6 Reasons Why Full-Grain Leather Is the Best Choice for Handmade Shoes

why full-grain leather is best choice for handmade shoes featured image

At the foundation of any sturdy and timeless handmade leather shoe lies a good-quality leather.


This is nothing new; it’s been this way for centuries. Our ancestors understood the exceptional strength, comfort, elegance, and durability that real leather offers, which is why they used this material for their armor, clothing, and footwear.


Full-grain leather, as it’s commonly known today, is the highest quality leather available. It’s preserved for only the crème de la crème of leather accessories like these Popov Leather handmade leather shoes that my team and I recently launched.


Combine the strength, durability, and timelessness of full-grain leather with the meticulous attention to detail of our craftsmen's hand-sewing process, and the final results are premium leather shoes that are highly durable, super comfortable, well-fitting, and elegantly fashionable.


I will take you through six reasons why full-grain leather is the best choice for top-notch handmade shoes and how it stands out from other materials in terms of quality and performance. 


By the end of this article, you will learn


  • The unique benefits of full-grain leather for handmade shoes
  • What makes full-grain leather exceedingly durable and sustainable 
  • How full-grain leather contributes to overall foot health and comfort
  • The timeless and versatile aesthetics of Popov Leather’s full-grain leather handmade shoes

1 - Full-Grain Leather Is Incredibly Durable and Long-Lasting

Whenever I am in the market for a pair or two of quality handmade shoes, durability is a key factor that I must consider. 


Full-grain leather shoes have proven time and again to be a reliable choice when it comes to durability and longevity.


In fact, full-grain leather is highly sought after by leather manufacturers who prioritize quality over quantity due to its exceptional durability.


Full-grain leather is derived from the topmost part of the hide and no sanding or buffing has been done to this kind of leather, preserving its natural characteristics and grain patterns.

Popov Leather Classic Slip On in Black
Popov Leather Classic Slip On Shoe in Black

The top layer of the hide is naturally dense and tough, with thick and tight-knit fibers that make the leather resistant to scratches, scuffs, and wear and tear. 


This feature ensures that full-grain leather shoes can withstand heavy use and maintain their strength over time.


The surface of full-grain leather is also more resistant to moisture, stains, and other types of damage because the natural oils and fibers in full-grain leather help to repel moisture and stains. 


This allows the shoes to maintain their shape and integrity over time, ensuring that they last for many years.

How Full Grain Leather’s Durability Compares With Other Leather Grades

Leather grades such as corrected-grain and split leather grain undergo sanding or buffing processes that remove the hide's topmost layer, which is often the strongest, and imperfections or blemishes. This sanding compromises the strength and durability of the leather.


While these types of leather grades may have a uniform appearance, they lack the durability and appearance of full-grain leather.

cross section of different leather grades
Cross section of Different Leather Grades

Besides, shoes made of lower leather grades such as bonded leather may be coated with synthetic materials to create a more uniform appearance.


This coating will further compromise the leather's durability since the plastic coatings may crack or peel with frequent use, shortening the life of these shoes.


Why This Matters: Choosing full-grain leather for your shoes ensures long-lasting durability and a higher quality appearance, making it a smart investment in your footwear.

2 - Full-Grain Leather Shoes Are Highly Stylish

Every classy and sophisticated man wants quality leather footwear that’s not only durable but also stylish to complement his overall outfit. Full-grain leather shoes provide nothing less.
 

Leather’s natural grain patterns and textures are the result of the unique life experiences of each animal. 
 

And since full-grain leather comes from the hide’s topmost layer, these textures and grain patterns are prominent.


It’s these natural imperfections that make full-grain leather so special. You will never find two authentic leather shoes that look exactly the same.

man wearing Popov Leather Slip On in English Tan
Popov Leather Slip On Shoes in English Tan

Each shoe will have a distinct and visible grain pattern since different hides have different imperfections. These patterns can never be replicated.


If you purchase any of Popov Leather’s full-grain leather slip-ons, you’re guaranteed that they will be uniquely yours.


