Nubuck leather – the pros and cons of a natural product

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Nubuck leather trecking boots.
Nubuck leather is often used for walking and trekking boots

Doesn’t the term nubuck leather automatically make you think of those classy leather shoes for upscale occasions? Well, interestingly enough, this natural material is used for much more than just fancy footwear. You can find nubuck leather upholstery, car interiors, in the form of reinforcements for clothing and oftentimes as the main material for gloves and mountaineering boots.

But, as with every other natural material, there are upsides and downsides to nubuck leather. In this post, we’re going to focus on the pros and cons of nubuck leather and they pertain to mountain sports.

What is nubuck leather, anyway?

Let’s start by figuring out what nubuck leather is. Nubuck leather is a top-grain cattle leather that is known for its raw, almost velvet-like surface. Obviously, this nice texture isn’t inherent to the leather. Only when it is sanded or buffed can you produce this texture. As for the origins of the word, it is assumed that the leather gets its named from this very process. Suede, which is visibly similar to nubuck after being sanded, is also known as buckskin. Because it was a new and artificial method they used back then to sand the leather, it is assumed that the word nubuck can from new + buck (skin).

Nubuck shoes are breathable and water-resistant
Nubuck is both breathable and water-resistant

The advantages of nubuck leather

The best thing about nubuck leather is probably its breathability. It gets its breathable properties from sanding the leather. This makes the leather great for sports and thus simply perfect for walking and mountaineering boots. In addition to its breathability, the material is water-resistant as well. However, you’ll have to proof the leather first, but once you’ve done so, it’ll stay that way for a long time.

Another great thing about this leather is how comfortable it is. How comfortable? Well, you’ll have to go mountaineering to find out! After all, only if your shoes lie comfortably and gently against your feet, will those tough ascents be as fun as they should be.

The disadvantages of nubuck leather

Apart from the advantages like the breathability, water-resistance and the softness of the material, nubuck leather has one small disadvantage as well. And ironically, it’s one that results from sanding. Nubuck leather gets stained very easily. So, if you’re trudging through dirt and mud, don’t be surprised if you find ugly spots on your shoes.

Another downside to nubuck is that its UV resistance is relatively low, so the colour tends to fade with intensive use. But, if you opt for a lighter colour, this will be less of an issue.

Cleaning and caring for nubuck leather

Nikwax - Nubuck & Suede - Leather care product
Nikwax – Nubuck & Suede – Leather care product

If your nubuck leather shoe gets a stain, don’t worry – there’s a lot of life in it yet! Cleaning the material is surprisingly easy. For surface dirt or dust, you can use a suede brush to scrub the dirty areas and move on to the rest of the shoe. But, before you do so, make sure the shoes are dry. In addition to suede brushes, there are also natural rubber brushes that are gentler and remove even more dirt. Once you’ve finished cleaning the leather, proof it with a waterproofing spray. This will protect the leather from future damage and may even provide UV protection as well, depending on the product you choose.

Special care products to treat ugly stains

If the nubuck leather ends up getting stained, you can treat the stains with special stain erasers. These erasers were developed specifically to be used on nubuck leather and can make the stain less prominent or even remove it completely. However, do be careful when using them. You could end up damaging the leather. In addition to stain erasers, there are also cleaning products for nubuck leather or care sets specifically designed for this particular type of leather and its characteristics.

Very dirty nubuck leather shoes need to be cleaned with water

If your leather shoes are really dirty, often the only way to get them clean is by using water. All you have to do is hold your nubuck leather boots under running water and scrub them with a brush. You can also add some soap, if needed, but make sure it’s not too aggressive. After cleaning, stuff them with some newspaper and allow them air dry in a dry room. It is important to ensure that the space is not too hot. The newspaper helps the shoes to retain their shape. Plus, it absorbs water rather quickly.

Never dry your shoes on or under a radiator, either, because the leather would dry out and lose both its softness and breathability. Afterwards, be sure to proof the leather as well.

Mountaineer with nubuck shoes
Nubuck leather shoes are very common in hill walking and mountaineering

As was mentioned above, nubuck leather is a great choice for walking and mountaineering boots. The material makes them incredibly comfortable and durable, so you’re guaranteed to serve you well for a long time to come. If you care for them on a properly on a regular basis, nothing will get in the way of more exciting expeditions.

Any questions? If so, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. Hannes is our Nubuck leather expert. They are available on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

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