Water Worry: What Is the Best Way To Waterproof Boots?

Feet in olive green rubber boots standing in a puddle with fallen leaves. Autumn concept.

Key Points

  • The proper winter boots start with waterproof elements that you update as time passes.

  • The best ways to waterproof boots extend the life of your boots for years.

  • Re-waterproof your boots when you notice your feet are wet or the boots are cracking.

  • Choose the proper method for the best way to waterproof winter boots.

Diamonds last forever, they say. Have they ever said winter boots last forever? No, they certainly have not — with good reason.

Most products you buy today have a time limit on them. Food comes with expiration dates, and clothing shows wear after hard use and wear. There are certain things you buy repeatedly as the years pass because those items don't last.

What about winter boots? They won't last forever but they will last longer than you might expect if you take good care of them. Many boots come with waterproof properties, which are very helpful in keeping your feet warm and dry during the cold months. That waterproofing will not hold up against the winter weather continuously.

Toronto-based writer, editor, and stylist Truc Nguyen explains, "Just as winter boots and outerwear can benefit from occasional re-waterproofing and conditioning, rubber and plastic rain boots need some care when it comes to keeping them clean and free from cracks."

No winter boots last forever, but they keep your feet dry for much longer if you keep up with their care. This includes figuring out the best way to waterproof your boots so they remain up to the job when protecting your feet. Before you waterproof boots and expect the best results, there are a few things you need to know.

Good thing you found this article!

Choose the Right Boots

Not every pair of boots fights water off completely. Buy the right boots in the first place to refresh their waterproof properties in the future.

There are two general types of boots on the market: water-resistant and waterproof. These two boots differ because water-resistant boots only hold up against light rain and slight puddles. They keep water out, but only to a point. Your feet get soaked when you step into a giant puddle or try to walk through the snow.

Waterproof boots, on the other hand, keep your feet dry no matter what you face. You can walk through deep snow, stomp in a puddle, or face heavy rain, and your feet remain dry. Attempting to waterproof only water-resistant boots will likely fail to keep water at bay entirely. Reapply water resistance, which helps, but buying waterproof boots upfront helps you move forward with comfortable feet as you care for the boots in the future.

Waterproofed boots repel water on boat

Treat the Boots Well

Boots are an item: You don't treat them as kindly as you do your home and family. Keep a few things in mind about your winter boots; it helps them last longer. Place your boots in the sun after being out in the snow, but don't store them in the sun. Too much sun breaks down the waterproof properties faster, and you may end up with wet feet sooner than you think. Instead, store your boots in a well-ventilated closet so their waterproofing stays intact, and they can air out, not grow bacteria, and gain smells.

Boots are not always easy to keep clean, but wiping them down after being outside also helps keep the waterproofing elements in fine form. Mud, dirt, and winter salt break down boot materials — including waterproofing properties. When your dog comes inside from being in the yard, you wipe their feet so they don't drag things around the house. Even though you aren't going to wear the boots around the house, give them a quick wipe down when they have dirt, salt, and other evidence of winter weather on them.

Reasons To Waterproof Boots

If you've had your feet in the snow before, even with boots, you know how cold your toes get. Boots with the proper levels of insulation help, but if your feet get wet, even the highest insulation levels will not keep your toes warm.

There are many reasons to waterproof your boots. Here are a few to consider:

The Waterproofing Has Worn Off

You may be happy with their work if you purchase waterproof boots. They keep your feet warm and dry, just as you want. However, as time passes, you recognize that your feet come out of the boots wet after being out in the snow. The boots don't necessarily need replacement, but the waterproofing does need refreshing.

To Keep Feet Warm

Check the insulation levels on any boots you consider to ensure you get the right level to keep your feet warm and comfortable. Insulation measures in grams, starting at 100g for the lowest level and rising above 1000g for extremely cold conditions. If you need boots for errands, 100g suffices.

You need larger insulation numbers when sledding, shoveling snow, and walking around on the ice for more extended periods. No amount of insulation keeps your feet warm if you cannot keep them dry. When you notice your feet coming out of the boots wet, waterproof them at home to keep your feet warm again.

Farmer walks through plowed field in boots

Blister Prevention

Blisters are small, annoying, painful creatures. You may have gotten a blister after walking all day at an amusement park when you wore new shoes that had not yet broken in. It's also possible to get blisters from wet toes that rub against the interior of boots and socks.

Blisters have a lot harder time forming if your feet are warm and dry. Wet feet are ripe for blisters. Prevent the blisters from forming by waterproofing your boots.

