Birkenstock Oiled Leather vs. Nubuck: What’s the Difference?

Birkenstock shoes are a popular choice for many women and men alike. They come in a variety of styles and colors, but one of the most important choices you’ll make when purchasing Birkenstocks is what type of leather to choose. Oiled leather and nubuck are the two main types available, so which one is better? In this article, we will compare the two and help you decide which type of leather is best for you.

Birkenstock Shoes in General

Birkenstock shoes are a type of footwear that is designed to provide both comfort and support. The shoes are made with a contoured footbed that helps to distribute weight evenly, and they also have a deep heel cup that helps to support the arch of the foot. Birkenstock shoes are available in a variety of styles, but they all share these common features.

Birkenstock Shoes in General

One of the most popular materials that Birkenstock shoes are made from is oiled leather. Oiled leather is a type of leather that has been treated with an oil or wax. This creates a protective barrier on the leather and makes it more durable and less likely to stain. It also gives the leather a richer, more natural appearance.

Oiled leather is often used in products that are subject to heavy use, such as boots, belts, and wallets. It can also be used in furniture and upholstery.

If you’re not familiar with the term “nubuck”, it may help to think of it as a cross between suede and full-grain leather. Nubuck is made by sanding down the top grain layer of the hide to create a velvety nap. This process gives nubuck a soft hand feel, similar to suede, but because the surface isn’t as porous, nubuck is more durable and easier to clean. Nubuck leather is often used for high-end footwear, upholstery, and other products where a soft, luxurious feel is desired.

The sanding also removes some of the pigment from the surface of the leather, which gives it a lighter color than full-grain leather.

Nubuck is often used in high-end footwear and furniture because it has an upscale look and feel. It’s also popular in outdoor gear because it can withstand more wear and tear than suede. [1], [2]

Comparison Between Oiled and Nubuck Birkenstock Leather

Now that we have an understanding of Birkenstock shoes in general, as well as the two types of leather that they are commonly made from, let’s compare oiled leather and nubuck leather to see which is the better option.


Your feet work hard for you, carrying you around everywhere you go. So, it’s important to make sure they have the proper support and cushioning to stay comfortable all day long. That’s why Birkenstock shoes are such a popular choice – they’re specifically designed to provide your feet with the comfort and support they need.

When it comes to comfort, there is no clear winner between oiled and nubuck Birkenstocks. Still, nubuck shoes will feel comfortable right out of the box, while oiled leather shoes may require a short break-in period to soften up and mold to your feet.

Nubuck on other hand is much thinner and softer, making it more comfortable from the start. If you have sensitive feet or are looking for a shoe that will require no break-in period, nubuck is the way to go.

In addition nubuck is also more breathable than oiled leather, making it a better choice for warmer weather or if you tend to overheat easily.


The next thing you’ll notice about oiled and nubuck leather is that they look different. Oiled leather has a more natural look to it, while nubuck leather has a softer, velvety appearance.

If you’re looking for a classic Birkenstock sandal, then oiled leather is the way to go. This type of leather has been used in Birkenstock shoes for many years, and it gives the sandals a traditional look. Still, if you want something that looks a little different, nubuck leather sandals may be more your style.


Nubuck shoes are often associated with class and sophistication, making them a good choice if you’re looking for an upscale sandal. But, because they are so different from traditional Birkenstock shoes, some people may not like the look of nubuck sandals. It really comes down to personal preference.


When it comes to choosing the right type of leather for your shoes, durability is always an important factor to consider. After all, you want your shoes to last for as long as possible!

Both nubuck and oiled leather are known for being durable, but oiled leather has an upper hand in that regard. Oiled leather is more resistant to water and weather damage.

The reason oiled leather is so resistant to water damage is because the oil creates a barrier that repels water. Nubuck leather, on the other hand, is more prone to scratching and water damage because it’s softer and more delicate.

Still, if you do take good care of your nubuck leather shoes, they can last just as long as oiled leather shoes.


