Why Care About Weatherproofing Your Cowboy boots?

Water & Salt Damage is Expensive – Water can and will destroy the suppleness of your cowboy boots’s leather; leather that would have withstood tens of thousands of flexes can have its life cut to a fraction of this. Leather is animal skin, most often cattle or horse, which is made up of fat and proteins that retain a set amount of moisture after being tanned. The fibers that criss-cross each other in the corium give leather its unique strength, but are also susceptible to drying out and cracking if not treated with care. You must minimize rapid influxes and releases of moisture and exposure to alkalines or acids, both of which can permanently damage the leather. In addition, salt and other harsh chemicals can stain leather.

They are difficult to remove once they permeate the leather itself, and if left untreated will not only discolor but weaken the top layers and can damage the finish. A simple layer of waxy polish between the leather and these harmful elements could be the difference between a one minute cleaning versus a costly trip to the cobbler. Need to remove a salt stain?  

Comfort –Wet feet are uncomfortable and most of us do not have the option of taking our shoes off and walking around in socks at work. 

Notice that I didn’t say waterproof. No amount of polish or “waterproofing” spray is going to keep out water if you are continuously subjecting your cowboy boots to the elements. However, performing these steps are important as that they do provide short-term protection. Even the man who owns galoshes does not always have the luxury of having them handy when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

1. Select a Waterproofing Compound

There is a lot of debate on the subject of which waterproofing compound is best – not only are the brands fighting it out (as expected) but many shoe aficionado’s have their take as to which method and technique works the best. So please add your tips and suggestions in the comments!

Wax-based polishes – Unlike shoe pastes and creams, which are designed more to nourish the leather, wax based polishes are made to create a shine and by doing so create a thin protective layer than can provide light resistance to water and salt.  The key to this type of protection is consistent application after every few wears, or every wear if the weather is particularly wet. Specialty waterproof compounds, they do a solid job when applied properly and have a longer sticking period than polishes. Unlike the above mentioned compounds, these protectants are not meant to create a shine but rather to seal out moisture; as such they may need to be used in conjunction with a polish once the seal has been set.

Spray on waterproofing compounds – Of all the waterproofing techniques, this one receives the most amount of flack. Common arguments are that it doesn’t allow the leather to breath and that if the compound contains silicone it will dry out the leather. My stance is if ease of use is your concern, then it’s much better to use a spray on waterproofing than nothing at all.  These waterproofing sprays should be used liberally, as I learned they lose their effectiveness after only a few wears. They are not meant to penetrate the leather, but rather form a protective coat on top of it.

2. Test & Prepare for Waterproofing

This next step is especially important for any cowboy boot that is not black – you need to ensure the compound you have chosen does not change the appearance of the cowboy boot. Do not assume that because the waterproofing compound manufacturer claims that it will not affect color that it won’t – you do not want to be the exception to the rule. Choose a discreet part of your shoe, such as the side, and apply a small amount to see how it reacts. After you are more confident, move to an area like the inner back of the shoe and test again. After a few hours you should be ready to move forward. If you haven’t already, remove the laces and thoroughly clean the shoe with a brush and rag to remove dirt.

3. Apply the Water Resistant Compound Evenly and Ensure a Barrier Is Formed

The only difference in a waterproof compound application vs. a shining compound application is the attention you should pay to forming an unbroken seal. When shining your shoes you can spot shine on occasion – when waterproofing you need to ensure a water tight barrier is formed or the whole process is for naught. Choose the Right coowboy  Boots – From hiking to work, boots are made to be tougher and are a great choice for inclement weather thanks to their height and ability to protect the ankles. Unfortunately they are limited in the range of clothing they can be worn with; anything dressier than odd trousers is stretching their boundaries.

Although the dress boot has a wider range and can be worn with a mens suit, it provides less protection than its rougher brethren. Due to its more delicate sole and smaller heel you’ll have less clearance when traversing puddles and thus dress boots should be worn with as much care as dress shoes. With all that being said, all boots should be treated regularly with a waterproofing compound depending on the wearers environment and frequency of wear.

What to Do When Your Shoes Are Already Wet?

We like to end this article with the steps you should take in the case you do soak a pair of quality leather shoes. Because despite all of your planning, you’re bound to get caught in the rain once! Remove excess water from the outside of the cowboy boot using a dry rag or towel. Pull the moisture from the inside of the cowboy boot. This can be done with newspaper or a small dry towel. The key here is to draw the moisture out, so every hour or so replace the moist paper with dry paper. Depending on the extent of the soaking, this could take from 2 hours to 2 days. Do not place the cowboy boot near a heat source; let them dry slowly at room temperature. If you heat them you will cause the moisture to leave too quickly and greatly increase the chance of the leather cracking. Cracked leather cannot be fixed on a man’s boot. Once the cowboy boot appear dry and no more moisture is being drawn out of the shoe, clean and condition with a leather balm or cream and finally polish normally. Over the next week ensure you clean and polish after every wearing.