Care of leather outdoor shoes is not just about making your shoes look good, it's mainly about preserving and adding to the life of the shoes, to maintain their performance and to protect your investment. Without proper conditioning and care, leather can dry out until it eventually cracks. To avoid this, there are three steps to follow on a regular basis: Clean – Condition – Preserve/Waterproof.
Most of the products you need can be found at general stores, shoe stores or sports stores. For McKINLEY footwear, we recommend that you use our McKINLEY footwear care products. Before you begin, make sure to work on top of a layer protecting the surface underneath (like a newspaper), wear gloves, and work in a well-ventilated area. Remove any laces before starting. Laces can be cleaned separately or replaced when worn out.
Remove dirt using a leather cleaner. You can use a soft shoe brush to aid in removing dirt from the surface of the shoe. This will also help remove dirt from any cracks in the leather. After cleaning, let the shoes dry for a short while.
Conditioning your leather shoes will help soften and moisturize the leather, and protect it from drying out and cracking. You may want to look for a natural conditioner that is absorbed into the material of the shoe, as opposed to a synthetic conditioner that sits on top of the surface. Rub small amounts of conditioner into the leather, until the entire shoe has been covered with conditioner. After a couple of minutes, wipe off any excess, as the leather will only absorb what it can.
Make sure you wear gloves if you want to polish your shoes to a nice shine. Rub the polish into the shoe with a soft cloth, and allow it to dry thoroughly. Once the shoe polish is dry, shine your shoes by buffing them with a soft cloth or brush made specifically for shining shoes. However, polishing outdoor footwear is not really necessary.
As a last step, you should waterproof your outdoor leather shoes to protect them from water or snow. Different products serve different purposes, so choose wisely. For example, if it is essential that your shoes are waterproof because you spend a lot of time in wet or messy conditions, a beeswax product would be a natural an environmentally-friendly choice. Spray protectants on the other hand provide a breathable barrier against mild to moderate wet conditions and dirt. This type of weatherproofing product is nearly invisible on your shoes or boots.
The next time you buy a pair of leather shoes, condition them before ever wearing them. This will help insure that your footwear is best protected from the start, and will save time on future cleanings.
Performance footwear equipped with a membrane needs to be regularly and properly cared for to preserve the performance and to protect your investment. To remove dirt on leather membrane footwear, simply use lukewarm water and a gentle brush. For textile membrane footwear, use a sponge instead.
Care products need to be chosen carefully. For most membranes, the manufacturer offers a dedicated product. This may be the safest way to preserve your performance shoes or boots, but you can also use any other product available – with a few exceptions: If the membrane is breathable, make sure to avoid fat, oily or silicon-based products as these may inhibit the function of your shoe. Any water-based care product will clean the upper without compromising the breathability.
If your footwear features a waterproof membrane, there is no need to apply waterproofing. However, you may want to consider doing so to improve the dirt repellency or to avoid that the outer material (which is on top of the membrane) absorbs too much moisture.
Nylon and nylon mesh shoes, such as sneakers or trail running shoes with breathable mesh, can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. In case of heavy dirt you may add a squirt of liquid dish soap or laundry detergent. Allow the shoes to air dry – but never place them directly in the sun or next to a source of heat. For future prevention, spraying nylon shoes or their mesh areas periodically with a silicone spray will prevent dirt and stains from clinging to the mesh.
Against common belief, sneakers or other mesh shoes should never be immersed completely in water or put through a washing cycle in the laundry machine!