Suede Shoes vs Nubuck Shoes – Which Ones To Buy?

Suede shoes are one of the easiest pieces to up your style game by a huge margin. Nubuck shoes are also pretty simple to style, and look great with everything. But most people think that suede and nubuck are the same things.

This is completely wrong.

In this guide, I would be talking about the differences between suede shoes and nubuck shoes, and how they perform on different metrics such as durability, longevity, water resistance, and more.

In the end, I would also tell you which of them are better and which pair of shoes should you buy first – suede or nubuck.

Difference Between Suede Shoes And Nubuck Shoes

Although both suede and nubuck are types of leather, there are a lot of differences between shoes made from these materials.

Suede ShoesNubuck Shoes
Made from the inner layer of animal skin.Made from the outer layer of animal skin.
Relatively inexpensive.Very costly.
A softer material.Nubuck is a tougher and harder material.
Harder to maintain.Easier to maintain.
Lightweight.Considerably heavier.
Less durable.Much more durable.
Suede can be used to make other products.Nubuck is only used to makes shoes and boots.

Although both suede and nubuck are made from animal skin, the main difference between them is that suede is obtained from the underside of animal skin while nubuck is obtained from the outer layer of animal skin.

While both make for great materials for shoes, there is a clear winner in my eyes. And that’s what I am going to talk about in the next section.

Which One Should You Buy?

In my opinion, you should buy suede shoes instead of nubuck shoes for your first pair.

There are a number of reasons for me suggesting this, but the main one is that suede is much, much cheaper than nubuck.

Although nubuck shoes are slightly more durable, this does not mean that suede is not durable at all. I have had suede shoes that have lasted more than a decade with proper care and maintenance.

Nubuck also lasts long, but in my experience, suede can also last for a number of years. Thus, if you take proper care of your shoes, there’s no reason for you to spend additional money.

And there’s one last reason due to which I prefer suede shoes over nubuck shoes. And that’s because suede is just more popular.

I know that I must sound like a high school girl right now, but hear me out.

Due to its popularity, brands have much more variety in the suede department compared to the nubuck one. Which means more sizes, colors, and variations for you to experiment with.

And this practice also makes its way into the “shoe-cleaning” industry; you will find a lot of suede cleaners but not many nubuck shoe cleaners.

Therefore, due to the whole current ecosystem, I suggest that you go for suede shoes instead of nubuck shoes.

When to buy nubuck shoes

There’s a caveat to what I have said above.

If you are looking for a pair of hiking boots, work boots, or just outdoorsy boots, then you should choose nubuck over suede. It is much more durable than suede and will not get a lot of water damage.

Suede shoes are worn more for style reasons than utility reasons.

So ask yourself, are you looking for a pair of boots that look good or a pair of boots that are tough and will handle rough treatment.

Suede Or Nubuck – What Lasts Longer?

Nubuck shoes last longer than suede shoes. Therefore, they are the better option when it comes to durability and longevity.

Nubuck is made from the outer part of an animal’s skin, which is naturally better at protection from the elements compared to the inner part on an animal’s skin (suede).

On average, nubuck shoes, if properly cared for, nubuck shoes last for at least 4-5 years.

Suede shoes on the other hand last for about 3-4 years, depending upon the quality and make of the individual piece.

There are ways to make suede last longer, some of which I covered in this article.

Is Suede More Expensive Than Nubuck?

Nubuck shoes are much more expensive than suede shoes. In fact, nubuck boots can sometimes cost as much as 2x the cost of suede boots.

The reason for the higher costs is the difficulty in manufacturing nubuck, as well as the lack of supply. Because nubuck, like leather, is made from the outer section of an animal’s skin, it faces severe competition from the aforementioned fabric.

Most people prefer to make leather out of animal skin rather than nubuck, and thus the supply of nubuck products is quite low compared to the demand. If you remember anything from high school economics – the price is going to rise.

Compare that to suede, which already has a thriving ecosystem all about it. There’s a demand for suede boots that’s paralleled only by leather.

Therefore, the supply is more than enough when juxtaposed with the demand, and thus, suede shoes are more inexpensive than nubuck shoes.

Final Remarks

There are a bunch of differences between suede shoes and nubuck shoes:

  1. Suede can be used to make a bunch of products, but nubuck is only used to make shoes and boots.
  2. Nubuck shoes are more durable than their suede counterparts.
  3. Suede boots are lightweight while nubuck boots are quite heavy.
  4. Nubuck is more tougher and harder than suede.
  5. Suede shoes are less expensive than nubuck shoes.
  6. Suede is made from the inner side of animal skin while nubuck is made from the outer side.

That’s everything you need to know about suede shoes and nubuck shoes and the differences between the two.

Although both materials are great, I believe that a suede shoe should be bought first because of the reasons mentioned in this article.

And if you want to know what my favorite pair of suede shoes is, you can find that information here.