How to Winter-Proof Your Shoes

Keep your favorite boots and lace-ups in fighting shape and forget all about salt, dirt, snow, and soaked socks.

Winter is usually the time to forsake your favorite wingtips and bring out the big guns. But while tough and rugged boots that can grapple with ice are great, even they aren’t usually waterproof, meaning you can be left with soaked socks after stepping through a snowbank. And they’re vulnerable to winter stresses the same way a good pair of lace-ups are: ice, grime, and road salt can wreak havoc on leather and make even the best pair look rough around the edges after a harsh season.

Thankfully, all that’s necessary to keep shoes in winter-fighting condition is a tin of good boot wax and about an hour of your time.

The idea is that the wax absorbs into leather, keeping moisture and anything else that could damage the leather at bay, so no more ugly salt deposits or soaked-through uppers. Water will bead off, and you’ll be good for an entire season of trudging through snow, ice, and dirt with any of your favorite shoes. Even if you live in a warmer climate, it's a worthwhile precaution against rain and mud.

Oh, and an important note: some weather-proofing waxes will darken your leather slightly, so a lighter brown will turn a half shade deeper. It'll lighten as you wear your boots and the wax wears in, but just keep that in mind if you're in love with your shoes' patina and don't want a change.

Preheat Your Shoes

You can use a hairdryer, or put them in your oven for a couple minutes at the lowest setting. Getting the leather hot allows the wax to melt and absorb on contact, since the wax has a solvent in it that lets the stuff melt at around 110° F. As you apply, it evaporates into the boots and draws the wax along with it. After that, the solvent is gone and the wax can endure temps up to 155° F.

Apply Lots of Wax

Give the seams some extra love, since that’s where water can creep in. Keep adding wax until the leather stops absorbing it – the more you use, the better. Any extra will be toweled off in a minute.

Hite 'Em With More Heat

After another round with the hairdryer or oven, the leather should look slightly shiny, meaning there’s excess wax that couldn’t soak in. If there are spots with a dull finish, all the wax has been absorbed there and it could use a bit more.

Add some more wax and reapply heat until there are no dull spots so you know you’ve got the maximum amount applied.

Towel Off the Excess

Wipe your shoes down to get rid of any wax that couldn’t absorb in. If you want a more finished look, you can go right into a good shoe polishing routine here to really make ‘em shine.

Now go find a snow bank and put your freshly waxed pair to the test.

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