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 footwear to the elements. However, performing these steps are important as 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 aficionados have their take as to which method and technique work 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 that can provide light resistance to water and salt. Manufacturers such as Lincoln make a good product, along with Meltonian who also provides their polish in a wide range of colors. 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 – Obenauf’sand Sno-Seal Weather Protectant are just two examples of waterproofing compounds whose main purpose is protection – 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 breathe 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. Companies such as Meltonian make water & stain protector that in my experience is safe to use on leather and suede and will be dry and ready to use in 30 minutes. These waterproofing sprays should be used liberally, as I learned they lose their effectiveness after only a few years. 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 shoe that is not black – you need to ensure the compound you have chosen does not change the appearance of the shoe. Do not assume that because the waterproofing compound manufacturer claims that it will not affect the 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 of the shoe’s tongue under the laces, 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 between a waterproof compound application vs. a shining compound application is the attention you should pay to form 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 Footwear
Beater Shoes – One option I hear often suggested in dealing with adverse weather is to wear shoes that you do not care about. The problem here is that this doesn’t deal with the situation of when you need to look professional and the weather outside is cold and wet. I personally would rather have the right equipment than have a pair of shoes whose sole purpose is to be ruined in bad weather.
Specialty Footwear – There are many companies that make solid footwear using water-resistant materials such as Gortex, synthetic leathers, and non-slip rubber soles. Although they are not on the same level as higher-end men’s shoes and do not offer as much protection as galoshes, their stylish design and inclement weather durability make them a favorite among practical men.
An example is the ECCO Berlin GTX – as you can see above, its large sole and open-laced design make it a less dressy shoe than a classic oxford. But when it comes to not having to worry about the rain or snow and for the man who does not want to be hassled with multiple pairs of shoes, these are hard to beat.
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 men’s 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 wearer’s environment and frequency of wear.
Galoshes – Galoshes are rubber footwear that slips over shoes and protects them from the elements. The term includes both over-shoes and over-boots, the difference being the amount of protection afforded the wearer. With a history of serving men (and women) for over 100 years, they have perfected the art of keeping the wearer dry by completely encapsulating the feet and as an added bonus often provide excellent traction.
Their downside is that proper fit is a must and their additional weight can take some time getting used to – there are also the problems of where to store them and that they are often at home when that unexpected afternoon shower hits.
A good pair of new galoshes can range in price from $20 to well over $150, the difference being durability and style although a very solid pair for occasional wear can be found for less than $30. Companies like Swim offer a wide range of durable and stylish galoshes online; for the man walking more than a quarter mile to work daily in wet weather these are one of the smarter purchases he can make.
What to Do When Your Shoes Are Already Wet?
I’d like to end this article with the steps you should take in 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 shoe using a dry rag or towel.
- Pull the moisture from the inside of the shoe. 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 shoes 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 shoe or boot.
- Once the shoes 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.
I hope you now know how waterproofing shoe works and you will not hesitate to use them.
Hi, I am Brian, Lives in Mooresville, North Carolina, and Went to The University of Texas at Austin, I am a shoe lover & know the inside out of shoes. I am well aware of the qualities of top-quality boots. That’s what I’m sharing with the reader of About Shoes/book/footwear. Read More Here