These fine leather accessories are truly one-of-a-kind, with the full-grain leather giving them their own distinctive characters and personalities.


And as the leather’s natural grain patterns and texture develop and evolve over time, they’ll add to the unique appeal of the shoes, making them even more stylish. 


As you keep wearing our authentic leather shoes, they will develop a patina, a natural sheen that develops over time as the leather interacts with its environment.


This patina—present only in full grain leather products— gives the shoes a richer and more luxurious appearance, adding to their timeless aesthetic appeal.


In contrast, leather shoes made from synthetic materials like pleather and lower-quality leathers such as bonded leather lack the natural grain patterns and texture that make full-grain leather so desirable.


They’ll also not develop a patina over time, which means that they’ll look worn and faded after just a few uses.


There are many other reasons why full-grain leather outperforms synthetic materials and low-quality leathers when it comes to style and versatility.


These reasons relate to the undesirable qualities of synthetic and low-quality leather shoes:


  • They cannot be polished or maintained in the same way as full-grain leather shoes when they get stained or wet. Full-grain leather shoes can be oiled with a leather conditioner to restore their sheen.
  • Some lower-quality leather shoes may have artificial markings or blemishes that detract from the overall aesthetics of the shoe.
  • Cheaper leather grades like bonded leather lack the natural grain patterns and texture of full-grain leather, resulting in a less authentic appearance.
  • Synthetic shoes are generally less durable and will wear out more quickly than full-grain leather due to their cheap materials that crack or peel with regular use.

And if you’re looking for timeless leather footwear that does not rely on current trends, you won’t go wrong with Popov Leather full-grain leather shoes. They offer a classic and timeless look that never goes out of style.


We build our shoes on a standard service boot last, offering an elegant design that suits many foot shapes. Our craftsmen also skillfully burnish and polish the shoes’ edges, showcasing the attention to detail in our work.


Our handmade leather slip-ons are highly versatile and can be paired with various outfits, whether it's a casual dinner date with a friend or a formal business meeting with a potential investor.

“I’ve worn them to do pretty much everything. From fetching wood to cocktail parties. They look good anywhere.”

Chris J., CA

The table below summarizes the qualities of full-grain leather shoes with synthetic shoes, highlighting the unique features of full-grain leather shoes.

Qualities Full-Grain Leather Shoes Synthetic Shoes
Grain patterns Yes No
Patina development Yes No
Polish and maintenance Yes No
Artificial markings No Yes

3 - Full Grain Leather Is Known For Its Comfort and Perfect Fit

For fine leather accessories like handmade shoes, the best investment you can make is in their comfort and fit.
 

You want everyday footwear that is lightweight, breathable, easy to wear and remove, and conforms to your feet like a glove.
 

As you wear your full-grain leather shoes, the natural oils and fibers in the leather break down and soften, allowing it to shape itself around the unique contours of your feet.

perfect fit of Popov Leather Slip On in Heritage Brown
Popov Leather Slip On Shoes in Heritage Brown

“A genuinely handmade shoe that’s comfortable, well thought out, far more versatile than it may first appear, and honestly just kinda fun.”

Ben Robinson, Stitchdown.com

This creates a personalized fit that ensures maximum comfort with each wear, and reduces the risk of foot problems such as blisters, corns, and calluses.
 

Our leather slip-ons become more comfortable with each wear. As the leather molds and conforms to your feet, it becomes softer and more supple, making it easier to move around and preventing stiffness or discomfort. 
 

In addition, these leather shoes also have a luxurious feel that is unmatched by other types of leather. Their natural softness and suppleness make them comfortable to wear right out of the box, without the need for a lengthy break-in period.

Full Grain Leather Can Resist Stretching

One of the major reasons why Popov Leather shoes can maintain their comfort, shape, and fit even after years of wear is because of full-grain leather's ability to resist stretching. 
 

