Rubber- vs. leather-soled shoes

Updated April 17, 2017

The formality and style of shoes are often determined by the material of the soles. A traditional dress shoe features a leather sole. Rubber-soled shoes tend to be less formal, usually designed for comfort or specific needs.

Leather Soles

Traditionally, dress shoes feature leather soles. The leather that forms soles are tanned for better wear and to eliminate marks found on untanned skins. Better quality leather soles are stitched and not glued. Leather soles provide a more formal, elegant look, according to men's wear authority Alan Flusser.

Leather Soles for Professional Attire

Leather soles provide a more formal and traditional look for footwear. According to the Career Services Department at Virginia Tech University, men should invest in leather lace-up or slip-on shoes for an interview and other more formal occasions and women should also opt for leather.

Cost Benefit of Leather Soles

While quality leather soles may present a more costly investment, stitched leather soles may be replaced by a shoemaker when worn out. Many companies manufacture less costly leather-soled shoes with some rubber components. This keeps the profile slim and professional while keeping the cost down.

Rubber-soled Shoes

Rubber-soled shoes give a less formal appearance. Many rubber-soled shoes are performance-oriented, for specific sports or casual occasions. Rubber-soled shoes were first designed for mountain climbing. In 1936, Italian mountain climber Vitale Bramani developed the rubber sole, influenced by the Pirelli automotive tire. The rubber sole was designed for traction. The Vibram Company continues to be a leading manufacturer of rubber soles today.

Benefits of Rubber-soled Shoes

While less formal and traditional, rubber soles have comfort considerations. Podiatrist Arnold Ravick of the American Podiatric Medical Association states a typical men's leather sole weighs about five pounds compared to the 2-1/2 pound rubber sole. Running shoe soles weigh only 284gr, on average. Rubber soles absorb a greater amount of shock due to their flexibility.

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About the Author

Beth Cone is a Los Angeles-based writer and was the style and health, beauty, and fitness columnist for "On The Boulevard Magazine" in the San Fernando Valley-based magazine from 1990 through 1992. She is a publicist and artists representative with clients in Northern and Southern California. A graduate from Vanderbilt University, Cone has a degree in Spanish and fine arts.