Whether you’re into sports or not, there’s no denying that sneakers have made a lasting impact on culture and are now an everyday necessity. Whether you’re a sneakerhead who has a collection of kicks or you appreciate a good sneaker to wear around town, there’s a sneaker for you out there. Let’s face it: Sneakers are a booming aspect of the fashion industry and are expected to grow to a $102 billion valuation by 2025, so they won’t be going away for a long while.
It can be overwhelming when you’re shopping for leather sneaker and see the multitude of options available. That’s why we’ve consulted stylist Marissa Pelly for advice on how to find the perfect leather sneaker. Pelly has worked with celebrities like Nicky Hilton and Bailey Bryan, and her work can be seen in publications such as Hypebeast, Cake Magazine, and Complex. She knows her way around streetwear style and always has the most interesting takes on styling sneakers on Instagram. Pelly even understands that the sneaker market can be overwhelming for anyone.
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“Sneakers are more in demand than ever right now, and like anything else in fashion, there's a ton of excess . . . fine-tuning your purchases is so important,” she tells Byrdie. “Thinking like an editor will always elevate your closet and help the environment.”
Given that there’s so much product on the market, Pelly has her tips to help navigate sneaker shopping and what you should consider in a pair. “Definitely, comfort first—sneakers are likely to be worn all day,” Pelly continues. “Consider a sleek silhouette that can be dressed up or down and a colorway that will add to your closet.” And don’t forget that there are so many ways to express your style while wearing kicks.
“I love sneakers and tailoring all year–I'd say a relaxed fit suit and a pair of kicks is my go-to set look when I'm working with clients,” she says. “In the winter, I'm almost always in a cozy sweat set that illuminates the colors in my sneakers. Using sneakers to round out a color palette is an easy way to elevate any look.”
With a stylist’s expertise in mind, keep reading Byrdie's picks for the best leather sneakers—for all your style (and practicality) needs.
Best Overall: Nike Air Force 1 '07 Shoe
It’s no surprise that a Nike shoe is on this list. The Air Force ‘07 made the roundup due to its somewhat affordable price point of $100 and the fact that it’s a classic shoe. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen this sneaker everywhere. No matter what kind of style you have, this sneaker applies to everyone. In both men’s and women’s sizing and a seemingly endless variety of colorways and patterns, this Nike sneaker, in particular, is best overall for its low-profile silhouette and versatile styling.
Construction: Leather upper, rubber sole, foam midsole | Size Range: US 5-12
Most Versatile: Adidas Originals Stan Smith Sneaker
The most versatile sneaker on this list should not come as a shocker to anyone. The Adidas Stan Smith was one of the sneaker styles that kicked off the sneaker boom of the 2010s. The sportswear company truly made a sartorial statement with the introduction of these sneakers decades ago, and they still hold up with any personal style. While this option isn't made from real leather, these kicks have an added environmental value, since they’re made with 50 percent recycled materials. You can get the leather look for a more sustainable option at a good price.
Construction: Synthetic upper made with 50% recycled materials, rubber outsole | Size Range: US 5-11
Best Budget: Superga 2750 Naplngcotu Sneaker
What may have once been known as the Italian vacation shoe you could pick up in Rome for 40 euros has been revamped into a contemporary shoe brand. Superga is now one of my go-to brands for understated, everyday sneakers that I wear with any outfit during any time of the year. The leather uppers are easy to maintain if there are any scuffs, while the cotton lining and one-inch rubber platforms keep these shoes comfortable even after a day of traveling around town.
Construction: Leather upper, cotton lining, natural rubber sole | Size Range: US 6-10
Best Designer: Alexander McQueen Oversize Sneakers
It’s no secret that both designer and fashion house Alexander McQueen have always reinvented fashion, and the brand even made a contribution to sneaker trends. With the Oversize Sneakers, the London-based fashion brand has cemented itself in the platform sneaker trend in the past few years. The luxurious, calfskin, and goatskin-adorned kicks are available with a variety of accent colors at the heel.
Construction: Calf leather upper with suede heel detail | Size Range: IT 33-41.5
Best High-Tops: Veja V-15 CWL Sneakers
If you’ve been in New York City or Paris in the past few years, then you know that Veja is slowly taking over the essential sneaker game. While the sustainable, slow fashion shoe brand manufactures a variety of sneaker styles, the V-15 Suede-Trimmed Perforated Leather High Top Sneakers are an interesting pair to own. With a one-inch rubber sole and a mix of white leather and light-taupe calf suede, these kicks are the perfect combination of Nike Air Force Ones and Converse High Tops and are the perfect sartorial statement while you’re out and about.
Construction: Leather and suede upper with rubber sole | Size Range: IT 35-42
Best Everyday: Soludos Ibiza Classic Leather Sneaker
Soludos has changed the game when it comes to sneakers lately. Even Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has shown her love for the brand’s footwear in recent years. But the Ibiza sneaker has become ingrained as an everyday shoe. The style comes in black, wine, marine blue, platinum, bisque, and white as well as sizes 5 through 11. The brand recommends going up half a size.