The following full-grain leather’s natural features enable it to resist stretching:


  • Dense fibers: Full-grain leather is made from the top layer of the hide, which is dense and tightly packed with fibers. These fibers provide a strong foundation that resists the pull and pressure that often cause stretching in other materials.
  • Natural oils: Full-grain leather contains natural oils that help to maintain its shape and prevent stretching. These oils also help to keep the leather supple and flexible, allowing it to mold and conform to the shape of your feet without losing its structure.
  • Breathability: Full-grain leather is a porous material that allows air to circulate, which helps to prevent the build-up of moisture that can cause stretching and misshaping in other materials.

Full Grain Leather Allows for Natural Movement

Our full-grain leather handmade shoes allow for natural movement of the feet, which can help reduce the risk of blisters or discomfort. 
 

The full-grain leather we use, sourced from the USA, has a natural elasticity that enables our leather slip-ons to move with your feet instead of against them. 
 

This natural movement of our full-grain leather shoes comes with many benefits:


  • Reduced risk of foot pain: Our shoes move with your feet, preventing pain or discomfort that can result from stiff, inflexible footwear.
  • Enhanced performance: Our full-grain leather shoes allow for a more natural range of motion, which can improve athletic performance or overall mobility.
  • Improved circulation: Our shoes can help improve circulation in the feet and lower legs, reducing the risk of swelling or inflammation.
  • Increased stability: Since our shoes move with your feet, they provide greater stability and support, which can be particularly helpful if you have balance issues or foot injuries.
  • Comfortable all-day wear: When our shoes move with your feet, they are more comfortable to wear for extended periods, making them ideal for long days or active lifestyles.

Full Grain Leather Offers Cushioning

Full-grain leather is known for its natural cushioning properties, making it an ideal material for our handmade shoes meant for extended periods of wear. 
 

The natural fibers of the leather provide a cushioned layer between the foot and the ground, helping to absorb shock and reduce pressure on the feet. 
 

This can be particularly beneficial if you spend a lot of time on your feet or engage in activities that put a lot of strain on the feet, such as hiking or running.
 

When combined with the natural ability of our full-grain leather slip-ons to conform to the shape of your feet, the cushioning effect provides a personalized fit that ensures maximum comfort with each wear.

4 - Full Grain Leather Is Breathable

When it comes to choosing footwear, I believe that comfort is king. One of the most important aspects of comfort is breathability. Your feet need to breathe, especially if you'll be wearing your shoes for long periods. 
 

That's where Popov Leather full-grain leather shoes come in. The breathability of our full-grain leather shoes can be attributed to the leather’s unique structure.


Unlike synthetic materials or lower-quality leathers, which may not allow for air circulation, full-grain leather is derived from the most breathable part of the animal skin. This layer is characterized by tightly knit fibers that allow air to flow through easily.

man in leather shoes reading a book
A Man in Leather Shoes

The natural fibers in full-grain leather can absorb moisture and wick it away from the skin, which helps prevent the accumulation of sweat and moisture. 
 

When combined with the breathability of the leather, this natural wicking process helps keep your feet dry and comfortable even during long periods of wear.

How Full Grain Leather’s Breathability Compares With Other Synthetic Materials

Synthetic materials, such as plastic or rubber, are often used in shoe manufacturing due to their low cost and easy availability.  
 

However, they lack the natural breathability of full-grain leather. These synthetic materials don't allow for proper air circulation, which can lead to moisture buildup inside the shoes.  
 

When moisture gets trapped inside the shoe, it creates an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to grow, leading to unpleasant foot odor and infections. 
 

Lower-quality leathers, such as bonded leather or corrected-grain leather, also do not offer the same level of breathability as full-grain leather. The sanding and buffing process that these leather grades undergo often compromises the natural breathability of the leather, making it less comfortable over time. 
 

In contrast, full-grain leather has a natural porosity that allows for proper air circulation, which helps to prevent moisture buildup inside the shoes, reducing the risk of foot odor and fungal infections.  
 

Moreover, the natural fibers and oils in full-grain leather help to wick away moisture, ensuring that your feet stay dry and comfortable
 

The breathability of our full-grain leather shoes plays a significant role in providing maximum comfort to your feet.  
 

