A non loaded leather strop can be used the same way as a steel. It's function is to simply make the teeth of the edge more straight and uniform. The softer leather strop IMO is better than using a steel. Commonly steel is called a sharpener but it's not an edge defining tool. It simply brings the teeth back to more uniformity.
In a perfect world we would see a micro serration with insanely uniform teeth like edges under the microscope. But the real world brings us all sorts of different cutting media. We cut carrots, celery and onions....each is harder and softer than others. The blade abrades differently depending on produce.
Of course what I speak is immeasurable quasi science. The bottom line is I feel stropping on paper or leather is better than steel. All you are trying to achieve when honing on non capable cutting material is to deform the metal back to a straighter path. Steels will roll the edge faster than paper....But stropping on paper is more forgiving when stroking the blade on less than precise angles... You won't scratch the blade on paper if you hit it totally wrong...steel will. Cosmetically perfect blades are a bit of of vanity...But hey...we want Hugh Heffner appearance don't we? So fake yet so beautiful
You know I'm not talking about Hef. hehehe
Try a simple brown paper grocery bag as a strop, then strop on newspaper...It's good news when the paper makes you cut better
Otherwise it's all bad news. Think of a grocery bag as the coarse steel and the newspaper as the fine steel. Take all the political pages and strop them to a pulp...Good riddance to politics
A "loaded" strop containing cutting compounds will be more aggressive on the teeth of the blade. The objective of the game is to keep those micro serrations as straight as possible.
I am firm believer that less is more when sharpening a knife. But maintaining the edge and sharpening are different.
Less metal removal is better. Steels simply roll the edge back to a straighter pattern. Paper and leather can do essentially the same thing. Steels are easy to grab and bang against, lightly or delicately. They are good tools in commercial kitchens. But 30-60 seconds on paper or leather can essentially make more scary sharp.
Steels can make the knife cut better, but so will paper or leather. Loaded strops will do the same. If the medium for loading the strop is harder than the blade itself then a small level of cutting of the steel will occur. I mean really, really minute...wimpy wimpy metal removal...
With the less is more philosophy, I suggest stropping the absolute least abrasive compounds to maintain the edge straightness. When these methods seem to fail then you should consider stropping on a paste medium. If the stropping compound just doesn't seem to make the knife as good as it used to be then it's probably time to use a sharpening stone.
We all screw up sharpening and cause scratches...None of us care to admit that we are screw ups...but I'll admit it...Oh yeah! I'm the quintessential screw up....