Brake Pads vs Brake Shoes (What’s the Difference?)

All mobilized vehicles contain a braking system in them. They will use either a drum brake or disc brake to slow down the vehicle on command.

With disc brakes, brake pads apply pressure to a rotating disc (rotor) to slow and stop a vehicle. In a drum brake, the slowing mechanism relies on brake shoes to press against a cylindrical rotating component.

People often get confused when you mention terms like brake pads and brake shoes to them. Most car owners have heard of brake pads before, but they have not heard of brake shoes.

Is there a difference between the two? Well, both parts serve a similar purpose, but they are designed differently. We will discuss each one of them now so that you can see how they are different.

Brake Pads

installing brake pads

If your vehicle has a disc braking system, then it has brake pads for sure. Virtually all new vehicles made today include brake pads and disc brakes, including sports utility vehicles, cars, and trucks.

Brake pads are almost always placed on front wheel axle (even if the rear axle has drum brakes) because they can withstand more heat and stress. Like discussed above, brake pads rub against the brake rotors to provide the friction needed to slow down and stop the vehicle.

The materials used to make brake pads consists of metallic, ceramic, or other frictional materials on one side of it. Steel ensures the pads have the longest lifespan possible.

Related: 4 Symptoms of Bad Brake Pads or Rotors


  • Brake pads are more heat resistant which makes them perfect for the front axle of vehicles. Because of this, brake pads have a longer lifespan than brake shoes.
  • Overall, brake pads do a better job of slowing and stopping the vehicle. If you are driving in wet or snowy road conditions, brake pads will do a good job of keeping water away from the disc and the friction that is being created. This will allow the braking system to continue to respond well as you step on the brake pedal.
  • Finally, there are many variations of brake pads which accommodate different vehicles and driving styles. You get to choose which variation is most suitable for your needs. The best set of brake pads will have good stopping power, be quiet, produce little dust, and last a long time.


  • Brake pads are more expensive than brake shoes.
  • Some brake pad materials wear much faster than others. Make sure you regularly monitor pad thickness.

Brake Shoes

parts of drum brake

Brake shoes are found in vehicles with a drum braking system. These are old-fashioned braking components which have been used since cars were invented.

Although disc brakes and brake pads have taken over most of the auto industry, you will find some smaller cars and trucks with brake shoes and drum brakes in them. They still have great durability and their design is more simplistic.

Of course, the friction creation process is similar in that the brake shoes rub against the drum brakes to slow down the vehicle. The brake shoes are also made from steel and they’re shaped to be curved. One side of the brake shoes have a friction material coating to help preserve their lifespan.

Related: 4 Symptoms of Bad Brake Shoes or Drums


  • Many people don’t realize this, but brake shoes are actually recyclable. If your brake shoes go bad, the mechanic is not just going to throw them away. They will be remanufactured into new brake shoes or other automotive parts.
  • For this reason, the cost of new brake shoes is normally half the cost of new brake pads so if you need to replace at least two, you’ll see a good cost savings.
  • Finally, you can use the brake shoes on your vehicle’s rear axles and they will never get too hot for them.


  • If you use brake shoes on your front axles, the heat generated will become too much for them to handle. This means that your brake shoes will wear out faster than if you were using brake pads.
  • Besides, a lot of newer vehicles today only use disc braking. It is becoming harder to find vehicles that use drum braking.

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