When your feet get too hot, they become sweaty and uncomfortable, leading to blisters, bad odor, and even fungal infections.  
 

However, full-grain leather is naturally porous, which allows for air circulation and helps to keep your feet cool and dry. This promotes a comfortable wearing experience and enhances the overall quality of our handmade shoes.


Why This Matters: Full-grain leather provides superior breathability compared to synthetic materials and lower-quality leathers. Its natural fibers and porosity allow for air circulation, moisture absorption, and a comfortable wearing experience.

5 - Full Grain Leather Shoes Come in Multiple Colors

During the tanning process, full-grain leather can be treated with various oils, waxes, and chemicals to achieve different colors and finishes.


The natural grain patterns and texture of full-grain leather make it an ideal material for various color variations, allowing for a wide range of options to fit any style or preference.


Dyeing techniques, such as aniline or semi-aniline, can also be used to add color to the leather. Each technique produces a unique color variation, giving full-grain leather shoes a distinctive and personalized look.


At Popov Leather, our full-grain leather handmade shoes come in four stylish and classic colors—English Tan, Heritage Brown, Natural, and Black—that will add a touch of sophistication to any outfit, making you feel confident and comfortable every step of the way.


Here is a breakdown of every shoe color and what makes it unique: 

1 - English Tan Classic Slip-On Leather Shoe

English Tan is a classic, warm brown hue that is perfect for adding a touch of elegance to any outfit. It’s achieved by combining natural vegetable tanning and dyeing techniques.
 

The final result is a rich and versatile color that pairs well with various wardrobe styles.

2 - Heritage Brown Classic Slip-On Leather Shoe

Heritage brown is a darker brown shade that exudes a sense of rustic charm and ruggedness. It is achieved by combining different oil and wax treatments to give it a unique and distinctive appearance.
 

Our heritage brown full-grain leather shoes are perfect for those who prefer a more subdued and natural look, and they pair well with casual and outdoorsy outfits.

3 - Natural Classic Slip-On Leather Shoe

Natural is a light, creamy color that showcases the natural grain patterns and texture of full-grain leather. It is achieved by using a combination of natural vegetable tanning and minimal dyeing techniques, resulting in a pure and authentic look.


Our natural full-grain leather shoes are perfect for men who prefer a minimalist and understated style, and they pair well with casual and summer outfits.

4 - Black Classic Slip-On Leather Shoe

Black is a classic and timeless color that is perfect for formal and dressy occasions. It’s achieved through a combination of aniline dyeing and wax treatments, resulting in a sleek and polished appearance.


Our black full-grain leather shoes are versatile and pair well with various wardrobe styles, from business suits to evening wear.


Here are Popov Leather’s classic slip-ons in four different colors.


Classic Slip On - English Tan

Classic Slip On - Heritage Brown

Classic Slip On - Natural

Classic Slip On - Black

6 - Full Grain Leather Is Eco-Friendly

As consumers become more conscious of their impact on the environment, the use of sustainable materials in fashion is becoming increasingly important. Ethical leather manufacturing plays a significant role in this shift toward sustainability.
 

Full-grain leather is an excellent choice for eco-conscious consumers who are looking for high-quality, durable, and sustainable materials for their handmade shoes. 
 

Here is why:

Full-Grain Leather Is a Natural, Biodegradable Material

Full-grain leather is a natural material that is biodegradable, which means it decomposes naturally without harming the environment. 
 

Unlike synthetic materials or lower-quality leathers that can take hundreds of years to break down and release harmful chemicals into the environment, full-grain leather is a renewable resource that will decompose naturally and contribute to the growth of new life. 
 

The sustainable leather production process of full-grain leather is also less harmful to the environment than methods used to mass-produce synthetic or faux leather shoes. 
 

Tanning processes used to treat leather are less harmful to the environment than the methods used to mass-produce synthetic or faux leather shoes. 
 

