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How can I Waterproof my Shoes?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon973788 — On Oct 13, 2014

I tried using candle wax on my black suede boots, but they look horrible now. They're water-resistant, but they look like crap now.

By anon313176 — On Jan 10, 2013

Well, try using just clear 100 percent silicone caulk by GE then wipe it on. I then spray some wd40 on which cuts it down some and helps penetrate the leather. It works great!

By Ana1234 — On Dec 16, 2012

The best thing to do if you've got questions, is to either visit a hiking or running forum, where people will be able to tell you their own experiences with waterproofing their shoes, or to visit the websites of the companies that make the sprays and see what they say about how it affects the shoes. I would also then look up any online reviews about that company, don't just blindly trust what they say on the site.

By pastanaga — On Dec 15, 2012

@anon19614 - Well, if it's a formal experiment, I'm not sure what you need our help for? Generally your school is going to be more interesting in how you conduct the experiment than the actual results.

So, you need to figure out what you really want to know. Be specific, particularly about the kind of shoe. You'd need a lot of shoes or trainers, so I would test fabric swatches instead and that means probably using canvas, since it would be less expensive than leather.

Then decide which products you'll be testing. I would suggest a mixture of traditional waterproofing methods (like grease) and modern methods, like waterproofing sprays. Figure out how you can test whether the fabric is waterproofed and then test each method several times. Viola, you've done it.

By anon287304 — On Aug 24, 2012

I just got two pairs of Converse from the Gorillaz collection. One is the leather pair and the other are canvas and white with the main group on the far back side. I need to know what will waterproof both of them without messing up the design. And not dry rot the canvas.

Will Kiwi Camp Dry, Heavy Duty Water Repellent work or is that too much? And I still have no idea what to put on the leather ones. The leather ones have not come yet, so I still have time to round up supplies. They will be school shoes so I hope not a lot of wear and tear is put on them.

By anon284673 — On Aug 10, 2012

Check out SKUFF - it's a semi-permanent waterproofer for shoes. Instead of using waxes or silicone like other products, it uses a clear protective finish that can last for years. Keeps your shoes waterproof for longer and waterproofs better than anything else.

By anon266480 — On May 06, 2012

How do you waterproof cork sole and heels on shoes?

By anon141964 — On Jan 11, 2011

as far as waterproofing there are different products used for different materials. Visit your local shoe repair shop for specific shoe waterproofing. Silicone works best but not suitable for all. If in New Jersey you can visit Bill's Shoe Repair in Midland Park.

By anon111435 — On Sep 16, 2010

how would different methods of waterproofing affect the breathability of the shoe material? for example, I'd like to waterproof my running shoes. getting caught in a sudden downpour and then sloshing along the remainder of the run in soggy footwear is not enjoyable, but nether is exercising in something that won't allow air in and perspiration out. is this solvable?

By anon72097 — On Mar 21, 2010

You could always wrap a garbage bag around your foot and then put it in your shoe, that way your feet won't get wet.

By anon57533 — On Dec 24, 2009

how long does it take for waterproof spray to dry on suede shoes?

By anon46441 — On Sep 25, 2009

hey guys i'm doing experiments for school like "What material waterproofs shoes the best." and i was wondering if anyone could help me out here.

By anon23090 — On Dec 16, 2008

dude, how do we waterproof canvas shoes, you know: Vans, converse?

By anon19614 — On Oct 15, 2008

Hi. I was wondering what are the different kinds

of brands for waterproofing?

I am doing a project on what product waterproof shoes the best?

By anon19178 — On Oct 07, 2008

how can we waterproof our shoes? what type of waterproofs can you use to waterproof your shoes?

By anon6146 — On Dec 17, 2007

one should not forget to waterproof the seams in some manner.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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