by Mark Reeves, Podiatrist, Virginia Mason
Does the leather on soccer cleats matter? And of the different types of leather, how does one choose?
Full-grain leather is the most common. It is durable, but not as moldable to the foot for fit. Kangaroo skin is light, excellent for touch on the ball, and can easily stretch to accommodate a more difficult-to-fit foot. However, kangaroo skin is not as durable as full-grain leather or synthetic materials; as a result, it often needs to replaced more frequently, making it a more expensive choice. Synthetic materials are the most durable and, in the Northwest, offer the feature of being waterproof. However, they are most often stiffer, do not mold well to the foot, and do not offer the touch of kangaroo skin.
In summary, if you are looking for maximum touch, fit and moldability, and willing to pay more, then kangaroo skin is the material to consider. When greater durability, moldability over a greater period of time, and good touch are considered, then full-grain leather is generally the choice. Finally, synthetic materials are preferred for durability and waterproofing, with less touch and little or no moldability.
Choosing the right leather for your cleats is a personal choice, but many feel it can — and does — affect their ability to play at their best.