Hi Rita! i found you through eastside bride, who sent me to alphamom, where you commented on leather shoes in the winter. i'm moving to chicago from LA in january and trying to figure out what kind of shoes to get. i'd like to get a pair of brown leather boots but don't want to get them ruined. i found one that is already waterproof. would that protect against the salt? and if i got non-waterproof ones, would all i need to do is water proof spray them? please help!
Hi Tealeaf! Chicago is a big change from LA. If you are going to live or work downtown, you will be doing a lot more walking in a wider variety of weather. Protecting your shoes is a necessity.
I'm a little skeptical of leather shoes that say they are waterproof - it just seems odd to me. However, if they are, fantastic, but giving them a little extra help would still be a good idea. Protecting any shoes - leather, suede or fabric - will make them last longer and keep your feet dryer.
For my leather boots - the more rugged ones that help me hike through snow and the fancy knee-high variety - I use Penguin Himalaya Wax. I don't remember where I found it, but the brand isn't really important. It uses bees wax and silicone to keep leather supple and form a protective barrier to keep out snow and, most importantly, salt. Salt will ruin your shoes. It will break down the leather and then, when the snow melts and gets the shoes wet, you'll end up with a white, salty outline of where the shoes were wet. Not cute. Once you use a spray like this, you can just use a rag to wipe off any dirt or debris that your shoes collect.
Only use wax-based products on smooth leather. They will ruin suede or fabric. Also, it is a good idea to apply the spray outside, if possible, as it can get kind of fume-y. If you can't do it outside, spread some newspaper on the floor, and cover a good, wide area. This spray is obviously not good for carpets, and it will make hardwood floors super-slick. If your shoes look a little dull once the spray dries, just give them a quick buff with a soft, clean cloth.
For suede, you have to find a spray that says it is for leather and fabric shoes - for some reason, a lot of them don't specify that it is safe for suede. However, the ones that are NOT ok will say, in big, bold letters "NOT SAFE FOR SUEDE AND NUBUCK." I really liked the stuff that Aerosoles sells, and I've also used Kiwi Protect-all. Again, you spray it on, let it dry, and then when you run into salt or other dirt, you can just wipe it off when you get home.
Protect your shoes around now, before winter really gets going, and try to keep them clean. You want to keep an eye out to see if the spray is starting to wear off, but I usually just apply it in the fall. If it is a long winter, you might need to go again, depending on how often you wear your shoes. At the end of the season, really wipe them down to make sure there is no dirt hanging around. Stuff tall boots with newspaper to help them keep their shape while in storage. Next fall, start over again, reapply the protecting spray. You can easily extend the life of your shoes by protecting them at the start of the winter.
I hope this helps. Welcome to Chicago!