Make Your Winter Boots Last Forever — Or At Least All Winter

Designed by Anna Sudit.
You probably get away with wearing your new heels or sneakers straight out of the box. But, if there's one class of footwear you really can't afford to neglect, it's winter boots. Care for them properly, and they'll valiantly protect you from snow drifts and slush piles from now until spring. Ignore them — and well, hope you like cold, wet feet.
To help make your new pair really last, we spoke with Timberland buyer Jackie Burlage to round up her expert tips on keeping your boots working for you longer. Click on — and never experience that squishy-sock feeling again. Let the boot camp begin...
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Designed by Anna Sudit.
Prevent sole holes.
City living is hard on the soles: One harried jog to catch the bus is all it takes to chew up your leather-soled boots, big-time. So, head to the cobbler before you wear your new pair and get a thin, rubber sole added. It'll extend the life of your shoes tenfold, make them less prone to slipping in the snow and rain, and prevent water from creeping into your soles, causing further damage. It's probably the best $40-ish investment you can make in your new boots — no matter how much you paid for 'em in the first place.
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Designed by Anna Sudit.
Water is your boots' mortal enemy.
Rain and snow do more than soak your socks (which is bad enough as it is). "Water is definitely the #1 enemy" of your boots, says Burlage. "All leather and suede (waterproof and non-waterproof) eventually begin to absorb water, causing the materials to become dry and crack, and also cause rot."

So, waterproofing your new kicks is the key to their longevity. Timberland's Balm Proofer spray can be used on all fabrics or leathers, and brands like Nikwax spray make Scotchgard-like sprays especially for nylon and other synthetics.

Think you don't need this tip because you sprung for boots with a waterproof liner (like Gore-Tex)? Not so fast. When waterproof-lined boots get wet, the water gets trapped between the leather and the liner, causing water spots — so it's still a good idea to treat the outers before you wear them in a Nor'easter.

How do you know your boots are adequately waterproofed? Easy: when they get wet, droplets should actually bead off the surface (no matter what the material). If it doesn't, treat the pair again.
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Designed by Anna Sudit.
De-dirt 'em — regularly.
You're clear on water, but that's not the only element creeping into your kickers. Burlage says, "salt, dirt, and mud can seep into your boots' leather, acting like an abrasive from the inside out," and causing drying and cracking.

To prevent damage, she recommends that "all dirt and mud should be immediately brushed off the boot using either a suede brush or boot brush, followed by a cleaner designed to be used on the material. Afterwards, a protectant (spray, wax, etc.) should be applied to prevent future damage from dirt, mud and salt."

Synthetic-outer boots make this a little easier — a quick once-over with a cloth and warm water usually does the trick.
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Designed by Anna Sudit.
Condition them.
You don't need to do this for synthetic boots, but Burlage points out that leather "is like your skin — it needs to be kept clean and conditioned to ensure it stays looking great."

Products like Otter Wax's Leather Salve or Timberland's Boot Sauce will restore your boots' luster, prevent surface stains, and make the leather soft and pliable for that all-important "like buttah" feeling.
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Designed by Anna Sudit.
Rotate if you can, dry and deodorize if you can't.
Conventional wisdom says to rotate your shoes, since wearing the same pair every day can lead to moisture build-up that can stretch your boots, and cause damage (and questionable smells). But, sometimes you just have to wear the same ones a few days in a row — like when you finally score a magical pair that's both comfy and goes with everything.

In that case, Burlage tells us the key is to "prevent moisture and bacteria build-up from happening in the first place. Day-to-day, you can stuff your shoes with newspaper to dry them out, and use anti-microbial sprays to kill bacteria and odor."

So, give your boots a day off between wears if you can. If you can't, help them stay dry and bacteria-free — and you'll love 'em that much more the next time you slip them on.

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