Use these simple tips for short and long-term care, and your boots will last years instead of months.
So you’ve got a new pair of work boots. Congratulations!
You’re going to be spending a lot of time together, kicking butt and taking names in the workplace.
Of course, just how long you’re with your new work boots depends on how well you treat them.
Treat your work boots poorly, and you’ll be visiting the shoe store a lot sooner than you’d like. Treat your work boots well, and they might very well outlast a presidential administration.
Break in your new boots WITHOUT blisters
Take those bad boys out of the box and start breaking them in.
Before putting them on, crush the boots lightly with your hands and bend the boot back and forth for a while. Then start wearing them around the house or yard for 10-15 minute intervals. In a day or two, work your way up to 30 minutes or even an hour if you have battle-hardened feet. If it starts to hurt, STOP.
PRO TIP: Resist the temptation to wear your new boots to work until they are fully broken in. They are going to be stiffer than you were on the dance floor at your Senior Prom. This is a distraction you don’t need (especially if you operate heavy machinery).
Once your work boots are comfortable enough to be worn around the house all day, it’s time to test them in battle….but first.
Lather Em’ Up
Oil your boots AFTER they have been broken in.
Here’s what to do:
- Give the leather of the boots an even coat and don’t skimp on the oil. New boots can absorb quite a bit.
- Take the time to work oil into areas of the boot where one piece of leather meets another (the seams), such as the stitching and where the upper connects to the sole.
After the boot oil has dried, apply a waterproofing agent to it. Your best choice, oddly enough, is a water-based waterproofing agent. This allows the leather of your boot to breathe, which helps moisture such as perspiration (your nasty sweat) to evaporate and keeps your feet cool and dry.
Clean Them Regularly
Occasionally, you may need to remove a conspicuous spot or stain from your work boots. Cleaning your boots isn’t just for the ladies at the bar on Fridays. Regular cleanings actually maintain the integrity of the boot and prevent substances from ruining the material. A damp cloth is all you need.
For most spots and stains, a simple solution of one part lemon juice and one part cream of tartar will usually do the trick.
- Mix the ingredients together until they form a paste
- Rub the into the stain
- Rinse the area off and let dry
If you have a salt stain (usually the result of walking along a de-iced sidewalk or road during winter), use a solution made of equal parts white vinegar and water. Just apply it to the entire shoe and let it dry.
After you’ve finished cleaning your boots, get them prepped to go back to work.
- Use a clean, dry cloth to dry your boots
- Once the work boots are dry, apply some more boot oil or a water-based sealant
- If your boots feel a little stiff after you’ve cleaned them, use some boot oil to help keep the leather supple
Protip: If you really want to make sure you’re giving your work boots a good cleaning, invest in a pair of shoe trees. These are foot-shaped inserts that you place in your boot or shoe to help it keep its shape. They’ll fill out your work boot and reduce crevices and folds that can cause you to overlook some important areas of your boot that need to be cleaned, especially the seams.
Long Term Care
Long-term care takes minimal effort (assuming you took the time to break in and care for your boots at the beginning). All you have to do is make sure to regularly clean your work boot and apply leather conditioning afterward, taking special care to target the stress points of the leather.
One thing to keep in mind is that as your work boots get older, using leather conditioner becomes more and more important. Dry, dehydrated leather can lead to cracks where the boot and leather flexes.
- Run your fingers along each boot and search for dry, dehydrated areas
- Apply leather conditioner to the dehydrated areas first
- Rub the conditioner on the rest of the boot
- Wipe off the excess conditioner and polish the boot, using long circular strokes
- Finally, apply a waterproofing product to the work boots in order to give them extra protection from the elements or the one coworker who keeps sloshing his coffee around
You should also clean the inside of your work boots, although you don’t have clean it as often as you do the outside. You’ll want to use a dedicated interior boot cleaner for the job, but if you don’t have any, you can use some shampoo with a low pH as a substitute.
When you’re finished cleaning the inside of your work boots, set them aside to dry out. Once they’re completely dry, add a dash of odor spray to make sure they smell fresh when you wear them again.
Products You Need for Long-Term Care
- A Waterproofing Agent: Leather-protecting oil will provide a shield against dirt, water (ironically), dirt, and mud so you can work hard without working your boots too hard.
- A Soft Bristle Brush: For removing stubborn dirt.
- Leather Conditioner: For dehydrated areas.
- Shoe Polish: For obvious reasons.
- Common Sense: be kind to your boots!
TL;DR: Take care of your boots and they will take care of you.