Waterproofing Leather Boots: Trade Secrets Revealed

There’s nothing more frustrating than wet feet during a hiking adventure. Never get cold feet again with our 6 key trade secrets on waterproofing leather boots.

Many of our multi-sport, hiking boots, and winter boots here at Columbia feature OutDry and have an advanced laminate technology that make the shoes absolutely waterproof and eliminates the need for you to treat the upper with any extra waterproofing solution.

But, if you are trying to stretch another season out of those old hiking boots you already own, boot maintenance is the key to protecting your feet. Leather and even suede are naturally hydrophilic and will leak if there’s enough moisture applied. Once leather becomes wet, water moves from pore to pore while you walk (as the boot flexes there’s a natural pumping action). It stretches and weakens, then as it dries, it shrinks and becomes brittle, drastically impacting the half-life of your boots and potentially damaging the weatherproofness you so desperately need while on the trail.

SEE ALSO: Pacific Northwest Trail Runs: The Cradle of Running

To treat leather boots, follow these 6 easy tips:

  1. Break in boots before applying any waterproof treatment. Wear your boots around the house, or take them on a short hike when the weather isn’t foul.
  2. Clean your boots before treatment. Use a stiff brush to remove dirt and mud.
  3. If you plan on using a seam-seal, do it before you apply a waterproof treatment. Seam-sealing equals dryer feet. It also can prevent a potentially catastrophic blowout—especially where the sole and upper meet. Apply a thin line of urethane sealant along any stitched seams on your boot. The best way to apply a clean, consistent bead of sealer is with a syringe.
  4. Before adding the leather treatment, remove laces. Use an oil treatment on new leather boots (it will soften the leather—a good thing if you need to break boots in quickly). Waxes work best on boots with a smooth leather finish. Don’t heat the wax, and apply several very thin coats. Silicone treatments (sprays) are the easiest way to protect both leather and synthetic boots. These sprays aren’t as durable as an oil or wax, so plan on reapplying several times during the season.
  5. Allow the boot treatment to cure overnight, then wipe off any excess moisture/wax/oil with a lint-free cloth.
  6. Place your newly treated boots in a sunny, warm place to let the treatment soak in. The boots should not feel sticky (if they’re tacky, that means the conditioner has not cured and will pick up dirt and moisture rather than repel it).

Do you have some alternative methods or trade secrets? Share your opinion with us on Twitter!

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