What Are The Different Types Of Shoe Leather

Shoe shopping can seem like an intimidating process – there are so many different styles, colors and materials to choose from. When it comes to shoe leather, in particular, the choices can be even more overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult.

Here, you’ll learn everything about the various types of leather available for shoes – from the lightest calf leathers to rugged boot leathers suitable for outdoor adventures. You’ll also get some key tips on how best to care for each type of material so your shoes look their best at all times. So read on as we give you a comprehensive guide into the world of shoe leather.

Different Types Of Shoe Leather 

Cowhide Leather (also called Cow Leather)

Cowhide is a type of shoe leather that is made from the hide of a cow. It is generally considered to be high-quality leather and is often used in shoes and boots. Cowhide is strong and durable, and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. It is also relatively easy to care for and can be cleaned and conditioned with ease. The common types of cowhide leather include: 

  1. Apache 

Apache is a very unusual cowhide breed. This leather, known as Distressed or Crazyhorse, is treated with wax and oil to give it an aged “old” appearance even after it has been manufactured. The waxing process provides a more water-resistant structure while also protecting against scrapes. When you scuff these sorts of shoes, the waxy protective layer absorbs the impact first. Aniline tanned or lightly sanded Apache hides provide for a distinctive character.

  1. Bullhide

This is a hefty and robust boot that comes from cattle on the shoulder. It’s extremely thick and sturdy, so it’ll keep your feet safe against all sorts of hazards. They shrink while tanning to emphasize the wrinkles and flaws, according to some reports.

  1. Deertanned

Deertanned leather is cowhide that has been dehairned to combine the best features of cow and deer leather. This cowhide is soft to the touch but has fewer flaws or faults than regular cowhides.


Chamois is a bit of a perplexing term, to say the least. Traditionally, it was created from the rupicapra, a European mountain goat’s skin. Today, however, it almost exclusively refers to sheepskin flesh. This is why it is in its own category rather than being lumped in with other words on suede.

As always, the procedure starts with sanding and polishing the skin to remove the grain while revealing a flesh split. It has a thinner nap and is surprisingly absorbent. Chamois is quite permeable, going through an extended oil-tanning process. This implies it’s highly durable and doesn’t require much upkeep. It makes wonderful walking shoes.

A Leather Brown Shoes

Lambskin Leather

Lambskin leather is a type of shoe leather that is made from the skin of a lamb. It is a soft, lightweight, and durable leather that is often used for shoes, gloves, and other clothing items. Lambskin leather is also known for its natural breathability and water resistance.

Goat Skin Leather

Goat skin leather is a type of shoe leather that is made from the skin of a goat. It is a strong and durable type of leather that is often used for making shoes, boots, and other types of footwear. It is also used for making bags, belts, and other accessories. Goat skin leather is known for its softness, flexibility, and durability.

Suede Leather

Suede Leather is a type of shoe leather that is made from the underside of the skin of a cow or deer. The leather is then treated with a sandpaper-like material to create a fuzzy surface. This surface makes suede leather softer and more delicate than other types of leather.

Patent Leather

Patent Leather is a type of shoe leather that is made from processed animal hide. The hide is treated with a protective coating that makes it shiny and water resistant. The coating also makes the leather softer and more pliable, which makes it easier to work with. Patent leather is often used for dress shoes, dance shoes, and other special occasion footwear.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck Leather is a type of shoe leather that is made from the top side of the skin of a cow or deer. The leather is then sanded down to create a velvety surface. Nubuck leather is softer and more delicate than other types of leather and is often used for casual shoes and boots.

Oiled Leather

Oiled Leather is a type of shoe leather that has been treated with oil to make it more water resistant. The oil also makes the leather softer and more flexible. Oiled leather is often used for shoes, boots, and other types of footwear that are exposed to the elements.

Distressed Leather

Distressed Leather is a type of shoe leather that has been intentionally damaged or roughed up to create a unique look. This type of leather is often used for fashion purposes and can add an edgy look to your footwear.

Smooth Leather

Smooth Leather is a type of shoe leather that has a smooth, consistent surface. This type of leather is often used for dress shoes and other formal footwear. Smooth leather is easy to care for and can be cleaned and conditioned with ease.

