The 13 Best Leather Sneakers of 2023 for Perfecting Casual-Cool Style
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They'll probably be the most versatile shoe you'll own.
Once you’ve found a good pair of leather sneakers, you could feasibly do without owning any other kind of shoe (not that we recommend this, but for the sake of argument). They go with pretty much every outfit under the sun — from a simple pair of jeans or leggings to a flowy, feminine dress. They always look effortlessly cool and are often extremely comfortable as well.
But while many leather sneakers look fairly similar, they’re not all created equal. The best ones feel super supportive and comfy to walk in with little breaking in needed, while also looking great for day-to-day wear. Most come in white, which adds to the versatility, but we found a few that spice it up a bit, coming in funky colors or offering more design to a classic style with the help of a few experts and lots of research. Read on for our favorites right now.
Best Overall: Nike Air Force 1 Shadow
What We Love: For the price, they shockingly hold up for years on end.
What We Don’t Love: The sizing is inconsistent.
Oh, how we love these sneakers, which come in a range of multicolored options, including some super cool early ‘90s-inspired combos. “I could not imagine selecting my top sneaker picks without adding a classic Air Force 1 to the mix — but let’s take it a bit further with the Shadow collection,” says celebrity business strategist and stylist Nina Vargas. “Aside from the added detailing on the swoosh, these bad boys give you a little extra height on the platform. If you need to invest in a sneaker — this is a must-have.” They’re like a classic Air Force 1, just much bolder.
Obviously, these look fabulous, but how do they hold up performance and comfort-wise? Very well, as it turns out. They’re super comfortable on the foot, and the platform sole provides a welcome dose of support as you walk — even on harsh surfaces like concrete. Senior commerce editor Chloe Anello has multiple pairs of Air Force 1s, including the shadow version, and shares that hers hold up even after significant wear — her oldest (and most worn) pair is still holding strong at six years old. The only problem is the sizing is inconsistent: Some people find they fit true to size, while others had to order a half size up. On the bright side, they do come in half sizes, meaning you can get as close to a perfect fit as possible.
Price at time of publish: $110
Size: 5-12 | Colors: 10 | Real Leather: Mixed with synthetic
Best Budget: A New Day Women's Masha Sneakers
What We Love: They’re a Stan Smith dupe that holds up to scrutiny.
What We Don’t Love: The fit is a little narrow for some people.
Whether you’re not a fan of leather for ethical reasons or you don’t want to splurge on a simple pair of sneakers, a faux leather pair is a worthy alternative. You can always count on Target to deliver quality pieces with fair price tags, and this Stan Smith dupe is truly holding up to scrutiny. These shoes are designed with soft lining and a memory foam insole, and reviewers say these features make them just as comfortable as they sound for running errands and generally busying about all day — with not a blister in sight.
Their chunky soles, lace-up style, and contrasting black panel at the back make these sneakers a super cool-looking pick, equally perfect for pairing with a pair of jeans or with a delicate dress. While some people find the fit a little narrow, most are pleased with their regular size and find these feel less stiff to wear than their branded counterparts. Color us impressed.
Price at time of publish: $33
Size: 5-12 | Colors: White/Black | Real Leather: No
Best Splurge: Prada Downtown Brushed Leather Sneakers
What We Love: They’re made with Prada’s signature high-end craftsmanship.
What We Don’t Love: They’re basically an Air Force 1 with a Prada logo.
If you love the flashiness of a logo (we totally get it), but don’t want yours to be so prominent that it’s distracting (as in a handbag or all-over monogram designer item), Prada has crafted your ideal compromise in these branded sneakers. “This is a timeless and chic, sporty style that is comfortable and easy to wear,” says model Allison Weiss Brady.
These are designed with a similar sporty silhouette to a classic Air Force 1, with their perforated front, chunky rubber sole, and emphasis on logos — though in lieu of an embossed swish, you get the enamel triangle that’s synonymous with the high-end label. We’re not going to lie: These are a classic case of paying for the logo, and though there’s nothing wrong with that, you should know what you’re getting. Still, of course, you can expect high-quality materials and craftsmanship that work to justify the hefty price tag here.