Construction: Leather upper with synthetic lining and rubber sole | Size Range: US 5-11
Best Slip-Ons: Bottega Veneta Quilt Slip-On Sneakers
These quilted sneakers are a bit unexpected for this list, but they’re perfect if you appreciate muted tones and true leather craftsmanship. Composed of 100 percent lambskin in Bottega Veneta’s natural hues and spongy fabric lining for cushion and comfort, these sneakers are easy to put on, thanks to the slip-on design. This is an opportunity to make a statement that’s different from the usual white leather sneaker that’s seen practically everywhere.
Construction: Lambskin leather upper with rubber sole | Size Range: IT 34-41
Best for Work: Heron Preston Low Top Vulcanized Sneakers
These are a great versatile option if you’re looking for a pair of quality designer sneakers at a more approachable price point. Perfect year-round, this pair will go with basically any outfit you want to wear, whether you’re wearing them for a commute to the office or during a weekend of errand-running.
Construction: Leather upper with cotton lining and rubber sole | Size Range: IT 38-48 (mens)
Best Embellished: Roger Viver Viv Skate Crystal-Embellished Leather Sneakers
For the ultimate splurge, luxury shoe brand Roger Vivier is at the forefront for the best Italian leather sneakers. Add a little razzle-dazzle with this pair of Viv Skate crystal-encrusted sneakers. You’re sure to stand out in these kicks and the actual jewelry that’ll be adorning your feet. Made of Italian white leather with a chunky heel for some added height, they’re a great addition to any fashionista’s closet needing just a hint of sportiness.
Construction: Italian leather upper and rubber sole | Size Range: IT 35-42
Best Celeb-Favorite: Golden Goose Super-Star Low Top Sneaker
Golden Goose is a no-brainer for a fun sneaker that combines fashion and comfort. While these have a steeper price tag than many on the list, they are some of the most versatile sneaker options out there. Inspired by skater culture, these shoes were practically made famous among sneakerheads and celebrities alike with their pre-scuffed and worn-in leather exterior. A terry cloth lining adds extra comfort for a sneaker that's suitable for all-day wear.
Construction: Leather upper with rubber sole | Size Range: IT 35-42
Best Casual: The House of LR&C Icon Sneaker In Nappa
The best casual sneaker is from a relatively new brand. Founded by music star Ciara and her NFL player husband, Russell Wilson, the House of LR&C is disrupting retail with a fun selection of ready-to-wear and footwear offerings. Handcrafted in Italy with a 100% lambskin upper and a full leather lining, these sneakers are low-maintenance with a lightweight sole. And even better, they are shipped in sustainable packaging.
Construction: Leather upper with rubber sole | Size Range: IT 36-42
Best for Walking: Birkenstock Bend Low Leather Sneakers
You would probably never think of Birkenstock for sneakers, but the sandal company also makes comfortable kicks. The same cork-latex, shock-absorbing technology that makes up their famous sandals is also found in the Bend Low style. And the microfiber lining makes the shoes breathable for a full day of walking around town–perfect for any tourist trips or unexpected adventures.
Construction: Leather upper with rubber sole | Size Range: US 5-12.5
What To Look For in Leather Sneakers
When looking for leather sneakers, try to find pairs that will go with your current wardrobe favorites and looks that you wear consistently. Leather sneakers are one of the most ubiquitous style staples to emerge from the 2010s. Because of this, almost every brand has its own version of the versatile shoe in different versions and colors. But when it comes to shopping for your perfect pair of leather sneakers, it’s best to keep comfort needs and your existing wardrobe pieces in mind.
It’s also good to think about how you treat your shoes. If you don’t mind babying sneakers, then it might be suitable for you to invest in suede or calf hair sneakers. But if you just want to throw on your shoes and walk out the door, no matter the season or weather, then a leather with some waterproofing technology is probably best for you. There are also some vegan leather options on the list for anyone who wants to have the leather look but still keep in line with their values.
How do you clean leather sneakers?
Once you’ve found your perfect pair of leather sneakers, it’s quite easy to maintain them. One of the easiest ways to keep your kicks clean is with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Dampen the eraser, and use it to clean off any dirt and debris. It’s good to keep in mind that moisture is damaging to leather to an extent. Leather is waterproof to an extent, so make sure to thoroughly dry your shoes once they’re clean.
If you like a more natural approach when taking care of your sneakers and getting rid of stubborn stains, then you can always make a homemade scrubbing paste. A mixture of equal parts white toothpaste, baking soda, and water with a soft brush will work away any dirt and set-in stains. Again, dry your sneakers once clean, and you’ll be ready to step out in them again.
Do leather sneakers stretch out?
While leather sneakers do stretch out, have no fear. They won’t stretch to the point where you’re changing their shoe size. But no worries if your sneakers feel a little tight straight out of the box. Once they’ve had a few wears, they should be comfortable and fit to your feet. There’s also no harm in taking your leather sneakers to a leather goods repair shop for professional expertise.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Mallori Albright has six years of experience writing fashion and beauty content. When out and about, Mallori especially enjoys wearing her pair of casual leather sneakers from Superga. You can check out more of Mallori’s work at Marie Claire and NYLON.
Statista; Statista Consumer Market Outlook. "Value of the sneakers market worldwide from 2012 to 2025." 2021.