Roughout Leather

Roughout Leather is a type of shoe leather that has a rough, textured surface. This type of leather is often used for work boots and other types of rugged footwear. Roughout leather is more durable than smooth leather and can withstand more wear and tear.

Exotic Leather

Exotic Leather is a term that refers to any type of shoe leather that comes from an animal other than a cow, deer, or goat. Examples of exotic leathers include alligators, lizards, ostrich, snakes, and stingrays. Kangaroo leather boots would be another example. Exotic leathers are often used for luxury shoes and other high-end footwear.

Recycled Leather

Recycled Leather is a type of shoe leather that is made from recycled animal hides. This type of leather is often used for eco-friendly and sustainable footwear. Recycled leather is just as durable as other types of leather, and can be recycled over and over again.

Faux Leather

Faux leather is a type of shoe leather that is made to look and feel like the real thing, but it is actually made from synthetic materials. Synthetic leather (or faux leather) tends to be  a cheaper and more affordable option for people who want the look and feel of leather without having to spend the money, or perfer synthetic leather for ethical reasons.. Faux leather can be used to make shoes, belts, purses, and other accessories.

Scotch Grain

Scotch Grain is leather with a textured embossed surface that originated in Scotland (what a surprise!). It has a very distinct texture, similar to pebbles, and all the work is completed in the tannery. This is why Scotch Grain is also known as Pebble Grain. According to folklore, the Scots originally developed this technique of reducing leather to make these designs. A low-maintenance, long-lasting, and weather-resistant sort of leather. Scotch Grain is gaining in popularity these days, and it is appropriately represented by the plethora of traditional English Country Shoes.

Because the texture is manufactured, this leather is somewhat thicker and much easier to conceal flaws or scratches. A simple light polish is sufficient since too much wax and white residue can accumulate within the pebbles if polished excessively.

The American Alligator

The biggest and most luxurious leather of reptiles. The American Alligator, which can weigh up to 4-5 meters long and has a weight of almost half a ton, is known for its high-quality leather. Their leather comes from special farms in the Southeast United States. Their leather is more durable as well as softer since it is less bony than other reptilian leathers. It’s often available in grey and olive green hues, but it’s It is also available in much brighter colors. Because softer leather is easier to process and work with, it makes footwear and bag production better.

The highest-priced leather in the fashion business is an alligator, which has a distinct rectangular scale pattern and a high sheen. It has a very brilliant sheen and has a distinct unpatterned rectangular scale design. The umbilical scar is another method to tell real alligator skin from fake imitations since it cannot be reproduced.


In a sense, we’ve already mentioned Pull-Up leather while discussing the Apache. It’s a form of leather that has been heavily waxed and oiled. The trick is to pinch a location on this leather and see how the hue changes, typically to a brighter tone. From what I’m aware when you tug on the leather, the color shifts as a result of this phenomenon. This implies that Pull-Up is comparable to Ray Mercer’s jaw in some ways. This is a very long-lasting material. It requires little upkeep and will develop a beautiful patina over time. While it can take a beating and scratch, it is not scuff-proof. Casual boots made of this material are quite popular in North America.

Woman wearing a leather shoes

Corrected Grain

Today, everyone claims to be selling “Genuine” leather, when in reality it’s nothing more than cheap plastic. It’s the leftovers from using the finest layers of higher-quality leather. The meaning is vague, and it’s a trendy buzzword among unsophisticated consumers. Any species of animal may produce a leather item and label it as “Genuine.” As a result, Full Grain Leather becomes even more difficult to understand. 

But then again, they wouldn’t need to advertise that. To add to the injury, it is then sanded and treated with artificial grain. This gives it a phony natural appearance as a result of staining and coloration. It’s quick to produce, and it’s like walking around in your local low-cost shop wearing any old shoe.

Vegetable Tanned Leather

Vegetable-tanned leather is a type of shoe leather that is made from the hide of a cow. The leather is tanned with a vegetable-based solution, which gives it its characteristic brown color. Vegetable-tanned leather is durable and flexible, and it ages well over time. It is the most popular type of leather for shoes because it provides good protection and comfort.

Chrome Tanned Leather

Chrome tanned leather is a type of shoe leather that is tanned with chromium sulfate. This makes the leather more supple and less likely to crack. Chrome-tanned leather is also more water-resistant than other types of leather, making it a popular choice for shoes.


