Apparel FAQ

Leather vs. Rubber: Battle for the Sole of Cowboy Boots

square toe cowboy boots with jeans
Written by Holly N.

Which Boot Sole Material Suits You? You Might Be Surprised.

I love my cowboy boots—right up until the moment I find myself sliding across the floor and landing unceremoniously on my butt. There’s lots to be said for the classic leather-soled cowboy boots but wearing them in wet weather can be downright perilous! Rubber soles are more practical, but don’t give you the same feeling of support. So how do you choose?

Leather boot soles mold to the shape of your foot, making them more comfortable and providing support precisely where you need it most. You can also slide on the dance floor like a true TikTok star! Rubber soles lack the classic appeal of leather soles but provide much more grip, making them more practical around the yard and suitable for wet weather excursions.

leather cowboy boots

Source: Canva

Types of Cowboy Boot Soles

There are two types of cowboy boot soles—leather or synthetic (e.g. rubber).

Leather Boot Soles

Leather soles are more traditional and provide a sleeker look and more classic design. The leather sole also protects your feet against sharp stones and sharp tools.

While leather may not seem like the most comfortable material for boot soles, it gives the foot a surprising amount of support, breaking in fast and molding to the shape of your foot.

Leather soles are flexible and perfect for pulling off your best dance moves. Not only that, but they also provide natural protection against bacteria, meaning your feet smell better!

Another benefit to leather-soled boots is that they’re easy to resole, so your boots will last a lot longer.

Rubber Boots Soles

Rubber soles are more practical in wet weather and provide more traction and grip, so you’re less likely to lose your footing on slippery surfaces. They transform your cowboy boots into durable work boots that are waterproof and robust.

On the downside, rubber soles take longer to break in. Fortunately, they tend to last longer than leather soles.

When they do wear out, however, you might struggle to get them resoled as many rubber-soled cowboy boots use cement to connect the sole to the bottom of the boot, making it impossible to resole them effectively.

Comparing Cowboy Boot Soles

  Pros Cons
Leather Boot Sole
  • Naturally anti-bacterial
  • Provide protection against sharp stones
  • Easy to break in
  • Can be resoled
  • Great for dancing
  • Not waterproof
  • Slippery on some surfaces
  • Leather soles wear out more quickly than rubber ones
Rubber Boot Sole
  • Waterproof
  • Provide traction and grip
  • More durable than leather soles
  • Resoling may not be possible
  • Take longer to break in than leather soles

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… Resole?

Resoling is a great way to get your favorite boots to last longer and save you the expense of replacing them or visiting a podiatrist!

It also means you’ll be doing your part for the environment.

Resoling your boots increases their longevity, but only if you do it at the first sign of damage. Failing to resole them quickly enough could cause the damage to spread to the more delicate interior of your boots, resulting in permanent damage that can’t be fixed with an inexpensive resole.

Leather boot sole

Source: Canva

You can resole a pair of cowboy boots for as little as $30, although a full resole could cost as much as $100.

Best Leather Sole Cowboy Boot – Women’s

The Frontier Tilly Western Boot from Ariat combines a traditional leather sole with the latest technology to support and protect your feet both in the saddle and on the dance floor.

ariat boot

Click to see them at Amazon

Best Leather Sole Cowboy Boot – Men’s

The traditional design of the Milwaukee Round Toe Cowboy Boots is evident in every feature, from the classic western stitching down to the leather soles. A cushioned insole provides extra support and anti-fungal properties, making your boots smell as good as they feel.

dan post boot

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Best Rubber Sole Cowboy Boot – Women’s

The ultimate in all-purpose footwear, Justin Stampede boots for women combine a classic look with the benefits of a synthetic sole. The technical rubber sole provides traction and protection against the elements, making these boots suitable for everything from roping to rodeo.

justin boots

Click to see it at Amazon

Best Rubber Sole Cowboy Boot – Men’s

Ariat’s Heritage Roughstock Western boots for men are built to last, and they come with composite rubber soles that provide superior grip and are heat and abrasion-resistant. They are the perfect combination of style, durability, and all-day comfort.

ariat cowboy boot

Click to see it at Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can you wear leather-soled cowboy boots in the rain?

While you can wear leather-soled cowboy boots in the rain, it won’t do them or your feet any favors. Leather is naturally moisture resistant but will absorb and retain water, potentially weakening the leather and causing it to wear out faster.

Q: Which sole is better, rubber or leather?

Both leather and rubber soles have their benefits, but if you want something you can wear all year round, a rubber sole is probably the better option. Rubber soles are more waterproof than leather soles and have better traction.

Q: Why do cowboy boots have leather soles?

Leather-soled cowboy boots slip into the stirrup easily and also mean you can remove your foot quickly if necessary. That would’ve been ideal for cowboys who were forever jumping on and off, but isn’t ideal for those who worry about their feet slipping too far forward in the stirrup.

Another benefit of leather was that it was widely available and affordable. Leather soles are also durable, breathable, and flexible.

Q: How do you replace rubber cowboy boot soles?

You can replace rubber cowboy boot soles at home using a sole repair kit, but you’ll get better, longer-lasting results by taking them to a professional cobbler.

If you decide to resole your boots yourself, you’ll need to remove the old soles using a small knife and a pair of pliers. Then cut the new soles to fit, using sandpaper to remove any rough edges. Once you’ve cleaned and roughened the undersides of your boots, you can glue on the new sole and heel before securing them with the original nails.

Parting Thoughts

For people as clumsy as me, leather-soled cowboy boots can be a bit hazardous, especially in wet or slippery conditions! They do look good, though, and feel even better, so if you have little trouble staying upright, there are plenty of reasons to opt for a classic leather sole.

Rubber soles may be harder to replace, but they offer a bit more grip and waterproofing than leather soles, making them more practical for riding and working around the yard.

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About the author


Holly N.

Holly started riding as a six years old in the UK and competed regularly in local events, including showjumping, cross country, showing, working hunter, and gymkhana. She now lives and rides in South Africa, working as a trail guide with Wild Coast Horseback Adventures. Her interests are primarily in the areas of DIY horse ownership, trail riding, barefoot horses, endurance, competitive trail riding, and South African breeds.