Price at time of publish: $1,070
Size: 5-11 | Colors: White, black | Real Leather: Yes
Best Designer: Alexander McQueen Oversize Sneakers
What We Love: They distinguish themselves from the rest with their ballooning effect.
What We Don’t Love: They need breaking in.
Out of left field over the last few years, Alexander McQueen’s oversized sneakers became as undeniably iconic as, say, the skull clutch bags, or Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. These may look like basic sneakers to the untrained eye, but sneakerheads and fashion mavens alike will be able to spot the key difference: the fact that they’re kind of inflated, almost like a ballooning effect, which lends them first, a distinguishing factor, and second, plenty of childlike whimsy. The label tastefully leaves the oversized quality of these shoes to do all the talking, and settles for classic features elsewhere: an all-over white look except for an optionally colorful back panel, perforated sides, a classic lace-up design. The back detail comes in solid colors as well as metallics, holographic, or crystal-embellished options.
Aside from being a cool-looking shoe, these McQueens are also as comfortable as you’d expect from an everyday sneaker — just be aware that they’re a little stiff fresh out of the box, and will take a few wears to break in properly. That said, the inner material means they won’t chafe uncomfortably, and after a while they’re comfy enough to wear even to the airport (which, as we all know, is the ultimate test of practicality).
Price at time of publish: $590
Size: 4-13 | Colors: Many | Real Leather: Yes
Best White: Veja V-12 Leather White Sneaker
What We Love: They’re sustainably and ethically produced.
What We Don’t Love: The tongue rubs against the skin at first.
French brand Veja was founded in 2005 as one of the first sneaker labels to center sustainability throughout the production process. The materials used to craft the shoes are ethically sourced in South America, and the sneakers are produced in Brazil under fair working conditions. Since Veja’s beginnings, mainstream interest in ethical and sustainable products has skyrocketed, and conscious fashion lovers have been turning to the V-12 by the truckload.
Obviously, these sneakers aren’t just a shoe you can feel good about purchasing; they’re also really thoughtfully designed. “Right now Veja is my go-to for sneakers as they are comfortable, clean, cool, and [come at] a sharper price point than some other leather sneakers,” says Jocelyn Gailliot, co-founder and CEO of Georgetown-based retailer Tuckernuck.
These are the ultimate cool-girl piece, available in all white or with a contrasting “V” logo — though the white version is our fave for pairing with pretty much every outfit you could imagine. They’re perfect for anyone who prefers a discreet, non-chunky everyday sneaker that still looks great. These are definitely very comfy and easy to wear, but some people find the tongue too long, meaning it rubs against their skin. If you stick with them, though, you’ll find it softens with use and you’ll forget it was ever an issue to begin with.
Price at time of publish: $185
Size: 4-13 | Colors: 14 | Real Leather: Yes
Best Black: Adidas Forum Bold Shoes
What We Love: They’re designed for breathability and style.
What We Don’t Love: Like many leather sneakers, they need wearing in.
If your emo days were never a phase, you need at least one solid pair of skater-girl-worthy chunky black sneakers. When it comes to comfy, practical, and really cool everyday leather sneakers, the kind people at Adidas really know what they’re doing, so the Forum sneakers are a safe bet from the get-go. Add to that the fact that they’re carefully designed with a perforated leather upper and thick rubber sole for breathability and style, and you’ve got yourself a pretty perfect shoe.
These sneakers are great to walk in, even if you’re on your feet for hours, but like many leather sneakers, they can rub at the back and where the tongue hits your skin for a while until you’ve worn them in, so maybe don’t wear them to a three-day festival right off the bat. Is the all-black look not for you? They come in tons of other lovely colorways, too.
Price at time of publish: $110
Size: 5-11 | Colors: 9 | Real Leather: Yes
Best Brown: Thursday Women's Premier Low Top
What We Love: They’re equipped with shock-absorbing footbeds and a padded tongue and collar.
