How to care for your leather walking boots this winter

How to care for your leather walking boots this winter
Leather walking boots are a walker’s friend. They protect you from the elements, transport you across a mix of terrain, and keep your feet warm in the coldest of climates. It’s almost a show of disloyalty to return them to a dark cupboard at the end of a walk, covered in remnants of the countryside. They should be rewarded for their services with proper cleaning and proofing. Think of it like a spa after a long walk that puts you back in tip-top condition, ready for the next adventure. Yes, aftercare for your trusty leather boots is just like that, but without the need for cucumber.
Put simply, if you look after your leather walking boots, they will perform better and last longer.

How do you know if your leather boots are in need of urgent attention?

Regular care would avoid you reaching this point, but if you notice water is soaking into the outer fabric rather than beading off, your leather boots need to be proofed (more on that later). The mud, dust and grass that builds up on the surface of your boots when hiking wears away at the leather, creating weak points until cracks appear. Mud also sucks moisture from leather, leaving it looking and feeling dry and tired.

Different types of leather boots require different care regimes

Let’s go back to the spa. Your therapist, let’s call them Lola or Tyrone, will tell you which skin products work for your skin type. The situation is similar for your leather walking boots. Be aware, however, that full grain leather boots require different care products and application, to nubuck or suede boots.

How to care for your leather walking boots

For all types of leather boots, the cleaning stages are the same:
  • Clean the outside of your boots
Remove the laces to clean them separately, along with any insoles (which will obviously smell of roses). Use a soft brush to remove any mud or grime.
Apply Nikwax Cleaning Gel to the surface to remove stains and prepare the boots for proofing. Wipe off any cleaner residue with a clean cloth.
  • Clean the inside of your boots
If you wear your boots regularly, rinse out the inside of the boots with warm water every couple of weeks, and give the insole a clean too. This protects any waterproof lining from dirt that may rub into it.
  • Dry your boots
Leave your boots to dry naturally with the insoles removed. This means that you shouldn’t use direct heat, such as radiators or airing cupboards, and certainly not a hairdryer! Top tip – use the time-tested method of stuffing them with newspaper if you need them to dry quickly, and change the paper every couple of hours to minimise drying time. Once done, store your boots at room temperature.


As mentioned above, once your boots are cleaned, if the leather uppers are not repelling water properly, and droplets are soaking in rather than ‘beading up’ and running off, then your boots require proofing.

How to proof full leather walking boots

Apply Granger's G-Wax made from natural beeswax, or water-based Nikwax Waterproof Wax. These products condition and reproof the leather, preventing it from drying out and cracking.
Proofing products work best on wet boots, although they are still highly effective on dry boots, as long as they are clean.
Both products are extremely effective and provide the following essential benefits:
  • Add water repellency
  • Prolong life and performance
  • Maintain breathability
  • Ideal for footwear with breathable linings e.g. GORE-TEX
  • Easy to apply
  • Can be used indoors unlike solvent based sprays
  • Will not over-soften the leather


Rub and buff the product into the leather evenly using a cloth. Apply liberally into all welts and seams, these being the boots’ weak points and therefore most prone to splits. Don’t over-treat the upper parts of the boot, as over-conditioned leather can become too soft and lose its support. Leave for 2 minutes and remove any surplus with a cloth. Allow the boots to dry naturally before use.

How to reproof nubuck leather/suede boots

With nubuck leather and suede boots you need to be careful not to change the appearance of the leather. A beeswax treatment like Grangers G Wax that we have recommended for full leather boots will do this, so should be avoided. Instead, we recommend you use Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Spray Proof. This will preserve the leather, and provide the following benefits:
  • Spray-on waterproofing
  • Maintains support and breathability
  • Adds water repellency
  • Ideal for footwear with breathable linings e.g. GORE-TEX
  • Can be used on wet footwear
  • Can be used indoors unlike solvent based sprays
  • Water-based, so environmentally friendly and biodegradable
  • Non-flammable and non-hazardous


Apply Nikwax Suede Proof to your boots while they are still damp, making sure you give the surface an even coating. Leave them for two minutes to allow the treatment to be absorbed, then wipe off any excess and allow to dry naturally.


As boots age, you may find that after proofing they appear dry, and you may be concerned that they could start to crack. At this point, to restore the moisture to the leather, you should condition them. Meindl Conditioner and Proofer works on full grain leather, nubuck and suede boots. Used regularly, the conditioner will prevent the leather from drying out and cracking, thereby keeping your loyal and trusty boots in service. Meindl Conditioner and Proofer will waterproof all leather boots without changing their appearance or breathability.
In addition, full grain leather boots would benefit from the application of Meindl Sport Wax every third time you clean them. The deeper penetration into the leather will help to maintain water resistance.

A full range of walking boot care products from BCH Camping

We hope you have found this guide useful. Take a look at our complete footwear cleaning, proofing and conditioning product range for both leather and fabric boots. If you would like any additional information, please do get in touch by popping in to one of our stores, emailing us at or calling us on 01225 764977. And remember, the next time you head to a spa, that your walking boots need some TLC too!