Last updated on September 18th, 2020 at 02:05 pm
- Faux suede
- Cotton and wool
- Synthetic leather
- Faux cork
- What do shoe materials mean?
Even though they’re the last thing you put on, shoes are perhaps the most important element of your outfit. With the ability to switch up your look in an instant, it’s well worth investing in shoes in a few different materials, colours and designs.
As tempting as it may be to stick to your favourite style – we all have that trusty pair we always reach for – different materials are better suited for certain activities. You wouldn’t wear your favourite pair of suede shoes on a rainy day or some leather heels on a hike – unless you were hell bent on ruining them.
Unsure which style or type of shoe material is best suited for your daily routine? No worries – just check out our guide to shoe materials and how to read shoe material labels below.
Best for: dressing to impress your boss.
Everyone needs that one pair of shoes that look slick yet professional. Simple leather shoes – ankle boots are a great option, or chunky heels – go with practically any outfit. This ensures you look ‘put together’ even when you’ve overslept and got ready for work in a hurry. Regardless of whether you’re heading into an important meeting, working in the great outdoors or gossiping in the staff room, a durable pair of leather shoes is a worthy investment – just make sure you take the time to maintain them properly.
Best for: heading out on the school run.
Lightweight and easy to pull on at a moment’s notice, everyone needs a pair of canvas shoes in their wardrobe. Walking to class or picking up the little ones for school? Some simple canvas shoes are guaranteed to impress without you having to overdress. They’re best worn in warmer months as they’re breathable – but they don’t offer the best performance in the rain.
Best for: working out, or hardly working.
Comfortable, cooling and casual, mesh shoes are the prime choice for exercise. Whether you’re heading out for a lazy walk on the beach or getting sweaty in the weight room, the breathable nature of mesh shoes will help stop you overheating. Plus, they’re super stylish while staying cosy – so what could be better?
Best for: keeping cosy while running errands.
Naturally soft, cosy and warm, faux suede is a great choice for autumnal boots. When paired with leather soles, faux suede is fashionable yet highly practical, even on your busiest of days. Be warned: faux suede isn’t one to wear in the rain or snow, so be mindful of puddles!
We recommend Softlites Women’s Faux Fur Ankle Boot in Grey
Cotton and wool
Best for: staying snug and warm.
The ideal lining for boots and slippers, cotton or wool is the perfect choice for a winter warmer. Choose from comfortable yet stylish slippers and warming boots, depending on what you’ve got planned for the day. Both faux and real wool are available, so even vegans can enjoy the super-soft feel of this textile.
Best for: walking the dog and exploring the outdoors.
Synthetic material will protect your feet against the results of bad weather. You don’t have to worry about the family dog dragging you into muddy puddles – synthetic material is perfect in the colder, rainier months. Plus, the clean-up process is easy as you can just wipe away mud before you head indoors – no need to stress about footprints tracking into the house.
Best for: an afternoon in the park or the pub.
The perfect choice for dressing up a casual outfit, synthetic heels with a cork-like appearance are the pinnacle of beer garden and cocktail club fashion. Because they are made from synthetic material rather than natural cork, they’re durable yet comfortable – even when worn as a heel.
Shoe material symbols explained
Typically found on the tongue or sole of the shoe, shoe material symbols may be something you’ve previously ignored. However, they’ll help you understand how to clean your shoes and where they’re suitable to be worn. As tempting as it is to just chuck your shoes in the washing machine, this will ruin certain materials like suede and faux fur.
How do I know what material my shoes are?
The type of shoe material is usually listed online in the product description. However, if you can no longer find the page or still aren’t sure, the symbols should be the next place you look.
Image source: PETA Kids
The leather symbol looks like a piece of animal hide, which is a nod at how leather is created. A shoe that is made largely out of leather shouldn’t be put in the washing machine as the heat can cause cracking. Simply give them a wipe with a cloth instead and you’re good to go.
Image source: Clarks
Coated leather looks like the standard leather symbol but it has a small diamond in the middle. It should also be cared for in the same way as leather.
Other materials, on the other hand, are marked as a line drawing of a diamond. This typically shows that no animal products have been used and that the shoe is vegan-friendly because it’s a man-made material. They don’t fit into either the leather or textile categories. This type of shoe material can usually be washed in the washing machine on a very low heat when they need a thorough clean, although it depends on the style. Heels and boots are a no-go, of course, but trainers are typically fine.
Image source: PETA Kids
The textiles symbol looks like a woven stitch or piece of material. It’s easily deciphered when compared to the other two. This is another symbol that suggests the shoe is vegan-friendly, as the material is man-made or completely natural. Again, these are usually easy to wash in the washing machine on a low temperature. The textile category includes the likes of wool, cotton and canvas shoes.
What do the other shoe material symbols mean?
Your shoe likely consists of more than one material, which is why you may see more than the above symbols. Knowing exactly what material each part of your shoe is made from will ensure you know how to care for them and therefore help them last longer.
The material on the upper part and the lower part of the shoe is clearly shown with an arrow pointing to a line drawing of the shoe. If it is talking about the upper part, it is pointed to the top of the shoe and vice versa. The lining and sock of the shoe, however, is shown via an arrow inside of the shoe itself. The inside part of the line drawing is also thicker than the outside to show it’s referring to the lining itself.
Now you’re armed with all the information you need to make sure you put the best shoes on for every activity, you can look forward to looking and feeling your best – and your footwear lasting longer.