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Shoe Sole Types That You Should Know

15 Mar 2023

Put simply, shoes can't stand on their own. They shield the wearer's feet from harm, preventing serious discomfort later on.

Having no soles on your shoes is the same as going barefoot. Picture yourself running without any footwear or other protection for your feet. How tragic. You will most likely suffer some sort of injury or illness. A wide variety of shoe materials are commercially available today. If you want to choose the best material for your shoes' soles, you need to have a firm grasp on the fundamentals. Choosing high-quality materials is crucial to achieving the desired levels of convenience, performance, and longevity.

Because there are so many variations in shoe design, soles can be crafted from a wide variety of materials. To give just one example, the sole of a pair of hiking boots or a pair of running shoes cannot be the same as that of a pair of ballet flats.

Here, you'll learn all about the various options for shoe soles and the activities that call for them. Okay, let's start exploring this.

Sole Types For Shoes And Boots

1.Single Leather Soles

Single Leather Soles

Even though rubber versions are becoming more popular, leather soles are still the norm for high-quality footwear. A single leather sole on a Goodyear welted shoe is sewn onto the welt, so if you look from the side you see two layers of leather. Welted shoes only have one layer of leather on the sole, while Blake or rapid stitched shoes have two layers of leather (the top and the midsole) instead.

There are many different quality levels of leather used for soles, but the three most common ones for the high-end footwear discussed on Shoegazing are prime, super prime, and oak barked. To summarise these, one have to generalise, since there’s not really any set requirements as it was more off back in the days.

Both prime and super prime soles are crafted in a similar fashion, spending several weeks to months undergoing a fully vegetable tanning or combination-tanning process. Finer leather with a denser grain is considered Super prime, and so on up the grading scale. Prime soles are generally found on shoes in the €150-€300 price range, Super prime on shoes between €300-€600, give or take.

Oak bark tanned, or ground tanned as they are sometimes called, leather soles are of a higher quality, and are produced in a different way. This is achieved through an almost completely natural process that takes considerably longer time and is therefore more costly, where the leather is left laying on top of each other in large pits of water and oak bark for a long time (basically all sole leathers are pit tanned, but it’s the long-term pits that makes the real difference). Back in the days it had to be for two years, now it’s down to six months in some cases though, and more use of bark extracts instead of actual bark and a more extensive pre-tanning has changed things also in this category. It should be said that it does not necessarily have to be oak bark, chestnut bark and other bark types are also used, such as in JM Weston’s fantastic soles. The sole qualifies because of its natural and labor-intensive production method.

As for the heel base, which is attached to the back of the leather sole, the top lift of the heel is usually made of the same material as the sole (except for the back piece, which is almost always rubber these days) (except for the back piece, which is almost always rubber these days). Then, the heel lifts in factory-made shoes, which are located between the sole and the heel top piece, are almost never made of the same leather as these. Leather board or fiber board may be used in rare instances, but in most cases, cheaper scraps of leather will suffice.

After a few wears, leather soles become supple and comfortable to walk on, and some people even find that they keep their feet cooler than rubber ones. Soles made from prime leather, super prime leather, or oak bark can dry out after being exposed to water, but in heavy rain, you're better off with a different material. Leather soles called Flex soles and similar are usually just more pliable, which makes them easier to break in but may affect durability.

2. Double Leather Soles

Just as it sounds, two layers of sole leather are simply used instead of one (for double rubber soles, there’s normally a leather midsole used). The thicker sole is more durable and provides better insulation against the cold, but it also makes for a slightly clumsier and stiffer shoe. Typically found on boots and casual footwear. There are also triple-soled shoes, but these are rare, and given that they are said to take a year or so of use to break in properly, they are not very practical. For RTW, it’s common to use cheaper leather for the midsoles.

3. Rubber Soles

As an alternative to leather, rubber is often used as a sole material. The recycled rubber or other natural and synthetic rubbers are used to create the sole. Rubber soles offer durability and stability during prolonged contractions that other sole materials can't match. These are popular due to being inexpensive, watertight, and quick to break into. Another reason why these bottoms are so well-liked? Although it may be more affordable, it doesn’t hinder the look or feel of the shoe.

Rubber soles are more durable than leather ones, but you should know that they weigh more. The availability of these rubbers' variants depends on the specific market you investigate.

  • Polyurethane Soles
  • Gristle Rubber
  • Resin Rubber
  • Thermoplastic Rubber

4. Cork Nitrile Soles

Cork Nitrile Soles

The cork and rubber that go into these soles are a match made in footwear heaven. To top it all off, cork nitrile soles are lighter than rubber soles despite being just as long-lasting.

