Boot care 101: Everything you need to know (and own)
What It's For: leather boots
Why You Need It: Whether your boots are brand new or decade-old standbys, you need this. Dabbing it on new boots seals them from water and shields them from scuffs, while rubbing it into old boots reconditions the leather and makes it supple again.
Why You Need It: You don't want to put damp boots directly in front of a heater to dry, because you'll risk overheating the leather and causing cracks in the long run. Instead, you'll want to slip a cedar boot tree into them, because the wood absorbs moisture quickly and naturally—plastic and newspaper just won't cut it. (And yeah, they're expensive, but you really only need one cedar tree to keep in rotation, not a pair for each boot. It's the hour after you wear them that's most crucial for drying and re-shaping them.)
Why You Need It: Realistically you're not going to keep polish or cleaner in your bag at all times. But if you do trudge to your friend's house in the snow and want to do a little damage control once you get there, this is what you'll want. Mix 1 part of it with 2 parts water, and dap it in on your boots to remove salt stains. (People usually keep it handy because it's what you use to clean coffee makers, so it should be easy to find.)
Why You Need It: Sure, boot bags are great for protecting your clothes from dirty shoes, of course, but it's a two-way street! You'll also want to make sure your boots don't get scuffed up by belts, jewelry and zippers when you travel by investing in a proper boot bag big enough to cover the whole thing.
Why You Need It: It's gentle enough to use on a whole range of materials (including leather and suede), so if you're looking for an all-in-one sort of thing, this is it.
PREMIUM SHOE CLEANER, $17.50, JASON MARKK, AMAZON.COM
What It's For: Flat, wedge or chunky-heeled boots
Why You Need It: The first thing that starts to go on the boot is usually the outer edges of the sole, and once that happens, the damage can creep up to the top part of the boot that meets the sole and get them all scuffed up and worn thin, too. Save yourself that fate (and more than a few trips to the cobbler) by sticking one of these on the soles of the boot for a buffer layer.
Why You Need It: This spray removes that chalky white layer that builds up on rubber boots over time, restoring their shiny, new finish instead. (They may be waterproof, but rubber boots need love, too.)
Why You Need It: Sude and nubuck are tricky materials, so you'll want to make sure you get the right stuff to take care of them and don't take any shortcuts. This kit is exactly what you need: it'll let you lift dirt stains with that specially formulated cleaning bar, then get the nap (you know, the fuzziness of the suede) back to normal by lightly combing it with the brush.
SUEDE AND NUBUCK CLEANING SYSTEM, $9.95, WOODLORE, ZAPPOS.COM
What It's For: shearling and sheepskin-lined boots
Why You Need It: Even the most cozy and rugged-looking materials need proper care.
Why You Need It: On trips home over Thanksgiving and the holidays, those boots will probably be getting a lot of wear. Having something handy like this might mean you'll actually take the time to take care of them.
Rain, sleet, snow, wintry mix, miles of walking, apple-picking, muddy football games: thanks to all of this, few things in your wardrobe take a harder hit than your favorite boots, but whether they're leather, suede or even rubber, they'll benefit from these tips above.
From just-out-of-the-box protective measures to fell-in-a-puddle crisis control, they'll keep your default boots looking less abused and more charmingly "well-loved." (Plus, they'll save you serious dollars on shoe repairs, which means, of course, you'll be able to go out and buy another pair of boots sooner than you might've thought. Double win?)