If you want to tap into the fashion zeitgeist, then you need a strong shoe game. But more so than any other men’s accessory, shoes need to be equally practical and stylish, which is especially difficult to pull off in the winter months. When it comes to everyday wear, sneakers reign supreme, but boots, dress shoes, and loafers are all necessary parts of a well-rounded shoe selection. The issue is, winter weather takes a heavy toll on your shoes. However, with the right products and preparation, you can winterize your shoes and protect your fashion investments.
When the rain, sleet, and snow hit the streets, you’ll need to use the tips below to keep those new boots looking fresh all winter long.
WINTERIZE YOUR SHOES: THE PREP WORK
WATERPROOF YOUR EXISTING SHOES
Even with good quality leather shoes, water can ruin their appearance. Getting caught in even a light rain can wreak havoc on your dress shoes. To keep your leather shoes safe from the wet streets, it is very important to clean and condition your dress and leather shoes regularly to keep the leather healthy and supple. Many of the products used to condition leather also have moderate waterproofing abilities as well, but you can also apply waterproofing products after conditioning. However, simply keeping the leather well moisturized and in good condition will protect your footwear when you can’t find a cab in that rainstorm. For the highest level of protection, use water repellent sprays designed for leather and suede, which will work on your dress shoes and sneakers alike. Keep in mind, these options are for light rain, emergencies, and damp streets… they’re not going to be foolproof options, but they will help.
When you need to winterize your shoes, here are some of the products you can use:
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GET SOME SOLE FOOD
RUBBER SOLES AND COVERS
Sometimes, all you need is to make sure the weather doesn’t soak through your soles from below. Leather soled boots and shoes are the more appropriate options for the office, but leather soles don’t protect against dampness seeping through from below. Fortunately, your local cobbler can come to the rescue with a little extra protection. Most cobblers can add a thin rubber layer to existing leather soles for $20-$40 a pair, which will not change the aesthetic of your shoes but will keep your feet dry. If you have Goodyear-welted shoes, then you can have them completely resoled with a rubber sole that will be more resilient; however, this process will likely change the overall look of the shoes by adding a chunkier sole (fortunately, chunkier shoes are very on-trend right now).
Alternatively, you can buy rubber shoe wrap galoshes which will keep your shoes safe while outside, but can be removed while inside and safe from the elements. While rubber galoshes may not give you any style points, they are very effective in keeping men’s shoes safe while outside. They’re also easy to slip off once you get inside. We recommend the style with a felted interior as opposed to straight-up rubber, as the rubber-only variations can be harder to slip on and off.
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BASIC MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR
KEEP THEM CLEAN AND STRUCTURED
Regular maintenance of your shoes will make a big difference in keeping them in good shape. With the right care, leather shoes can last for many years. And that’s why any decent pair of leather shoes should have cedar shoe trees kept in them at all times when not on your feet. They should also have regular shines at home or at your local shoe shine place.
However, when you do get stuck in the rain, do not immediately put in shoe trees. Instead, stuff the wet shoes with paper towels or newspaper and let them dry out. This will keep them from being stretched out in a weird way. Proceed to clean off the salt and any other winter grime, then condition them with some of the products mentioned earlier in this article.
STYLISH SHOES THAT KEEP YOU DRY
BEST WATERPROOF DRESS BOOTS
In nearly any office, a boot that toes the line between form and function is still very much acceptable. In this case, look no further than the Dragon boot by Taft. This sharp, well-made boot will slip under a pair of suit pants or dress slacks and still maintain a professional look. While not terribly warm, you’ll be nice and dry and still look professional. They’re not cheap, but their classic design and Goodyear construction means they’ll last for many years to come — assuming you follow the advice above.
LL BEAN CLASSIC BEAN BOOTS
BEST FOR JUST. STAYING. DRY.
The classic duck boot made by LL Bean has barely changed in decades. Extraordinarily well made and reasonably priced, these men’s boots have developed a cult following as a consistent winner in the worst of conditions. Your feet will stay dry, period. Sometimes, it’s so gnarly out there that it doesn’t matter how stylish your footwear is, and the pure “function” aspect of these boots avails their own sense of style. There are several variations to choose from, Thinsulate lined, shearling-lined, plaid special editions, and the originals below. Always good to have these in your arsenal!