The perfect shoe sole – leather or rubber?
They carry us around the world more than three times in our lives, our shoes. A small layer of leather, rubber or other materials such as raffia protects our feet from bumps, cold or heat. Far too little attention is paid to the sole of the shoe, although it has an extremely important function. We want to change that today and are dealing with the question of which sole is actually better – the rubber sole or the leather sole? And is it worth adding a rubber sole to a leather sole afterwards?
History of the shoe sole
Thousands of years ago, people wanted to protect their feet from the weather and other unpleasant influences on the soles of the feet. When Ötzi was found, archaeologists came across robust shoes with soles made from bear leather. Later, in ancient times, many different shoe and sole shapes developed. The condition of the shoes was often an expression of the social position of their wearer. Leather shoes were very expensive. The soles of these traditionally welted shoes were also made of leather and were often protected by the addition of wooden sole strips to protect them from the rubbish and dirt on the streets. The common people usually wore wooden soles anyway.
In the 19th century, the rubber sole was developed and began to establish itself on the market. However, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the shoe itself became a mass product that everyone could afford and the rubber sole was perfected. Today there are many different types of soles that are perfectly adapted to the use and function of the shoes. In the course of industrialization, synthetic fabrics were developed that are used as uppers, but also as shoe soles. Special bonding and adhesives ensure the necessary hold of the soles on the shoes. So we have highly specialized running shoes with rubber compounds for an elastic gait that even increase the performance of a runner. Work shoes with soles that protect against acids, but also still traditional shoes with high-quality leather soles. Crafted to perfection, they always look high-quality and elegant.
The leather sole
The leather sole is the classic among shoe soles. Special, particularly hard and rigid sole leather is used for them. Traditionally, and taking into account the high quality of the shoes, a leather sole is not glued, but sewn. Shoes with a sewn leather sole are welted shoes. The process was developed by Andreas Eppler and patented by Charles Goodyear in 1872. First, the upper part of the shoe and the insole (inner sole) are sewn together invisibly. These two are then sewn onto a frame about 3 millimeters wide. Finally, the leather sole is attached with a double seam.
Advantages of the leather sole
The natural material leather is extremely comfortable to wear. It is particularly breathable, has a high vapor permeability and thus ensures a great foot climate. Moisture from sweating our feet is drained to the outside, the foot will always be pleasantly dry. In addition, a leather sole is relatively non-slip (except in winter and on really, very smooth floors) and offers a high level of walking comfort. The sole of a high-quality men’s shoe is almost always made of leather. The thinner the sole, the more elegant the shoe looks. A Goodyear welted shoe with a leather sole, such as an Oxford or Derby, is simply a must with a classy suit or on the dance floor. He makes the outfit perfect.
On a long business day with client meetings, business lunches, evening receptions and much more, it is worth resorting to shoes with good leather soles. You wear a business shoe all day long and you will notice it in the evening if you have worn a good quality shoe with a breathable leather sole on your feet.
The rubber sole
In 1839, Charles Nelson Goodyear invented the vulcanization process, which revolutionized the production of shoes and shoe soles. The process made it possible to produce the waterproof and resilient rubber soles that are so popular today. This material increased the range of different shoes with very special soles immensely. The rubber sole has made particular progress in the area of the sports shoes brought. Modern sports shoes now have special cushioning systems in the rubber sole that stabilize the foot, cushion movements and thus actively support professional and leisure runners in their sport. Or let’s take the work shoes, which with their very strong profile ensure an absolutely safe step and also protect against acids and oil. Hiking and trekking shoes also rely on heavily profiled soles made of rubber or rubber-like material. These are particularly popular this season trekking sandals – derived from the thick rubber sole of the chunky sneaker, the designers have created a summery variant.
Leather Sole vs. Rubber Sole – “A Matter of Attitude”
Many, especially men, insist on leather soles because only they add the icing on the cake to a well-dressed man’s outfit. We have already explained the advantages of a leather sole on a welted shoe above. But there is also a small disadvantage here. The frame seam can only be stressed with a leather sole. In addition, leather does not withstand long-term and high levels of moisture so well. In winter, there is also the road salt on our footpaths and streets, which makes the leather sole difficult to deal with. Help your leather soles in the cold season with a regular oil bath.
A modern, thin rubber sole is almost indistinguishable from a leather sole. It keeps moisture out and, thanks to its high quality and various degrees of hardness and flexibility, ensures excellent wearing comfort. So you are not committing a faux pax if you also wear shoes with a thin rubber sole in the office or on the street. Shoes with a rubber sole have long ceased to be a sign of inferior quality. However, for official occasions, weddings or christenings, we still recommend shoes with leather soles. So nobody can give a general answer to the question of whether shoes with leather soles or rubber soles are better. In addition, it only applies to men’s low shoes. All other types of shoes, such as sneakers or boots, usually require rubber soles. If you pay attention to quality, you can also be perfectly dressed with a rubber sole.
Gluing a rubber sole to a leather sole afterwards?
The question of whether or not a rubber sole should be applied over the leather sole to protect against climatic influences and to increase slip resistance is also being discussed more and more. In addition, the subsequently applied rubber sole protects the leather sole from wear and tear. We cannot answer this question unequivocally either. It is always a question of taste and one’s own aesthetic sensibilities, whether one wears a good shoe with a rubber sole from the outset or whether one wants to protect one’s valuable leather soles with synthetic material in order to make the soles last longer.
Many experienced leather sole wearers have just a pair of weatherproof shoes with rubber soles for the bad and wet days,
but otherwise swear by the classic leather soles. If you spend a lot of time outdoors and indoors, then you don’t need to protect your shoe soles additionally. For dancing, you should even use leather soles, since you don’t need slip resistance in that sense. If you are one of those people for whom the tip of the shoe sole wears out very quickly at the front, then use a special shoe sole. That’s enough.