoeSnob

            I just realized that you are the same guy with the fake name Erik Bos who wrote me nearly 5 years ago in an email saying pretty much the same crap as you are now. That’s funny how you said in 10 years (from then) that I would be nothing then. 5 years later and you are not on track yet for a good prediction…. HA!! Man you are so sad. It’s like you live to troll me and try to take me down (although I presume you troll others too). I don’t know how many times i have to say it but haters like you only make me want to work harder to prove you wrong, not that I need to but just to show you that you can’t win at this game. Your words will never affect me. All the jabs about my height, divorce, drinking, business are just pathetic that you think that I care about what some insecure person on the web who hides behind a mask thinks of me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I let people like you bother me. So yes, please keep focusing all of your attention on me, only fueling your own self-loathing rage at how sad of a person you really are and please do get back to me in 10 years only to be disappointed that you would still be wrong.

            Also….looks like you do do this for a living. So sad…..where do you find the time?? Surprised you had a friend to go with to that Sushi restaurant. I wonder if they know that you are a professional troll….doubt it as only trolls would be friends with trolls as no self respecting person would agree with it.

            http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2006/04/what_if_blair_a.html

            https://www.google.com/maps/contrib/115218140391683353366/reviews/@51.6174644,-0.1791557,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m3!8m2!3m1!1e1

            http://moneyweek.com/what-wages-in-ancient-athens-can-tell-us-about-the-silver-price-today/

          • zatara wood

            No I’ve never written you an email with that name ‘Eric Bos’ but it seems that guy worked out exactly what I did.

            “Where you are today” LoL What’s your Net Profit? Or as you are a young business what’s your profit before investment back into the business? I can only see your abridged balance sheet (which doesn’t look great).

            If the numbers were so good why the need to beg people reading the blog to ‘donate’ money to you to keep this thing running? That was shameless. Would a Crockett and Jones beg their customers to give them money to run a website for their commercial endeavours? You talked about your father being a great influence to your business sense. Did he teach you to beg to make money? It seems to be a thread running through everything you do, from getting a (properly trained) English shoe maker designing your lasts for you, to your first 2 shop locations within someone else’s premises.

            I’ve realised why you make those silly button boots, the horrendous two tone shoes, weird cloth and leather Frankenstein monstrosities. It’s because you can’t compete with a Crockett and Jones on the bread and butter core shoe styles because of what I said previously. Therefore you have to push further into a niche within a niche. In your case this is the interweb iGent. You have to shill these wacky products to these strange characters in order to sell. Therefore perhaps I was too hard on you by laughing at you wearing them. It’s part and parcel of your whole shtick.

            I’m near your shop today so perhaps I’ll come by! You seem to be obsessed by who I am rather than listening to what I’m actually telling you! Let’s see if you can guess!

          • TheShoeSnob

            you aren’t telling me anything, hence why I am not listening.

            please do stop by

          • Ape Mcgee

            Spot on Zatara! Spot on! riding on the coattails of G&G whilst overcharging and eBegging as you put it. Hey Justin, how did that sample sale go btw? Did anyone actually buy those foul J. Fitzpatrick mainlines? or did they all flock to GG? I suspect the latter!

            Just looked at his balance sheet too, I feel sorry for the long-term creditor, they got bumped! And that 60k worth of button boots and two tones probably need a massive write down!

          • Blue

            Comma after “on.”

            “Riding” should be capitalized.

            Comma after “eBegging.”

            New paragraph for “Hey Justin …”

            Comma after “go.”

            “Or” should be capitalized.

            “GG” should be “G&G.”

            Period, not comma, after “too.”

            Semi-colon after “creditor,” not comma.

            “Need” should be “needs” since it has to agree with “60k”

            Ape, for all the hang ups you have over grammar, you write like a retard.

          • Benhaligon

            What a troll! Just ignore the haters, as they are bound to appear as your presence grows. It’s all too easy to get swept up in the din of haterism, because they always speak so loudly, but don’t let them distract you for even on minute. Seriously, Justin; don’t even give jealous assholes like Zatara a single moment of your consideration! You have turned your passion into a viable business and there is something to be said about that. He couldn’t turn his passion into a career because Perez Hilton and Donald Trump already have the monetized-internet-based-trolling market locked up, so it seems his passionate obsession with flaming you will have to remain an unpaid hobby. I suppose he’s had to find something to do with time after losing his nut in day trading, but you should feel no pain from the barbs he lobs at you from his mum’s basement. Keep doing what you’re doing, keep following your heart and keep transforming your passion into beautiful, real-life, tangible things! His words are nothing but a distraction from your happiness.

          • zatara wood

            I was wondering when one of the iGent sycophants would emerge from the woodwork! Serious question, do you wear button boots, or cloth and leather Frankenstein shoes? Do you walk around in leather soles good year welted shoes and actually find them comfortable?

            In retrospect I was a little bit rude but I was trying to make genuine points about the shoes. You seem instead to have seen this as a personal attack and want to now play the man not the ball. No idea where you got the idea that I’m a day trader Lol It also would be quite difficult to live in my mothers basement since she died about 35 years ago!

  • Barkus Rudis

    Zatara, go pick a fight with The British & Irish Lions cleats company.