Some hikers find that leather hiking boots offer the best combination of protection and fit. You can find leather versions of day hiking shoes, backpacking hiking boots, and mountaineering boots. However, when choosing your hiking boot, it is best to understand the different types of leather used to make the best decision.


Full-grain leather hiking boots provide maximum durability and resist water and abrasion. They are a great choice for many backpacking hiking boots and mountaineering boots. The downside is that they are heavier, more expensive, and less breathable than split-grain combination boots.


Nubuck is full-grain leather that has the buffed appearance of suede rather than the shiny appearance of full-grain leather. Nubuck also resists water and abrasion and is especially used for mountaineering boots. Nubuck is stronger than suede because it is made from the outside of the leather hide, which is the strongest part. On the other hand, suede is made from sanding the inside of the leather hide. While strong and visually appealing, they are prone to water damage and susceptible to scratching.


Split-grain leather boots contain less leather so they cost less than full-grain or nubuck hiking boots. They are paired with nylon mesh or nylon for lighter weight and greater breathability. Split-grain leather hiking boots are more susceptible to damage than full-grain boots, but they can serve as waterproof hiking boots if they have waterproof linings.

Which Is Best?

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of leather used in hiking boots, you may ask yourself, which one is best for my applications?

If you are interested in serious outdoor excursions such as long backpacking trips in extreme conditions or mountaineering on difficult slopes, either full-grain or nubuck leather are the most appropriate choices due to the abrasion resistance and natural waterproof qualities of leather. If you are interested in more casual activities such as camping or a day hike with a medium or lightweight pack, split-grain leather is more appropriate due to the lightweight and breathable qualities.

If you have more questions about hiking boots or your hiking adventures, check out your local Sun & Ski Sports to talk to one of our experts.