How to Take Care of Your Leather Boots in Winter, According to Outdoor Enthusiasts

Protect your leather boots from damage by following these simple steps

January 18, 2024 10:46 am
leather boots in snow
Leather boots are a winter essential. Here's how to take care of them.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Leather boots are designed to handle a variety of conditions. Whether you’re pouring cement in the backyard, heading to dinner with friends or hiking a nearby trail, they can handle just about anything you throw at them. And yet, this unstoppable footwear is only capable so long as you care for it properly.

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Boots were made for walking. Ask anyone.

That reality was running through my mind when I picked up my first pair of leather boots from LA-based Aether Apparel. Made in collaboration with Italian bootmaker Fracap, the Dolomite Boot is handmade with 100 percent vegetable-tanned Italian leather. It comes complete with welt stitching, metal eyelets and a sturdy Vibram sole, all of which are designed for mountain peaks and city streets. But as wintery weather descends upon New York City, I’ll need these boots to combat snow, slush and layers of salt, all of which can wreak havoc on full-grain leather.

To that end, we’ve taken the liberty of putting together a guide to help you care for your leather boots through winter. Before you lace up this season, follow these basic principles to ensure your footwear is ready for whatever comes next.

A model walking in Aether Apparel boots in a forest
Leather boots can handle most all conditions. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to be cared for.
Aether Apparel

Why are you buying leather boots?

Before you invest in a pair of leather boots, consider why you’re buying them and what you’ll use them for. Leather boots aren’t naturally waterproof, so you might want a pair that features a waterproof liner if you plan on trekking through snow and deep slush. If, on the other hand, you intend to use your leather boots in cold but dry conditions, then you can probably get away with boots that lack a waterproof membrane.

Keep your boots dry and clean.

Keep in mind that leather is a natural, porous material, which is why you’ll need to focus on keeping your boots dry and clean through winter. When leather absorbs moisture from snow or slush, it also soaks up dirt that clogs and cracks the material over time. To keep your boots clean, use a brush and leather cleaner to scrub the surface free of dirt and a separate rag to wipe away any excess leather cleaner. This isn’t something you’ll need to do every day, but you should focus on keeping your boots dry by storing them indoors as opposed to the front porch or garage where temperatures are sure to be colder.

Caring for your boots is just as important as the pair you purchase.
Red Wing

Moisturize the leather.

Not unlike living skin, leather is a natural material that needs to be treated if it’s to stay healthy. For this reason, you’ll need to moisturize your leather boots after cleaning them because the leather will dry out over time no matter what you do. When the time comes to moisturize your boots, start by cleaning them as you normally would with a damp towel or rag, using mild, unscented soap if deep dirt persists. Once you’ve cleaned your boots, apply your choice of cream or oil by following the product’s instructions.

Repeat the process.

Moisturize your boots in the same fashion every three-to-six months, though you may need to do so more often in winter depending on how often you wear your boots and what conditions are like in your locale. Winter is an incredibly difficult time for leather because the air lacks the humidity that leather craves, so moisturizing will come in handy more often.

Below, a few leather treatment products we recommend.

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