How Often Does Waterproofing Need To Occur?

This is a tricky question, so the answer varies from person to person. If you have waterproof work boots, for example, you might use them in rough conditions daily. The waterproofing wears off a lot faster than on boots someone wears once a week to run errands. Most winter boots need waterproof refreshing at the beginning and end of the season, but others need more frequent care.

How To Tell Your Boots Need Waterproofing Help

If you want to judge when it's time to waterproof your boots, keep an eye on these items and move forward with DIY waterproofing.

Your Feet Are Wet

The most obvious way to tell that your boots need to be re-waterproofed is when you notice that your feet are getting wet when you wear the boots. You may notice a slightly damp feeling at first, and if the boots normally moisture-wick well, waterproofing is an excellent way to turn to fix the problem next.

The Boots Appear Cracked

Depending on your boots' material, they could crack and let moisture through to your feet. When you see even small cracks on the boots, waterproof them and cover them with elements that keep water away from your feet.

Water Beads on the Surface

When you first purchased your waterproof boots, you may have noticed that whenever it rained or you met with snow and other moisture, water beaded on the boots and runoff, staying well away from your feet.

As the waterproofing wears away, water may still bead on the surface of the boots, but it doesn't run away. That is a sign that the boots need restoring. Worse yet, if the water starts to soak into the materials instead of beading, you need to run some waterproofing on the boots.

Run a Test

If you're uncertain whether your boots need new waterproofing layers, run a test to determine the best course of action. Get out a bucket and fill it with water. Place the boots inside, ensuring water does not run over the top of the boots. Let them sit for a few minutes, then put your hand inside the boots. Do you feel any moisture or dampness? If so, it's a good idea to re-waterproof the footwear.

Winter boots in the snow

The Top Five Ways To Waterproof Winter Boots

As there are dozens of waterproof winter boots on the market, there are various ways to re-waterproof them and restore them to their like-new qualities. As you look through the options, consider the materials on your boots, the desired results, and the items you may already have for the project.

Use Waterproofing Sprays

Whether you have winter boots in leather, suede, or even canvas, waterproofing sprays help to protect your feet from wet outdoor conditions. Get waterproofing sprays from big box stores, shoe stores, specialty stores, and online vendors. One thing to consider is that some waterproofing sprays work better on leather, while some work on canvas materials.

Some sprays are higher in quality and last longer. Most sprays feature silicone products that help shoes to repel water. Review the different sprays and decide what works best for your boots and your desired results.

Apply Waterproofing Wax

Leather and suede shoes take extra care; the wax helps restore their beauty and luster while making the boots waterproof. These products create a waterproof layer on the boots and have special oils that protect the leather and make it shine like a new product. Leather boots dry out after hard use, and waterproofing with suitable wax restores their appearance and functionality. Wax works well on Gore-Tex boots, allowing the interior to moisture-wick while the exterior repels.

Seam Sealants

Before your boots leak through the materials, you may spring leaks around the seams. Whether you seal the seams or waterproof the boots and then place a seam sealant, this is a step you do not want to skip.

If the boots leak through the seams and nowhere else, this step may be the only one you need to take. Seam sealants are urethane-based products applied to the seams to prevent water from getting into your feet. Seams tear and move around over time, causing wet discomfort inside the boot. Sealing the seams when you waterproof shores the boots up all the way around.

Utilize Waterproofing Pastes

There are also a variety of pastes on the market, and you need to get the best product for your boot materials. If you buy a paste, apply it evenly to your boots, let it dry, and then buff it away with a clean cloth. Your boots look clean and lovely but repel water as they did when you first bought them.

Boots splash in a puddle

Consider WD-40

WD-40 isn't just suitable for quieting squeaky doors and re-waterproofs leather winter boots. Before considering this option, ensure that the leather on your boots is dark. Lighter boots may become stained and ruined.

Darker leather, on the other hand, restores to its initial shiny luster while receiving a brand-new water-repellant layer that keeps moisture out long-term. This versatile product is something you might have lying around your home already. If you have dark leather boots, it's all you need to waterproof the product. You don't have to buy anything from a specialty shop.

Steps To Take Pre-Waterproofing

You don't want to come inside from time in the snow and slap waterproofing materials on your boots. Instead, it's a good idea to take the proper steps so the boots soak in the new elements and perform well the next time you wear them. Here are the steps you need to take:

Thoroughly Clean the Boots

Don't waterproof the boots until you clean them well. Your boots might need a quick wipe down with a damp cloth or something more extensive. Take a soft brush and wet it down. Run it around the boots' materials and over the soles. Your boots must have their primary material exposed or they cannot soak in waterproofing items. If they have a layer of dirt on top, the waterproofing washes away the next time you sink into the snow.

