When you first start to walk as a hobby or means of improving your fitness, you will obviously need a pair of walking shoes or boots. But which are better, leather walking boots or boots made from synthetic materials?
Whilst both leather boots and boots made from more synthetic materials are good, leather boots are better as they provide more ankle support, particularly for hill walking. They also keep your feet drier in wet weather, which is a great plus point.
There are other reasons too why leather boots get the nod – let’s take a look at the others.
Lets look at some of the reasons why leather boots are better than material boots.
Quite simply, leather boots are much better at keeping out rain and other water. If like me you live in Great Britain, you are accustomed to it raining. At present it seems to have rained every day for a month, although I am sure there may have been a dry day amongst that time.
So we are used to walking in the rain, although we do tend to time our walks around the driest parts of the day if at all possible. Leather walking boots offer greater protection to your feet from the wet, and feet that get wet can soon be uncomfortable. There’s also a greater chance of your socks rubbing if they are wet.
Leather boots will keep out much more rain, but it’s also important to keep waterproofing them every few months, to maintain that water resistance. After giving them a good clean, use a product such as Nikwax (buy here from Amazon). This will help keep your boots to their absolute best when it comes to being water resistant.
Leather walking boots are much more rigid than synthetic walking boots. This rigidity in the sole allows for a much safer walk on rocky hills, allowing for a sure footed walk when there is a greater chance of slipping on gravelly paths.
Of course, this means that there is not much flexibility, and you may feel this on a longer walk. You need to be able to weigh up the pros and cons of being more rigid in the sole for the type of walking that you are going to be undertaking.
But they also offer greater protection to your feet and ankles, especially when scrambling down rocky slopes. It will be so easy to bang your foot against a rock and although it may hurt, with leather boots you are more likely to feel it less.
Leather walking boots tend to reach higher up your ankle than synthetic material walking boots. This will give you greater support and less chance of spraining your ankle – which would almost certainly put an end to your walk.
However you may find that there is a greater chance of your boots rubbing your ankles – as much as possible try to ensure you break them in well. A walk through some long, wet grass will make them soft and allowing them to dry on the rest of your walk will help mould them to the shape of your ankles.
Generally speaking, leather walking boots will have thicker soles. This will give greater protection to the soles of your feet, especially on stony ground. Again, perfect for walking on rocky hills – you wouldn’t want to step on stones which you can feel through the soles of your boots. Ouch!
You can see from a top quality boot such as the Meindl Bhutan walking boot pictured above, there’s plenty of cushioning and deep grips in the soles. You can research these on Amazon by clicking the link above.
Generally speaking, leather boots tend to reach further up your leg than a material boot. This offers greater stability and protection as already discussed.
But it also means that the laces are also generally higher up your leg, and as such this keeps your foot in place much better. This means there is less chance of your foot slipping and causing painful blisters.
In order to ensure your foot doesn’t slip, when you put them on make sure the laces are loosened all the way to the bottom holes. Keeping your leg at right angles to your boot, insert your foot and tap your heel to the back.
Make sure the tongue is nice and central to stop slipping and any water or dirt from getting in.Then start to tighten the laces from the bottom – you want them tight but just ensure they are not going to cut off circulation to your toes.
When you get to the top eyelets and before the lace loops, you may want to put in a little knot at this point, just to keep the laces from slipping. Cross over the laces again before wrapping through the lace loops.
When are Material boots better than Leather boots?
Where does a material boot win over leather – breathability, flexibility, wide feet, lacing
Sometimes material boots beat leather boots for certain factors – let’s take a look at these.
There’s no doubt that leather boots are all enclosed, and as such material boots can offer more chance of your feet breathing better. Many top quality material boots, such as the Merrell Moab 2 GTX shown below (available on Amazon by clicking the link), have mesh vents up the side to allow your foot to breathe.
As we’ve seen, leather are boots are very rigid which is great for hill walking on rocky terrain in particular. But what if you don;t do this kind of walking?
If you tend to walk only through the countryside, then a material walking boot will probably suit you better for flexibility. You don’t have that same requirement to have a rigid boot, and the kind of walking you are doing would probably benefit from a more flexible boot.
This is why I have always so far opted for a material walking boot, although in the future I’d like to do some more hill walks, and so will look at leather boots at the appropriate time beforehand.
If you have wide feet, you may appreciate the fact that there tends to be more give in a material boot than a leather one.
When you lace up a material boot it’s harder to get the laces quite as tight, and as such someone with wide feet will find their feet have a little more room to feel comfortable. Having said that, you still want to ensure you lace up tightly s that you don’t get blisters.
Conclusion – are leather or material boots better?
Whilst leather boots are generally better, and as such more expensive than material boots, a lot depends on the type of walking that you do. So take that into consideration before deciding on your next pair if walking boots. If you are a beginner you may well want to go with a material boot and ease yourself into walking before deciding to shell out on a pair of leather boots before you know that you will continue with your new hobby.
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