Shoes made from synthetic materials are often waterproofed to protect your feet, but leather shoes need to be conditioned and waterproofed before they can be used in wet weather. A number of products are available for waterproofing shoes, designed for various leathers in an assortment of colors. If you waterproof your shoes at the beginning of every rainy season, they will last longer and keep your feet snug and dry in inclement weather. Waterproofing is an important part of shoe maintenance, and new leather shoes should be waterproofed when you purchase them, as well as conditioned.
To waterproof your shoes, first determine what type of leather is used. Thin leathers and delicate leathers such as nubuck and suede need to be treated with special waterproofing materials, while thicker leathers can hold up to stronger waterproofing compounds. Typically, thicker leather is used to make work boots, where the color is not particularly important, but if retaining the color of the shoe is important, you should prepare a patch test on the leather to make sure that it will not change when you do the waterproofing.
There are a number of waterproofing products available for you to use when you waterproof your shoes. The most effective products are creams and oils, such as beeswax. These waterproofing materials are rubbed into the shoe with a clean, soft, dry cloth, and allowed to sit for up to an hour before the shoes are wiped again to remove excess. In addition to providing a thick waterproof barrier, these creams also condition the leather. Spray protectant is also available, made with a variety of compounds. Because it is not worked into the shoe, it will not be as effective, but it is less likely to change the color of the shoes, or create a layer of buildup.
Ideally, new shoes should be waterproofed when you purchase them. Every year, the waterproofing should be stripped off with a shoe cleaner, the shoes should be thoroughly cleaned, and you should apply a new coat. This will prevent a buildup of material on the shoe, and will also keep the leather supple, clean, and beautiful. When you waterproof your shoes, you can also check for areas of weakness which may need repair.
For either fine or heavy leathers, you should remove the shoelaces and clean the shoes before proceeding to waterproof your shoes. If the shoes are new, clean them with a soft, dry cloth to remove dust. If the shoes are old, use a leather soap to strip off old layers of waterproofing, and clean the shoes with a moist cloth if they are made from sturdy leather, or a suede brush if the leather has a nap. Allow the shoes to dry completely before waterproofing them.
For finer leathers, use a product which is designed for delicate leather, and if the shoes are light in color, purchase a product which will match the color. If you are concerned about color changes, apply a small patch of waterproofing product to the tongue of the shoe where it cannot be seen, and if you are satisfied, continue and waterproof the whole shoe. For thicker leathers, it is advisable to use creams and wax products, which will provide a better layer of protection from the elements.