Pros and Cons of Leather Soles (+3 Best Leather Sole Boots)

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by  Jon Wadsworth | Last Updated: 

Is it hard to justify buying a pair of leather sole boots?

It doesn’t have to be. If you have an outfit that will benefit from boots with a lower profile then there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t at least look into buying a pair. There are negatives to leather soles though, so research is the key.

In the right environment, a pair of classy leather sole boots will feel like you’re wearing slippers. Leather soles are the most formal option for a pair of boots (shoes, too), and the issues over durability and functionality are often misleading.

Benefits of Leather Soles

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There’s something about boots with leather soles that people seem to either love or hate, often without looking into why.

Most shoes and boots have at least some grip on the sole, so on first seeing a shiny leather sole, it’s understandable you’d be wary. Add in the issues with a lack of water resistance, and you can be forgiven for backing away.

The thing is though, while those issues are valid, worn at the right time, a low profile leather boot offers a formal yet comfortable alternative to rubber soles.

Those of us who love boots with a leather sole know that they can be a fantastic buy that finishes off an outfit in style. Haters often assume they’ll wear out in days and leak like the Titanic.

The truth is somewhere in between, so I’ve put together a list of the best and worst aspects of owning a pair of leather sole boots to help you make up your mind. Let’s start with the pros. By the end, you should have a clearer idea of where you stand (hopefully in your new leather sole boots).

1. Stylish and Elegant

ariat workhog work boot with sawdust 1

It’s hard not to notice that a pair of leather sole boots just look excellent; a boot with a leather sole has a different style to it. The perfect addition to your wardrobe and great for wearing around town, leather soles create a narrower profile that brings a touch of class. 

A great example is the Beckett Simonon Douglas Jodhpur Boot. Formal enough to pass muster in most situations, and made from full-grain leather, this boot could worn at work or to a special occasion.

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Made with buttery-smooth full grain Italian leather, the Douglas Jodhpur from Beckett Simonon is a substantial and stylish boot.

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There are also more casual-looking boots, such as the Cartwright boot by Tecovas, a more traditional yet equally good-looking boot that can be worn daily. There is the issue of a lack of waterproofing with the Cartwright boot, it’s a classic looking western boot, but it’s probably better worn by a city slicker than a trailblazer.

The lower profile that a leather sole offers gives a pair of leather sole boots a traditional look; they don’t make you look bigger and won’t drastically improve your height either. What these boots will do is add an air of sophistication to your appearance. If the old saying “horses for courses” is true, these boots were made for a thoroughbred.

2. Adaptability 

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, and given that people have been wearing boots with leather soles for thousands of years, there must be a good reason for it.

Leather is one of the most versatile materials around. A leather sole will, over time, mould to your feet. While wear and tear on a rubber boot gives a scuffed, used look, leather looks lived in and mature.

A great reason to choose leather soles is that you can have a hybrid sole made of multiple materials. There are boots available with (or you can have a cobbler add them) rubber sole protectors, rubber heel tips, and rubber studs.

Thursday Boots Cavalier leather sole detail
The Thursday Cavalier has a leather sole with rubber stud inserts

Adding another material like rubber to your leather sole can increase durability and grip and make them last longer without having to be resoled. The significant part of adding material like rubber to a leather sole is that the profile doesn’t have to suffer, with both grip and lifespan increased.

Thursday Cavalier

The Thursday Cavalier is Goodyear welted, leather lined, and offers excellent value. This particular Shadow Grey version is forever battling it out for the title of my favorite casual everyday Chelsea boot, and even with 20+ pairs of shoes in my closet, it's very often my go-to.

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Thankfully for us, we’re way past the hobnail boot stage. The iconic Wolverine 1000 Mile has a Vibram heel attached to reduce wear and tear.

closeup on Wolverine 1000 Mile boot leather sole
Wolverine 1000 Mile leather sole with Vibram top lift (heel cap)

An advantage of a rubber heel cap is that once it’s almost worn down, it can be ripped off and replaced, avoiding the cost and hassle of a complete resole. We’ve got a great video on YouTube that covers 5 things you must know before buying boots which explains everything in much more detail.

3. Breathable Materials

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Walking around all day in clunky, heavy boots can be a drag; your feet soon overheat, and inevitably you’ll start to smell less than vibrant.

If you already own a pair of boots that have a thick rubber sole, you may notice that your feet can suffer, moisture doesn’t escape easily, which can lead to problems over time.

Boots with a large rubber sole don’t breathe very well, but more natural materials like leather can help keep your feet cool and free of odors. Many wearers of boots with leather soles notice how different they feel to wear them.

Many leather soles are created using a process of vegetable tanning. The procedure itself takes some time, with several steps needed before the leather is ready to turn into a sole. Vegetable tanning creates a very breathable and pliable leather, so you’ll find that after a short time, the sole moulds itself to your foot shape, making them incredibly comfortable to wear.

Drawbacks of Leather Soles

Unless you’re blessed with unlimited funds (if you are, email me, let’s be friends), you’ll sometimes have to trade one benefit against another.

It could be the cost versus the functionality of a new pair of leather sole boots or the choice of materials versus the style. 

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The cons of choosing boots with a leather sole can seem like dealbreakers depending on when and where you plan on wearing your new boots. Often, it’s a lack of information that makes people shy away from buying leather sole boots, not the actual problem itself.

