There is a long debate on the differences between leather soles vs rubber soles with regard 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 pros and cons for each in order for you to understand better the truth behind both options
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 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 footbed actually creating much more comfort than its rubber counterpart. But this is also providing that arch support is correct.
Leather Cons: 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 provide much in terms of comfort if not accompanied by proper fitting lasts/certain shoe constructions 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 Pros: 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 Cons: 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.
Leather Pros: 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 Cons: 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 soles from the best brands there are in a matter of months due to how frequently 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 seams etc..
Rubber Pros: 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 Cons: If it cracks, it’s over. And sometimes it can crack for no apparent reason. Or if you try to dry it (i.e. leave your shoes on the heater) after being wet. I have seen what looked like good rubber soles, all of a sudden crack and then they are pretty much ruined as the cracks will only get worse.
Leather Pros: 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 Pros: Some snobs and/or traditionalists will say that Rubber soles cannot be elegant or 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
Why not add some pictures of well worn in leather soles?
There doesn’t seem to be any reference to history rubber (plastic really) has been around for only the last 40 years.
It’s the waste that matters plastic soled shoes don’t degrade leather does.
And don’t forget wooden soled leather upper clogs – brilliant you can fix them easily yourself.
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.
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.
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?
I love how much you spend on my blog. Keep coming back and building my SEO. Thanks mate.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
you aren’t telling me anything, hence why I am not listening.
please do stop by
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!
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.
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.
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!
No one is considering leather vs. Rubber as it relates to wedding dances. How can one moonwalk in rubber soled shoes?
Zatara, go pick a fight with The British & Irish Lions cleats company.
You disagree because you do not dance … elegantly !!!
LEATHER SOLED SHOES HAVE NEVER WORKED FOR ME. I HAVE BOUGHT THEM IN THE PAST FOR THERE LOOKS BUT THEY JUST AREN’T DURABLE ENOUGH. MAYBE THERE ARE SOME DOUBLE SOLED HIGH END STOCK BROKER APPAREL TYPES OUT THERE THAT LAST BUT CONSIDERING THE MONEY I HAVE PAID I’D SAY THEY AREN’T WORTH IT.A GOOD DURABLE RUBBER SOLE THAT DOSEN’T SQUELCH ON A TILED FLOOR WHEN WET( IE IN SHOPS) IS THE ONE FOR ME AND MY LIFE STYLE. LEATHER SOLES COME ACROSS TO ME AS FOR THE GENTRY INDOORS TYPES, PROFESSIONALS, A QUICK GUANT FROM THE COURT HOUSE TO PORSCHE CARRERA TEN OUT TO DINNER.
Leather soles are so DANGEROUS!
they are terribly slippery esp on a wet pavement
and leather wears out so fast
Conclusion: leather soles are OK for posing on the Hollywood Red Carpet but otherwise they shd be banned on safety grounds ! So now you know.
Leather soles are dangerous OMG my husband would laugh if he read that. Banned on the grounds of safety? Men used to be afraid of BEARS and now they are afraid of slipping in their fancy shoes. Leather soles have been the main material for human shoes for centuries and now people are scared of them? Oh well..to each his own. I noticed that no one mentioned the benefits of leather soles grounding you to the earth as opposed to the barrier that our newly developed (last century) synthetic soles create. I don’t know if he’s right but my doctor says the heart is electrical and needs to be grounded to the earth as much as possible (large source of electrons) as it has always been for thousands of years until we changed everything and went with synthetic rubber on our feet. He believes this is contributing to a huge increase in the A fib among other things that we are seeing in this generation of men. I don’t know if hew right but it might be worth mentioning as it would be another vote in favor of leather soles. Cardiologist Dr Sinatra feels the same way I think. Anyway, I’d just assume not have them banned by the fearful ones just in case they are right. 🙂
Hey Victoria. How good to have someone actually recognise the importance of being grounded to the earth. We re the only species on earth not grounded ever since synthetics were invented and look at the trouble we humans have gotten ourselves into ever since. It is possible for men to buy semi smart conductive soled sheos but nothing at all for women. As a believer in the benefits of being grounded at all times, both for health and stress relief in these troubled times I have been thwarted at every attempt to purchase conductive shoes and sandals. So I now wear grounding straps on my shoes and boots and by using metal split wing paper clips through the soles, my sandals are now conductive also.
Grounded at all times…
Except when you’re inside most of the day and have 3+ feet of synthetic material, plastic septic tanks, and whatever other manner of manmade materials are placed underneath modern society separating you from the internal energy field of the Earth…
Wow! I have never read somebody so desperately overcompensating as much as my namesake (no relation), zatara.