It is important to maintain your shoes properly regardless of the type of leather they are made out of. Oiled and nubuck leather are no exception.


Nubuck leather is going to require more maintenance than oiled leather. Birkenstocks made with nubuck leather will need to be treated with a waterproofing spray before they are worn and then re-sprayed every few months, especially if they are worn in inclement weather or in water. Oiled leather, on the other hand, is already treated with a waterproofing sealant, so it does not require as much upkeep.

Still, both types of leather will need to be cleaned on a regular basis. Brushing nubuck leather with a soft brush will help to remove dirt and dust, while oiled leather can be cleaned with a damp cloth. For tougher stains, a commercial leather cleaner may be necessary.

And don’t forget about conditioning! Both oiled and nubuck leather will benefit from being conditioned every few months. This will help to keep the leather soft and prevent it from drying out and cracking over time.

So as you can see, when it comes to maintenance, oiled leather is the easier option, but that does not mean that nubuck leather is high-maintenance. With a little bit of care, Birkenstocks made with nubuck leather will last just as long as those made with oiled leather.


The price of Birkenstocks can vary depending on the style of shoe, but in general, there isn’t much difference between the two types of leather. Oiled leather Birkenstocks will typically be a few dollars more expensive than nubuck leather Birkenstocks, but not by much.

You can find both oiled and nubuck Birkenstocks for around $100, but it’s not uncommon to find them for less than that if you shop around. [1], [2]

How to Take Care of Nubuck Birkenstock Leather

Now that you know the difference between oiled and nubuck leather, it’s time to take a closer look at how to take care of each type. We begin with nubuck leather.

When it comes to nubuck, the main thing you need to remember is that this type of leather is highly susceptible to staining. Therefore, you need to be extra careful when wearing your nubuck Birkenstocks around in the dirt and mud. If they do get dirty, be sure to clean them as soon as possible.

Wipe the surface with a soft cloth

First, you’ll want to take a soft cloth and gently wipe away any dirt or debris from the surface of the leather. You don’t want to scrub too hard, as this could damage the delicate nap of the nubuck.

Wipe the surface with a soft cloth

Inspect the surface for dried stains

It’s best to treat any stains as soon as possible, but sometimes you don’t notice them until the leather has already dried. If this is the case, you’ll need to be a little more careful when cleaning so as not to damage the leather.

First, take a look at the stain and see if it’s dry or wet. If it’s dry, you will need to carefully clean it using a soft toothbrush. Gently brush the dried stain in a circular motion until it starts to come off. If the stain is wet, you can simply wipe it away with a soft cloth.

Use white vinegar for tougher stains

If the stain is proving to be stubborn, you can try using white vinegar. First, make a solution of one part water and one part vinegar. Then, take a cotton swab and dip it in the solution. Gently dab the cotton ball on the stain, being careful not to scrub too hard. The vinegar will help to break down the stain and make it easier to remove.

Once done, wipe the excess vinegar away with a clean cloth. And let the shoes air dry completely before wearing them again.

Apply a nubuck protectant spray

Apply a nubuck protectant spray

After you’ve cleaned your nubuck Birkenstocks, you’ll want to apply a protectant spray. This will help to repel water and stains, and keep your shoes looking like new.

There are many different types of protectant sprays on the market, so be sure to choose one that’s specifically designed for nubuck leather. Apply the spray evenly over the surface of the shoes, being sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Let the shoes dry completely before wearing them again. [2]

How to Take Care of Oiled Leather Shoes

Now let’s take a look at how to take care of oiled leather. As we mentioned, oiled leather is less susceptible to staining than nubuck, but it still needs to be properly cared for.

Dust it prior to cleaning

As with any leather product, you’ll want to start by removing any surface dirt or dust. A soft cloth can usually do the trick here. But it’s always nice to have a soft shoe brush on hand for tougher jobs.

