Leather footwear has been a staple of men’s, women’s, and children’s wardrobes for not just decades, not just centuries, but millenia—the oldest leather shoe is over 5,000 years old. People have used leather since the dawn of civilization because it’s incredibly durable. Plus, not only will leather products last you a long time, but their patina makes them get better with age.
Although, people are often still left wondering: Is leather waterproof? Can you wear leather boots in the rain? And can you make it a winter boot? The answer is… it depends. You generally need to protect it from rain and snow in one way or another. So, this guide will walk you through three different options for keeping your leather boot protected from the potentially damaging effects of water, complete with ideas for both avoiding water and protecting against water that can’t be avoided.
Option #1: Choose Your Boots Carefully
The first and most important option available to you is simply choosing which leather shoe or boot you buy, or wear, for rainy days. According to leather experts at Von Bear, leather is not very “waterproof” in its natural state. While it does possess some water resistance, that term can be misleading.
There are two important definitions and distinctions to consider:
Water repellent – This refers to garments that, naturally or via treatment, have the means to prevent water from permeating the surface. These can be worn in heavy rainfall.
Water resistant – This is a loose definition. It refers to any fabric or piece of clothing that can only withstand slight water exposure (think a light drizzle) without getting soaked.
When shopping for waterproof leather work boots to wear on a rainy day, whether working or hiking, you want the former. Without water repellency built in, your socks (and feet) will wind up wet. Sealed seams are a great start, but the best options are fully waterproof boots from the leather or rubber sole up.
Option #2: Apply Oils, Creams, or Waxes
If the first two options mentioned above aren’t available to you, or you’re looking for a way to make sure you can wear any leather boots in all conditions, you’ll need to turn to treatments for waterproofing.
Luckily, there are several homemade boot waterproofing methods available. Whether you want a DIY, homemade solution, or a premade one you can buy directly from a store, your best bets include:
Oils and oil-based creams – Mink, neatsfoot, and mineral oils make for a liquid or cream solution that’s easy to apply evenly, although it can discolor a garment if over-applied.
Beeswax-based applications – Blocks of wax or wax-based spreads need to be heated and applied thoroughly and carefully, then left to dry for at least a day to successfully make a waterproof boot. The wax needs to be warmed into the leather and seams. The more you warm in, the more water tight the leather becomes. Something to consider is that wax can darken the leather and leave it a bit tacky. It is not intended for dress leather unless needed for really harsh environments.
Any of these options can help your leather boots stand up to even the most torrential downpour. Working on a wet jobsite? Looking to hike in dreary weather? These applications involve a bit of elbow grease, but they lock in waterproof protection over the long haul.
Option #3: Use Spray-on Silicone Sealant
The last option available to you is another simple application, but one that’s less a long-term fix than a quick, high-maintenance option. Spray-on waterproofing leverages the sealing properties of silicone (the stuff that makes caulk work its magic) in aerosol form.
Using a silicone spray enables you to give your leather boots a quick once-over that dries and provides water repellency nearly instantly. Simply aim the nozzle, spray, and viola. Plus, you don’t have to worry about discoloration like you do with oils, creams, and wax. Keep in mind, these sprays don’t make them