Good read, Mr ShoeSnob. I read all the pros about rubber soles, but I can’t bring myself to have them on my shoes. It’s probably an age thing, going back to when I bought my first pair of Saxone(!) leather soled brogues as a kid in 1969.
I am on my feet 100% of the day. As I walk “duck-footed”, the out edge of my heels wears out first. Far, far sooner than any other part. When it comes to leather soles, is the heel always leather as well?
The heel is usually a mix between leather/rubber but in some cases of cheap shoes it is a not leather at all
I consume understood what observed like decent rubber & plastics soles, all of the unexpected crack and then it are attractive much tumble-down as the blows will only get inferior.
Lot of knowledge here! Don’t know why all social Media/blogosphere are so toxic?
I do not either. People love to be negative. Thank you for commenting and the kind words
Need for leather sole shoe
Justin, for the love of all that is holy please disable your blog comments, because the exchange I read above between you and Zatara is something no-one should have to read. You seriously demean yourself by engaging publicly with trolls like that like that and I cringed havily reading both of your responses.
hello Dwayne, not sure if you noticed the dates but that is from about 7 years ago or so. I do not engage with trolls anymore. But yes, maybe i should delete these old comments.
I needed to send my shoes away for repair and was torn between Dainite and JR sole until I read your blog! I’ve decided I should go for JR sole with a cover sole instead of Dainite. I have been to your shop near Canarby Street few years ago, I do like your buttons shoes, I think they are very smart. I don’t understand why that Zatara guy is so bittered, jealousy perhaps because he couldn’t afford owning your shoes? Please don’t delete those comments no matter how negative they are, it shows you have nothing to hide.
Thank you for commenting Mike. I do appreciate it.
Never wore leather sole shoes again, after slipping up while boarding a train and nearly doing myself in.
that’s too bad
Hey Justin, loved the blog post. I recently bought a used pair of AE Randolph Penny Loafers online and had them resoled with double JR soles and new cork etc. They’re in the same size as my Oxfords but for some reason I wore them out today and noticed that my big toe was sliding forward a bit during each step. This only happened on my left foot. I was wondering if you had any insight. It was squeaking, which leads me to believe it was sweat mixed with the smooth insole (it was summer and I was sweaty). Maybe it could also be missizing (it has a bit of heel slip) or the stiffness of the double JR soles mixed with loafers (no laces). Any advice? I just dropped about $400 in the resole so I’d hate to have to discard them.
Hello, glad that you enjoyed the post. I have a few questions. Did you try these on before resoling them? Reading this post that I just wrote yesterday might shed some light. Sounds like you needed to size down in them.
Genuinely interested in this topic and thank you for sharing insights and info. I’m approaching my 50th now and I’ve only ever had rubber sole shoes apart from one disastrous pair of leather soles that always always meant my feet for wet when ever it rained (I made the mistake of buying a fairly cheap pair of Oxford shoes at the time). Im now able to afford a higher quality shoe and I’m taking my time researching. I like the idea of breathability (based in the UK now but have spent a lot of the last 5 years in the Middle East) and – I do tend to do a lot of walking. Back to my research, I’m thinking that I want a ‘forever’ shoe now that will see me out the rest of my days. Something that will over time become almost at one with my feet – love the idea that leather sole will mound to the shape of my foot. Anyway – thanks again for the article. Don’t worry about the trolls! Cheers.
Hey Matt, thank you for comment and kind words. I get less trolls nowadays, thankfully. A double leather sole is a good one to think about for having that sleek look but comfort and durability to match. I love a good double leather sole and can walk all day in them!
The pointedness of all these shoes looks like a Chinese foot binding operation. I cannot imagine the foot ailments that will be faced in old age.
Thank you very much Justin for the article.
Will the addition of half a rubber sole (on the original leather sole) make the sole last longer?
And what do you think about Toe Taps on the heel of the shoe?
(I note that I live in Israel and I still haven’t found a cobbler who deserves his title of ‘cobbler’, most of them have never heard of Goodyear Waltted, etc.)
There are many theories to your question, none that I have ever tested personally. Naturally one would think that a rubber addition helps to prolong the life of the leather sole. The naysayers say that it then doesn’t allow the sole to break and therefore the sole gets ruined from within, from all of the perspiration. Sadly, I own way too much shoes to know this first hand. But, yes, just for the sake of saving having to resole, a rubber addition will help with that and save you there.
Toe taps on the heel are a no-no. Loud and slippery.