Leather vs Synthetic... Your Thoughts?

  • Synthetic textiles have come a long way. Micro-fibers and all-way-stretch materials have become widely used and "vegan-leather" has made a splash. Still, many climbers prefer leather and consider it a higher quality material.

    While some argue that synthetics are not as "green" as they might appear at first glance, others argue that leather isn't "ethical". Performance and comfort, sustainability and price, all come into balance when choosing a pair of shoes.

    We'd like to know what you think. Which material do you prefer and why? Does it make a difference as far as comfort or performance? What are your thoughts?

    Thank you!

  • @ACOPA

    Most synthetic shoes tend to smell pretty bad after a bit of wear. Leather seems to mostly avoid this issue. I think leather wins for comfort too

  • @ACOPA

    I prefer leather. Leather breathes. Leather also "breaks in" and conforms to your foot after a while.

    Synthetic stuff tends to also be using nylon stuff for heel cups and such to maintain "form". Might work great for uniform consistency of product but... I rather have leather. Maybe I am waxing nostalgic for Fires. Synthetic anything tends to be hydrophobic and retain odors from sweat and such if you're one who cares about stinky feet. I also wax nostalgic for 5.10's that used cambrell and leather. They stank. Cambrell lining mitigated stretch? Worked bitchin' as a general multi pitch all rounders though. Some slippers I had here and there would be a mix of leather and synthetic/nylon materials. Hmm... Some dandy slippers, those were too. Let's see... my Dolomites were the cat's meow of the day for Smiths' pockets and nubbins and were all synthetic. And damn stinky.

    Hmmm.... so ... maybe synthetics like nylon give you more production control over the finished shoe product - and an all synthetic can obviously work well. My "higher performance" slipper/shoes did tend to use a mix of materials. But still.... when my focus drifts to comfort... I think leather.

    With regard to performance, comfort, sustainability and price, I don't really associate comfort w/a climbing shoe per se, so that takes a back seat to performance out of the gate unless they're a really bad fit. Ditto sustainability. Not that one does not care about sustainability but because in any grouping it's pretty much always necessarily fourth. That leaves what counts most as performance and price when rubber meets rock. Moreover, I question the degree to which any differences really matter much comparatived to all that rubber?

    My $0.02.

    Caveat emptor: I have not climbed in decades. So wtf do I know, eh?

  • Stink is definitely a consideration. Many synthetics are now treated with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agents during production. And of course they make production easier, but that's not our priority. As you say, it takes a back seat to performance and comfort. Leather is also more expensive than synthetic materials.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  • I think most of us are willing to pay for quality shoes, especially at the prices you charge here in Mexico!

  • @Scole said in Leather vs Synthetic... Your Thoughts?:

    I think most of us are willing to pay for quality shoes, especially at the prices you charge here in Mexico!

    Thank you!

    You might be surprised to know that our "Rock On" line, which we currently offer in Mexico, is built with anti-stink micro-fiber. It's all-way stretch, comfortable, very durable and 100% synthetic.

    Leather shoes, exported, shipped, marketed, distributed and retailed in the US, would probably come at a higher price than we are able to offer in Mexico. The models in the Acopa line are also a bit more complex to build and require more work, particularly models like the JB, Legend, Merlin and Spectre.

    Of course, we think the difference in performance is worth the added cost, but we are also doing our best to be competitively priced among comparable quality shoes.

  • Since inception of this thread I've found myself pondering this a bit from time to time... Strange, given how many decades it has been since I have climbed, eh? In any event, upon further reflection....

    • Leather may be comfy.

      Nice quality indeed for swingin' leads on an all day multi pitch route. But part of what makes leather so comfy is the stretch. This can be a downside if/when yer' on that thin edge and even a minor shift in foot to shoe relationship can mean the difference between making the move and not....

      Hence, us ol' dogs knew to buy our Fire's way tight cuz they were going to stretch. A lot. Like life, somewhere during middle age you hit the power years sweet spot of the shoe's life, pre resole cycle.

    • Synthetics may be stinky....