High-end men’s shoes are frequently made of calfskin. It is derived from the skin of young calves, which are generally older than 3 months (and usually between 6 and 12 months old). The Latin term for calfskin is vellum, which derives from calfskin. In North America, cattle hides differ significantly from those in Europe.  This type of leather may also be referred to as Box Calf leather (it refers to the name of an early craftsperson  who made this technique more popular in the late 1800s).

Soft, strong leather with few flaws and a tight grain, it’s the ideal material for most higher-end dress shoes. The grain in particular is extremely fine but sufficiently robust and pliable. This is due to the fact that calves have a thicker fiber structure that is more durable than normal cowhide or older animals. Calfskin has a thickness of around 1-1.2 millimeters, and each good hide can make enough leather for up to ten pairs of shoes, depending on the model.

While calfskin is prone to scuffing and scratching, it can be polished and buffed (if not too deep) to cover these marks and develop a beautiful patina in the future. It takes dye readily, so you have a large range of colors and finishes to choose from. Burnishing and aniline finishing aid in the creation of a high-gloss finish. It also bends well at your feet, which is crucial for comfort. While it does not require significant maintenance, it is essential that it be polished and nourished so that it does not dry up or fracture. Calfskin is a safe bet if you want high-quality formal shoes or only need one outstanding pair.

Full Grain Leather

Full grain leather is the highest quality type of shoe leather available. It is made from the finest hides and has not been sanded or buffed to remove any of the natural surface features. This means that full grain leather retains all the imperfections and markings present on the animal’s hide, including scars, wrinkles, and natural blemishes. While this may not be aesthetically pleasing to some people, it results in a tough and durable material that is highly resistant to wear and tear.

Top Grain Leather

Top Grain Leather is the most common type of leather used in shoes. It is made from the top layer of the hide, which is the strongest and most durable. The leather is usually treated with oils and waxes to make it more flexible and water-resistant.

Top Grain Leather, also known as Full Grain Leather with a Twist, is like full grain except that it has been sanded to remove a few millimeters from the top. This removes any flaws. It’s thinner, less durable, and more uniform than genuine leather. You could describe it as a kinder, gentler version of its predecessor, lacking the “Character” element. It does have a smoother finish and accepts stains better, but is worse in terms of breathability and patina retention.

The main issue with Top Grain leather is its lack of durability. Because it is thinner, it is not the best material for handbags and shoes. These are items that you want to have last a long time, right?

Split Grain Leather

Split Grain Leather (also called Split Leather) is a type of shoe leather that is created from the outer layer of the hide. The split-grain is created by splitting the hide in half and then splitting each half again. This produces four layers, with the top two layers being the most desirable. The top layer is called the grain, and it is smooth and has a tight texture. The second layer is called the split grain, and it is also smooth but has a looser texture than the grain. The bottom two layers are called the “flesh,” and they are rough and have a lot of pores.

Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is a type of shoe leather made from the scraps of other, higher-quality leathers. The scraps are combined with a polyurethane binder and then pressed into sheets. Bonded leather is not as durable as full-grain or top-grain leather and is not recommended for use in shoes that will be worn outdoors.

Recycled Leather

Recycled leather is a type of shoe leather that is made from previously used or recycled materials. This can include things like old scraps of leather, leather off-cuts, and even damaged hides. The main benefit of recycled leather is that it helps to reduce waste, as well as conserve resources. Additionally, recycled leather can often be produced at a lower cost than traditional leather, making it a more affordable option for consumers.