1. Waterproof Issues

Wow, you look great in those new boots, the leather sole really carries that suit, slimline, classy, they’re very you… Aarrgh, a puddle, abort, abort!

Okay, it’s unlikely your boot will disintegrate at the first sign of rain, but the simple fact is a leather sole isn’t suited for use in wet conditions. 

Everyone knows a leather sole is as waterproof as a sponge, right? Wearing synthetic soles like rubber keeps the water away from your feet, while leather soles are naturally more porous.

Prolonged contact with water won’t do your leather sole any favors, but there are ways to keep on top of any issues. Many leather soles are treated using a chemical called Butyl, which, although Butyl doesn’t waterproof like rubber, will increase the water resistance of your boots. 

Another viable alternative is Saphir Medaille d’Or Sole Guard, which you can apply to the sole to treat the leather. After a few applications, your sole becomes water-resistant, but not fully waterproof.

Saphir Medaille d'Or Sole Guard

The best product for treating your leather soles, period. This will add years of life to your leather soles and keep them protected from getting waterlogged.

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2. Lack of Grip

A significant issue people have with leather soles, especially when browsing in-store, is they pick up a great-looking pair of boots, turn them over, and see a beautiful smooth sole.

Imaginations run wild with scenes of striding into a restaurant or office, and as soon as your foot hits a smooth tile, whoosh, you’re a goner. So you sadly replace the boots on the shelf and move on.

That doesn’t have to be the case; as I mentioned in the pros section, many boots that come with leather soles also have the flexibility to have rubber injected or glued onto them. This both adds grip and prolongs the lifespan of the sole itself. 

3. Cost vs. Lifespan

A leather sole also won’t last as long as a rubber sole if you don’t look after it properly.

Properly caring for and maintaining your boots will increase their lifespan by some time, which can offset the cost of your purchase. Leather sole boots are usually bought as your “Sunday best,” so they probably aren’t worn daily. But even if they are, having spent more on them, you should look at how best to maintain them, our guide to conditioning your boots is a great starting point for this. 

They’re an investment in quality, not just a tool, and once you come to terms with that, you could come to terms with the added cost. If not, I’ve put together a selection of some of my favorite leather sole boots that cover most wearers’ needs.

3 Amazing Leather Sole Boots

1. American-made: Wolverine 1000 Mile

Wolverine 1000 Mile walking through autumn leaves and grass
Wearing the Wolverine 1000 Mile in Horween Chromexcel Cordovan #8

With all the style and chiseled features you’d expect of a Wolverine boot, the American-made Wolverine 1000 Mile is a world-class pair of boots. They look like classic boots, and because of that, they simply won’t go out of style. The longer you have these boots, the better they’ll look, as the leather ages like a fine wine.

One of my favorite features of the Wolverine 1000 Mile boot is the Vibram heel cap, the profile of the boot is elegant, and the cap brings greater durability.

Wolverine 1000 Mile

The Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot is like an all-star team of America’s best boot-making materials. The Horween Chromexcel leather and Vibram heel cap offer rugged durability that can easily go for 1000 miles---or a decade, whichever comes first.

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2. Cowboy boot: Tecovas Cartwright

Tecovas Cartwright boot on grass
Wearing the Tecovas Cartwright

The Tecovas Cartwright is a classic western boot with a more modern fit. And the price is exceptional for the quality.

The company itself has a fascinating history, too, and is well worth taking the time to look into. You’ll be hard-pressed to source a better boot with a leather sole for a fair price.

3. Dress boot: Beckett Simonon Douglas

beckett simonon douglas jodhpur

A formal boot that warrants inspection is the Beckett Simonon Douglas, a boot that looks just as good worn around town as it does in the office.

The wait time can be several months, but the Douglas boot is well worth the wait. It’s made from full-grain Italian leather, which makes them durable and breathable. The craftsmanship of the boots is clear to see and coupled with the materials used, these boots look epic.

The traditional retail price and the substantially lower made-to-order price are worth noting. With Beckett Simonon cutting out the middlemen, they reduce the end costs, which they then pass on to you. A great-looking product with a lot to recommend it, well worth checking out.

Exclusive Discount Available
Beckett Simonon Douglas Jodhpur
(Get 15% OFF with code Spy15)

Made with buttery-smooth full grain Italian leather, the Douglas Jodhpur from Beckett Simonon is a substantial and stylish boot.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Sole Objective Complete

Without the correct information, it’s easy to see why people shy away from boots with leather soles. Hopefully, I’ve given you food for thought, as the right pair really can be a terrific addition to your collection. 

FAQs

Is a rubber or leather sole better?

Leather soles are more formal, while rubber soles perform far better in rain and inclement weather. Depending on if you live in a rainy climate or not, rubber soles will be more durable. But leather is always the dressier choice.

Do leather soles wear out quickly?

If you wear your boots daily, the leather sole will wear out after 18 months or so, especially on rougher terrain. You can offset this by buying boots with both leather and rubber soles or taking your boots to a specialist who could attach a rubber sole protector. If you use a product like Saphir Medaille Sole Guard, this will also increase the lifespan of your boots.

Should you oil leather soles?

You don’t need to oil your leather soles, but doing so will extend their lifetime. It also helps to maintain a good level of water resistance, which is especially helpful in wet climates.

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Thursday Captain
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