A question which I’m often asked is just how long is sole leather expected to last on a pair of traditionally goodyear welted English leather shoes before that little hole starts to appear and a visit to the cobbler is required. In fact there are rather a lot of influences which can affect sole leather wear and there is no simple answer but I shall try to address them all here:
There are of course various different grades of leather and cheaper loose grained leather will tend to wear much quicker than a good tightly grained leather. There are also various techniques for processing sole leather of which some produce more durable sole leather than others. What is known as oak bark tanned leather is universally regarded as the hardest wearing sole leather whereby the leather is ‘buried’ in a combination of acorns and oak bark for up to two years. This type of leather is generally only found in shoes costing over £400. In fact most English factories such as Churches, Crockett & Jones, Barker, Loake, Tricker’s, Sanders and Cheaney tend to use very similar sole leather in their English made shoes.
Some people are much heavier on their shoes in the way they walk than others. Also some people are simply much heavier than others and therefore inevitably put more wear on the soles.
Wet sole leather will wear a good deal quicker than leather which is bone dry. This is one very important reason why it is important to allow shoes to dry out well before wearing them again if they have become very wet. Allowing a day between outings is usually sufficient assuming that the shoes are allowed to dry naturally.
Finally there is of course the amount of mileage that the shoes receive and the sort of surface on which the shoes are walked. If you don’t wear them outside much sole leather can last 10 years or more.
If you do find that you are wearing through your sole leather rather sooner than you’d like then consider asking your local cobbler to attach some rubber stick-on soles before the leather wears too thin. These are long lasting, cheap to replace and you don’t need to worry about them getting wet.