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8 Tips to Make Your Winter Boots Last Longer

A sturdy pair of boots should last longer than one season. Here's how to reinforce them to weather any (literal or metaphorical) storm.

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Prepare your boots for the elements

Before you even think about wearing a new pair of boots out on an unpredictable winter day, treat them with a waterproofing compound. The formula will create a thin barrier between your leather (which relies on its own natural oils to remain soft and malleable) and the elements. The easiest way to do this is by using a fast-drying spray, which you should reapply after every few wears. If you’re nervous about the protectant staining, do a test run on a discreet part of the shoe, like the inner heel. This is how to make every single pair of shoes last longer.

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Stay in shape

Every time you allow your boots to wilt over in the closet, you’re putting undue stress on the leather. Keep them standing tall (and avoid creasing) by investing in a boot tree. For a more frugal option, roll up a magazine and place it into the boot vertically. (These tiny outfit updates will make you look expensive.)

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Condition your leather

Even pre-treated leather will eventually become dry from water absorption and age. That’s where leather conditioner comes in—think of it as a moisturizer for your shoes. Apply conditioner with a rag whenever your boots begin to feel brittle (test it with your hand: when you run your finger around the base of the shoe, does it feel rugged or cracked? That means it’s time to condition).

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Invest in cleaning supplies for suede

While you’ll want to save your suede shoes for days there’s no water in the forecast, there are ways to recover if mother nature decides to surprise you with rain. First, make sure you’ve waterproofed your boots (refer to step one!). Next, have a suede brush and suede eraser on hand. Erase marks with your eraser tool, and brush away any remaining dust or dirt with the brush.

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Wipe your boots after each wear

This might seem like a simple trick, but it’s easy to forget when you just want to kick off your boots and be done with things. Keep a hand towel near your closet and use it to quickly dust over the shoes before you put them away.

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Dry your shoes

Leather boots can hold up to a bit of rain, but you’ll want to lend them a bit of TLC afterward. Once you get home, remove the shoes and stuff them with newspaper (this is meant to absorb the moisture, so replace the paper every hour or so). And whatever you do, do not put the boots near a radiator, or blow them with a hairdryer. Do so will cause them to dry out, and could ruin them for good. Allow them to sit in a ventilated room until they dry on their own.

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Keep boots smelling fresh

Because winter boots are so susceptible to wetness and sweat, they tend to get smelly quickly. Fend off any offensive odors with baking soda. Simply sprinkle a bit of the powder into the shoes at night and  let it absorb overnight. Dump the powder before your next wear. Don’t miss these natural home remedies for foot odor.

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Find a trusted cobbler

Before putting your boots away for the spring and summer seasons, take them to a cobbler. He or she will let you know if a heel, zipper, or sole needs replacing, or if there are any updates you can make to get the shoes to last through next year’s boots season.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest