When you're out on a long hike, wet socks are sure to be a mood-killer, taking you from enjoying nature to charting out how long it'll be till you get back and change out of your footwear. Especially if it's cold outside, wet socks and feet can make you feel miserable.
If you've had an experience like this recently, it's likely your boots aren't properly waterproofed. Though most work or hiking boots these days have some form of waterproofing treatment applied to them, you'll eventually need to waterproof them again. To prevent the most common cause of a case of soggy feet, you'll need to make sure you know how to waterproof your boots properly.
How Can I Waterproof My Boots?
Whether you've bought a new pair of boots that aren't waterproof or have a well-worn pair that is starting to let water in, you'll want to make sure you're waterproofing your boots well. Learning how to waterproof boots isn't difficult, but it matters if you want to keep up the integrity of your boots over the years.
Before you start waterproofing, you'll want to find out what kind of material your boots are made of. You'll need to make sure you're using the right materials, since improper treatment can be ineffectual and even harmful. For example, a pair of nubuck leather boots will need a different treatment than ones made of cloth. You can usually find the material of the boots behind the tongue or on the manufacturer's website.
While every boot is different, the general steps for waterproofing your boots are:
1. Clean the Boots
First, you need to get your boots completely clean. Leftover grime and dirt can prevent areas of the boot from being fully coated during the waterproofing process. Cleaning your boots regularly — even if you're not waterproofing them — is also a good way to extend their lifespan.
To properly clean the boot, you'll want to start by removing the laces, so they don't get in the way. Once the laces are removed, use a brush to get rid of grime and dirt. If the soles of your boots are especially dirty from dried mud, put the boots in an inch of water to loosen it.
After brushing the boots and loosening the caked-on dirt, any remaining grime can be fully removed by spraying them with a hose. When the boots are fully cleaned, let them air-dry.
If the boots are made of leather, you can begin the treatment process when they are slightly damp. The leather's dampness will allow for the treatment to properly coat the material.
2. Choose and Apply the Correct Treatment
Depending on your boots, there are a variety of treatments that can be used in the waterproofing process. For example, when you're waterproofing suede desert boots, you may find either a spray or wax that can do the same job. However, if you are waterproofing a cloth-based boot, you'd use a spray.
Not all treatments are appropriate for different boot materials, so you should be sure you're using the optimal treatment for your cloth, synthetic, suede or full-grain leather boots.
3. Spray the Boot
Typically, sprays are specifically designed for suede, leather or synthetic materials. Read the product description to see which material it's meant to be sprayed on.
To properly apply the spray, hold the can several inches from the boot. In this position, you'll spray on an even, thin coat. Depending on the type of spray, you may need to apply a second coat. To ensure you're applying the spray directly, follow all the product's directions.
4. Wax the Boots
Wax is typically used on leather and suede boots. To properly waterproof these, you'll need to have wax, a hairdryer and a cloth applicator. First, warm up the wax with the hairdryer, then rub it onto the boots with a clean cloth.
After you've applied the wax to the boots evenly, get rid of the extra wax before buffing the shoe to make it shine. Compared to spray, waxing a boot is a more involved, manual process. However, waxing makes it easier to get into the hard-to-reach parts of your boot to ensure they're waterproof.
5. Apply Cream to the Boots
Creams are often used for leather waterproofing. To apply the cream, you'll need to place the applicator on the boot or use a clean cloth. Then, rub the cream across the boot. Use a clean cloth to get the cream into the hard-to-reach part of the boots. When you're waterproofing leather, make sure you're applying the cream, wax or spray into every tiny crevice to get the best results.
6. Dry the Boots
Once you've applied the wax, cream or spray, you'll need to wait for the boots to dry completely before you can wear them. To dry them properly, put them in a room that has good ventilation, low humidity and average temperature.
You should not try to speed up the drying process by using direct heat, such as a hairdryer. Hairdryers can cause leather to crack or loosen the glue on your boots. You should also avoid placing your boots in direct sunlight, as it can also loosen the glue and crack the leather during the drying process.
Though you can't dry the boots with direct heating methods, you can speed up the process by using a fan. Placing balled-up paper inside your boots can also speed up the drying process, as it helps draw out any excess moisture.
After your boots are completely dry, you can take them out on the trail, confident your feet will be protected from puddles and creeks.
Common Waterproofing Questions
As you learn to waterproof your boots, you may find you have certain questions or concerns about the process. To help, we've created a list of the most commonly asked questions about waterproofing boots:
How Often Should I Waterproof My Boots?
Even the most high-quality men or women's waterproof boots will eventually degrade and start to let water in. Experienced hikers will keep track of their boot's quality and make sure they consistently perform maintenance on the boots to ensure they stay waterproof.
