What do store bought Mac & Cheese and a pair of new work boots have in common? They are rarely ready to go right out of the box.
Much like your favorite side dish, your new boots will require some preparation before enjoying them to their fullest potential. If you don’t follow at least some of our recommended boot maintenance best practices, you might as well just throw them in the garbage and set your money on fire. Last year we spent $100 on a pair of boots that barely lasted 3 months. Here’s what that experience taught us
Walk Around Your House
Walking around your house will not only help your new boots conform to your feet, it will also help you identify creases and potential hot spots (like that new club in town that has a half hour wait to get to the bouncer). Start with 15-minute intervals and work your way up from there. After the first day, move up to 30-minute intervals. As soon as your boots are easy to put on and feel comfortable for the entire 30 minutes, they should be good to go. Remember oiling up your glove before heading to Little League on the weekend? That has nothing to do with this article, we just wanted to reminisce about playing baseball as a kid.
Tip: Throw on your favorite sitcom, and walk around the living room while watching it.
Apply Leather Conditioner to Your Boots
Treat new boots the same way you would treat your dry skin: apply moisturizing lotion to keep it from getting irritated. Leather is animal skin and prone to drying out just like your skin is. Leather conditioner can come as a cream, oil, or liquid, and will help the leather bend and move more easily.
A common misconception is that you could submerge your boots in water and get a similar result, but this will actually cause your new boots to dry out. It could even cause the leather to crack or split. Avoiding this short-cut and using the tried and true method of applying leather conditioner will not only keep you from having soggy feet, but will increase the life of your work boots.
Don’t Apply Direct Heat To Your Boots
Another common myth is putting your boots next to a space heater, blasting them with a hair dryer, or baking them in the oven will help the leather conform to your feet. Don’t. Ever. Do. That.
Applying direct heat to your boots is just another shortcut that will destroy them quickly. A rule of thumb is that if you’re not serving it for dinner, then don’t put it in the oven (when was the last time you put a pizza in the washing machine?). It is best to skip the short cuts, and to break them in slowly over time. The Donner Party tried taking a shortcut when they were taking their wagons to California, and look where it got them. Sometimes shortcuts lead to cannibalism.
Work A Shift
Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for!
It’s time to put your new work boots to the test and work a full shift in them. In between showing them off to your coworkers and rubbing every last speck of dirt off them, take mental notes of how they feel in the different positions you find yourself in. For example, if you’re a plumber, note how they feel when bending over (and showing your crack to everyone).
Try not to do anything too strenuous on your first shift with your new boots. And always be sure to wear a strong pair of socks to protect your feet from getting too chaffed. Your boots should help you during the day, not make you want to scream in agony.
Tip: Bring your old work boots to work with you in case your new pair start killing your feet!
NEVER Kick Off Your Boots
It may be tempting to kick your boots off after a long shift, but like the previously mentioned shortcuts, this can cause damage to the heel and drastically shorten the life of your work boots (or result in cannibalism).
Loosen the laces and take your boots off with your hands. A good pair of well maintained work boots will keep your feet dry and safe all day, and all they ask in return is that you take them off with dignity after subjecting them to a long, grueling day of work. We’re not saying to take them out for a nice wine and dine, but if you want to slip into something more comfortable, just try to let your work boots down easy. They’ll appreciate you for being honest.
Tip: Get one of those stick thingies that helps you take your shoes off quickly. We believe they are called a shoe horn
Boot Maintenance Summary and Quick Tips
All men are naturally drawn to well cared for boots made with beautiful leather. Here’s how to fight off the effects of aging for years.
- Always take them off by hand
- Never apply direct heat to your boots
- Do not submerge them in water
- Apply leather conditioner regularly
- Polish only helps them look better, but there’s nothing wrong with that
- Use a rag and warm water (without soap) to clean your boots weekly
Your work boots are a long-term investment, and should be treated like one. Whether you’re working in an auto garage, a construction site, or in wet conditions, your work boots are your most valuable tool. If you skip the shortcuts and properly break in your boots, they will return the favor by protecting your feet for years to come. Remember, the longer your boots last, the less money you spend. Keep that in mind every time you want to just kick them off after a long day’s work.