How to make your shoes more water resistant

How to make your shoes more water resistant

It’s February. The festivities and indulgences of Christmas are a distant memory, everything is grey, and it will not stop raining. The last thing you want now is soggy socks, so let’s talk about how to protect your shoes against the elements.

Does rain ruin leather shoes?

No. Poor aftercare ruins leather shoes. Provided that your shoes are good quality and you look after them, you don’t have to worry about wearing them whilst braving the storm, but there are some basic fundamentals that you should follow to ensure that they look and feel as good as possible for as long as possible.

Any natural product, like leather and suede, is going to be water resistant, not waterproof. The better it is treated, the more efficient it can be at protecting your feet whilst remaining breathable. The most important step with any shoe is giving them ample time to dry out properly after use: a good wooden shoe tree, inserted into the shoes after every wear, is essential in ensuring that the leather can dry efficiently whilst maintaining the shape and integrity of the shoe. Problems occur when shoes are worn without giving them enough time to dry, so where possible you should not wear the same pair every day. This is especially important if the shoes are wet.

Cheaney Beech wood Shoe tree

Do not – I repeat, do NOT – try to speed up the drying process by putting them on a radiator. Your leather will become brittle and potentially crack. Having a hole in your shoe is about as far away from ‘water resistant’ as you can get.

‘But Alex’, you may very well say, ‘why bother making shoes out of leather then? Why not a waterproof synthetic material?’ Well, anonymous heckler, for something to be waterproof, it cannot be porous. You’d be uncomfortable, incredibly sweaty and equally incredibly smelly.

How can I make my shoes water resistant?

Before we get started, it’s worth bearing in mind that some shoes will be more water resistant than others: if you have invested in a pair of quality Goodyear Welted shoes, the construction is naturally more hard-wearing than cheaper alternatives, but you also have the benefit of being able to have the shoes rebuilt once the sole wears through using our refurbishment service. At this point, you can replace the sole and heel with either leather or rubber. Clever.

Anything with a rubber sole will offer a waterproof barrier between yourself and the floor, and you can find these on the majority of our country collection as well as a few dress shoes. Leather soles, though excelling in comfort and breathability, are porous and will therefore let water in eventually, though you would have to be out in the rain for some time. Again, this will not ‘ruin’ the shoe. Just put your trees in and leave them on their sides so the air can circulate fully for a couple of days.

Our chromexcel collection, due to the specific tanning process, offers more water resistance than other leathers. Similarly, anything from our veldtschoen collection is made specifically for bad weather due to the level of construction; by stitching the upper on top of the welt as opposed to tucking it underneath the insole, water is channelled away from this part of the shoe.

Okay, enough aftercare chit-chat. Let’s say you’re already doing everything outlined above, but you want to know the big secret as to how to make your shoes water resistant. Here it is:

How can you make your shoes water resistant?

Polish them.

Making leather shoes and boots water resistant

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: good quality shoes need good quality aftercare. This is non-negotiable.

There are 3 basic steps to polishing a pair of leather shoes or boots properly. Make sure they’re dry, give them a quick brush then follow the steps below. You do not have to use all 3 products every time you polish them if you don’t have time. The most important aspects here are the order in which they are used and ensuring that you give them the full service every now and again.

With any product, especially if it’s one you haven’t used before, I’d recommend using a small amount on a hidden part of the shoe first to check the results. Safety first!

1. Conditioning

Saphir renovateur Cream is like using a moisturiser. It hydrates the leather, cleans it up and prepares it nicely for the subsequent steps. Leather that isn’t hydrated properly absorbs moisture a lot quicker, therefore letting water in. Just take a soft cloth and apply a small amount all over the shoe in small circular motions. Leave to dry for 10 minutes or so before brushing off the excess with a horsehair brush.

2. Colour

A pigmented shoe cream adds – you guessed it – colour back into the shoe and continues the hydration of the leather. It also contains a small amount of beeswax, which will start to build protective water resistance. Apply and brush off in exactly the same way as the renovateur.

3. Beeswax Polish

Now we’re talking. Due to the high percentage of beeswax in our wax polishes, it will really help to protect the leather against water and give it a nice subtle shine. You apply this in much the same way as the previous creams, but it’s also a good idea at this point to take a welt brush and apply some wax to the welt of the shoe. This is the strip of leather running around the outside of the shoe with stitching. Getting some wax in there will help keep water out where the sole meets the upper, aiding water resistance further. After brushing the wax polish off the shoe, you can repeat the wax process until you have achieved a level of shine that you are happy with.

Can suede shoes and boots be water resistant?

Absolutely. Suede is brilliant in the rain – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

All the points outlined in the aftercare section still apply, but the process of adding water resistance differs from leather. Luckily for you, as well as my word count, it’s also a lot easier.

1. Spray

The Saphir renovateur spray does 2 jobs in one go. It hydrates the suede, similar to the renovateur cream, but also makes the suede water resistant. Sparingly spray all over the suede from a distance of around 30cm, then use a suede brush to bring up the nap (suede’s natural texture). They are now ready to wear. Go get ‘em, champ.

When is a good time to try and make my shoes water resistant?

Looking after your shoes is a continuous process. Think of it in the same way as doing laundry or ironing shirts: you have to do it.

Any shoe will benefit from a polish (if they’re leather) or a spray (if they’re suede) before you wear them for the first time.

For leather shoes, in terms of how often this should be done going forward, it depends a lot on how often they’re worn and in what conditions. If you’re using good quality products (and I know you are…) then it’s very difficult to over-polish a shoe.

So here’s the way to look at it: if you’re looking at your shoes and wondering if you should polish them, the answer is yes.

The same rules apply to suede as they do to leather. The only essential time to re-spray them is if they get wet – let the shoes dry properly and spray them before wearing them again.

Any more questions?

Our stores are happy to help with any queries regarding the aftercare of your shoes. We stock every product mentioned above and more, as well as offer a complimentary polishing service for any of your Cheaney shoes if you’re unsure about doing it yourself.

Now why not explore our collection of grain leather shoes and boots for men and women today, or discover our men’s suede selection.