      But they don't stretch. Well, I am thinking shoe nylon and latest and greatest synth lining combo, at maximum, not much. Easy to dye, color. I would think quite attractive qualities from manufacturing point of view. Particularly in the quality control and consistency areas.

      Far as craggin' goes... that no stretch facilitates a snug as a bug in a rug, if somewhat less comfy, foot shoe interface. Nice quality to possess if/when yer' on that thin edge and even a minor shift in foot to shoe relationship can mean the difference between making the move and not...

      So I can see how they may well be preferred, stench and all., by gym and top end technical climbers. I shudder to imagine fifteen pitches in some of the exaggerated recurved gym/pocket/thin edge shoes I spy during infrequent wanderings thru the Climbing Section at REI.


    P.S.; Toby note to self:

    Then there is the whole minimalist, next to naked except a thin band of sticky rubber 'twixt me feet and the rock climbing slipper approach. Which can be quite loverly. Indeed. But that is a bit more than I have time to exposit upon at present so... will have to wait until another day, okay?

  • @toby Good thoughts, toby, thank you! No material is perfect for every use and every situation. Yet decisions must be made. That's why we appreciate all the feedback we can get from actual climbers like our friends here at RPU!

  • Late to the party. I prefer leather. For smell and foot conforming reasons.

  • @johntp Never too late to be heard and considered! Thanks for your input.

    Thank you all for your input.

    Over the past couple of months we've been talking to you about this in person, online and over the phone.

    Although there are advantages and disadvantages to both materials (the main disadvantage of leather being its relatively high cost), there seems to be a clear preference on your part.

    We've made a decision.

    Every Acopa model will be made using 100% natural leather.

    We hope this reflects your preferences and helps you jump on board with a new pair of Acopa shoes very soon!

    Thanks again to every one of you who has contributed your thoughts, feedback and ideas. Keem them coming!

    All the best!

  • @ACOPA , hey there, say... i had this odd thing happen a few years back, when i bought new ballet shoes, (not toe) and, well-- they WERE capezio... top notch brand... i LOVED the leather small...

    well-- i looked forward to them! sadly, when they came, they, oooops:
    smelled almost like DIESEL 😮 or, chemical-something, 😞
    yet-- they were leather... 😞

    after getting on line and trying to see if THAT happened to anyone else, well-- i read that they were actually made in china and lots of leather, from china, was cured 'in some way' that it would SMELL... and NOT like leather... 😞

  • @johntp , say, johntp... yeah, me too... i have found that there is less foot trouble, with real leather... foot breaths, better, too... 🙂 and, real wool, is better, too, for socks, if possible... (breaking the shoe, or, in my case, cowboy boots, in, is easier, too) ... 🙂 and then-- good dress shoes, out of leather, is better, too...

  • @neebee Whoa... That's no fun!

    Not to worry though, Acopa uses only top-grade, high-quality leather tanned by a local company that has been in business for decades.

    You get the best.

  • @ACOPA , wow, say, ... THAT is good to know... 🙂

  • @ACOPA

    Nice. I was guessing synthetics would be preferred for all the manufacturing benefits reasons.

    In my analysis, I left out environmental and sustainability concerns, focusing in performance and comfort. Leather vs. Synthetic is not so cut and dry as one may initially suppose once you ponder it a bit, but I think in the final analysis leather comes out on top on this parameter as well.

    Durability is another param I omitted from my analysis, as it kind of goes w/o saying. Yet.... there have been issues w/such in the past. For e.g., I had some Fire's once that just blew thru the rubber like it was butter. Bad batch and Fire replaced them so no sour taste. Especially since I now had an extra set of otherwise perfectly good lasts for resoling 😉

    Amusing stories being what they may, quality and consistency may not be as sexy but are paramount. I've never worn Acopa's but from what I've observed I have no doubts this aspect will receive due attention.

    So... good on' ya' all 'round!! 👍

  • Buenas noticias! Bring em on, I need some new shoes. Will they be available in Guadalajara? We still need to get that beer ACOPA

  • @Scole Yes and yes!

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