How to Make Your Leather Boots Last

How to Make Your Leather Boots Last

Leather and longevity go hand in hand; this rugged, natural material has stayed in style for eons, and a single pair of genuine leather boots will last more than a lifetime with proper care. While real leather takes on a lovely patina over time, it only takes a little extra effort to protect your boots from the elements – which goes a long way in keeping your ensemble looking crisp and detail-oriented.

Prevention and Protection

To ward off water rings and other unsightly blemishes that come with the snow, slush and salt of winter, treat new leather boots with a waterproofing spray or some good old-fashioned oil or wax. Neatsfoot or mink oil work wonders on oil-tanned leather, while chrome-tanned leather takes well to silicone spray or wax. Specific instructions vary per treatment, but it’s always a good idea to treat your boots when they’re fresh, new and dry, or just after breaking them out of seasonal storage. To help your boots maintain their shape, store them upright on a shoe rack, evenly from other shoes.

Brushing Up

After regular wear, and before packing them away for the spring, clean and condition your leather boots to spruce them up and maximize their lifespan. Start the cleaning process by freeing your kicks of dry mud and dirt with a soft-bristled brush, or even an old toothbrush. If time allows, this is a good habit to get into after every outing, but it’s a must-do before conditioning. Take extra care to free debris from the creases and crevices of boot styles with slouchy shafts, straps and buckle details.

Crucial Conditioning

Keeping your leather boots moisturized and conditioned is the key to longevity – especially during the harsh winter season. Simple oil-based saddle soap does the trick. After brushing, wipe your boots down with a very lightly dampened cloth. Once the boots are completely dry, use a damp sponge or lint-free cloth to work the saddle soap into a lather, and then massage it into the leather uppers using circular motions. Wipe away the excess, and you’re good to go.

In addition to moisturizing and conditioning leather, saddle soap application gives your boots a temporary sheen. This makes bold, tall styles like the Joylynn from Naturalizer even more striking, so be sure to condition them before hitting the town.

When Winter Strikes

Sometimes, life happens. If you do manage to get your boots soggy, blot their insides with a thick, absorbent cloth, and then hang them upside-down to dry – this is especially important for taller boots, like Franco Sarto’s Liora. Stick with airy locations away from direct sunlight and harsh heat sources to avoid drying or cracking the leather. Follow up with a thorough conditioning to keep unrepairable cracks from rearing their ugly heads. Store-bought salt-stain remover treats spotty salt blemishes overnight, but should be applied as soon after staining as possible.


Mother Earth News: Caring for Leather Shoes and Leather Boots
Primer: How to Protect Your Leather Boots from Winter
Harper’s Bazaar: Nine Tips to Making Your Boots Last Longer

About the Author

Daniel Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in publications such as USA Today and Bazooka Magazine. His fashion background includes years of experience selecting, designing and fabricating theatrical wardrobe, as well as designing film wardrobe and serving as a costuming assistant on the sets of short and feature-length films.