What We Don’t Love: They feel quite stiff at first.
Somewhere between a men’s dress shoe and a women’s sneaker, there’s this gem of a low-top from specialist boot company Thursday. It’s not for nothing, either: Creating high quality footwear that looks nice, lasts for years, and doesn’t cost thousands is quite literally why the brand was created in the first place. “These Thursday sneakers are on brand and in style right now,” Jeffrey Ampratwum, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, assures us. “It’s all about the patina!”
These are made from full-grain leather, lined with soft sheepskin, and equipped with shock-absorbing footbeds and a padded tongue and collar, so you can walk 50 city blocks without the throbbing pains you might experience with thinner-soled shoes. These come in 10 color options, but we’re loving the Coffee and Toffee colorways for those on the market for an amazing brown sneaker. Sadly, like so many other brands, Thursday hasn’t perfected a leather shoe that doesn’t need wearing in yet.
Price at time of publish: $129
Size: 5-12 | Colors: 10 | Real Leather: Yes
Best Color: Pangaia Grape Leather Sneakers
What We Love: They come in candy pink, pistachio green and sky blue!
What We Don’t Love: You may need to size down.
Are plain white sneakers not for you? Well, let us interest you in an all-over colored pair. These from sustainable label Pangaia come in candy pink, pistachio green, and sky blue (as well as some more traditional shades), with the soles in the same color as the upper section — in case you’re not a fan of the contrast look. They feature a small Pangaia logo on one side of the shoe and the brand’s signature explanatory text block on the other. FYI, you might need to size down if you’re between sizes.
These sneakers are made from innovative faux leather that’s not just a fancy way to say plastic: They use discarded grape waste from the wine-making industry to create a lightweight, leather-like material that’s good for the planet. Meanwhile, the soles are crafted from 86 percent natural rubber, and the laces are made from organic cotton with 100 percent recycled plastic tips to help further reduce Pangaia’s impact. We also love that these are gender-inclusive.
Price at time of publish: $215
Size: 5.5-12.5 | Colors: 7 | Real Leather: No
Most Comfortable: Cariuma Salvas Leather Sneaker
What We Love: They’re planet-friendly, comfy, and a fantastic basic.
What We Don’t Love: They lose their shape quicker than some sneakers.
Like Veja, Cariuma only makes sneakers, so they can focus on creating a truly functional and high-quality product rather than focusing their efforts on innovation. The brand was created by two friends hailing from Brazil, based on their passion for board sports and their commitment to preserving the environment. The result is a line of shoes designed for riding a skateboard, plus a line designed for everyday wear — of which the Salvas model is our absolute favorite.
This is a super basic sneaker, another that’s similar to a Stan Smith, with a logo and back panel that come in a contrasting color to the white or black base. We have a particular soft spot for the baby pink and navy blue options. This shoe is hand-crafted in ethical factories, using LWG-certified leather, meaning it is responsibly sourced and better for the planet. The lining is made from recycled mesh to reduce waste, the removable insole is made from natural materials, and the laces are made from recycled plastics and organic cotton. Thanks to their cushioned heel collar and memory foam, they feel like a hug for your feet, too. They’re pretty hard to fault, but since it’s our job to do so, we’ll say this: Though these are some of the rare leather sneakers that feel comfortable straightaway, this also means that they lose their shape quicker than some.
Price at time of publish: $129
Size: 5-13 | Colors: 8 | Real Leather: Yes
Best Casual: Everlane The ReLeather Tennis Shoe
What We Love: Everlane is committed to sustainable practices.
What We Don’t Love: We’re not sure what “non-leather substances” means.
We love to see how many brands are embracing more sustainable leather sneakers these days. Everlane is a generally conscious company, which prioritizes ethical, sustainable practices and transparency throughout its business model. This casual pair of white sneakers — which comes with either an off-white or a natural gum sole — is made from 50 percent recycled leather and 50 percent “non-leather substances.” While we would love to know what exactly makes up the second half of the materials, we can still appreciate the inclusion of recycled materials, as well as the fact that it’s made without harmful chemicals.
