Regardless of the industry, you work for –various jobs require you to stand or walk around for hours. Unless you wear a shoe or boot that is comfortable enough, you will end up with feet sores or massive pain that takes time to wear off. From ushers to restaurant workers, several professions require hours of standing& only a good boot can take that load off with ease!
Two great options that are loved by professionals available in the market are leather and synthetic. Whether you plan on wearing a synthetic shoe or a leather one depends entirely on your choice and various factors such as breathability, total standing hours, non-slip design, etc.
This article will decide which of these two shoe materials would be ideal for your daily workwear needs.
Is the material of your standing shoe relevant?
From fatigue to worsening of plantar fasciitis issues, you are bound to feel discomfort for long hours or even days to come with the wrong shoe material on your feet. People often assume that it’s the standing that has been causing this distress, but it actually isn’t the case.
It actually is the shoe that is on the feet that could make or break your experience throughout the day. But, how exactly does the material you choose affect your overall job experience?
When selecting a shoe or boot, you need to keep in mind the fact that you might have to keep standing the entire day on your job. So, your shoe’s material is an investment that signifies much more than just style or durability. It should be bought keeping in mind the overall health and comfort it imparts in the long run.
Most workers’ major mistake is judging the shoe’s quality and comfort by peeking at the uppers and forgetting what’s inside or what the outsole is made up of. Your shoe in its entirety, such as the outsole, insole, and upper, make up for a comfortable ride as you tackle your work throughout the day.
Now that we have laid down the basics – let us decide which shoe material is ideal for workwear.
Synthetic vs. Leather: Which Upper is Ideal for Standing Shoes?
Leather is used for different types of goods like belts, shoes, jackets, and more. This particular material is highly flexible and durable, created by animal skin or rawhide tanning. The skin often comes from cattle such as cows, goats, horses, and so on.
For footwear, this material is cut off in various shapes and sizes that can also be used as decoration for the shoes. From being used in heavy-duty work boots going all the way to the designer or casual shoes, leather has been used for all.
This material is perfect for being used both indoors & outdoors while offering comfort. Not just that, this material is easy to go in terms of cleaning & offers waterproof features as well. However, the leather could be a bit heavier as compared to the synthetic materials.
On the other hand, synthetic materials & fabrics are constructed from different types of artificial materials and aren’t made of natural fibers. Examples of synthetic materials are polyester, nylon, acetate, spandex, acrylic, latex, orlon, & Kevlar.
However, synthetic fabrics tend to pack in different features that might not be achievable with natural fibers. When used to construct shoes, synthetic ones are lightweight in feel &offer high breathability to avoid sweating issues.
Now there is a question that often comes with synthetic materials, whether these materials impart waterproofing features. While some fabrics might not be ideal for waterproofing needs, others can be made so by adding different chemicals to the fabric.
Synthetic material can be deemed waterproof, wrinkle-free, softer, or stain resistant.
Benefits of Leather Shoes for Work
Just like our skin breathes, so do leather shoes. Pure leather brings in special features and qualities that might not be yieldable with the synthetic material. It aids in the absorption of moisture from the feet while removing the same via evaporation.
This quality is appreciated by workers that tend to stand or walk all day long in warm conditions. Moreover, these shoes can also deal with the stink even if you have been wearing them for long hours.
Shoes constructed with synthetic material might not be as durable in comparison. Moreover, leather shoes are flexible & adapt to the feet’ shape. However, given these features, pure leather shoes can be an expensive affair and should only be bought if needed to be worn for a long time.
This particular feature comes in handy, especially when working in a sector that deals with slippage or abrupt walking conditions, such as working in a restaurant. Leather shoes offer excellent resistance against rainwater. Leather is given a special coating or treatment to render it water-resistant.
However, keep in mind that leather isn’t completely waterproof.
Leather boots impart an extra level of protection when you work in an active environment. This material also protects your feet from any hot liquids falling or even small objects that might fall off from a great height. Even though they might not protect you and the shoe made from steel in the toe cap, it definitely is safer than any other artificial material.
Leather shoes are known to mold or contort to the shape of the feet with use. Each foot is different, and there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. That is why leather shoes are preferable as they adapt to feet shapes and give you more comfort and grip in the long run.
Leather is also an eco-friendly material as it is derived from animal skin. If it a naturally tanned variant with no use of chemicals, it surely serves the purpose of safeguarding the environment. Moreover, after the shoe wears off and can no more be used, it decomposes easily without hampering or polluting the area.
Given its breathability factor, leather is naturally good in smell and doesn’t let the putrid smell of sweat linger around for long. However, you might have to give it a quick clean every now and then to keep it as fresh as it comes.
Like every other material, leather shoes also need proper maintenance to last for a long. Keeping them tidy and clean is a good habit and thus increases the shoes’ attractiveness and longevity. A simple swipe with the use of a clean and slightly damp cloth would perfectly do the job.
However, it would help if you kept in mind the fact that any dampness in the shoe must be wiped off immediately with the help of a clean and dry cloth.
Benefits of Synthetic Shoes for Work
Shoe manufacturers experiment with materials every now and then to come up with new and comfortable materials to take the place of leather. It could be rubber, plastic, leather, Durabuck, NuSuede, or Hydrolite. These synthetic options are just as brilliant as leather for untrained observers.