Dry the Boots

Once you thoroughly clean the boots, let them dry completely. Set them in the sun or take a hairdryer on a low setting to make the drying process run faster. Otherwise, let them sit and dry in a well-ventilated area and return to them in an hour or two when completely dry.

Test First

No matter what waterproofing options you decide to go with, it is a good idea to run a test on your boots first. If you have used a certain spray on those exact boots in the past, you know how it turns out and can move forward confidently.

If you are trying a new spray, or have a different pair of boots, test a small spot on the boots that doesn't show very well. Spray or wax that area and let it dry to see the results. If you like how it turns out, follow through on the rest of the boots. If you don't, try another product that may work better.

Boots get wet in muddy puddle

Allow Drying Time

Just as you allowed the boots to dry when you cleaned them, you need to let the waterproofing elements dry before waterproofing. Check the product you applied and follow its directions. It may recommend overnight, for two hours, or another amount of time.

Let the boots sit for the recommended period so the waterproofing sets without wearing off. If you place them on your feet immediately and head back outside, the waterproofing you put on may not work for longer than one wear.

The Best Waterproofing Products

Many waterproofing products are on the market, and you need to get something that works for your boots and the materials they feature. That said, here are a few recommended options to consider when re-watering your winter boots:

KIWI Boot Waterproofer

This waterproofing spray gives a silicone coat to any boot and works well for boots worn on hikes, hunting trips, and other outdoor activities. The spray bonds to leather and other materials, creating a formidable barrier between the boots and the outdoor weather.

Nikwax Nubuck Waterproofing Spray

Use this spray on even suede materials and leather shoes. The water-based option is aerosol-free and better for the environment than other spray options. This product not only protects boots from water but also repels stains.

Rust-Oleum Shield H2O Boot and Shoe Spray

This show spray is silicone-free and does not change the appearance of your boots. It repels water and protects boots from stains and damage. It works well on canvas, leather, suede, and other materials. The single trigger application is simple to apply.

Kenetrek Waterproofing Boot Wax

If you want to try a boot wax, Kenetrek has an option that creates a long-lasting barrier that is easy to apply. Wipe the wax by hand or with a soft cloth, allowing time to sink in. It never leaves an oily residue behind but darkens leather colors and adds waterproofing. Use it on stitching and rubber features on the boots as well.

Otter Wax Boot Wax

This all-natural wax has beeswax and lanolin materials that are entirely safe and non-toxic. Use this wax on any leather color, and the boots look like new. Not only does leather become waterproof, but its former luster restores it.

Atsko Sno-Seal Original Beeswax Waterproofing

Leather is quickly lubricated and conditioned without softening too much. Any boots maintain their flexibility, even under harsh, cold weather conditions. Feet remain dry, and the leather materials on your boots have their natural breathability long term.

RED MOOSE Mink Oil Paste

Waterproof and soften your leather or vinyl boots with this oil paste. The mink oil keeps leather soft and supple for any season of wear. Apply the oil with a cloth, drying in minutes without leaving a film behind. The oil gives a natural water and weatherproofing appeal.

A pair of boots dry on posts outside front door of house

Fiebing's Golden Mink Oil Paste

Preserve your boots for another season and create waterproofing elements with this paste. No matter how long you spend outside in the winter, this paste restores your boots to their original functionality and beauty.

Keep Your Boots in Shape for Years

You could do many things to keep a good pair of winter boots in functional shape for many seasons. Keep them clean, store them correctly, and waterproof them when needed. When you find a good pair of boots that keep your feet warm and dry, the last thing you want to do is start over and buy another pair. Instead of wasting money on replacements, buy a good pair of waterproof boots in the first place and keep up with their care.

Whether you get a new pair of winter boots or have an older pair you adore, learn more about the materials and their needs. You treat rubber-based boots differently than leather boots, for example. Research the options behind the boots you have, their needs, and how you move forward with their care.

It's also a good idea to keep your wear in mind. If you wear the boots on rare occasions, it's okay to space out their waterproof detailing. If you wear them daily for work and are outside for long hours, that's different and requires frequent attention.

Once you know what your boots need, keep your chosen waterproofing materials on hand to update the boots as needed.

For more up-to-date info on the latest boot trends, styles, and purchasing options, subscribe to BootAuthority.

Was this article helpful?