Nubuck Leather vs. Suede Shoes: What’s the Difference?

Choosing the perfect pair of leather shoes or other stylish options is all about understanding the material for maximum comfort, style, and durability. In the world of footwear, Nubuck leather and suede are two popular materials, each with its unique features and benefits. 

In this easy-to-read guide, we will explore the differences between Nubuck leather and suede shoes by examining their origins, production process, appearance, maintenance, and more. With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision when buying your next pair of fashionable and comfy shoes. 

So, let’s dive in and learn what sets them apart!

The Origins and Production Process

Nubuck Leather

1. Source material and processing techniques

Nubuck leather is derived from the top grain of animal hides, typically from cows but also from other animals like goats or sheep. The production process involves sanding the top grain to remove any imperfections, resulting in a smooth and even texture with a velvety feel. This sanding process distinguishes Nubuck leather from other types of leather, giving it its unique appearance and characteristics.

2. Characteristics of Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather is known for its durability, water resistance, and breathability. Its soft, velvety surface provides a luxurious feel and is often used in high-end footwear and accessories. Nubuck leather is also more resistant to wear and tear compared to suede, making it suitable for everyday use and heavy-duty applications.


1. Source material and processing techniques

Suede is created from the underside of animal hides, typically from cows, goats, or pigs. Unlike Nubuck leather, which uses the top grain, suede utilizes the split layer of the hide. The hide is then sanded to achieve a soft, fuzzy texture, which gives suede its distinctive look and feel.

2. Characteristics of Suede

The Suede is softer and more pliable than Nubuck leather due to its origin from the underside of the hide. However, this also makes it less durable and less water-resistant.

Suede is often used in casual footwear and accessories, offering a unique and elegant appearance. While it may not be as hard-wearing as Nubuck leather, suede’s softness and flexibility make it a popular choice for comfortable and stylish shoes.

Nubuck Leather vs. Suede Shoes: Comparing Aesthetics and Texture

Nubuck Leather Appearance

Nubuck leather has a wide range of colors and often features a smooth, velvety texture. The sanding process used in its production creates a consistent and even surface that is both visually appealing and pleasant to touch.

Over time, Nubuck leather may develop a natural patina, which adds character to the material. As it ages, the leather can become softer and more comfortable. However, proper care and maintenance are essential to ensure its longevity and prevent excessive wear.

Suede Appearance

Suede offers an extensive color palette and has a distinctive soft, fuzzy texture. This unique appearance makes it an attractive choice for footwear, clothing, and accessories. The surface is more delicate than Nubuck leather, so it requires extra care to maintain its look.

As suede gets older, it may show signs of wear, such as fading or flattening of the fibers. Regular cleaning and brushing can help keep the suede looking fresh and vibrant. While it may not be as long-lasting as Nubuck leather, with proper care, suede can remain stylish and comfortable throughout its lifetime.

Durability and Maintenance

In this section, we will compare the durability and maintenance requirements of Nubuck leather and suede.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather is known for its strength and resistance to wear and tear, making it a long-lasting material suited for various applications, including footwear, bags, and upholstery.

To keep Nubuck leather looking its best, it’s essential to clean and maintain it regularly. Use a specialized Nubuck brush to remove dirt and dust, and apply a Nubuck-specific spray for stain protection.

If stains occur, use a Nubuck cleaner following the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid using water or other general cleaning products, as they may damage the leather.

Suede durability

Suede is less durable than Nubuck leather due to its softer and more delicate nature. However, with proper care, it can still offer a good level of longevity and remain stylish over time.

To maintain the appearance of suede, brush it regularly with a suede brush to keep the fibers fresh and fluffy. For stain protection, use a suede-specific spray.

If stains do appear, clean them with a suede eraser or cleaner according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Like Nubuck leather, avoid using water or general cleaning products on suede, as they can cause damage.

Comfort and Breathability

Let us learn the factors affecting the breathability of Nubuck leather and suede and its impact on foot health.

Nubuck Leather Comfort

Nubuck leather is known for its breathability, which contributes to its overall comfort. The material’s open-pore structure allows air to circulate, preventing moisture build-up and keeping the feet dry.

The breathability of Nubuck leather helps maintain a healthy environment for the feet, reducing the risk of odors and fungal growth. Its durable nature also provides excellent support and protection for the feet, contributing to overall foot health and comfort.

Suede Comfort

Suede is also a breathable material due to its open-pore structure. This characteristic allows for air circulation, ensuring that the feet remain dry and comfortable throughout the day.

Like Nubuck leather, the breathability of suede promotes a healthy environment for the feet by reducing the risk of odors and fungal infections. Although suede may not provide the same level of support as Nubuck leather, its soft and flexible nature makes it a comfortable option for various footwear styles.

Price and Value

A. Nubuck Leather Pricing

1. Factors influencing cost

The cost of Nubuck leather is influenced by several factors, including the quality of the animal hides, the production process, and the brand or manufacturer. High-quality hides and meticulous processing techniques contribute to a higher price for Nubuck leather products.

2. Value for money

Although Nubuck leather may be more expensive than suede, its durability, strength, and resistance to wear and tear make it a long-lasting investment. The combination of style, comfort, and longevity adds value to Nubuck leather items, making them worth the higher price.

B. Suede Pricing

1. Factors influencing cost

Suede pricing is also affected by the quality of the animal hide, production methods, and the brand or manufacturer. However, since suede is made from the split layer of the hide and requires less processing compared to Nubuck leather, it is typically less expensive.

2. Value for money

While suede may not be as durable as Nubuck leather, its softness, flexibility, and unique appearance make it an attractive and affordable option for various footwear and accessory styles. With proper care and maintenance, suede items can still offer a good level of longevity and remain stylish over time, providing value for money.

Choosing the Right Shoe Material

When selecting the perfect shoe material, it’s essential to consider various factors to ensure that your footwear meets your style, comfort, and durability needs. Here are some guidelines to help you make an informed decision:

  1. Purpose: Determine the primary purpose of your shoes. Are they for casual wear, formal occasions, or outdoor activities? Different materials may be better suited for specific purposes, so understanding your needs will help narrow down your options.
  2. Durability: Consider the longevity and resistance to wear and tear of the shoe material. Nubuck leather, for example, is known for its durability, while suede is softer and more delicate. Assess how important durability is for your intended use and choose a material that aligns with your requirements.
  3. Comfort: Comfort is a crucial factor when selecting shoe material. Breathability, flexibility, and support are all aspects to consider when choosing a material that will provide optimal comfort for your feet.
  4. Maintenance: Some shoe materials require more maintenance than others. Be prepared to invest time and effort into caring for your shoes, whether it’s regular brushing, cleaning, or applying protective sprays. Proper maintenance will help prolong the life and appearance of your footwear.
  5. Style: Choose a material that complements your style and wardrobe. Both Nubuck leather and suede offer unique aesthetics, so consider which look best suits your preferences.
  6. Budget: Finally, assess your budget and determine which shoe material offers the best value for your investment. While some materials may be more expensive, their durability, style, and comfort may justify the higher price.

Final Thoughts

With so many materials available, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you. However, understanding the features and benefits of Nubuck leather and suede will help make that decision easier.

Consider the purpose, durability, comfort, maintenance, style, and budget when selecting shoe material for your next pair of shoes. With careful selection and proper care, you can ensure that your shoes will provide long-lasting comfort and style.

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