A shoe that is crafted from synthetic material has these benefits, which include:
1-Holds Colors & Designs Easily:
While pure leather might not be a great contender for color variation, synthetic options are an amazing choice for someone in need of style when tackling those hard jobs. Not just that, synthetic materials are easy to design and can be used to form any shape and size as per requirement.
2-Lighter than Leather:
Although leather in itself is a very light material, synthetic materials are way lighter when compared. The reason behind it is that they can chemically be modified to fit the bill and be used in various occupational sectors as required without actually draining the feet due to heavyweight.
One thing that can be said without any doubt about the synthetic material for shoes is that it can be given an even finish with no pores visible. With the use of certain chemicals, a sheen or luster can be added to these shoes. On the other hand, leather shoes are natural and do come with pre-destined pores & marks found all over its body.
Not just that, synthetic material is generally smooth in terms of texture, whereas genuine leather might not be as smooth and could also come with certain cracks here and there.
The best thing about synthetic material is the fact that they are easy on your pockets and do not cost as much as genuine leather. Given the fact that they are not made from animal skin and can easily be manufactured in the factory, it keeps the cost factor on the down-low.
While leather only provides you water resistance post-treatment, synthetic materials are designed to ensure that no water penetrates into the shoes while you work. It is a big advantage for someone who works in a water-based industry or has to move outside a lot for work in harsh weather conditions.
Disadvantages of Leather VS Synthetic Shoes
- It is a cruel procedure that requires animals to be skinned; although done after death, high demand has led to poaching issues
- High cost as compared to synthetic shoes
- Treatment is required to prevent decomposing
- The tanning process could introduce toxic chemicals to the hide (Today, vegetable tanning is used for eco-friendliness)
- Leather shoes aren’t waterproof, only water-resistant
- It might not be as versatile as the synthetic shoes
- Given the fact that it is inorganic, synthetic shoes tend to retain the original shape and takes a long time to break-in, and might not be as comfortable
- It breaks down faster and easier in an absurd manner while leather wears out beautifully as it ages
- It tends to tear off faster in areas where the feet tend to bend around, might not be suited for long-term usage
- It might not provide optimum warmth or protection as compared to real leather
- Synthetic alternatives aren’t easily biodegradable & could be problematic for the environment
- Makes use of heavy energy and synthetic chemicals for the manufacturing process
How can you distinguish genuine leather from synthetic materials?
In order to figure out whether your shoe is created from genuine leather or simple synthetic material, you need to understand different checkpoints for the same:
Genuine leather comes with a distinctive color representing the skin color of the animal from which it is crafted. On the other hand, synthetic material could be color-treated artificially and generally have a bright demeanor.
Original or genuine leather isn’t very smooth when it comes to texture. It could be somewhat on the coarser side. However, if the leather shoes you recently bought from the market feel closer to plastic with a smooth feel, it surely is fake leather and a synthetic variant.
When buying genuine leather, make sure you check for the presence of pores in the leather. These pores are similar to the ones present in our skin and acts as an instrument for breathability. On the other hand, synthetic material would be pore-free and might not be as breathable as that of original leather.
Natural leather has somewhat of a rough edge, even if it has been smoothened professionally. However, synthetic material is genuinely softer around the edges and might not require heavy professional smoothening when being crafted in the factories.
When buying a leather shoe, make sure you check the smell of the same. Genuine leather smells similar to animal skin, whereas synthetic ones have a lingering plastic smell all around them.
6-Wrinkles and Creases:
Synthetic material is generally free of wrinkles and creases as they are morphed and crafted from end-to-end in the factory itself. However, with real leather, the raw material is acquired from animals, and thus, they are bound to have creases and wrinkles all around, giving them their classic texture and uniqueness.
What should you buy for your workwear?
Genuine leather, as well as synthetic material, serves as an ideal choice for workwear shoes. It eventually comes down to personal choice and comfort factors. With the advent of technology, manufacturers have come up with comfortable and equally good choices with synthetic materials. If you are on a budget and not looking to spend extravagantly on your shoes, synthetic could be the choice for the day.
On the other hand, leather would be better suited for someone who needs long-term commitment without budget being a constraint.
The bottom line
When selecting a leather or synthetic shoe, the key is buying from genuine sellers to avoid being duped. Even synthetic options have a high-quality make and could be just as well-designed and long-lasting as leather. If a deal seems way too good to be true, be extra cautious before you hit that buy button online.
Do read the product descriptions before you make your choice so that you do not end up with a substandard shoe that might provide you zero safety in your work environment.
Brandon R. Katz is a registered professional nurse who has been instrumental in providing us with an informed opinion on the medical aspects of footwear. He graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and currently provides his services at a non-federal long-term care hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
Brandon proves to be the champion in the group of expert writers with his in-depth knowledge in foot health, how to take care of it adequately, and what shoes, socks, or insoles will be supreme for you. He has previously worked with hospitals where he has foreseen both inpatient and outpatient departments and has been a practicing nurse since 2009.
Brandon hails from Jersey City, NY, and has a loving family of four with a small popper called Rozo. His decision to become a nurse arises from the desire to be in the position of helping and rehabilitating people.