What’s The Best Way To Maintain Your Boots To Make Them Last?

Boots demand care. The process is easy and, if you own boots, you’ll agree that it is also highly gratifying. Well-cared for boots never fail to return the favor. They acquire character over time and the comfort they provide cannot be matched by a new pair of boots that has not been broken in.

In this everyman’s guide to boot care, you’ll learn all about how to take care of your boots. But first, let’s take a quick look at how boots differ from shoes.

What’s the Difference Between Boots and Shoes?

Shoes, unless they are high-top shoes, do not cover the ankles. Boots cover the ankles and depending on the style, can cover the lower leg as well. Shoes are meant for everyday wear. Boots have evolved for specialized persuasions and hazardous environments, for example, cowboy boots and work boots. However, though boots may feature a sturdier construction than shoes, it is possible to wear boots crafted for the purpose of fashion and have a softer design and feel.

What are the Different Types of Boots?

There are many different types of boots, differentiated on the basis of form, style, and intended use. Cowboy boots are a style, which, feature the knee-high form. Popular boot styles include Chukka, Hessian, Chelsea, Dress, and Russian.

Australian, Hobnail, and Caulk are examples of work boots. Riding, Field, Paddock, and Jodhpurs are examples of equestrian boots. Go here for a detailed list of boot types.

How to Care for Boots to Make Them Last?

Leather is by far the most commonly used material for boots. This section deals with the maintenance of leather boots. Other materials are discussed after this section.

  • Boots should be cleaned each time they’re worn. This prevents the caking of dust and dirt, which makes cleaning difficult later on and also weakens the leather. Wet mud and particles that solidify on the boots can leave behind scratches during the cleaning process. Regular cleaning after wear simplifies the removal of loose dust. Creases and crevices that form on the boot because of wear can widen from accumulated dust leading to cracks. Pay particular attention to cleaning the area where the upper is stitched to the sole. A brush and a damp cloth are all you need to clean boots before you put them back in the wardrobe. The brush is for removing dirt and dust from the gaps and the surfaces. The damp cloth or cotton swab is for further cleaning the soles, heels, and uppers. Sometimes, a chemical or even water can stain the surface of a boot. Purchase a stain remover recommended for the type of leather used for the boot. Avoid using turpentine, fabric stain removers, and industrial solvents. These may or may not work, and there’s every chance that they’ll damage the material and take away from the appearance of the boot. Before you put the boots away, ensure that they are dry. Keep them in an airy place to allow the perspiration to dry off. If the insides have gotten wet from contact with water, then use an absorbent cloth to sponge off as much moisture as you can.
  • Keep the boots well-conditioned by applying a recommended conditioner. Leather boots need to be conditioned to ensure that the hide or skin does not develop cracks over time, and remains supple. Without the nourishment provided by conditioners, leather will develop cracks that will widen into tears, especially in dry areas, such as the U.S state of Arizona. The importance of using conditioners cannot be overstated, this simple precaution can extend the life of boots by years. A small amount of conditioner must be applied on to the leather surface and spread gently using a cloth. The conditioner is absorbed by the leather, it has more than a mere superficial impact. Excessively daubing the surface of the boot with a conditioner must be avoided. Not only is this wasteful, but also damaging to the boots because it leaves the leather sticky and vulnerable to dust and abrasive particles that can easily leave behind scratches. As with the first step mentioned above, it is advisable to not experiment with substances such as alcohol, petroleum jelly, vegetable oils, etc. as these liquids may do more harm than good by drying out the leather.
  • Polishing and shining your boots does a lot more than add to their appearance and yours. Polishes that contain wax can impart a wonderful shine to boots, but may result in caking that is not desirable. Don’t wait for the shine on the boots to turn dull before polishing them. Establish a routine depending on how frequently you wear boots. If you wear boots every day, then consider polishing them once a month. Boot creams are an alternative to wax-containing polishes, and are available in colors to match those of the leather. Use a small amount and spread evenly on the surface. Use a cloth or a brush to polish the leather. Apply the polish along the edges, use a neutral-colored polish if the heel is of a different hue.
  • There are certain don’ts to adhere to that you must know about if you plan to keep your boots looking good and in serviceable condition. Avoid stepping into water, slush, thorny underbrush and spaces that you think can damage the leather through stains, scuffs, or even tears. Do not leave the shoes out to dry under the hot sun or in front of a fire. This may cause the leather to shrink or even split open.
  • Boots are expensive, and repairs are cheaper than buying a fresh pair. Small scuffs and creases that appear from regular wear can be managed at home with the help of polish, preferably wax polish that can form a layer over the scuffed area to fill it up, so that the appearance of the damaged area matches that of the rest of the boot. Washing dried and dull leather on boots with leather saddle soap can rejuvenate the appearance; however, this activity is recommended only for lifeless leather that has not been cared for; it is not something that must be done as a part of routine boot maintenance, because it may alter the look and finish of the boot. Cobblers can execute repairs that cannot be done at home. These include replacing worn out soles and heels, dyeing shoes a shade darker or lighter, reducing or increasing the height of the boot, and replacing zips and buckles.
  • Store boots only after cleaning them. Boot racks or trees are a good way to ensure systematic storage by season and frequency of use. The environment to store boots must be cool, dark, and definitely dry. Avoid using chemical odor repellants in the storage area, as this can lead to the boots acquiring the smell.

With respect to caring for boots, it is also worth mentioning that the process actually begins with breaking into a new pair of boots. There is really no alternative to wearing boots for a period so that they can adjust to the shape of your feet. Ideally, you need to exercise maximum due diligence before purchasing a pair so that breaking into the boots is easier. You can have the leather boots stretched for length and width by leaving them on a shoehorn for a day or two. But do not try things like placing them in the sun or dunking them in water to tighten them or soften the leather.

Boot Care According to Materials

The basic approach to boot care does not really change with the material used, but there are certain things to be kept in mind. There are considerations that arise due to properties peculiar to the material used.

  1. Reptile-skin boots made from alligator, crocodile, and lizard skin need to be kept clean. These boots require treatment with the right conditioner every week when these are worn. If you plan on storing these boots for extended periods, then apply a conditioner on them up to four times a year. Conditioners enriched with lanolin work best for boots made with exotic skins. Boots made from such leather should, preferably, not be worn in wet weather.
  2. Snakeskin, also technically reptile-skin, requires a different approach for care. These boots too must be kept clean and dust accumulation must be prevented through regular wiping and dusting. However, when cleaning, it is important that the cleaning is always in the direction of the grain of the skin and never against it. Invest in a good reptile-skin leather conditioner that pushes up dirt and debris from underneath and around the scales, so that it can be removed easily.
  3. Suede leather boots need special care. These cannot be treated with regular leather conditioners or polishes. They must be cleaned with a suede brush after use to prevent accumulation or debris under the raised suede surface. These boots are not meant for use in wet conditions. It can result in patches coming off and stains. Dry the boots using a terry fabric and leave them in an airy space after use in rain or snow.
Sarah Shawman

is the webmistress of Footwear 4 Workers.

She started this website out of displeasure with the fact that there are so few good online resources especially dedicated to the 99%: working people. Having suffered from work related plantar fasciitis herself, she set out on a mission to help others.

She updated this page on and will continue to update it as time goes on.

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