Factors To Consider While Choosing The Right Type Of Leather For Your Shoes

  • The type of animal the leather came from – Leather can be made from the hides of cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, and other animals. Each type of animal has different characteristics that will affect the quality of the leather. Some factors to consider when choosing the type of leather for your shoes are the animal’s weight, skin thickness, and hair length. For example, a cow is a heavier animal than a deer, so the leather from a cow would be thicker than the leather from a deer. A sheep has shorter hair than a pig, so the leather from a sheep would be smoother than the leather from a pig.
  •  The part of the hide the leather came from: The different parts of an animal’s hide have different qualities. For example, the belly area is typically softer and more pliable than the back. The hide the leather comes from is an important factor to consider when choosing the type of leather for your shoes. Different types of leather are better suited for different purposes. For example, cowhide is heavy-duty leather that is perfect for making shoes that will be subjected to a lot of wear and tear. On the other hand, lamb skin is a lightweight and delicate leather that is perfect for making shoes that will be worn casually.
  • The thickness of the leather: Leather is available in a variety of thicknesses, from thin to thick. The thicker the leather, the more durable it will be. However, thick leather can also be difficult to work with and may not be as comfortable to wear. The thickness of the leather will affect the comfort and durability of your shoes. Thicker leathers are usually more comfortable and durable, while thinner leathers may be less durable but more flexible. You’ll also need to consider the color and finish of the leather, as well as its texture.
  • The grain of the leather: The grain is the natural surface texture of the leather. It can be smooth or rough, and each type of grain has different qualities. Smooth grain leather is typically more expensive and is considered to be of higher quality.
  • The tanning process: Tanning is a process that preserves the leather and makes it more durable. There are a variety of methods that can be used to tan leather, including vegetable tanning, chrome tanning, and alum tanning. Each method produces leather with different qualities.
  • The dyeing process: Dyeing gives the leather its color and can also affect its qualities. For example, some dyes make the leather more water-resistant. After the leather is cut, it is then cleaned and treated. Different types of leather require different treatments. For instance, suede requires a different treatment than regular leather. The type of dye and the color of the dye are also important factors to consider when dying leather.
  • The finishing process: The finishing process can add various features to leather, such as a glossy finish or a stain-resistant coating.
  • Cost: The cost of the leather will vary depending on the type of leather you choose. Some types of leather are more expensive than others. Leather is available at a wide range of prices, depending on the quality and type of leather. Higher-quality leather is typically more expensive. 
  • Strength: Some types of leather are stronger than others. If you need a strong, durable shoe, you will want to choose a type of leather that is strong.
  • Abrasion resistance: Not all types of leather are equally resistant to abrasion. If you plan to wear your shoes in an area where they may come into contact with abrasive materials, you will want to choose a type of leather that is resistant to abrasion.
  • Appearance: Not all types of leather look the same. Some types are smoother and shinier than others. If appearance is important to you, be sure to choose a type of leather that meets your needs.
  • The intended use: The way the leather will be used will affect the type of leather you need. For example, if you need durable leather for a pair of work boots, you will need a different type of leather than if you were looking for soft, supple leather for a pair of dress shoes.
  • Your personal preferences: Ultimately, the type of leather you choose should be based on your personal preferences. Consider the qualities that are most important to you and choose the leather that meets your needs.

What Are The Different Types Of Shoe Leather – Image from pixabay by Alexas_Fotos.png

Ways To Care For Your Shoes Made with Different Types of Leather

1. Use a shoe tree: A shoe tree helps to maintain the shape of the shoe and prevents the leather from creasing.

2. Polish regularly: Polishing your shoes helps to keep them looking shiny and new.

3. Weatherproof your shoes: If you plan to wear them in wet or snowy conditions, be sure to weatherproof them first. This will help to protect the leather from water damage.

4. Clean and condition your shoes: Regular cleaning and conditioning help to keep the leather soft and supple.

5. Store your shoes properly: Be sure to store your shoes in a cool, dry place when they’re not being worn. Storing them in a humid environment can cause the leather to warp.

6. Don’t over-wear your shoes: Wearing your shoes too often can cause them to wear out prematurely. Be sure to rotate them with other pairs of shoes to give them a chance to rest.

7. Keep them away from direct heat: Exposing your shoes to direct heat, such as from a fireplace or radiator, can cause the leather to dry out and crack.

8. Avoid getting them wet: If your shoes do get wet, be sure to let them dry naturally at room temperature. Do not put them near a heat source, as this can cause the leather to shrink.

9. Protect them from scuffs and scratches: Leather shoes can be easily protected from scuffs and scratches by using shoe polish. Shoe polish is available in both a liquid and a paste form, and it comes in a variety of colors. Apply a small amount of polish to a cloth and rub it into the leather. Be sure to buff the leather until it is shiny. Take care not to scuff or scratch your shoes when you’re wearing them. If you do, be sure to buff out the damage with a soft cloth.

