Even in today’s marketplace of luminous synthetic uppers, space-age carbon fibre soles and super-light plastic chassis, if you were to ask anyone on the street to draw you a football boot, the chances are you’d get a classic, leather cleat with six studs.

Euro 2012 Puma King SL in White Red LimogesThe Puma King SL is a K-Leather Masterpiece, but Puma are looking at ditching leather soon. 

But future generations may well grow up in a world without leather football boots, as Puma chief executive Jochen Zeitz has admitted the iconic sports brand will have to join the rest of the industry in moving away from leather footwear.

Speaking at the UN Rio+20 earth summit, Mr. Zeitz said , “I think eventually we’ll have to look at alternative materials, there’s no question about it. We should eat less meat, all of us, and we should use less leather, I mean that’s reality.”

Puma’s current line-up of footballing footwear includes the K-Leather PowerCat 1.12, evoSPEED 1K and – of course – the iconic Puma King, meaning that of the biggest sports manufacturers in the market at the moment, Puma would be the ones required to make the most drastic shift.

adidas adiPure 11pro - White / Blue / Blackadidas’ adiPure 11pro ditched K-Leather for Taurus Leather and a synthetic midfoot and heel – Could Puma do the same with the iconic King?

Ahead of the curve, adidas has already made a concerted effort to move it’s footwear away from natural leather over the last two years – with only the Copa Mundial still made using an entirely natural leather upper, whilst Nike’s KangaLite (and Kangatouch for subsidiary Umbro) material has seen them also drift away from natural leather.

Zeitz explained Puma are looking to move away from natural leather as the processing and production of raw materials was the biggest impactor of Puma’s environmental footprint, with cattle ranching draining water supplies and requiring land to be cleared, as well as the harmful chemicals and contaminants associated with leather tanneries.

These factors – plus the sheer volume of footwear produced – makes footwear has the biggest environmental footprint of Puma’s products. A scenario likely similar for Nike and adidas.

Nike CTR360 II Football Boots tested by Footy-Boots.comNike’s game-changing CTR360 showed that synthetic leather could be a viable substitute for natural materials.

Whilst Puma have a number of innovative synthetic materials at their disposal, they currently don’t have a ‘flagship’ synthetic leather in the same way Nike have KangaLite, or adidas have HybridTouch.

Mr Zeitz, conceded hope that, “Maybe there’s an economic way of producing a leather-like product in the laboratory”; a sign that Puma haven’t developed a substitute material just yet – surprising news given Puma’s forward-thinking in this area, like the ‘Eco’ Puma Kings, that have found innovative ways to offset the environmental impact of producing small-run batches of football boots.

adidas copa mundial football bootsThe hand-made Copa Mundial is adidas’ last natural-leather boot.

With adidas and Nike comfortable in their transition away from natural leather products, and Puma close behind – we wonder whether this will signal the end for the classic leather football boot?

Once the three biggest manufacturers in the world move away from the material, will Mizuno, Asics and others be forced to follow suit?

Let us know in the comments!

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  1. says: M.Yoo

    Isn’t the adidas Taurus upper a natural leather? I know it is not the gold-standard kangaroo leather, but I thought it was a calf-based leather product that has been processed to make it more kangaroo-like.

    1. says: Editor

      Good catch – meant to say Taurus leather with a synthetic midfoot + heel, updated now!

      You’re absolutely right, as it is a calf leather – not a synthetic like Kangalite!

  2. says: robert merlo

    am sorry but people r being fooled by nike, adidas, puma and everyone else who is using the synthetic (PLASTIC) materials to create new boots. for any true footballer, the feel and SMELL of when you get your brand new boots is amazing. that nice sung feeling of that leather wrapping around your foot. the touch is unique, i have tried on PLASTIC expensive shoes and it does not match the feel of kangaroo! please keep the leather!!!!!

  3. says: synthetic

    imo synthetic or leather doesnt really matter, but personally i prefer synthetics b/c you get a thinner material that doesnt require as much care, plus you can make synthetics that actually grip. but it. if u give messi or ronaldo a pair of the leather or synthetic i think they will still be good in either pair. it is more about skill than the material the shoe is made out of.

  4. says: MET

    “We should eat less meat, all of us”
    Now what the **** is this all about? That’s like saying cows can’t eat grass

  5. says: Superwoo

    What a depressing article. What a sad day, leather has become less environmentally friendly than plastic. How surreal.

  6. says: Superwoo

    “We should eat less meat, all of
    us, and we should use less leather, I mean that’s reality.” – Tell that to Mcdonalds, or the millions of poor people in the world.

  7. says: MichaelC

    What a joke. This is why I have not bought adidas or Nike shoes lately. I went for a pair of full K-leather lotto as my most recent pair of boots and I am very happy with them. Even the Tiempo is dying as they move away from leather. This is obviously an attempt to reduce costs. In other words, don’t stress; you will always be able to get a good kangaroo leather boot but you may have to look away from the big three brands.

  8. says: Beef

    Isn’t the PUMA King made from Kangaroo leather? Who knew kangaroo farming had such a big environmental impact on the world’s environment.

  9. says: Rex

    Absolutely nothing to do with the environment at all. It’s all about the $$$$$. Synthetics are cheap as chips to produce. If only people knew the kind of chemicals that go into producing plastics and synthetics they would be running for the hills. Far far more environmentally unfriendly. When people become rich they feel a need to deprive everyone else of the simple things in life that they love like eating a nice piece of juicy steak or wearing leather shoes! Adidas only makes the Copa in Kangaroo leather. Even their latest predator is a full synthetic. Nike still make the Teimpo Legend IV in Kangaroo leather (forefoot) and the Tiempo Legend IV Elite in full Kangaroo leather. For any young kid out there who has never experienced the on the ball touch of kangaroo leather get yourself a pair of Copa’s or Tiempo Legend IV (in your correct size), break them in then come back and tell you get the same touch feel from any pair of synthetics out there.

  10. says: Rex

    Also wanted to say Adidas destroyed the latest adiPure by abandoning the full kangaroo leather of the previous adipure IV. I guess anyone who was lucky enough to get their hands on a pair of adiPure IV SL’s (full kangaroo leather & super light at 7oz) is really happy they did. What a highlight the adiPure IV SL was. Adidas has lost the plot after that great release.

  11. says: Insider_11

    Guys…as someone who works in the footwear industry, I can tell you that leather is indeed a thing of the past for these big brands. It’s a known fact that when you’re producing millions of pairs of shoes then true leather can cause more trouble than it’s worth. The tanning process of leather alone has a hugely negative environmental impact and not all off the hide can be used in the shoe so there is a lot of waste. For a big brand this is highly in-efficient and costly. In addition, synthetics are more consistent and easier to handle during production. From a sustainability standpoint, Adidas made a good move with Taurus because this is a bi-product of the food industry whereas kangaroos are mainly only hunted for their skin. These are the facts and we’ll only see more and more synthetic in the future. Lastly, this has nothing to do with the look, feel and smell of’s just business.

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