Is Leather Breathable? (Exposing Leather Breathability)

Delving into the world of leather’s breathability, are we? There’s an age-old question going in many minds – Is leather breathable? Below I’m going into the fascinating science behind leather’s ability to keep you comfy and cool.

Leather is breathable naturally, which is one of its strongest selling points to those considering buying a leather jacket or shoes, in particular. It can allow moisture to evaporate and pass through, keeping the user cool and comfortable.

Since leather is animal skin, it has pores just like human skin. You’ll want to ensure that you do what you can not to block your leather’s pores, however, since it will limit its natural breathability!

Key Takeaways:

  • Leather’s Natural Breathability: Leather is naturally breathable due to its pores, similar to human skin, allowing moisture to evaporate and air to pass through. This makes it a popular choice for jackets and shoes to keep users cool and comfortable.
  • Air Permeability: Leather’s breathability works similarly to air passing through a woven boundary. Unlike solid materials, air can permeate through leather, which is a porous material, contributing to its breathability.
  • Leather’s Cooling Effect: Contrary to a common myth, genuine leather doesn’t make you sweat excessively. However, wearing tight-fitting leather or using synthetic leather can trap heat and moisture, leading to discomfort.
  • Breathable Leather Shoes: Genuine leather shoes can provide breathability, especially when they fit well. Properly sized leather shoes allow air to pass through, maintaining comfort and dryness.
  • Leather Jacket Breathability: Leather jackets can breathe when they fit properly. Ill-fitting jackets may hinder breathability. It’s essential to choose genuine leather and ensure the right fit.
  • Impact of Waterproofing: Waterproofed leather loses its breathability since the waterproofing process clogs the pores responsible for allowing air to pass through. High-quality waterproofing products may minimize this effect.
  • Vegan Leather’s Breathability: Vegan leather, made from synthetic materials like plastic or polyurethane, lacks breathability. Only genuine leather has pores that allow air circulation, making it breathable.
  • Additionally, it’s highlighted that choosing the right leather, proper care, preventative measures, and allowing leather to rest between uses all contribute to maintaining leather’s breathability and overall health.

Is leather naturally breathable?

Leather is naturally breathable because it works the same as human skin would. Air can pass through the pores in the material and keep the air moving for comfort. It’s been used as a superior material for years and years simply because it helps keep feet or skin odor-free and will even help keep you dry to a certain degree.

How does leather breathe?

The best way to explain how leather breathes is by thinking about how air passes through a boundary. Air can’t permeate if it’s a solid boundary, like a piece of plastic. It must go around it. If it’s a woven boundary, like leather, it’s more than possible for air to permeate it, and it can then move through it. Wearing leather, a porous material, will allow air to pass through it.

Fun Fact: REI explains that cotton, linen, and polyester will be better than leather for breathability. However, leather is seen as the best choice for outerwear, historically.

Does leather make you sweat?

There is a myth out there that leather actually makes you sweat. Rather than moisture wafting away with airflow, it will trap it to the skin and make you feel like you are drowning in the moisture itself. 

Sometimes, leather can actually trap heat. If you notice this happening, it’s most likely because you’ve been wearing your leather for too long. If you wear a leather jacket for 4 hours in the heat of the day, you’ll feel like you’re slick with sweat. But that’s because you’re stubborn and trying to wear a protective item of clothing when you shouldn’t.

The other likely scenario is that your leather is ill-fitting. If your leather shoes are too tight on your feet, it won’t leave as much space for the leather to pass air through and remove the moisture. This is part of why proper “breathing space” is so essential with footwear, to begin with! And leather is certainly no exception to that!

According to BTOD, a common reason for many to feel that their “real leather” jacket isn’t breathing is because it isn’t “real” at all! It’s actually made from synthetic leather.

Do leather shoes let your feet breathe?

You can expect leather shoes to let your feet breathe if they’re created from genuine leather. Just make sure you get the right size and give them time to stretch. Limit how many hours you wear them at a time, too, until you’ve got a sense of how your feet feel and behave in your leather shoes. 

Leather’s breathability is one of the most important benefits when professionals and other modern-day men and women search for shoes that meet their needs. It’s also why leather shoes are so widely accepted as the standard business attire — they look better than mesh sneakers but are going to be nearly as breathable in their polished and high-end look.

Do leather jackets breathe?

Can you guess the answer to this? That’s right; leather jackets will breathe if they fit you correctly. If your jacket is too tight, it can prevent it from breathing properly. I’ve written about how to stretch a leather jacket that is too small, so don’t panic if that’s the case with your new purchase!

Tip: Always verify that you're purchasing real, authentic leather. It's very easy to get duped with a synthetic lookalike!

Is waterproof leather breathable?

Technically, waterproofed leather shouldn’t be breathable. The product you use will effectively clog pores so that you can keep the damaging water on the outside of your leather instead of on the inside. 

But wait… isn’t leather breathable because of its clear pores? Exactly, you’ve been paying attention! Waterproofing clogs the pores that, make leather breathable in the first place. Gruppodani explains that a high-quality waterproofing product shouldn’t impact breathability in a way that the user will notice. 

