Types of Leather Used to Make Shoes

Most high-quality shoes are made of leather, just as they have been for many centuries. Leather is still the most popular material in making shoes because of its durability and flexibility. And when you say your shoes are made of genuine leather, you know you’re at the leading edge of high fashion.

Interestingly, some leathers are preferable to others, and knowing the difference could help you in choosing the best quality shoes. in this post, we will have a look at some of the types of leathers used to make shoes:


Believe it or not, this is the same type of material that’s used in making footballs. Those who are even a little familiar with the game would know that players often dub the football itself as a pigskin.

Pigskin leather is known for its durability and flexibility, which is why it’s also popular in making quality bags and shoes. Actually, the use of pigskin as a shoe material has become more popular these days. This is mostly due to the recent development of machines that turn out pigskins in good and proper condition enough to be chrome tanned.

Most pigskins made for footwear are “brushed” on the grain side, or “sueded.” Another factor that makes pigskin a popular choice is that it accepts dyes easily, allowing shoemakers to produce them in a wide variety of colors. This factor was especially useful for women’s shoes and other types of footwear and its great for people who suffer from supination and other types of foot issues.


This has been one of the more well-known leather used for any kind of footwear. It’s made from the skins of the young cattle, generally older than three to four weeks. Most people, both men and women, want nothing but the quality-grade shoes that can only be made out of calfskin. That’s why shoes made of prime choice calfskin are usually more expensive. In fact, it could be about twice as expensive (or higher) as the price of the regular side leather.

Compared to other leathers, calfskin comes off with the finest, firmest and the most beautiful grain when finished. It’s very easy to clean and shine too as well, hence needing little maintenance to preserve its perfect sheen.

Calfskin is also known as vellum and was actually used as paper in the early Renaissance and medieval times. This was due to its thin, pliable, and blemish-free qualities. It was also very durable, hence making a great choice for writing and printing before paper became widely used. If you invest in a quality pair of calfskin shoes today, they would surely last you a long time.


Another type of leather used to make shoes is the skin of the veal, which is considerably older than a calf (usually three to six months old). Veal skin is mostly rich in character, has a coarser grain than calf’s skin, and has been used mostly in casual footwear.

Full-Grain Side Leather

Full-grain side leather is probably the most common and versatile of all the leathers. Besides being durable, full-grain side leather is also very malleable and breathable. Full-grain side leathers are mostly used to make the uppers for shoes.


Kidskin leather is made from goats, both young and old. Kidskin is more expensive than full-grain side leather but less costly than calfskin. This kind of leather is usually utilized for better-quality women’s dress shoes. Suede is one product that has been made from kidskin and has undergone the process of sanding (abrading or scraping), as well as a series of treatments. These could be with either chemical or natural materials or solutions.

Kidskins are lightweight yet durable and are known for their softness and high absorbent qualities. Some manufacturers also use kidskin to make gloves, which also need the same qualities found in this material.

Exotic Leather

Leather Shoes

There are several types of leather that have been gathered from unusual sources. These exotic types of leather have been gaining a lot of popularity in recent years. Examples of exotic leather made for shoes include the skins of the ostrich, crocodile or alligator, eel, lizard, snake, even shark. You can get to know more details of some of the exotic shoe leathers in a related article: “Exotic Shoe Materials.”

Synthetic Leathers

In place of natural leathers, synthetic “leathers” are also made for shoes. These provide a presentable yet durable option for people who either can’t afford animal leather or don’t want to be a part of that industry. There are many vegans who would love to have a pair of high-quality shoes or boots, but don’ want to encourage the killing of animals and the use of animal products.

Hence, shoe manufacturers have come up with vegan leather, which provides almost the same experience. However, the difference in quality, softness, and flexibility is definitely noticeable. Shoes with genuine leather are usually much more comfortable, becoming more suited to one’s feet as they grow older.

The Tanning Factor

Much of the quality of your leather shoes have to do with the tanning process of the material. If the leather isn’t tanned properly, the resulting item wouldn’t be a good choice for shoes, belts, or any other leather product. There are several treatments and tanning methods that could transform leather from a rough piece of skin to a glossy, shiny, formal dress shoe.

Roughout Leather

This is the kind of leather that used the fleshy side that’s a bit rough. It’s usually utilized on the shoes’ outside instead of lining the interior. While it has a soft and smooth texture, this leather is thick and long-lasting enough for hard use. It can hence serve workers who have to be on their feet all day long. Roughout leather was actually the most coveted choice for combat boots in the Marine Corps during World War Two. The fact that they were breathable and didn’t need much shining were just two more factors that made them the ideal option.


The invention of leather shoes was probably way back when Man started using deerskin and bearskin to cover their feet. This would have protected them from rocks, snow, and water, but shoes have developed a lot since then. The medium of the leather shoe and its purpose may not have changed, but the styling and designs certainly have.