A pair of great leather boots -- like the perfect jeans, or a dear friendship -- is always worth the investment, but requires work. The easiest way to save money is to take your soles into your own hands.
At Home Care
There are a range of products sold, but only a few staples that you need. Mink oil is great for water resistance, waterproofing spray works wonders for suede, and saddle soap conditions and treats leather. Rick Lee, the owner of Soula (a boutique Brooklyn shoe store chain), recommends the brands Kiwi, Meltonian, and Moneysworthinvest. "You absolutely have to protect your boots and you can easily find products for under fifteen dollars," says Ashley Tschudin, social media director for DNA Footwear.
In addition to treating the outside of the boots, you'll want to protect against odor, mildew, and wetness in the inside. According to Consumer Reports, the 250,000 sweat glands in your feet produce an impressive amount of sweat even during a routine walk. Lee, who has worked with Barneys, Charles Jourdan and Cole Haan, recommends buying "cedar shoe trees to maintain the shoe shape and deodorize them." In addition, you can always stuff shoes with newspaper.
Inevitably, boots will get wet, from the rain, snow, salt and whatever muck the sidewalk kicks up. This can loosen the leather and the shape of the boot. Tschudin says she'll "stick damp boots under the heater because they tend to smell if they get wet." You can clean and care for your boots even when you don't have the right cream or spray on hand. Tschudin says, "If my boots get dirty, I wash them off with just a damp wash cloth."
Get Thee to a Cobbler
There are things you can't cobble together yourself, which is why there are cobblers. You'll save money in the long run if you get soles and heels put in right away. Gavriel Maxsumov, a cobbler who owns Professional Italian Shoe Repair, says, "You have to come to the cobblers when you buy new shoes for soles and taps."
A thin, rubber sole, even a half sole, protects leather boots. Textured soles protect the boot base, which will inevitably get knocked up from grimy, hard sidewalks, slippery rain, and salt and snow woes. Maxsumov also recommends rotating your boots.
How often you should bring your boots into the cobbler depends on where you stand. Maxsumov says, "Everyone walks differently so it depends on how you walk in them. Some people come in every week, others twice a year." A good litmus test is the bottom of your heels, because as soon as a heel loses its tip, the boot is permanently damaged. The heel gets shredded, which you can sometimes hear since metal screws on concrete make nails on a chalkboard sound pleasant. If you feel, hear or see that your heels are uneven, run don't walk to a cobbler. (Just not in your boots!)
Check the Store
Lastly, check online if your boots offer a warranty or policy about shoe repair. Most fine leather shoe companies, like Coach (COH) and Frye, do. Higher-end retailers like Nordstrom (JWN) and Bloomingdales may help with repairs, if you have proof of purchase. Frye even offers some help if your boots are no longer under warranty. It's worth checking out what the brands and retailers offer. If they don't offer much, you can always give them, well, you know...
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