Wipe it down with a damp cloth

Once you’ve removed the surface dirt, you can wipe the leather down with a damp cloth. Be sure to wring out the cloth well so that it’s only slightly damp – you don’t want to soak the leather. Always remove any excess moisture with a dry cloth afterwards.

Use a specialized leather cleaner

For tougher jobs, you may need to use a specialized leather cleaner. These can be found at most shoe stores or online. Be sure to test the cleaner on a small inconspicuous area of the leather before proceeding.

Use a specialized leather cleaner

Use a leather conditioner

After you’ve cleaned and conditioned your shoes, you’ll want to protect them from future damage and replenish the oils. The best way to do this is by using a leather conditioner. This will help keep the leather hydrated and looking its best.

If you want to, you can also apply waterproofing spray to your shoes. This is especially important if you live in an area with lots of rain or snow. Waterproofing spray will help keep your shoes looking new longer.

Apply dubbin finish

If you really want to take things to the next level, you can apply a dubbin finish to your shoes. This is a traditional wax-based leather treatment that’s been used for centuries. It’s great for adding a nice shine to your shoes and protecting them from water damage. [3]

Birkenstock Oiled Leather vs. Nubuck: Deciphering the Distinctions

Choosing between Birkenstock oiled leather and Nubuck sandals can affect comfort, style, and maintenance. In the table below, we’ll compare these two materials commonly used in Birkenstock sandals to help you make an informed choice.

Aspect Birkenstock Oiled Leather Birkenstock Nubuck
Material Genuine leather treated with natural oils for a distressed appearance Suede-like leather with a soft, brushed surface
Appearance Has a rustic, worn-in look with visible variations in color Features a velvety, matte finish with a consistent color tone
Comfort Becomes more comfortable with wear as it molds to your feet Soft and comfortable but may require less breaking in
Durability Durable and can last for years with proper care Less durable than oiled leather and may show wear over time
Maintenance Requires occasional oiling to maintain its appearance May need brushing to restore the nap and remove stains
Style Offers a rugged, casual appearance Provides a refined, sophisticated look

Explanation of the Table:

  • Aspect: Lists key aspects for comparison between Birkenstock oiled leather and Nubuck sandals.
  • Birkenstock Oiled Leather: Describes characteristics and advantages of oiled leather sandals.
  • Birkenstock Nubuck: Describes characteristics and advantages of Nubuck sandals.

Your choice between Birkenstock oiled leather and Nubuck sandals depends on your style preferences, comfort expectations, and maintenance commitment. Oiled leather offers a distinct, worn-in look and becomes increasingly comfortable over time, while Nubuck provides a soft, matte finish for a more refined appearance.

Consider how each material aligns with your fashion sensibilities and the level of care you’re willing to invest to maintain the sandals in their best condition.


Is oiled leather the same as nubuck?

No, oiled leather and nubuck are not the same. Oiled leather is made by applying a coat of oil to the surface of the leather, which gives it a water-resistant finish. Nubuck, on the other hand, is created by sanding down the top layer of the hide to create a velvety texture. Nubuck is not as resistant to water and stains as oiled leather.

What is the difference between leather and oiled leather Birkenstock?

Oiled leather is a type of full-grain leather that has been treated with oil to make it more durable and water-resistant. Nubuck leather is also a type of full-grain leather, but it has been sanded or buffed on the outside to create a velvety surface.

Which Birkenstock material is most comfortable?

The most comfortable Birkenstocks are those made with soft, natural materials that contour to the shape of your feet. The two most popular materials used in Birkenstock construction are oiled leather and nubuck. Both offer a unique set of benefits that make them ideal for different types of people.

While both oiled leather and nubuck are comfortable, nubuck will feel comfortable straight out of the box. Oiled leather, on the other hand, needs to be broken in before it conforms to the shape of your feet. Once oiled leather has been broken in, however, it is every bit as comfortable as nubuck.

