Have you ever found yourself unsure about the benefits of different types of leather? Leather is one of the most durable materials for footwear thanks to its natural strength and resistance to heat and cold. With the right care, can maintain its original character for many years. There are several different types of leather including suede, nubuck, patent and smooth leather which all have specific characteristics.

If you’ve always wondered which leather is best for your needs and how to care for the different types, read on to view our answers to our most commonly asked questions!

What is the difference between suede and nubuck and which is more durable?

Suede and nubuck are similar because they both have a luxurious, velvety finish which brings opulence and elegance to your outfits, whether dressy or casual. Where they differ is that suede is from the inside of the leather hide, whereas nubuck is crafted from sanding or buffing the outside of the leather hide.

Generally speaking, nubuck is more durable than suede, as it contains residual waxes from the outside of the hide. The outside of the hide is also naturally ‘tougher’ than the inside, making nubuck therefore stronger and more resilient. Suede, however, has more ‘nap’ and character compared to nubuck and because it comes from the inside of the hide, has less imperfections, making it the perfect material for dressy shoes.

Both suede and nubuck need waterproofing and regular brushing to maintain the appearance and to protect the leather. The surface of all leather contains pores, making it breathable to wear, but also means that it can be vulnerable to weather, wear and tear.

Being natural products, both finishes will wear, soften and develop personality and integrity as time goes on. They may develop small ‘character marks’ that simply tell a story of the journey the shoe has taken as part of your well-lived life, and when cared for, will only look more beautiful with age.

How does patent leather get its shiny surface and does it still have the characteristics of leather?

Patent leather is full grain leather coated in a silicone or polyurethane resin, to create that lovely, high-sheen finish. It will ease slightly less than other types of leather because it has been given more strength with the coating, and it can also be less breathable. Patent leather does repel water more effectively than other leather finishes, however, and does not need waterproofing. Contrary to popular belief, good quality patent leather can be really supple, and with the right care will last for many years.

How are metallic leathers created and how should I care for them?

Metallic leathers are versatile and lustrous and have opened up a luxurious new world of leather finishes. Metallic foil or paint is applied to the top of smooth leather and fused with heat to create stunning, unique finishes from matte, to satin and bold high-shine.

Metallic leather is the most delicate of leathers, as it can be prone to scuffs or marks since the finish is applied to the top surface of leather. Regular care using Delicate Gel can ensure that metallic leather remains in pristine condition for many years to come.

Is leather waterproof and do I need to waterproof/spray them?

All leather breathes through the pores of the natural skin, allowing air in and moisture out, which means that the overall health of the foot is taken care of.  The porous nature means that it is not water resistant and all leather finishes (apart from patent leather) need spraying with waterproofing spray regularly for protection.

When leather is worn and exposed to the elements, many of the essential oils that the tanners put into it can wear away. When the oils are not replaced, the leather loses its original integrity and character. By applying a waterproof spray you can protect the leather from the elements, and also create a membrane that will allow rain (or other liquids) to wick away, rather than be absorbed into the leather. Waterproofing spray will benefit all textiles, trims and faux-fur linings too! The key is consistency.

Simply apply three times prior to wear; spray, dry, spray, dry, spray, dry. It may sound a little tedious, but it’s really quite easy, and so worth it for the amazing result. Following the initial spray; repeat once a month if you wear the item weekly, or every two to three months if you wear it less frequently. Easy!

Gore-tex lined shoes and boots claim to be weatherproof, does that mean I don’t have to waterproof the leather or textile outer?

Shoes and boots with a Gore-tex lining have a breathable membrane, with small pores that let moisture from your feet escape and breath, but water droplets cannot penetrate to make your feet wet – genius! We still, however, recommend waterproofing Gore-tex lined shoes and boots because the waterproof Gore-tex membrane is underneath the leather or textile outer, so to maintain the appearance of the leather and to reduce watermarking or spotting, it’s best to waterproof the outside of your shoes or boots.

Does leather stretch?

Leather has the fantastic ability to ‘give’ and mould to the shape of the foot in areas where pressure is applied, while still maintaining its shape to provide support. Different types of leather, thicknesses and linings will affect the amount that leather will ease. More structured styles will also ease less than softer styles with less structure.

We hope this leather Q&A has been useful to you!  We love getting your queries in store and on our social media pages.  Be sure to check out our full collection of shoe care products here, should you wish to give your most-loved Mikko styles a spruce, making them feel and look their best, for many years to come.

From Michaela and the team at Mikko Shoes

Mikko Shoes specialises in stylish European footwear that delivers on foot comfort.  Shop instore at one of our stores or online.  Like our Facebook and Instagram pages so you’re up to date on new arrivals, trend tips, to see style suggestions and know about our regular competitions.