They are very comfortable and are oil resistant. The lack of tread on the soles is a drawback. Therefor they are not suitable for use on slippery surfaces. Soles made of durable cork and non-marking nitrile rubber are great for everyday use.

5. Crepe Soles

Crepe soles are made from natural latex “Crepe” rubber. They are known for their comfort and good-looking appearance. The improvement in comfort is due to the midfoot's increased protection. The downside with crepe soles is that they are heavy.

The material is also open-pore in nature, making it hard to remove any dirt or dust trapped in the sole. Modern boots benefit greatly from having crepe soles.

6. Raw Cord

During World War II, when rubber was in short supply, raw cord soles were developed as a replacement. Manufacturers repurposed used tires to create them. These soles can withstand harsh weather conditions and are durable. However, these days only a select few companies continue production.

7. Camp soles

The camp sole is both lightweight and waterproof, despite being designed for casual wear, so it can handle any weather. The rubber sole is typical of Moccasins and loafers.

8. HAF soles

HAF soles

Something in between a single and double leather sole. In this case, the front of the shoe is reinforced with two soles for longevity, while the midsection and heel are equipped with a single sole. Gives a neater impression than a full double sole. For the shoe to be well-balanced, however, it is essential that the manufacturer add a layer to the heel base, which is sometimes forgotten. Nowadays, the term "HAF soles" can also be used to refer to footwear with a half rubber outsole, especially when it is relatively thick.

9. York soles

We now move on to the many distinct varieties of rubber outsoles available, which are sometimes organized alphabetically by the most popular brand, sometimes named after the brand with the most market share, and sometimes referred to by more generic terms. York is basically a rubber sole with a leather insert at the waist and back. The standard York sole is actually on the thicker side, even if it has a sleek appearance. The rubber pieces of the outsole have small studs on them to improve traction. The Spanish use the version called York, but there are other versions out there with different names. Good in wet conditions, less good in winter on snow and ice due to often having a relatively hard rubber compound.

10. City Rubber Soles

City Rubber Soles

In the world of formal footwear, this sole style has become increasingly popular in recent years. The beauty of these thin rubber soles is that they look just like leather soles, looking from the side it’s hard to tell the difference. They are of course better than leather in wet conditions due to being waterproof and offering better grip, and depending on the rubber mix they can also offer some grip on snow and ice.

11. Medway soles

The original one is made by Dainite, a sole type that isn’t very common. A more robust rubber sole, suitable for trudging on some terrain, but in the winter the snow can pack into the tread and make it as slippery as ice.

12. Airwair soles

Airwair soles

Similar to the blown rubber wedge soles in that both employ air infusion to reduce weight, this method also adds bounce and a glossy sheen to the rubber. German doctor Klaus Märten developed this type of sole during World War II; the patent eventually made its way to England, where the NPS factory began using it for a boot style now known as Dr. Martens. The rest is, as one say, history.

13. TRP soles

TRP soles are made from thermoplastic rubber. Thermoplastic rubber is produced by manufacturers by compounding and molding rubber granules made from solid raw materials. These soles are famous for their excellent shock absorption and slip resistance. Unfortunately, they're not particularly cozy. TRP soles are ideal for the outdoors.

14. Mini lug soles

Very similar to Commando soles, just with slightly smaller lugs which are placed in pairs. Commando soles are a popular style and are used by many shoemakers.

15. Commando Soles

Commando Soles

There are two main shoe categories that feature a commando sole: hiking boots and work boots. You can recognize them because of their sad history and how they look. They are the best choice for withstanding the elements and provide exceptional grip, but they have a heavier, chunkier feel.

Although commando soles are suitable for everyday wear, most people wouldn't consider them appropriate for dressier occasions. Even in the professional world, it's usually best to avoid it. One of a commando's most frequent gripes? They eventually deteriorate, crack, and become rigid. They also attract everything. Are you walking through the mud? It’s now stuck under your boot. What, stones and grass? In the sock or, more colloquially, the boot. If you are crossing your threshold after a long day of wearing these boots, you might want to clean the bottoms first.


Keep in mind that different soles will serve different functions when you're picking out shoes. It depends on your intended purpose, as many soles will claim to be the best. Attempt a middle ground if you still can't make up your mind. Look for a sole that has the qualities you need now as well as the ones you want (such as flexibility and comfort) (such as durability, strength, and nonslip).

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