Best Leather Choices For Boots And Shoes And How To Care For Them

Last updated on : November 18 2022

Leather boots


When choosing the best leather for your footwear, performance matters greatly - knowing how these materials age and degrade over time, it is necessary to choose wisely.

Several types of leather boots are available in the market, each featuring different properties that enhance the longevity and performance of a shoe. Because leather is vulnerable to tear, scuff and water damage if not treated correctly, knowing how to care for your footwear is just as vital as understanding the type of leather used. 

Let us take a closer look at various types of leather boots and shoes and which are likely to last the longest.

Best Leather Types For Boots

It would be best if you had leather boots that are both durable and comfortable. Since so many options are available, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. 

Here's a quick guide to help you pick the best leather type for your needs.

1. Vegetable Tanned

Brands make vegetable-tanned boots from vegetable-tanned leather, a type of leather produced using tannins extracted from trees, shrubs and other plants worldwide. 

Vegetable tanning is environmentally friendly since the process uses no harmful chemicals. The tanning process takes about two weeks to complete and produces soft and supple leathers with minimal water absorption (leathers absorb less water than chrome-tanned ones).

The vegetable-tanned boots come in various colours, including black, brown, grey and white. They also have an earthy smell due to their natural origin.

2. Chrome Tanned

Chrome-tanned leather is ideal for footwear because it has a smooth texture, is easy to dye and is relatively supple. This type of leather also holds its shape well, making it suitable for shoes or boots with high heels or stiletto heels.

Chrome-tanned leather boots have a shiny surface and are typically made with cowhide or goat skin. They are usually dyed black or brown to hide the natural markings on the skin. 

Chrome-tanned boots can be made with different types of stitching and may even have decorative patterns embossed onto them by hand.

3. Chrome-free Tanned

Chrome-free tanned leather is one of the best leathers for boot making because this type of leather comes from a tannery that does not use chrome for tanning their hides, instead using vegetable or other methods. 

Some companies will use vegetable-tanned and chrome-tanned leather in their boots, but the important thing is to know what you're buying when you buy chrome-free tanned leather boots.

Chrome-free tanned leather is also known as natural leather. It's softer, supple and more flexible than chrome-tanned leather, making it ideal for boot-making. 

Best Leather Types For Shoes

Leather is a tough material, but it has its limits. Some types of leather are better for shoes than others. Here are three of the best types of leather for your footwear:

1. Full Grain

Full Grain leather is the most natural and highest quality leather. It's durable, soft and flexible, and it wears down with use, developing a beautiful patina.

Producers use the outermost layer of hide or skin for full-grain leather and don't sand it down, buff or correct it in any way. This process means that the grain remains in its original state and is, therefore, more durable than other leather that is sanded or corrected.

The more corrections your leather shoes need, the thinner and weaker the surface layer becomes.

2. Top Grain

Top-grain leather is the most common type of leather used in leather shoes. It is also the most durable, least expensive and easiest to maintain.

The term "top grain" refers to the direction of the grain on the hide. This direction is typically parallel to a cow's hair growth, making it smooth on both sides of the shoe.

When choosing a shoe made from top-grain leather, look for shoes labelled as "top grain." This labelling means that all four sides of the leather have been buffed until they are entirely smooth.

3. Corrected Grain/Genuine Leather

Corrected grain leather is the most common type of leather used in shoe uppers. The leather is generally made from cowhide and comes in various colours, textures and finishes. The finished product has a smooth and uniform surface, free from blemishes or imperfections.

The corrected-grain can be tanned with a pigmented finish to give it an appearance similar to full-grain leather but without the natural markings, scars and scratches on the surface.

Leather Types More Suited To Men's And Women's Footwear.

Black leather boots

It is essential to know that certain leather types are more suited to men's and women's footwear. Here are some of the most popular leather types used in making shoes:

1. Kidskin Leather - Best For Women's Footwear

Kidskin leather is a type derived from young animals' skin. It is a very soft and delicate material, making it perfect for women's footwear. It can also be dyed in various colours, allowing you to make your personal touch on your shoes.

Kidskin is also known as kid or chamois leather, but they all refer to the same thing. 

Kidskin leather has many uses, including clothing, handbags and shoes. Brands often use it in women's footwear because of its softness and flexibility. An excellent quality is that it can bend but still quickly return to its original shape.

2. Suede - Best For Men's Footwear

Suede is a type of leather sanded to give it a soft, velvety finish. It's highly durable but also expensive.

Suede is most often used in men's shoes because it provides a luxurious look and feel while withstanding years of wear and tear.

If you're looking for a shoe that will help you stand out from the crowd, suede is a great choice. The fine nap of the material creates unique patterns that can add depth to your outfit. 

Some people even say that the distinctive appearance of suede makes you look taller and slimmer.

3. Calfskin Leather - Best For Men's & Women's Footwear

Calfskin leather is the highest quality leather for men's and women's footwear. It is exceptionally soft, supple and smooth and has a beautiful natural lustre.

Brands generally sell calfskin leather in two finishes: full grain and top grain. 

Full grain refers to the outermost layer of the hide, which is the most substantial part of the hide. Top grain refers to the top layers, split from the hide's inner layers. While these two grades are relatively similar in appearance, they differ in strength and durability.

Calfskin leathers have meagre water absorption rates and require little maintenance. You can easily polish them with a product designed for this purpose or with a light coat of neutral shoe cream when needed to restore their original appearance.

How To Care For Your Leather Boots And Shoes?

Leather boots and shoes are a good investment because they last a long time. However, it would be best to care for them properly to last even longer.

Here are some tips on how to take care of your leather boots and shoes:

1. Washing

If you're wearing your boots daily, you might need to clean them every week. Whether you shower at home or in a public bathroom, wipe down your boots with a damp cloth before putting them on again.

The best way to clean your boots is by using saddle soap or Lexol leather cleaner/conditioner. These products will help keep the leather soft and supple while preventing any stains from setting into the pores of the leather (which can cause permanent damage).

2. Oiling

Apply mink oil or neatsfoot oil every six months to prevent cracking and protect against moisture loss from leather surfaces. Wipe away excess oil after application with a clean cloth.

3. Conditioning

It would help if you used conditioner on your leather boots every few months as part of regular maintenance for the best results. Conditioner helps prevent dryness and cracking.

4. Waterproofing

You must keep the leather in your boots and shoes dry and clean to preserve its appearance. Leather is porous and will absorb liquids, but it can also dry out if too much moisture evaporates from the surface.

Waterproofing treatments can be applied to your leather footwear to help protect them from water damage. These treatments are available at most shoe stores, or you can use a spray-on waterproofing product like Kiwi or Meltonian in a pinch.

You should apply the treatment to all surfaces of your shoes, including the underside of the tongue, where moisture often collects.

5. Storing

After wearing your leather boots, remove them from heat sources such as radiators or wood stoves. These sources can damage the natural fibres in your boots over time.

Store your boots in an area where they will receive plenty of airflow but not get wet or dirty when you're not using them. It would be best to store them away from sunlight because this can make them fade over time.


There are many different types of leather, and each manufacturer has its take on developing new leathers. These different takes can lead to confusion over what leathers best suit your needs for boots and shoes.

Our best advice is to research so you can choose the style you want, but know that there is no one option that is best for everyone or every purpose.

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