Up until the last decade, leather was the standard for soccer cleats. Perhaps the most legendary soccer boot of all time, the Adidas Copa Mundial, has been constructed of kangaroo leather since its first release in 1979. Over the last five or so years, the industry shifted away from the use of leather, choosing to construct a majority of high-end cleats in premium synthetic materials. Both upper materials have their pros and cons, and while synthetic boots are dominating the market, there remains a generation of customers devoted to the tried and true quality of leather.
Of the four Nike silos, only one all-leather silo remains: Tiempo. The remaining three silos (Mercurial, Hypervenom and Magista) all feature top-tier boots constructed with Flyknit – Nike’s knitted upper technology that hugs the foot like a sock.
Although Adidas continues to produce the original Copa Mundial, the brand all but did away with leather uppers until the recent release of a Copa silo that provides a lighter, modernized version of the classic leather boot.
Understanding an older consumer’s desire for the uppers of yesteryear, both Adidas and Nike create leather versions of their knitted boots. Adidas does this for every new colorway, and Nike releases a special “Tech Craft” Pack with unique colorways every season.
Benefits of Leather:
- Softens over time and molds to the foot
- Thicker layer of protection over the foot
- High comfort level
- Stretches to accommodate wider feet
- More durability
Cons of Leather:
- Traps water in wet conditions – especially around stitching
- Hardens if worn in rain/mud and left to dry out
Benefits of Synthetic:
- Significantly lighter
- Tight fit to the foot that bends easily with movement
- Ability to take on color dyes and advanced pattern designs
- Airs out quicker after wet conditions
Cons of Synthetic:
- Durability is lower – not meant to last more than one or two seasons
- Will not stretch to accommodate wider feet – the comfort level is locked in at purchase and won’t change much over time
Images courtesy of Nike Soccer and Adidas Football.