10. Have them repaired if necessary: If your shoes become damaged, be sure to have them repaired by a professional. Attempting to repair them yourself can make the damage worse.

 15 Shoes That Can Replace Leather Shoes

Rubber shoes

 They are more enduring since rubber is a more enduring substance than leather, rubber shoes will last longer. Rubber shoes are low maintenance and simple to clean. They are more comfortable to wear than leather because it is a softer material. They are more environmentally friendly: Rubber is more environmentally friendly than leather because it is a natural substance and decomposes quickly. Furthermore, they are more affordable: Usually, rubber shoes are less expensive than leather ones. Rubber shoes come in a wide range Since rubber is not porous, it does not absorb moisture the way leather does. Rubber shoes are thus the best type to use in rainy or humid conditions.

Canvas shoes

Canvas shoes are a type of shoe made from canvas, a heavy cotton fabric. They are an alternative to leather shoes, as they are cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Canvas shoes are also more lightweight and breathable than leather shoes, making them more comfortable to wear in warm weather.

Tennis shoes

Tennis shoes are made of a synthetic material that is designed to grip the court and allow the player to move quickly. They are an alternative to leather shoes, which can become slippery on the court.


Sneakers are a great alternative to leather shoes. They are comfortable, and they come in a variety of colors and styles. You can find sneakers that are perfect for your lifestyle and your personality.


Leather shoes are the traditional option for footwear, but there are other materials that can be used. Loafers are shoes made from a piece of cloth that is folded over and sewn together at the bottom, creating a moccasin-like shoe. This type of shoe is often worn without socks, and the soft fabric is comfortable against the skin. Additionally, loafers are often less expensive than leather shoes, making them a more affordable option.


Moccasins shoes are a popular alternative to leather shoes. They are made of soft, deerskin leather and are comfortable to wear. Moccasins can be worn indoors or outdoors and are ideal for winter or summer weather.


Clogs are a type of wooden shoe that is popular in the Netherlands. They are worn as an alternative to leather shoes and are often seen as more comfortable and durable. Clogs can be worn in a variety of styles, depending on the design, and are available in a variety of colors.


Sandals are shoes that are typically made from straps of fabric or leather that go over the foot and around the ankle. They are popular in warm weather climates because they allow the feet to breathe, and they are lightweight. Sandals can also be a more comfortable option than traditional leather shoes, especially if you are wearing them for an extended period of time.


Boots are a type of shoe that cover the feet and legs up to the thigh. They are typically made from leather, but can also be made from other materials such as suede, rubber, or synthetic materials. Boots offer protection against the elements and are often worn in cold weather. They can also be worn for style or fashion purposes.


Slippers are a type of shoe that is typically made from fabric or synthetic materials. They are typically worn indoors and are often used as a type of house slipper. Slippers can also be worn outdoors in warm weather but are not typically designed for strenuous activity. Leather shoes are typically more durable and better suited for strenuous activity than slippers, but some people may prefer slippers because they are more comfortable.

Mary Janes

Mary Janes are an alternative to leather shoes because they are made from a synthetic material that is not derived from animal products. This makes them a more environmentally friendly option, as it reduces the number of resources used in their production. They are also often cheaper than traditional leather shoes, making them a more affordable option.

T-strap shoes

T-strap shoes are a type of shoe that has two straps that go across the top of the foot, connecting at the ankle. They are made from a variety of materials but are most commonly seen in leather. They are an alternative to traditional leather shoes, as they provide more support and are less likely to cause blisters.

Monk strap shoes

Monk strap shoes are a type of shoe that has a strap that goes across the top of the foot and buckles. This type of shoe is made from different types of materials, including leather. Monk strap shoes are an alternative to traditional leather shoes because they are more comfortable and can be worn for long periods of time.


Oxfords are shoes made out of thicker, harder leather than dress shoes. They are less flexible than other types of shoes, but they are sturdier and last longer. Some people prefer oxfords as an alternative to leather shoes because they can be worn in more rugged environments and can take a beating.


Brogues are shoes that are made out of a different material other than leather. They are usually made out of suede or some other type of cloth. They are a good alternative to leather shoes because they are cheaper, and you can usually find them at a discount store. Likewise, they also come in a variety of colors, which makes them a good choice if you are looking for something different. 

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