If you live in NYC, your boots and shoes are expected to stand up to some brutal conditions during the winter months - rain, snow, ice, even salt. They have probably taken a beating already, but that doesn’t mean you should be wearing your crappy shoes all winter.
Firstly, everyone, male and female, should have a good pair of snow boots for those seriously yucky days. By far my favs are Sorel for style and price – after all you want something to keep you warm and dry and you don’t want to spend a fortune if your only going to wear them a few weeks out of the year (hopefully!) They have seriously good-looking options for men and women and now, toward the end of Feb, is a good time to buy for next winter.
But on those non-blizzard days, there’s a lot you can do to protect your shoes, and what they really need is a little TLC. I reached out to Meghan Cleary, footwear expert and author of ®Shoe Are You?, for some tips on how to help our winter shoes survive the harsh season.
A little-known enemy of winter footwear? Salt. While super efficient at dissolving snow and ice in driveways, it also can permanently stain leather and suede shoes. To prevent salt damage, Cleary recommends spraying boots or shoes a minimum of five to seven times with a protective shoe spray before wearing them.
“Let your shoes dry between sprays and then let them dry overnight. This will give a great foundation for protection for the season,” she adds.
When you come inside after being in nasty weather, boots and shoes must be immediately wiped off or cleaned because, as Cleary says, once salt is left on your boot, it’s over.
“It’s quite tragic to get salt on your favorite pair of boots,” she says. “It not only discolors leather and suede, but eats away at it as well.” The solution? “Have a brush or cloth at your door for when you come in to head off any problems immediately.”
Polish and clean
The thought of polishing my boots reminds me of being a kid and seeing my dad shining up all his dress shoes on a Sunday night for the week ahead. But it’s probably time to step up and become a master polisher myself. Polish adds another layer of protection, and the more conditioned and oiled your boots and shoes are, the better they will repel salt and dirt. “An ounce of prevention can save you so many pairs of shoes and boots,” Cleary says.
She suggests cleaning leather with saddle soap and a damp rag, but says it’s best to leave it to the pros when it comes to suede. If they get scuffed she suggests taking them to a shoe repair specialist for steam-cleaning.
It’s not just the winter season that you need to think about protecting your cold weather shoes and boots. Shove them to the back of the closet in the “off-season” and they will most likely end up dusty and dirty and misshapen.
For women boot shapers will help them keep their form when you’re not using them, or, for a simpler, less expensive solution, place a rolled-up magazine in the boot. It will expand slightly to the size of the boot and keep it up upright, maintaining the correct shape.
For guys it’s more about keeping them dust free and in good shape. Fall and winter footwear can be stored under the bed in a flat shoe-storage bag. Not only will this keep them clean and safe from getting trampled, but when you pull them out again next fall, they’ll feel new again.
If you remember only one thing, let it be this: wipe down on brush off your shoes or boots when you come in from snowy weather and salty streets.