Man Up: Winter-Proof Your Leather Shoes

When it comes to seasonal footwear, all too often style considerations fly south for the winter. Walk a snazzy pair of oxfords, bluchers, or chukkas through snow or slush, and you risk sacrificing them to the elements. But with a little care and preparation, you don’t have to plod through the entire cold season in unsightly weatherproof Gore-Tex. Here’s how to keep rocking those refined kicks through the roughest conditions.

Wax On, Water Off

Just as you layer up to protect yourself from the cold, adding a protective layer to your leather shoes can keep damaging wetness out. After thoroughly cleaning and drying each shoe, apply a natural wax-based polish or waterproofing compound like Sno-Seal. This standby protectant is made of silicone-free beeswax to insulate, condition, and waterproof leather without sacrificing breathability. Also highly effective is Otter Wax, an easy-to-apply bar that uses all-natural ingredients to repel water and preserve leather. No matter what product you use, make sure to test a small amount on a non-visible part of the shoe tongue before committing to the whole shoe to ensure it won’t alter the color of the leather.

Slip-On Safeguarding

A topical protective rub for your leather shoes is good, but actual rubber can provide even better protection. Overshoes like the 100 percent rubber ones Totes makes can be worn over dress shoes and removed when you arrive at your destination—or not, considering the sleek loafer styles they come in. For more pop and just as much protection, the low-friction line of galoshes from Swims features styles like Navy, Classic Camo Green, and City Duck Olive. If you need some extra ice traction, Tingley is a good option as well.

Add a Little Acid

A proactive approach is ideal, but if you’re committed to your brogues through harsh weather, you’ll no doubt need some reactive treatments as well. The salt used to de-ice roads can soak into shoe leather and cause unsightly white stains. There are plenty of desalting products available at your local shoe-repair shop, but you can just as easily treat salt-stained shoes with a quick home remedy. Start by mixing a little white vinegar and water in a cup, then dab the stained areas with a soft cloth. Allow leather to dry.

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