Vegetable tanning, for instance, uses natural tanning agents (vegetable tannins) found naturally in the barks of trees and other parts of plant species such as oak, chestnut, and mimosa.
 

This tanning method is the most natural and oldest form of tanning leather that’s eco-friendly since it does not use natural agents. The end product, vegetable-tanned leather, is an incredibly durable leather that will age gracefully with a deeper, richer color and a softer feel.
 

Did You Know? Vegetable tanning, a method dating back around 5,000 years, was originally used to create durable leather goods such as clothing, footwear, and tools for daily use in ancient civilizations.


On the other hand, synthetic materials used for shoe production, such as plastic or rubber, do not decompose naturally and can contribute to long-term environmental pollution when dumped as waste in landfills.


The process of producing synthetic materials requires the use of non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuel and oil, and releases harmful chemicals into the environment. 
 

This process also needs a significant amount of energy and generally contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.


Choosing full-grain leather shoes over synthetic ones, therefore, is an excellent way to reduce your environmental footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.
 

By purchasing Popov Leather eco-friendly leather shoes, you’ll be promoting eco-friendly practices and sustainable fashion in several ways:

1 - Our Full Grain Leather Slip-Ons Are Durable and Long-Lasting

Full-grain leather is a dense and tough material that can withstand heavy use, reducing the need for frequent replacements and lowering waste production. 


This means that investing in our full-grain leather shoes is a wise and sustainable choice in the long run, compared to lower-quality leather or synthetic materials that may wear out quickly and need to be replaced.
 

Besides, we use a special 360 stitch-down construction technique to ensure that every pair is easily resoleable by any cobbler who may be local to your area. 
 

By resoling your shoes, you’ll not only keep them out of landfills but also lower the amount of resources used to make new leather shoes.

2 - Our Full Grain Leather Slip-Ons Are Handcrafted by Skilled Artisans

Full-grain leather is a premium material that requires skilled craftsmanship to produce. 


Each pair of our slip-on leather shoes is meticulously hand-sewn and hand-lasted in our workshop by highly skilled craftsmen. 


Their special leatherworking techniques involve the use of high-quality leather materials and the stitch-down construction method that ensures long-lasting durability.

3 - Purchasing Our Full Grain Leather Slip-Ons Means Supporting Local Communities

By choosing products made in the USA, such as Popov Leather's full-grain leather handmade shoes, you are supporting local communities and reducing the carbon footprint associated with international shipping. This can be a positive step towards sustainability and eco-friendliness.

Only Choose Full-Grain Leather for Your Handmade Shoes

When it comes to investing in high-quality, durable, and sustainable footwear, full-grain leather is undoubtedly the best choice. 


Not only is it a premium material that offers excellent durability and breathability, but it also provides personalized comfort and timeless aesthetics that can enhance any wardrobe. 
 

At Popov Leather, my team and I are proud to offer a wide range of handmade leather shoes made from full-grain leather. 


Our leather shoes are fully hand-stitched and hand-lasted by our highly skilled artisans to ensure maximum durability, comfort, and fit.


We use USA full-grain leather that will only get better as it ages because of the attractive patina it will develop. 


By choosing our handmade leather slip-ons, you’ll be supporting our sustainable and small-batch production method, which is more environmentally friendly and socially responsible than mass-produced shoes.


Check out our leather shoe collection to find the perfect one for you. With classic leather styles that are timeless and complement many outfits, you'll look your best at all times.

“Their unique design makes them very eye-catching, and I know this firsthand based on the amount of comments I receive when I wear them. Also, despite the fact that they are slip-on, they are a shoe that can be worn in both casual and formal situations seamlessly.”

Ross N., Nelson, BC Canada

Written by Ryan Popoff


Ryan Popoff is the creative mind behind Popov Leather wallets, iPhone cases, belts, watch bands and journals since 2013. With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, my leatherworking journey began at home. I wanted to create a simple leather wallet that could fit into my front pocket and — to my delight — it was a hit with family and friends. Hopefully you love our honest, quality leather goods too! Reach out with questions.


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