While the waterproofing product technically can reduce the breathability in your leather a small amount as it goes to work, a purpose-designed leather waterproofing product won’t impact its usability at all.

Tip: Make sure you buy a high-quality waterproofing product for this reason rather than going with a DIY option.

Is vegan leather breathable?

Whether your vegan leather is made from cactus leaves, pineapple, or some synthetic plastic fabric, it will not be breathable. Regardless of the material you choose, it will contain some sort of polyurethane (PU). Remember when I talked about how plastic forces air to go around rather than through it? This is it in action! PU is the plastic panel, whereas genuine leather is the porous material!

And don’t let the term “synthetic” fool you when considering the option of synthetic leather. No matter how much you’re paying for it, it will still be made of plastic and can’t be breathable. The only breathable leather jacket, shoes, etc., will be those authentic leather ones!

What makes leather breathable?

As you now know, leather is breathable by nature. However, you also can do your part to ensure that you keep its breathability as high as possible for the best long-term health of your leather product — and your enjoyment of it! Some of the best things to focus on are:

  • Choosing the right leather
  • Proper care of your leather
  • Preventative care rather than reactive care
  • Understanding when to take a break

Choosing the right leather

It should obviously be genuine leather. But don’t be afraid to learn about the different types of leather and grains so that you understand which ones will give you the best breathability. For example, lighter and more sensitive leather (like suede or nubuck) will give you better breathability than heavier upholstery leather.

Proper care of your leather

You’ll want to prioritize proper care of your leather to keep it healthy, moisturized, and strong for as long as possible. If you take care of your leather, it’ll take care of you. It’s one of the best materials for longevity and can often give you 10+ years of wear and still look like it’s brand new!

Preventative care rather than reactive care

An essential aspect of caring properly for your leather is focusing as much energy on preventative care as possible. While accidents happen and you’ll have to learn how to remove stains from leather and deal with scuff marks and water damage, you’ll want to clean, condition, and protect your leather regularly. This helps it recover from any wear and tear damage.

Understanding when to take a break

There are specific guidelines when it comes to wearing leather. As I mentioned earlier, wearing leather for too long at a time can impact its breathability. It also applies to how much you should wear leather itself. Leather is a natural material, so it can get stressed just like human skin — this will impact its breathability and overall integrity, and longevity. Try giving it a break from wear for a few days between heavy uses!

How to let leather breathe

Did you know that you can help leather breathe if it needs some support? The top ways to do that include:

  • Having “rest days” for your leather (like I talked about above)
  • Hanging it on a proper hanger/hook/shelf so that the leather isn’t touching itself
  • Placing your leather in a cool and dry spot to rest
  • Inspecting it regularly for coatings and grime (aka keeping it clean)

It’s nice to know that you can give back to leather to help it give you the same quality of care and breathability, isn’t it? Yet another reason why leather is such a popular material for jackets and shoes!

FAQ: Is Leather Breathable?

Is leather breathable?

Yes, leather is breathable.

What factors influence the breathability of leather?

The factors that influence the breathability of leather include the type of leather, the tanning process, the thickness of the leather, and the presence of any coatings or finishes.

Can faux leather be breathable?

No, faux leather, also known as synthetic leather or PU leather, is not breathable like natural leather. It is made from polyurethane, which does not allow air to circulate through the material.

What makes leather shoes breathable?

The breathability of leather shoes is determined by the natural properties of leather. Leather is a material that allows air to circulate, keeping your feet dry and comfortable.

How can I improve the breathability of my leather shoes?

A: To improve the breathability of your leather shoes, you can clean them regularly with a soft cloth and apply a leather conditioner. This will help to keep the pores in the leather open and allow air to circulate.

Can hot weather affect the breathability of leather?

Yes, hot weather can affect the breathability of leather. When leather gets too hot, it can dry out and become less breathable. It is important to keep your leather items protected from extreme heat.

Is real leather more breathable than faux leather?

Yes, real leather is more breathable than faux leather. Real leather is made from natural materials and has pores that allow air to circulate, while faux leather, being synthetic, does not have the same breathability.

Does leather need to breathe?

Yes, leather needs to breathe. Allowing air to circulate through the material helps to maintain its natural oils and keep it in good condition.

How does the breathability of leather affect my comfort?

The breathability of leather affects your comfort by allowing air to circulate and prevent the build-up of moisture. This helps to keep your feet dry and comfortable throughout the day.

Can cleaning leather shoes affect their breathability?

No, cleaning your leather shoes does not affect their breathability. In fact, regular cleaning can help to remove dirt and grime that can clog the pores in the leather and reduce its breathability.

Genuine leather is breathable, but synthetic and vegan leather is not. The natural animal hide is porous, just like human skin, so it allows air to pass through and keeps you dry and cool when you are wearing properly-sized leather.

You’ll also want to wear it for the right amount of time rather than too long. Leather can only do so much, after all. You can help promote breathability by properly caring for your leather and understanding what products to use for proper protection.

Andre from

Andre is a passionate leatherworker. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.