Protect Your Shoes In WinterWritten by Tigre Haller
How often do you think about how to keep your shoes and boots in good condition through the winter? If you are like a lot of people, then you probably don’t think about it at all, or until the snow starts to fall.
If you want to make sure that your shoes last as long as possible, then winterizing them properly is the way to go. The following steps will tell you everything you need to know about protecting your shoes in winter weather and keeping them in good condition for all seasons.
NOTE: Since shoes are made from many different materials, for the purposes of this article we are only going to focus on full-grain leather and suede shoes, sneakers and boots.
Waterproof Your Shoes
It is best to waterproof your shoes before you wear them. This way you know they are free of dirt, dust and debris. They also will be ready for whatever the weather is the first time you put them on. However, it can be done at any time.
If you are waterproofing shoes you have worn before, you want to clean them thoroughly (see below for tips on cleaning shoes).
Next, decide on what waterproofing method you want to use.
TIP: Test the solution out on a small, hard to see area first as some waterproofing solutions can cause your shoes to change color.
The easiest and some would say most effective way to waterproof your shoes is by using a high-quality waterproofing spray, such as Saphir Super Invulner Waterproofing Spray.
2. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated, or open area.
3. Wear protective gloves.
4. Position the canister 6 to 12 inches from the shoe.
5. Cover your shoe uppers with an even layer of the spray.
6. Allow the shoes to dry naturally.
7. Apply a neutral wax polish to the welt with a welt brush for additional water protection.
8. With a clean cotton cloth, apply a sole protecting product such as Saphir Guard Sole to protect them from water seeping in.
TIP: Hang your shoes by the laces to a clothesline. This way you don’t have to hold the shoe in one hand while spraying with the other, and you can be sure to get an even coverage.
Monitor your shoes for any signs that the waterproofing solution is wearing thin, and reapply as needed.
Insert Boot Liners
You will need to determine a few things when deciding which boot liners are right for you:
2. How tight are your boots? If your boots are form-fitting, a liner might not fit comfortably inside.
3. How thick are the socks you will be wearing inside the liner? Thick socks might smother your feet and make wearing liners uncomfortable, and cause your feet to sweat.
4. Is the liner material breathable? Materials like recycled polyester fleece make excellent liners as they are lightweight, hypoallergenic and breathable.
5. How will you use the boots? For example, hiking in the snow requires a different boot than a night on the town, and the liners should be appropriate for the activity.
6. Are the liners fitted? Be sure the liners are fitted so that they will stay around your legs and not slip.
7. Do the liners have flat seams? The last thing you want is a seam causing discomfort as it rubs against your leg.
Once you have these questions answered, start researching which liners are the best ones for your needs.
TIP: Wearing a pair of Merino Wool Socks adds instant warmth, moisture wicking and comfort.
Slip On Galoshes or Overshoes
Sure, overshoes or galoshes or shoe covers might not be the most stylish thing to wear, but they do their job well. Namely, they protect your actual shoes from the elements and keep them clean.
Think of them as an overcoat for your shoes. Generally made from rubber or silicone, these “outer shoes” slip on and off easily, are waterproof, slip-resistant, lightweight and can be stored easily. They’re also durable and easy to clean. No need to worry about damaging them with water or detergents.
Additionally, they can save you money over the long run by helping to extend the lifespan of your actual shoes.
If you work in an environment that requires personal protection equipment, then steel toe overshoes are the right choice for you. Even if you’re wearing steel toe boots, the overshoe will add an extra layer of protection.
Add Rubber Taps
Leather soled shoes and boots are elegant and classic. They look amazing, but they aren’t the best to wear when it’s snowy and icy. The last thing you want is to risk slipping and possibly damaging your shoes from the ice, salt, slush and snow.
That’s where rubber taps come into play. Attached by a cobbler to either the toe area, or top half of the shoe, and to the heel cap, rubber taps add an extra layer of protection, traction and cut down on the normal wear and tear your leather soles will experience.
Some shoes already have rubber heel caps, but if yours don’t, it would be a good idea to have your cobbler attach them. Not only do they give you more traction, they also protect the heel from wearing down.
Be mindful of the wear and tear on your rubber taps and caps and have them replaced before they are completely worn thin.
You can always opt for rubber soled shoes or boots that still have an elegant design, but offer more slip-resistance and longevity.
Remove Salt From Shoes
When walking around in winter it is inevitable that deicing salt is going to get on your leather shoes (unless you are wearing overshoes of course). The salt will leave unsightly white stains and if not removed, it can dry the leather, crack the leather and cause bubbling. In other words, it can kill your shoes.
The good news is that dealing with salt on your shoes is easy and economical.
All you have to do is:
1. Mix one part white vinegar with two parts water in a dedicated bowl or jar.
2. Wearing protective gloves, dip a cotton ball or soft, clean cotton cloth, into the solution.
3. Gently wipe the salt away from the leather.
4. Use another water-soaked cotton cloth to remove the vinegar solution from the leather.
5. Let the shoes air dry.
6. Treat your dry shoes with a high-quality leather conditioner and polish.
How to Properly Dry Shoes
Drying your shoes safely is relatively easy. But, you have to remember, not to dry them with a hairdryer, a heater or in the oven. This can cause the leather to crack or even burn, and possibly cause a fire.
Following these steps will help your shoes to keep your shoes looking great:
1. Brush or wipe off any mud.
2. Remove the laces and let them dry separately.
3. Pat dry the exterior of your shoes with a clean cloth.
4. If the interior is also wet, remove the inserts (if you are using them) and hang them to dry.
5. Then pack rolled-up newspaper into your shoes to absorb the moisture. Make sure the newspaper is stuffed all the way into the toe box.
6. If you have a shoe rack, place your shoes there to ensure even airflow and ventilation. If not, try to prop them up and place them in an open area with good airflow.
7. Avoid direct sunlight as this will overheat the leather and lead to cracking.
8. Check the newspapers and change out as needed.
9. Let your shoes air dry for as long as it takes.
10. When they are completely dry, check for any “rough spots” and treat your shoes to some natural leather conditioner if needed.
11. Put the inserts back in, re-lace and enjoy.
If you’re not going to wear them right away, be sure to store your shoes properly.
How to Maintain a Shoe's Structure
Maintaining the structure and integrity of your shoes is vital to their longevity and your health. But, like the other pieces of advice in this article, it can be done easily and relatively economically.
1. Be sure to rotate your shoes and try to wear a different pair each day.
2. Let moisture dry naturally.
3. Insert cedar shoe trees after every use.
4. Treat with fine leather conditioner as needed.
5. Resole when needed.
6. Clean your shoes thoroughly before storing them.
7. Always store in a clean, cotton shoe bag and ideally in the original box.
As you can see, protecting your shoes in winter - and all year long - isn’t complicated or expensive. Taking some basic precautions and care steps will go a long way to prolonging the life of your footwear, and to promoting good foot health.
Please let me know if you found these tips helpful and what you do to take care of your shoes by leaving a comment below.