At the end of a hard day on the job, nothing has been hit as hard as your work boots. They protect your feet from dropped tools, falling debris and flying sparks, and they trudge through dirt, dust, mud, rocks and whatever substances your workplace might throw at your feet. Outdoors, they fend off rain, snow, ice, slush and all of nature’s toughest elements, keeping your feet dry all the while. Repay the favor with these tips for proper work boot care.
To start with, take care to select a strong, quality leather work boot that’s tough yet comfortable. This is not a piece of work equipment you’ll want to skimp on. Good protective work boots aren’t cheap, but a well-made pair can, with the right care, provide quality foot protection for a couple of years, even with frequent hard use. Follow these four tips to extend the life of your most important footwear.
1. Clean the Exterior
Like work gloves or other protective apparel that regularly sees a lot of action, your footwear requires consistent external care. Remove any visible dirt, grime or debris from the work boot at the end of each day. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people wait too long to clean their shoes. As a result, certain material that may be stuck to the boot, such as mud and concrete, can harden over time, making it more difficult to remove, discoloring the shoe’s exterior, and even negatively impacting the boot’s performance.
2. Break Out That Oil
Oiling your work boots with great care is possibly the most important step in maintaining them, but it is also one of the most neglected. The oiling process is easy, so there is no excuse for skipping this step. Choosing a quality boot oil product, such as mink oil, is just as important as selecting a quality shoe. Apply softly, using your hands or a small boot brush. Be sure to rub in well at the seams. Allow to dry for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess oil with a soft towel or rag. Oiling your boots will improve the performance, appearance and comfort of your footwear. Take care to oil your work boots at regular intervals for a surprisingly long shelf life. For a polished appearance, buff the leather afterwards with a soft rag using long, circular strokes.
Many of the better boot brands contain weatherproof exteriors and interiors made from materials such as Gor-tex for high-performance in wet conditions. However, over time, your cold weather work boots could use some care to ensure they stay as dry as possible. Remove the insoles and coat the interior of the boot with a weatherproofing spray and spray around the lace area as well. This step is particularly important during winter months when you may be wearing your boots steeped in snow or standing water for extended periods.
4. Store Your Boots Properly
Properly storing your work boots when you are not using them can significantly extend their life. Putting a shoetree inside the boot helps to maintain its shape and smooth out the lining and insoles, enhancing the boot’s comfort and appearance. Shoetrees can also break in new footwear, helping to prevent the discomfort and blisters that often accompany the first few wearings of a new pair. A cedar shoetree provides the additional benefit of wicking action, absorbing moisture, acids and salts from the shoe’s interior, helping to ensure a dry boot. If you are working several days a week, you should own at least two pairs of boots, and rotate wearing them daily. This kind of care helps to extend the life of each pair, and ensures that the work boots have sufficient time to dry between each use.