Common Roller Skate Boot Materials
ROLLER SKATE BOOT UPPERS
While there are different materials used to make roller skate boots, most boots are constructed using Faux leather or Leather. Faux leather is made of synthetic materials while Leather is made from different parts of animal hide/skin.
Leather boots are more durable than their synthetic counterparts and have better performance, which is why they are recommended for skaters who would like to advance above a recreational level of skating . As you break in your skates over time, leather boots will stretch to a more personal, formed fit.
Vinyl or PVC (Polyurethane) Boots
Faux leather boots are inexpensive and tend to have heavy padding, designed to provide comfort for beginner skaters. The padding (which does not equate to ankle support) is designed to give more comfort for recreational use, instead of a snug performance fit. Faux leather boots do not stretch, are less durable, but help provide affordable options for skaters.
TYPES OF LEATHER
There are different types of leather depending on what part of the animal hide (skin) is used:
1. Full-grain leather - Most durable and most expensive, this contains the outer layer of animal hide, including scars and blemishes, that has densely packed fibers resulting in a strong and durable surface.
Full grain leather absorbs moisture and oils which form “patina”, a term for the aging process of full grain leather. Full grain leather boots can last a lifetime, but will need to be maintained/moisturized with oils around every 8-12 weeks to help add a bit of waterproofing and to preserve its beauty.
2. Top-grain leather - similar to full grain that it contains the outer layer of animal hide, except it has been buffed and polished, making it water-repellent (even without moisturizing) compared to full-grain leather.
Nubuck is a top-grain leather whose outside layer of the hide has been sanded, instead of polished, to bring out its short protein fibers. This is very similar to suede except Nubuck is top-grain brushed hide from the outside, while suede is split leather brushed hide from underneath the hide.
3. Split leather - refers to the “leftover” layer after the top hide has been split from the animal hide’s lower layers. Suede is a type of split leather that has a softer more fibrous (hair-like) surface, making it good against scuffing and scarring. But because suede has been stripped of the top hide layer, it is not as durable as Nubuck, Top grain, or Full grain.
4. Genuine or Corrected leather - this can come from any part of the hide but is heavily processed, therefore stripping away all natural and original parts of the hide. Genuine leather is inexpensive and heavily processed, meaning it is not as durable as other leather types. Genuine leather is also considered the lowest quality leather among real leather products.
Some genuine leather products can also be split leather.
5. Bonded leather - Bonded leather isn’t technically leather at all. It is a mixture of leftover leather dust, vinyl, and scraps that have been bonded together with glue or polyurethane onto a fiber sheet. In some instances, waxed canvas and vegan leathers can be more durable than bonded leather products.
6. Pleather, Faux, Imitation, or Vegan leather - is a manmade fabric manufactured to look like real leather. The two main plastic types of faux leather are vinyl and PVC (polyurethane). Although faux leather does not create a demand for animal hide, it creates a demand for synthetic polymers—the production of which emit harmful toxic gases. Not to mention that such pleather is essentially plastic, and is not biodegradable.
Faux leather boots are usually heavily padded. These boots are good for beginners who aren't used to a tight, performance fit but are rarely recommended for anything above Recreational play. This material is inexpensive, which is why you will find this mostly among entry-level skates.
Carbon fiber and fiberglass, predominately seen on higher-end Bont and Atom boots, are high performance boots that can be heat molded to form to the shape of your feet.
Leather grades from lowest to highest:
- Bonded Leather
- Genuine Leather
- Split Leather
- Top Grain Leather
- Full Grain Leather
- Specialty Leathers (i.e. Kangotan Leather and Chinook)