Leather boots are comfortable and durable, and probably the warmest of all backpacking boots I know. There’s no better boots to wear when going on a nice winter hike near NYC. However, they can also be expensive. When you buy a pair, it’s good to treat it as an investment, and keep your leather boots in the best condition you can for as long as possible. How do you do it?

1. Buy the Right Boots

You can save yourself some trouble by buying the right leather boots initially. It’s important to buy real leather, and not faux leather, so you can benefit from the increased durability of the material and take care of it properly.

Beyond that, it’s important to prioritize shoe merchants with a reputation for quality. Not all leather shoes are equally durable or flexible, and they’re all going to vary in terms of style and appearance. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, purchasing a handmade craft, you can acquire a leather boot that will naturally last a long time.

Even if you buy the best leather boots on the market, there are some other steps you’ll need to take to keep your leather boots in the best possible condition.

2. Clean and Treat Immediately (When Possible)

Leather is a tough material, but that doesn’t mean it’s impenetrable or that it will never be stained. In fact, if you neglect your leather boots, they can rapidly deteriorate. Your leather boots will likely keep your feet warm and dry in even the harshest weather, but they’re also going to take some damage from the snow, salt, and ice. When you get home from one of these excursions, wipe down your boots immediately and treat any stains you see. As long as you work quickly and proactively, you should avoid the worst of the damage.

3. Protect Your Boots With a Waterproof Treatment

Leather is a mostly waterproof material, keeping your feet dry when you wear leather boots in almost any weather. But there’s a limit to how much water your boots can resist. If you want to take them to the next level, consider protecting your boots with a proactive waterproofing treatment. Commercially available products can make it easy even for amateurs to apply a stronger waterproof coating to the exterior of their leather boots.

4. Moisturize the Leather

Leather conditioner is designed to restore natural moisture to your leather – and give it more strength in the future. Leather conditioning isn’t a strict requirement; your leather boots might last for many years even without this treatment. But if you apply this treatment once a month or more often, you’ll keep your leather looking amazing. As an added bonus, this conditioner adds an extra layer of protection, making your leather boots even more resistant to scuffs, environmental elements, and other types of damage. Just make sure you follow the instructions on the leather conditioning product to avoid inadvertently damaging your boots.

5. Add a Protective Sole

If you use your leather boots frequently, you may benefit from adding a secondary, protective rubber sole to the bottom of them. It doesn’t take much of an investment, but it can artificially increase the lifespan of your boots – and keep them feeling like new. This is especially important if you walk long distances in your shoes or if you frequently travel in difficult terrain.

6. Make Replacements Proactively

As your leather boots get older, they’re naturally going to suffer some wear and tear. There’s very little you can do about this, aside from the proactive measures we’ve already discussed. What you can do, however, is make replacements as quickly and proactively as possible. For example, the heels of your boots are probably going to wear out first, so make sure to replace them before they suffer any more unnecessary damage.

7. Use a Boot Tree

A shoe tree is a device designed to store shoes in a way that improves their form and maximizes their longevity. A boot tree is a very similar device designed specifically for boots. Each arm of the tree will occupy a boot while you’re not wearing it. It’s designed to keep the boot in proper form, reducing the likelihood of folding or creasing, which can make the leather less attractive and lead to damage. Boot trees are inexpensive and easy to use, so there’s no reason not to use one for your leather boots.

8. Take Advantage of Leather Creams

 Another commercially available product for maintaining and improving leather is leather cream. This substance can be used to remove scratches and scuffs, restore the natural color of the leather, and help your leather boots look shinier and newer. Again, it’s important to follow the instructions on these products so you use them properly and minimize the potential for damage to your leather boots.

If you follow the tips in this article, you should be able to maximize the lifespan and functionality of your leather boots. Stay proactive if you want to get the most value out of your investment.