These have a really classic design — almost like a leather Superga — which goes with just about every outfit you can think of. The quality construction is as obvious on the first outing as it is after months of wear and tear, BUT the material is unfortunately stiff at first. With a little patience, they’ll be super comfy in time.
Price at time of publish: $110
Size: 5-12 | Colors: White, White/Gum Sole | Real Leather: Mixed
Best High-Top: Koio Women’s Primo High-Top Sneaker
What We Love: They’re handmade in Italy.
What We Don’t Love: The sole gets used faster than the rest of the shoe.
Beloved by multiple InStyle staffers, including Anello and commerce director Jessica Mahgerefteh, Koio is yet another brand that has become a total go-to for leather sneakers. In various shades of white, these can pass for a sporty sneaker, but in black or brown, they’re a dressier pick than your average pair. They’re made from LWG Silver-certified Italian leather, which looks like, feels like, and, well, is a really high-quality material. This also means that this leather is responsibly tanned using processes that reduce emissions and waste. The shoes are handmade in Italy with hand-painted edges, which is really fancy and cool.
The Primo also fits beautifully, looks stylish and special, and lasts for ages thanks to the high-quality craftsmanship. The sole lets it down a little since it gets used faster than the rest of the shoe, but most people are willing to look past it. Last but not least, they’re also really comfortable (well, after a little breaking-in… sorry).
Price at time of publish: $345
Size: 5-11 | Colors: 8 | Real Leather: Yes
Best Mid-Top: Nike Blazer Mid '77 Vintage
What We Love: They’re the perfect compromise between high- and low-tops.
What We Don’t Love: Not everyone is a fan of the exposed foam tongue.
There’s a reason (or dozens of reasons) that Nike has dominated the sneaker market for decades now: The brand has its faults, but they certainly know how to make a good shoe. “I recently got into these and started to wonder why it took me so long!” says Vargas. “Offering a retro-chic look, they add the perfect finish to any outfit, whether you are pairing them with jeans, a dress, or slacks — you just can’t help but know you perfected your look.”
Not to state the obvious, but these mid-tops fall somewhere between a low-top and a high-top sneaker, which makes them ideal if you like a little extra coverage around the ankle, but still want the ease you would get with a low-top model. Make sure to note that the foam is exposed on the tongue, which not everybody loves. Other than that, these are comfortable, go with a range of different outfits, and come in a ton of color options to suit every preference.
Price at time of publish: $105
Size: 5-12 | Colors: 21 | Real Leather: Yes
Best Slip-On: Vince Blair Slip On Sneaker
What We Love: They don’t take any breaking in!
What We Don’t Love: They don’t last as long as you may want them to.
Your first instinct when shopping for leather sneakers might not be to head straight to Vince, but the brand actually makes some really great shoes. These perforated slip-ons are especially easy to style and come in a range of neutral colors to keep the focus on the rest of your outfit. They’re designed with bumper soles to help absorb some of the shock when your foot hits a hard surface, as well as elastic insets to make sure they don’t slip off your extremities at inopportune times. Other than that, they’re simple as can be.
Some reviewers aren’t super impressed with how long these last, saying that the sole can wear out and the color can fade after a few months of use, but they love how comfy and squishy these feel while walking in them. They also don’t take any breaking in, which is a big win for the leather sneaker contingent.
Price at time of publish: $199
Size: 5-12 | Colors: 8 | Real Leather: Yes
Best Slip-On With Laces: Keds Women's Kickback Leather Sneaker
What We Love: The laces add a little more detail to the shoe, setting them apart from other slip-on shoes.
What We Don’t Love: You can't adjust the sizing, even though there are laces.
