What’s So Special About Leather Soles?Written by Gavin Humphreys
Leather soles are the quintessential image of luxury shoes - but what’s so special about them?
Aren’t modern materials better? How long do leather soles last anyway? Aren’t they slippery?
Until recently, I had never worn shoes with leather soles. Now, I wouldn’t accept anything else.
There are a lot of reasons to value leather soles, which you might not have known. Many of the perceived drawbacks can be mitigated too.
In this blog, you will find out everything you need to know about soles fashioned from real leather!
Leather sole benefits
First of all, let me tell you the benefits I have discovered since using high-quality shoes with leather soles:
- Comfort - leather adapts to the way you walk
- Breathability - essential for healthy feet
- Elegance - they feel classy to wear!
- Support - sturdier, which I’ve found better supports against twists
- Resoleability - easier to resole than plastic or rubber soles
- Sustainability - a natural material, should last a long time, and can be replaced
- Variety - not all leather soles are the same
- Real artisanal quality - handcrafted and stitched by skilled shoemakers (not always, but in the case of Beckett Simonon!)
Let me elaborate on some of these benefits a little, and tell you:
Why you should buy shoes with leather soles
Everybody looks for something different when it comes to shoes. But given the variety of benefits, at least one of the advantages to leather soles is for you.
In terms of elegance, leather soles are easily the most formal and attractive of shoe soles.
If you want to use natural products, then leather soles should be top on your list.
The biggy for me, though, which really sells leather soles, is that I don’t get some of the issues I’ve had with other soles. Good leather boots with leather soles, make my ankles feel supported. With a well-tapered waist it also gives flexibility, which works great for my feet because I have high arches and a wide foot.
They are an excellent choice for the 2020 world - there has been a backlash against throw-away culture, and an ‘awakening’ of the importance of natural materials which will last a long time and can be fixed. You only have to remember to give them a bit of care.
The best way to care for leather soles
Soles are cut from a hardy piece of leather from the center of the cowhide. Strong as it is, as with any natural material, it needs to be looked after.
With shoe rotation and regular care, leather soles should last for years of normal usage.
Shoe trees are a rule. They help them keep their shape.
After wearing shoes in the rain, simply dab the soles with a cloth or paper. Insert the shoe trees and leave them on their sides to dry. Don’t put them too close to the heat, allow them to dry gently. Wooden shoe trees also absorb some of the moisture - in a pinch, stuff with newspaper to draw some of the water out.
If you don’t do this, the soles can warp and even get mold - like I say, this is a natural material!
Sole leather protector oils or sprays help (we can recommend Saphir Sole Guard) but still follow the other tips above.
When you are not wearing your shoes for a period of time, make sure they are clean, dry, and store them in a shoe bag.
We all walk differently - if you find that the tip of your sole wears down particularly fast, you can get a cobbler to add a metal toe-plate.
Eventually the leather will wear down. Make sure to bring them to a skilled cobbler to get the sole changed before their wearing affects any other part of the shoe.
When to replace leather soles
Leather soles are easy to replace. In a world where sustainable living becomes more important every day, this is one of their big advantages
Examine the edge - you will see layers. Leather dress shoes (e.g. the Hoyt Monkstrap) often just have the sole and then the leather welt above. Other footwear (e.g. the Laval Chukka Boots) might have a layer of leather and a layer of rubber, and then the welt! You don’t want to wear into the layer above the part of the sole you want to replace.
Leather soles are made from thick and strong leather. If you run your finger over the bottom of your shoe and it flexes easily, that is a good sign it’s almost worn through.
Of course, if they have a hole in them, you know it’s urgent!
Resolability also depends on the quality of the shoes you buy. Beckett Simonon shoes and boots all use the Mackay stitching method, which is great for resolability. The stitches are lock-stitched, which means that if you wear through a stitch, it won’t unravel (each individual stitch is locked off). This gives the soles a longer life.
To see a little more about how we make our products, check out our website's craftsmanship section.
What to do about slippery leather soles
People worry a lot about this. I haven’t found it to be a big problem, but I have been there too - it is possible to avoid that embarrassing skid walking over a metal sheet!
The simplest way is to take them out of the box and go straight for a walk along a gravel path. As you wear your shoes, you will find that traction improves and improves.
Another way is to take it as a zen reminder that ‘those who hurry, cannot walk with dignity’: when you wear your shoes walk upright, place each foot carefully. Other than not slipping, this has three benefits - you look distinguished, you feel calmer, and you will maintain your shoes in tip-top fashion for even longer.
Also, take advantage of the rubber heel caps, which most leather shoes have. These can save the day if you are crossing a polished marble floor - if you put your weight on this heel, you should be fine.
You might want to try adding rubber protectors, which can be discreet to keep the elegance, but add a little traction.
Or why not go with the flow? Make the most of perfect, new, leather soles and slide into the room like Fred Astaire!
How to break in leather-soled shoes
One of the great things about high-quality leather soles (in my experience, as well as I read in our reviews section) is that they don’t need much in the way of breaking in.
When a shoe is well made, it shouldn’t be painful to wear. Beckett Simonon shoemakers last their shoes for a period of days (that is, leave them on a foot-shaped mold to take shape) and this helps the leather take the form of a foot. For this reason, many people find they are ‘good to go’ straight from the box, and don’t need breaking in.
If you buy a pair of Beckett Simonon Dean Oxfords, for example, the soles have a thin waist, which means they look more elegant, but also are pretty flexible to start with.
You might find that the leather soles are not as flexible as you want at first, perhaps there is a little movement at the heel as you walk. This is totally normal. After a few weeks of use, the leather will become a little more flexible.
As with all shoes, wearing them around the house and for short walks is a good way to get shoes used to your feet, and your feet used to the shoes.
Be sure to cycle them with your other shoes. You will find it works better if you wear them once or twice a week, and the leather will slowly become more gentle.
Another top tip is to choose the kind of shoe for the usage you are going to put it through. As an example, for work, fancy nights out, dates, weddings, you might slide on some Wright Austerity Oxfords, or the Valencia Wholecuts. If you will be doing more walking the Dunham Derbies and Gallagher Boots, for example, have a combination leather and rubber sole.
Leather soles stand out. They not only shout class and quality - they are also the answer to the 2020 priorities of repairability, versatility, and quality craftsmanship.
The passion the artisans put into each sole really shows when you wear these. Before they are even attached to the upper of the shoe, the leatherworkers cut, trim, flatten, polish, stamp, curve the edges of the waist, tint, polish again, add the leather welts and the heel stacks… It’s a wonderful process.
When you have a quality product like this, it comes across in your life - it makes you more elegant, more comfortable, and more ready to face the world.
Check out our range of shoes and boots, and if you have any questions about our leather soles, send a message to the team (above on the right) or leave me a comment below, and I’ll get back to you.
I want to see leather soled dance shoes for dancing for women with a small heel
I like to dance at Senior lunches when the entertainment is music. I can’t find casual leather soled women’s shoes. They are all made with rubber soles and then I have to go to a shoemaker to see if he can change the soles from rubber to leather. That is just another cost to have that done.
I’m with you 100% I wouldn’t wear anything else for semi formal and for square dancing anything for tuff outdoor use put a little rubber at front of sole. Thank you for that informative article
Great for Grounding! connecting to Mother Earth!