Leather Shoe vs. Membrane Shoe

The first question you should consider when buying a pair of boots: leather or membrane? Both materials have advantages as well as disadvantages. Which material will support you best in your adventures, you will read here.

The membrane shoe:

  • Advantages:
    • waterproof
    • breathable *
    • dry quickly
  • Disadvantage:
    • the membrane has a limited lifespan
    • membrane broken = shoes leaking
    • the membrane is only breathable at a high-temperature gradient between inside and outside the shoe (How a membrane works)
    • made with many seams

      → Seams are considered weak points of every shoe. They are most likely to break and allow water to penetrate.

*at a temperature difference of at least 15°C between shoe interior and exterior

A membrane shoe is recommended especially for very humid regions, as the membrane is waterproof. However, the shoe is only breathable when the temperature difference between the inside and outside is sufficient.

In warm areas, the effect of the membrane is limited. Unless there are very demanding tours committed. Through physical effort, the temperature in the shoe increases and the temperature difference can be achieved, so that the shoe is breathable.

For this reason, and because of the incorporated flow layer, the use of membrane shoes is recommended especially in cold regions.

The leather shoe:

  • Advantages:
    • very robust, resistant
    • conformable (adapts to the foot shape)
    • waterproof after treatment with beeswax
    • absorbs moisture (sweat) in the shoe
    • naturally breathable
    • usually made with little seams
  • Disadvantage:
    • leather dries very slowly
    • not waterproof without impregnation

Leather shoes are particularly suitable for use in warm to hot regions, as they are naturally breathable and have a better foot climate than membrane shoes.

Not recommended are leather shoes in very humid / wet areas.
If the protection of the wax layer diminishes over time, the leather absorbs the moisture.

Drying a leather shoe takes a long time.

Mixed form:

There are also mixed forms of membrane and leather shoes. The outer layer of such shoes is made of leather because it is very durable and sturdy. Only a small label with the name of the membrane used indicates that it is not a full leather shoe. The shoe is thus waterproof. The membrane is located under the leather layer and is well protected by this. If the membrane still begins to leak over time, this is not a k.o. criterion for the shoe. The leather of the outer layer is waxed like a normal leather shoe and makes the shoe water repellent to waterproof.

Slightly disadvantageous, the double layer of membrane and leather affects the foot climate. In addition, most shoes of the mixed form category are provided with many seams. As already mentioned, this is rather disadvantageous. Seams are considered weak points of every shoe. They are most likely to break.

As you can see: everything has advantages and disadvantages. There is no such thing like “The perfect shoe”. But surly the “perfect” one for you!

My tip: think about the areas in which you will primarily stay and – very important – try different models!

Because the main thing is (despite all the advantages and disadvantages), that you feel comfortable in the shoes!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sandra says:

    That is really important and we take a lot of time to try different shoes. In the end we decided to take the leather version, because they dry so fast and were really suitable for our feet.

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