For another slip-on style that doesn't actually look like a slip-on sneaker, try out this pair from Keds, which comes recommended by commerce director Jessica Mahgerefteh. As she's currently pregnant at the time this story was published, she says she can put them on without bending over (a lifesaver), and they feel comfortable to wear for long periods of time — basically, the leather is particularly soft right off the bat. She shares that they might be a bit narrow for anyone with wider feet, but in her experience, they fit true to size. Even though these shoes have laces, you can't undo them to adjust the sizing, though, if they don't fit correctly at first. The knot on the ends of the laces to keep them slip-on style is basically a military knot and you won't be untying it any time soon. Take a close look at the size guide in order to ensure you order the right size.
Price at time of publish: $70
Size: 5-11 | Colors: 1 | Real Leather: Yes
What to Keep in Mind
Real or Faux
“Leather” sneakers come in three flavors: real leather, faux leather, and mixed. Real leather looks beautiful, feels soft to the touch, and can be biodegradable if it’s tanned without harmful chemicals. It’s also more durable than faux leather. Meanwhile, faux leather can often be a more affordable alternative, and it might be your preference if you’re vegan or object to leather production for any reason. Thanks to innovations in faux leather, it doesn’t always have to be made from plastic, either: We love that Pangaia makes their sneakers using grape waste from wine-making.
Slip-On or Laces
A slip-on can make a fantastic option for convenience, while a lace-up shoe allows you to get a custom fit and loosen or tighten them depending on the season — but at the end of the day, the style of leather sneaker you go for is really up to you and how you intend to wear them. We find a slip-on style can look more casual, but there are no hard and fast rules here.
The sizing on a leather sneaker can be tricky because they’re prone to stiffness fresh out of the box, but tend to soften over time — which means that a shoe that seems too small when it’s new might not actually need exchanging. Your best bet for getting it right is to follow each individual brand’s sizing advice and, importantly, always read the reviews for extra guidance.
Your Questions, Answered
How do you clean leather sneakers?
If you like your leather sneakers squeaky clean, you’ll need a certain amount of upkeep. “Brands usually sell leather cleaning products with their product,” explains Ampratwum. “If you must clean leather sneakers on your own: A lint free cloth with just a dab of warm water is enough to prep the sneaker for a polish. The polishing of the sneaker is the cleaning of it, in actuality.”
Meanwhile, Vargas uses a Shoe MGK kit — a cleaner/conditioner and brush combo — to keep her sneakers in pristine condition. “This kit has everything needed to be the unicorn of shoe cleaners,” she says. “However, when I don’t have my magic kit, I use a magic eraser. First, I dust dirt off, then start rubbing with the magic eraser in circular motions starting from the top to the sole — using a towel to wipe it dry as I go.”
How do you style leather sneakers?
You can style your leather sneakers however you feel is best! “Sneakers to me, aside from character, are truly about comfort and versatility,” says Vargas. “Whenever I consider a sneaker, I envision how it’ll work with multiple items in my closet — from dresses and slacks to denim. They need to work and just add the perfect balance or accent to complete my ‘fit.”
Are leather sneakers more comfortable?
“It will depend on the preference of the individual,” says Ampratwum. “A leather sneaker very often will be more comfortable than a leather shoe because of the absence of the hard bottom structure.” Vargas also explains that the shape of the shoe, as well as the construction of the inner lining and the sole will go a long way towards determining whether a leather sneaker is more comfortable than any other shoe in your closet. If comfort is your main concern, opt for shoes that are designed with features such as a thicker outsole, a foam insole, or cushioned parts to avoid rubbing.
Why Shop With Us
Iris Goldsztajn is a Paris-born, London-based freelance writer with 10 years of experience covering fashion, beauty, wellness and lifestyle for the likes of InStyle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Refinery29 and many more. As the former associate editor for Her Campus, she was responsible for all style and beauty news coverage. In order to write this article, she drew on her own experience with leather sneakers, and spoke to various fashion experts who shared their recommendations and insight: celebrity business strategist and stylist Nina Vargas; model Allison Weiss Brady; Jocelyn Gailliot, co-founder and CEO of Georgetown-based retailer Tuckernuck; and Jeffrey Ampratwum, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Related:The 18 Best White Sneakers to Wear Every Day in 2023
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