The leather sole has always been synonymous with elegance and refinement for both men’s and women’s shoes. However, in recent times, fashion has changed: the so-called “business casual style” has opened the doors of offices to more informal shoe models, such as sneakers. These comfortable shoes, more suited to a dynamic life, have been replacing the traditional female heeled shoe, as well as the evergreen brogues or men’s moccasins.
These new models privilege soles in synthetic materials, which the purchaser generally defines as “rubber sole”, where the word “rubber” actually combines different types of synthetic material, such as PVC, thermoplastic polyurethane, ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) and others.
Many virtues are attributed to the “rubber sole”, such as waterproofness, flexibility, resistance and the “non-slip” characteristic. All these qualities are often taken as valid purchasing reasons when opting for a shoe sole made of synthetic material instead of leather.
But is it really so? Or is there more?
Shoes with leather soles: the advantages
While the advantages of the rubber sole are well known, there is not enough understanding of the advantages of shoes with leather soles:
- breathability: leather soles allow the foot to breathe, keeping the interior of the shoe cool and dry. They are therefore the ideal element to combine with a shoe upper and lining made of vegetable tanned leather with tannin.
- resistance: the leather sole resists the roughness of the ground, avoiding perforation and acting as an effective barrier to protect the foot.
- thermal regulation: the leather sole allows a good temperature regulation. A key ability, especially for summer shoes: let’s think about the sidewalk pavement, which turns so hot under the sun. Imagine having to walk there. What do you think protects your feet better from the heat? Leather or rubber?
- prevents the “shock”: shoes are often rubbed on fabrics and other surfaces, thus creating an electrostatic shock. While walking, you can accumulate the electrostatic charge and the shoes with the rubber sole act as insulation. To avoid getting shocked it is recommended to wear shoes with leather soles which greatly reduce the risk.
- no allergies: leather is a material with very limited risks of allergies or other contraindications for consumer health.
- maintenance: once worn, leather soles can be resoled. An important detail, because it extends the life of the product, making the shoe a long-lasting item. Shoes with “rubber” soles, on the other hand, are generally thrown away when the sole is worn out.
Leather: a natural material
Leather is nothing but an animal skin (generally a cow hide) that undergoes a particular tanning process to make it firm and resistant. It is therefore completely natural.
The raw material, or animal skin, is a byproduct of the food industry which would become a new waste to be disposed of, if not recovered. It therefore fits into a virtuous context of circular economy.
There is only one tanning method that allows the hides to acquire the characteristics necessary to become sole leathers: slow vegetable tanning in pits, using only tannins.
It dates back to Ancient Times and has not changed over the centuries: animal hides are hung on special supports and immersed in pits containing increasing concentrations of tannin.
The process can last even weeks but the results are so good that cannot be matched even by the modern tanning methods (for example with chrome salts).
In vegetable tanning the only tanning agent is tannin, a 100% natural substance, extracted from plant sources such as chestnut and quebracho wood. Its extraction process requires only the use of hot water, without any type of chemical additive.
Shoes with leather soles: an sustainable choice
Choosing shoes in vegetable-tanned leather with a leather sole is a truly conscious choice:
- for the production method, which uses recycled materials and tanning agents of natural origin;
- because in the Era of “disposable” items, it means bringing home a durable product;
- because at the end of the shoe life cycle, vegetable tanned leather can be disposed of as an organic waste and even transformed into a fertilizer for organic farming.
Now you have some more reasons to evaluate the next pair of shoes you buy: appearance is not the only characteristic, carefully consider the materials it is made of, especially the inner lining and the sole. Have a good shopping!