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Style SOS: How do I keep my boots in good shape?

Style SOS: How do I keep my boots in good shape?

"I wear my new boots a few times a week – in rain or shine – and I can already see the effects the elements and wear are having on them. What can I do to keep them looking new for longer? - Harry via email 

We’ve all been there: you invest in a shiny new pair of boots for the cold-weather season, and within a month they’re already showing signs of wear and tear. Footwear takes the biggest battering of any item in your wardrobe – they spend hours each week pounding the pavement and coming into contact with mud, sleet, rain, and a whole slew of puddle sizes. It’s this cold, wet weather in particular that can have an especially devastating (yes, devastating) effect on leather boots, which require regular upkeep if you want to keep them looking fresh all year round.

You wouldn’t keep wearing a stained shirt or trousers without washing them, so why  not apply that same level of care to your shoes? Unfortunately, it takes a little more effort than keeping your puddle splashing to a minimum. 

Proper storage

Yes, this matters. It’s important to store your boots away from sunlight, in a cool location where they will not be subjected to a direct source of heat. Keeping leather shoes near a radiator will cause them to dry out and crack, so if you’ve been out in the rain, allow your boots to air dry for a few hours before putting them away. Leather can be kept in bags to protect from scratching, whilst suede should be kept out to breathe. To help your boots maintain their shape, invest in shoe trees, or even stuff them with paper when you’re not wearing them.

Regular cleaning

Ideally, you should be wiping your boots off every time you wear them. We know that’s not always realistic, but frequent cleaning will help to keep your footwear in good condition. To clean your boots, remove the laces and wash them separately, buff with a horsehair brush to get rid of loose dirt, and lather with saddle soap – avoid normal soap, which will dry them out – using a damp cloth. Let them air dry to prevent cracking, and never submerge them in water as the leather will warp.

The occasional conditioning

If your boots have been subjected to wintry downpours, they’re likely to start showing signs of water damage, as the natural moisture in the leather will escape as they dry out, and cracks will begin to form. By that point, there’s no going back so we recommend you take the preventative measure of conditioning your boots every three months. 

Wipe them down with a dry cloth to remove excess dirt, then use a clean cloth to apply conditioner in circular motions back and forth along the boot, making sure not to apply too much pressure. Once it’s stopped soaking in and the shoe looks damp, wipe off any excess conditioner and leave them to dry for 12 hours. 

And don’t forget polishing

After conditioning, polishing your boots may seem excessive, but it will leave the leather looking smoother and smarter. Use either wax or cream polish, and apply with a horsehair brush until they’re gleaming. Polishing is also a great way to quickly make your boots look more presentable if you’re in a rush and don’t have time for the full cleaning process.

Words: Ella White
Illustration: Ryan Gillett