So, if you’re looking for a pair of Birkenstocks that you can slip on and wear all day long without any discomfort, nubuck is the way to go. If you don’t mind taking a little bit of time to break in your shoes and you like the look of oiled leather, then that material would be a better choice for you.

What is the difference between different Birkenstocks?

Birkenstock makes several different types of shoes, each with their own distinct style. The two most popular styles are the oiled leather and the nubuck. Both have their own unique benefits that make them ideal for different occasions.

Oiled leather Birkenstocks are made with a water-resistant coating that helps protect the leather from stains and moisture. Nubuck Birkenstocks, on the other hand, are not treated with any kind of waterproofing material. This makes them more breathable and comfortable in warmer weather, but they are more susceptible to stains and water damage.

In terms of durability, both oiled leather and nubuck will last for many years with proper care. However, nubuck is more likely to show signs of wear over time, such as scuffs and scratches. Oiled leather is less vulnerable to this type of damage, but it can be more difficult to clean if it does get dirty.

When it comes to price, there is very little difference between oiled leather and nubuck Birkenstocks. Both types of shoes are well-made and will last for many years with proper care.

What distinguishes Birkenstock oiled leather from nubuck?

The key distinction between Birkenstock oiled leather and nubuck lies in the material and finish. Birkenstock oiled leather is made from full-grain leather that has been treated with natural oils, giving it a rich, smooth, and slightly shiny appearance. Nubuck, on the other hand, is a type of top-grain leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side to create a soft, velvety surface with a matte finish.

How does the feel and appearance of Birkenstock oiled leather differ from nubuck?

Birkenstock oiled leather has a smooth and slightly shiny appearance with a natural, rich texture. It feels supple and may have some variations in color due to the oil treatment, enhancing its character over time. Nubuck, in contrast, has a soft, suede-like texture with a matte finish. It feels velvety to the touch and has a more uniform appearance.

Which type of Birkenstock material requires different care or maintenance?

Both Birkenstock oiled leather and nubuck require specific care to maintain their appearance. Oiled leather should be regularly conditioned with a leather conditioner to prevent drying and maintain its shine. Nubuck should be brushed with a soft brush to restore its texture and appearance. In both cases, it’s essential to protect the shoes from moisture and avoid exposing them to harsh conditions.

Are Birkenstock oiled leather or nubuck sandals more suitable for specific activities or occasions?

The choice between Birkenstock oiled leather and nubuck sandals often depends on personal preference and the intended use. Oiled leather may be preferred for a classic and slightly dressier look, while nubuck offers a more casual and relaxed appearance. Both can be suitable for various activities, but the choice may come down to your style and comfort preferences.

Which Birkenstock material tends to age more gracefully over time?

Both Birkenstock oiled leather and nubuck have the potential to age gracefully and develop a desirable patina with proper care. The appearance of oiled leather may become richer and more characterful over time, while nubuck may retain its soft and velvety texture. The aging process depends on how well the sandals are maintained and the wearer’s activities and environment.

Useful Video: Birkenstock Arizona Sandals – Oiled Nubuck Leather – Tobacco Brown – Soft Footbed Unboxing Review


Birkenstock oiled leather and nubuck leather are two types of material that are often used in the construction of Birkenstock shoes. Both materials have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to choose the right one for your needs.

If you need a durable, water-resistant material, then Birkenstock oiled leather is the better option. However, if you want a softer, more comfortable material, then nubuck leather may be the better choice. Just keep in mind that nubuck leather is more susceptible to staining than other types of leather because the surface of the hide is more porous. It is important to treat nubuck leather with a protective spray before using it. Nubuck leather should also be cleaned with a special brush or cloth to avoid damaging the nap.

Nubuck leather is also known for a more classy and sophisticated look, while oiled leather has a more rugged appearance. Price wise, these are the same so you won’t need to take that factor into account.

No matter which type of leather you choose, Birkenstock shoes are sure to provide you with exceptional comfort and support. So, don’t hesitate to try out a pair of Birkenstocks today!