Knowing how often to waterproof your own boots is key, so you don't ever have to experience soggy feet on a worksite or trail ever again. The frequency of which you waterproof your boots will come down to the amount you wear them. Generally, you should waterproof them whenever water begins to bead on the surface or when they get especially dirty.
Why Are My Boots Darker After Treating Them?
Some waterproofing products can alter the appearance of your boots. Oftentimes, these products will give them a darker appearance, which can be undesirable to the wearer. To prevent this, make sure to read the product description for any cream, spray or wax you use. These products may only be designed for one type of material, such as suede or leather, and can have negative interactions with other types of materials.
Does Water Ruin Leather Shoes and Boots?
Unless your leather shoes or boots get really wet, it's unlikely they'll be ruined, especially if they've been specifically designed to stand up against the elements. If your leather gets slightly wet, all you need to do is wipe them with a damp cloth to get any excess dirt off them.
However, if your boots have gotten soaked and dried with salt stains, failing to clean them promptly can cause damage. The same goes for boots that are still wet and caked in dirt. If you want to keep up their original appearance, you should clean them regularly.
Is Waterproofing Fabric Boots Any Different?
Waterproofing a pair of fabric boots is essentially the same process as waterproofing leather or suede. However, there are some minor differences in how you can optimize the process.
First, clean the boot like you would any other pair. Next, use a spray-on waterproofer designed for fabric. Unlike leather, you can spray on the proofer when the boots are either wet or dry. To make sure you've sprayed all of the boot, you want to let the boot dry overnight so you can more clearly see where you are spraying, ensuring a more even coat.
Waterproof Boot Spray vs. Wax: Which is Better?
Both spray and wax are good options for most boots. In common use, sprays are generally less durable, but they are the easiest to apply to leather or synthetic boots. In contrast, wax is typically only applied to leather or suede and shouldn't be used one a fabric-based boot. Wax also takes longer to apply but is more durable.
Generally, spray is better if you need to apply a waterproof treatment quickly or have a boot made out of synthetic material or fabric. Wax is better if you have a leather or suede shoe and want greater durability.
Men's Boot Buying Guide
If you're looking for new boots, you should know about the best boots to buy in 2020. The following describes some of the top men's waterproof boots you should consider:
Men's Sperry Boots
The newest line of Sperry's men's boots offers some of the most stylish footwear for working, fishing or hiking. One of the best options comes in the form of Men's Avenue Duck Boots. This piece of footwear is meant to be worn in a variety of wet conditions, with a high-quality seam-sealed waterproof construction.
For an everyday boot that's both stylish and practical, the Men's Cold Bay Chukka Boot is an excellent choice. Its rugged appearance and full-grain leather make it perfect for almost any look, whether you're going out or headed to work.
Men's Timberland Boots
As one of the most popular brands in the boot industry, men's Timberland boots are always a great choice for those who want to be fashion-conscious and functional. Due to their seam-sealed construction, waterproofing Timberland boots is an easy process.
For the classic Timberland boots look, go with the Men's 6-Inch Classic Waterproof Boot. These boots will keep your feet dry as you navigate the city or take them out on the trail. For a boot that's guaranteed to look good and hold up in any environment, you should also consider the Men's 6-Inch Waterproof Field Boot.
Men's Nike Boots
If you're looking for a boot that makes a statement, Nike has you covered. Their Men's Air Goateerra 2.0 Boot has a sleek black appearance that features an AIR Max unit in the heel, giving it a look like no other on the market. Though the appearance is unique, it's just as reliable as more traditional options on the market today.
Women's Boot Buying Guide
For those looking for women's waterproof boots, there are a number of options on the market today that are sure to take your hike or outfit to the next level. Below you can find some of the best women's boots available:
Women's Sperry Boots
Sperry has an extensive selection of women's boots on the market today. For example, Women's Olive Saltwater Duck Boots are excellent fashion accessories, plus they provide protection from the elements. You can take them on the sea or on a trail, confident that they'll keep your feet dry. If olive isn't your style, there are plenty of other versions of Sperry's duck boots that will be sure to please.
Women's Colombia Boots
One of the top pairs of boots from Colombia available to consumers who like to go on hikes in cold weather climates is the Women's Meadows Shorty Omni-Heat 3D Boot. This boot is extremely popular due to the 200 insulation technology included that keeps your feet warm — even in negative 25-degree weather.
As it's a cold-weather boot, you may also want to learn about how to clean snow boots. Made out of a mix of leather and textile, these boots are made to keep your feet dry and warm.
Choose SVS Sports for Your Boot Needs
Now that you know how to take care of hiking boots and everyday leather work boots, you should feel confident investing in a new pair. As a full-service sports goods retailer offering both online and in-person merchandise, Schuylkill Valley Sports knows footwear. We are always looking to provide our customers with the highest quality products.
Browse our selection of men's and women's boots to find a reliable pair that looks great on you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us today or stop by your local store.