It's important to consider the sole material of a cowboy boot when looking to purchase, because you'll want something that will be comfortable and perform exceptionally for your specific needs. There are many different types of soles however most are either fully leather or man-made. Man made soles can be smooth, have a slight tread, or have a significant tread that is made for work. There are even hybrid soles that are partially leather - on the outline of the "foot" part, and rubber on the inset. Leather and rubber soles have their own respective benefits and intended purposes, so understanding these unique characteristics is going to go a long way in helping to finding the best boot for you.
Here are some questions you should think about when considering which type of cowboy boot sole will best suit your needs:
--What will you be using your boots for?
--How long do you anticipate wearing your boots each day?
--What types of weather/conditions will you be wearing them in?
--What is the environment/terrain that you will be wearing them in?
--Do you plan on resoling your boots or upgrading later on?
As you consider your answers to these questions, the following will prove to be helpful in the process of determining what type of cowboy boot sole is best for you.
Since the dawn of the term cowboy, traditional cowboy boots have nearly always been made with a smooth leather sole with a stacked leather heel. Some people mistake the leather sole for wood. Cowboy boots are not made with wooden soles.
This heel-sole combination was (and still is) the best for riding horses with feet in the stirrups. Certainly not everyone who wears cowboy boots rides horses. We have found cowboy boots have surged in popularity mostly due to their comfort and style. This has led to the availability of many other types of western boot soles and heels.
Benefits of Leather -Soled Cowboy Boots
They mold around the shape of the foot over time, helping to provide a feeling of support, plus they’re very flexible and have a good ground feel. The benefit of a pliable material like leather is that it breaks in fast. It also starts molding to your foot right away.
Another benefit is the more natural materials in a shoe, the less likely it is to smell bad. It's true- cowboy boots made of entirely leather products can better prevent bacterial growth.
Another benefit to a leather soled cowboy boot is that you can really slide on the dance floor. If you like to dance you will want to wear leather soled cowboy boots.
While it is possible to dance in boots that are not fully leather you'll do your best two stepping in a leather soled boot.
Lastly, a leather soled cowboy boot is much easier to resole meaning you can keep your favorite cowboy boots for many years as long as you have a skilled cobbler. We resole leather cowboy boots! You simply need to drop off your boots and they'll be ready in about two weeks.
The Women's Circuit Patriot Boot - seen below is a great example of a leather soled boot. It features a comfortable insole system and yet it has a fully leather sole. This is the best of both worlds!
Downsides of Leather-Soled Cowboy Boots
One downside to having a leather sole on a cowboy boot is that it could potentially allow mud and water to seep up into your sock if worn out in the elements for long periods of time. We do not suggest wearing a fully leather cowboy boot outside in the rain for an extended timeframe. Another issue is that leather soled boots are very slippery when you first start to wear them. Simply scuff up the bottom to make them less slippery.
Advantages of Rubber - Soled Cowboy Boots
Below is the Rocky RKW0315 Cowboy Boot. It features full grain leather, a contoured footbed, an expansion seam on the sides - for easy on and off- and an oil and slip resistant sole. It is our number one Men's work cowboy boot by Rocky Brands. It is a great cowboy boot for work as it is durable and lightweight. It is not recommended for riding horses due to the grip of the sole.
Below is the Boulet wide square toe boot with a man made sole that doesn't have the grip the Rocky RKW0315 has. It is perfect for riding. It also will handle mud and rain better than a leather soled cowboy boot.
Disadvantages of Rubber - Soled Cowboy Boots
But let’s not start believing that rubber soles are perfect. Since they are man-made rubber soled cowboy boots simply do not possess the same comfort as leather. This is because the boot doesn’t mold around the individual’s foot in the same way.
Similarly, because it is waterproof, it isn't as breathable as a leather soled cowboy boot. Therefore in the height of summer, your feet will be noticeably hotter in rubber soled shoes.
While some cowboy boots are made for the work environment meaning they have puncture resistant or slip resistance capabilities. These boots are great for the work world but we do not suggest using them to ride a horse. The reasoning is that the grip of a "work" cowboy boot could potentially mean your foot could get hung up in a stirrup which is a very dangerous situation.
The hybrid sole- one that is partially leather and partially rubber- is favored by cowboys who rope because this type of sole provides some grip in the stirrup but isn't likely he'll get hung up.
Your preference towards leather or rubber soles will depend entirely on your circumstances. We suggest really considering the questions at the beginning of this article. Have a discussion with your sales person too. At Cowtown Cowboy Outfitters we are familiar with what boot works best for each situation. When you buy your boots from us you can be assured that we will provide you with the best fit for you.