There are a number of pros and cons of leather and synthetic soccer cleats. Flashing back 20-30 years ago will take you to a time when soccer cleats were almost exclusively black and only came with leather uppers. Looking at soccer cleats in the modern game is a completely different story. We have every color imaginable and there are very few cleats that use leather any more. While there are numerous reasons for this, we simply want to run through the pros and cons of leather and synthetic soccer cleats and let you decide what you prefer.

First things first, it’s important to know that your options for leather are limited to only a few models unless manufacturers release any special editions such as the Nike tech craft pack. The models that regularly use leather are the Nike Tiempo, and the adidas Copa. Every other model from the major manufacturers (Nike, adidas, Puma) use synthetic uppers. It should be noted leather is not used on every version of the Tiempo or Copa.

One additional note is that the leather used on these models is kangaroo leather or “k leather” and it is illegal to sell products with this leather in California.

adidas Predator - pros and cons of leather and synthetic uppers

The Synthetic Upper on the adidas Predator 18+

We’ve put the pros and cons of leather and synthetic soccer cleats below so you can make an informed decision and understand the benefits and restrictions of each.

SYNTHETIC PROS

  • Lighter than leather
  • Able to be molded and textured for a variety of grips optimal in all weather conditions
  • Can be molded to be incredibly thin for better touch on the ball
  • Can be colored in any way imaginable for unlimited design variations
  • Dries quicker – doesn’t absorb water as much as leather
  • Holds it’s shape and does not stretch or need any additional treatment
  • Fits tight straight away and bends easily with little need for breaking in

SYNTHETIC CONS

  • Less durable than leather – generally designed to last 1-2 seasons max
  • Does not stretch or mold to your foot as much as leather
  • Offers less protection than leather does
    Nike Tiempo - pros and cons of leather and synthetic uppers

    The leather upper on the Nike Tiempo

LEATHER PROS

  • Custom fit that softens with use and molds to the foot – great for wider feet
  • Generally thicker than synthetic which provides more protection
  • Designed to last longer – leather can last a number of years if cared for properly

LEATHER CONS

  • Generally heavier than synthetic
  • Absorbs more water in wet conditions
  • Requires treatment and care to maintain longevity
  • Will crack or harden if left to air dry after wet conditions
  • Limited options for texturizing which reduces grip in wet conditions
  • Limited design options compared to synthetic

When looking at the pros and cons of each type of upper, it’s easy to see why most cleats are moving towards synthetic. The design options are much greater and there is more room for development of new technologies that will aid players. While there’s no predicting the future, it seems likely cleats will continue to develop technology around synthetic uppers and push the boundaries of design and innovation.

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