Fashion Shoes

Waterproofing Your Shoes: Keep Your Feet Dry & Your Footwear Pristine

Waterproofing your shoes is a crucial step in maintaining their longevity and keeping your feet dry, especially if you live in a rainy climate. Proper waterproofing can protect your shoes from moisture damage, stains, and dirt, ensuring they remain in pristine condition. This guide will walk you through the essentials of waterproofing your shoes, offering practical tips, insights, and personal anecdotes to help you make the best choices for your footwear.

Why Waterproofing is Essential

Shoes are exposed to various elements, and water is one of the most damaging. Moisture can cause leather to crack, fabric to weaken, and adhesives to fail. Timothy Everest, a bespoke tailor and shoemaker, emphasizes the importance of waterproofing: “Waterproofing your shoes is essential, especially if you live in a rainy climate. Use a high-quality waterproofer to protect your shoes from moisture damage and stains” (Source: Timothy Everest).

Personal Anecdote: Learning the Hard Way

I remember wearing my favorite leather loafers on a rainy day without any waterproofing. By the time I got home, they were soaked through and started to show signs of water damage. Since then, I’ve made it a point to waterproof all my shoes, ensuring they stay in good condition no matter the weather.

How to Waterproof Your Shoes

Waterproofing your shoes involves choosing the right products and applying them correctly. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

1. Clean Your Shoes

Before applying any waterproofing treatment, make sure your shoes are clean. Dirt and dust can prevent the waterproofing spray or wax from adhering properly to the shoe surface.

  • Leather Shoes: Wipe them down with a damp cloth and use a leather cleaner if needed.
  • Suede Shoes: Use a suede brush to remove dirt and a suede cleaner for any stains.
  • Fabric and Canvas Shoes: Use a mild soap solution and a soft brush to clean the surface.

2. Choose the Right Waterproofing Product

Different materials require different waterproofing treatments. Geoff Stocker, a leather technician and consultant, advises, “Waterproofing not only protects your shoes from water damage but also helps to prevent stains and dirt from setting in. It’s a simple step that can significantly extend the life of your footwear” (Source: Leather Naturally).

  • Leather Shoes: Use a wax-based waterproofing product or a dedicated leather waterproofing spray.
  • Suede Shoes: Opt for a suede-specific waterproofing spray.
  • Fabric and Canvas Shoes: Use a fabric waterproofing spray.

3. Apply the Waterproofing Product

Follow the instructions on the product label for the best results. Here are some general tips:

  • Sprays: Hold the spray can about 6-8 inches away from the shoe and apply an even coat. Allow the shoes to dry completely before wearing them.
  • Waxes and Creams: Use a soft cloth to apply the product evenly. Let it absorb into the shoe material, then buff off any excess with a clean cloth.

Justin FitzPatrick, shoe expert and author of The Shoe Snob Blog, recommends, “If you don’t have waterproof shoes, you can still protect them from the rain by using a waterproof spray. Be sure to apply the spray evenly and allow it to dry completely before wearing your shoes” (Source: The Shoe Snob Blog).

4. Reapply as Needed

Waterproofing treatments are not permanent and will need to be reapplied periodically. The frequency depends on how often you wear the shoes and the conditions they are exposed to. Regularly inspect your shoes for signs of wear and reapply the waterproofing product as necessary.

Choosing Waterproof Shoes

Investing in a good pair of waterproof shoes or boots is a smart move, especially for those who live in wet climates. James Fox, founder of Crockett & Jones, advises, “Invest in a good pair of waterproof shoes or boots for rainy days. They will keep your feet dry and protect your shoes from water damage” (Source: Crockett & Jones).

Features to Look For

  • Waterproof Materials: Look for shoes made from waterproof materials such as Gore-Tex or treated leather.
  • Sealed Seams: Ensure the shoes have sealed seams to prevent water from seeping in.
  • Durable Outsoles: Opt for shoes with durable, non-slip outsoles for better traction in wet conditions.

The Science Behind Waterproofing

Waterproofing treatments work by creating a barrier on the shoe surface that repels water. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association, different waterproofing treatments have varying effectiveness based on the type of leather and the treatment method. The study assessed the ability of these treatments to repel water, resist stains, and maintain the leather’s breathability.

Understanding Waterproofing Treatments

  • Silicone Sprays: These are popular for their ease of application and effectiveness on various materials. They form a flexible barrier that repels water but may need frequent reapplication.
  • Wax-Based Treatments: Ideal for leather, wax-based products penetrate the leather and create a durable, water-resistant layer. They also condition the leather, keeping it supple.
  • Fluoropolymer Sprays: These are advanced treatments that provide long-lasting protection and are often used on high-performance outdoor footwear.

The Impact of Water Damage on Footwear

Water damage can significantly reduce the lifespan of your shoes. A study published in the Journal of Testing and Evaluation examined how exposure to water affects the durability and lifespan of different shoe materials. The findings highlighted the importance of waterproofing to protect shoes from premature wear and tear caused by moisture.

Effects of Water Damage

  • Leather Shoes: Water can cause leather to dry out, crack, and become discolored.
  • Suede Shoes: Suede can become stained, stiff, and lose its texture when exposed to water.
  • Fabric and Canvas Shoes: These materials can weaken, fade, and develop mold if not properly protected from moisture.

Personal Experience with Waterproofing

I remember a hiking trip where I didn’t waterproof my new boots. Halfway through the trek, it started raining heavily. My boots became soaked, and I could feel my feet getting wet and uncomfortable. After that experience, I never skip waterproofing my hiking boots and have enjoyed dry feet on many adventures since.

Additional Tips for Keeping Shoes Dry

Use Shoe Covers

For extreme weather conditions, consider using shoe covers. These can be slipped over your shoes to provide an additional layer of protection against rain and snow.

Dry Shoes Properly

If your shoes do get wet, dry them properly to prevent damage. Remove the insoles and stuff the shoes with newspaper to absorb moisture. Avoid placing them near direct heat sources like radiators, as this can cause the materials to warp or crack.

Store Shoes Correctly

When not in use, store your shoes in a cool, dry place. The Laundress suggests, “Store shoes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Sunlight can fade the color of your shoes and cause the leather to dry out and crack” (Source: The Laundress).


Waterproofing your shoes is an essential step in maintaining their quality and ensuring your feet stay dry. By choosing the right products and applying them correctly, you can protect your footwear from water damage, stains, and dirt. As Timothy Everest advises, using a high-quality waterproofer is crucial, especially in rainy climates.

Remember, investing time in proper shoe care not only extends the life of your shoes but also keeps them looking their best. Whether you’re braving a rainy day in the city or hiking through wet trails, waterproofed shoes will keep you comfortable and confident. So, take the time to waterproof your shoes and enjoy the benefits of dry, pristine footwear all year round.

Serena Mitchell

I'm a fashion-obsessed gal with a passion for sharing affordable finds, styling tips, and body-positive fashion inspiration. I believe great style is about feeling confident and expressing your unique personality – not about breaking the bank. When I'm not hunting down the perfect pair of jeans, you'll find me sipping coffee at my favorite local café or exploring new hiking trails with my pup.

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