Caring for your quality leather boots will add years to their life, and not only keep your feet looking fresh, but your wallet happy as well. One main benefit of buying a high-quality boot in the first place is their durability, and their ability to age graciously. While leather boot in moderate weather will typically hold up pretty well on their own, there are a few simple steps that can be taken to increase the life of your beloved boots and keep them looking great year after year.
The first and most important step of caring for your leather boots is to keep them clean from dirt, debris, and most importantly salt. This step is achieved by using a standard horsehair shine brush, such as the Kiwi 100% Horsehair Shine Brush to remove excess debris, and then rubbing the boot down with a moist washcloth to remove the remaining dirt and wash out the damaging salts. This step should be performed any time your boots are exposed to salt, and once every few weeks if you are living in milder weather conditions where rain and snow are not an issue. I would not recommend using a cleaning product during this process as many of these products are extremely damaging to the leather and counterproductive to the process.
The leather on its own does have a tendency to dry out over time and to prevent this process while maintaining the original look of the boot the best product is a high-quality leather conditioner such as Leather Honey Leather Conditioner. After allowing your boots to dry from washing away the salt and debris with a damp cloth, apply a small amount of conditioner to a fresh cloth or sponge. Dress the boot with a thin layer of conditioner and allow the boots to sit for several hours, preferably in a shoe tree. It is important to not over saturate your leather with conditioner, and while many swear by external heating methods, such as using a blow-dryer to increase absorption of the leather, I personally have found these steps to be unnecessary in caring for my boots. Over conditioning can lead to premature cracking in the leather, and an often unwelcome discoloration. The two-step process of cleaning and gentle conditioning alone should be sufficient to keep the leather of your boots looking great for years to come.
When to Resole or Reheel
Another frequently asked question regarding leather boot care is when the best time to resole or reheel a boot is. For reheeling it is best to act before the top lift of your heel is a dime width away from the heel. In the included image you can view the black rubber top lift or top piece resting below the leather heel. Once their top piece wears down to the point that it is either no longer comfortable to walk on or has worn down a dime width from the heel it is time to visit to the cobbler.
Knowing when to resolve your boots can use a similar technique, assessing when the sole is around the width of a dime from puncturing a hole. By following this practice you will prevent a full-blown hole from developing and allowing elements into your boot which will lead not only to discomfort from external elements but damage your boots as well. In keeping your sole and heel in good condition, you are not only maintaining the comfort of your shoes, and allowing for a natural gait, you are allowing your shoes the ability to continue working for you for years to come.
Boot Care Anecdote
When I first began wearing leather boots I purchased a pair of Clarks Men’s Bushacre 2 Boots in Dark Brown.
After wearing them for several months I was excited at the opportunity to dress them with a product, hoping to bring them back to a more preserved original state with an added character from wear. I purchased a tin of kiwi mink oil and caked the product on after brushing the boot for debris to prevent its entrapment under the oil. I waited in anticipation to view the restorative properties the oil had had on my boots. After several hours I went back to view the boots to discover that the oil had grossly darkened my already dark brown boots, and removed a lot of natural textures and shadings found in them prior to my intervention. While devastation would be an exaggeration of how I felt, I was certainly unhappy with the results. Having learned my lesson I now stick with only a deep brush and clean with a moist washcloth, and use a small amount of Leather Honey Cleaner, with much improved results. If you do decide to use other products I would strongly advise you to use them on either a small portion of your boot to assess the effect or to do significant research first.
As always thank you for your time, and I hope the information contained was helpful.