Shoe brands love touting their unique designs and materials in slick-sounding jargon. Supposedly sustainable or revolutionary foams, recycled knits and meshes are major selling points and points of competition between brands.
But such terminology can only take a shoe so far, and how these materials perform when worn is, quite literally, where the rubber meets the road.
So, before we start with our comparison, let’s look at the history behind outsoles – the bottom part of your shoes that touches the ground.
History of outsoles
When it comes to shoes, the first material choice since many years ago was leather.
Well, it was readily available from various animals, and thought to be the most accessible material to use for shoes then.
Then, about 200 years ago, we saw rubber hitting the manufacturing scene. The big thing about this is that they could replace luxurious, expensive materials with different types of rubber, be it the more sustainable natural rubber or the cheaper synthetic rubber.
And suddenly, rubber was able to get precisely the same and even better properties than that of leather outsoles, at a more sustainable manner with better price point!
And that's the critical factor. The accessibility and sustainability were the turning point for most shoe manufacturers.
However, leather is still used in many ‘dress-shoes' as they are considered classy. Some shoe-soles are also made up of rubber or polyurethane (PU) soles or sometimes a mix of leather and rubber.
Now that you know the history of outsoles, let us compare the properties of leather to rubber soles.
Leather sole vs. Rubber sole
- Leather Sole Pros: Leather soles are frequently thought of as this hard material that doesn't take comfort into account. The issue with this line of reasoning is that it really doesn't consider that while leather was made to be hard, one must not overlook that it is still skin and can form and shape to your foot, permitting it to develop a familiar shape when treated and used correctly.
- Leather Sole Cons: Considering the downside, if the leather is not correctly combined with the cork or not correctly constructed, it has the tendency to become very rigid and fail to provide the comfort that we need.
- Rubber Sole Pros: Rubber is regularly adaptable, leaving a minimal break-in period. Subsequently, you generally don't feel so hardened when a shoe is made of a rubber sole, thus giving you the cushiony effect with every stride.
- Rubber Sole Cons: Rubbers don't mould and take the shape of your feet, unlike leather, but the insole does. So, depending on how you walk, your feet can feel slightly tired after long walks. But then again, the rigidity is good if you are using added insoles in your shoes.
- Leather Sole Pros: The durability of a leather sole depends on the number of leather layers it has.
For instance, a 3-layered leather sole can last quite long. So, the more layers it has, the more durable it is. So be careful to check on this, as not all leather outsoles are made equal.
- Leather Cons: The demerit is just the opposite of its merits, i.e., the number of layers.
If a leather sole has fewer layers, it'd become more fragile and definitely not durable nor practical.
- Rubber Pros: Due to the nature of rubber, it can be very durable. A good quality natural rubber sole is almost unbeatable. Due to the water-resistance nature, you don't need to fear at all when it gets wet. It can last long and is more practical for different types of weather.
- Rubber Cons: The only demerit of rubber sole is if it somehow cracks, then it's gone. Although, you can easily go to the cobbler to get it replaced. But if without cracks, it can last very long!
- Leather Cons: Unfortunately, while leather soles are classy, they are not practical for everyday wear. Leather outsoles are naturally slippery and when wet, it can be a real trouble (imagine slipping in a public restroom?!)
So, if you happen to have already owned shoes that are made of slippery outsoles, do check out this article ‘Slippery shoes? Try the top 4 DIY tips to help you out!’
Rubber Pros: In general, a natural rubber outsole will give you a better grip than leather soles. They are pliable and offers reliable traction in both warm and cool weather conditions. High-quality natural rubber is also able to provide grip when exposed to oil and water. So, if you want to save yourself from the occasional slides and falls, then natural rubber outsole is the best anti-slip option for shoes. And at the end of the day, comfort is also dependent on peace of mind. If you can walk with ease on any type of surfaces, then that is the material you should opt for.
Choose depending on your need
As you can see, there are major differences between leather outsoles and natural rubber outsoles for everyday shoes. So be it for comfort, durability, or grip, it really depends on what you consider to be important for your need.
And if you are like most women who wouldn’t want to go through the embarrassment of slipping in a public area, then go for shoes with natural rubber outsoles such as those made by Toufie. Check out the full range of anti-slip shoes here.
Till next time, be slip-safe!