How long should work boots last? For many people working in tough conditions, the answer can be as short as six months. But if you take proper care of your boots, you can keep them in good shape for much longer. Learn how to make your work boots last longer – from purchase to everyday care and restoration – in this leather boot care guide from the experts at Thorogood.

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What We'll Cover:

Setting Your Boots Up for Success

A solid pair of work boots is an investment in your health and safety on the job. Ensuring that they last starts at the very beginning. Here are some tips for how to set yourself up for success when you purchase a new pair:

  • Choose a high-quality boot that is built to last. Research the materials used, read reviews from other people in the same line of work, and don't opt for the cheap stuff – this may seem like a way to save money, but you'll end up spending more in the long run when you have to replace them more often. Check out how Thorogood boots are made to learn how we build quality footwear from the ground up.
  • Make sure you have the right fit – boots that are too big can wear and tear more quickly, and boots that are too small won't be comfortable (so you'll probably need to replace them when you get tired of the blisters). For tips on choosing the right fit, visit our boot sizing guide.
  • Choose the right outsole for your job – different outsoles are made for different purposes and environments, so be sure to pick the best boots for your job before you buy.
  • Break them in properly before you wear them to work. We put together a guide to breaking in and stretching work boots to help with this bit.
  • Start with a waterproofing treatment to protect your investment in rougher conditions. Learn how to add and maintain waterproofing to your work boots.

Regular Boot Maintenance

Regular care helps your boots stay in good shape so you can keep wearing them. Here are our tips for how to take care of leather work boots to help them last longer.

Boot Lace Etiquette

Let's start with the laces. Proper use of laces may seem obvious to some, but many people don't realize the impact that they have on the longevity of your boots. Be sure to tie your laces tightly and securely every time you wear them to work. If the laces are too loose, your feet may slide around and cause damage to the interior. When you get home at the end of your shift, untie the laces completely to take them off – do not slide your feet out with the laces tied! This can stretch the leather and affect the shape of the boot. If you need a little help getting your footwear off at the end of the day, consider using a shoehorn to assist without damaging the heel area.

Cleaning & Protection

Keeping your boots clean is hugely important to their longevity. Buildup of dirt and mud dries out leather and shortens the lifespan of the materials. When done regularly, it should only take you a few extra minutes to clean your work boots. Here are a few easy things you can do to make leather work boots last longer:

  • Use a boot brush to remove any debris from the exterior of your boots after each wear. This also has the added benefit of helping to keep your floors clean!
  • Periodically wash your boots with mild soap and water to tackle the stubborn grime. You can use the same boot brush for a light scrub.
  • Keep a packet of wipes or a travel brush in your work vehicle for on-the-go cleaning, especially if you end up working in very dirty or wet conditions unexpectedly.
  • Reapply leather conditioner at the beginning of each new season to keep the material supple and strong for longer.
  • Refresh your waterproofing at least twice per year, or any time you notice that it's starting to wear out. Keep an eye out for water darkening the color of the leather on contact, or if your boots start to leak in moisture around the seams.

Drying Work Boots

After wearing your work boots, you should allow them to dry completely before putting them back on. As you may already know, moisture is not your friend here, which is why many opt to proactively add waterproofing to the exterior surfaces. This same principle applies to the interior of your boots. Wet shoes are the perfect place for bacteria, fungus, and other funk to prosper. Keeping your boots dry also helps to keep them from stinking.

  • Storage: Between wears, keep your boots in a dry, well-ventilated area.
  • Alternate between pairs: If you can afford to have more than one pair, rotating between them (rather than wearing the same pair of boots every day) allows your footwear to dry thoroughly between wears.
  • Boot dryers: This is optional, but purchasing a specialized boot dryer helps speed up the process, especially if you're not alternating between multiple pairs. Be cautious and don't leave your boots on the dryer too long, as excess heat can dry out leather too much and cause it to become brittle over time.

Resole, Repair, & Restore Work Boots

Even when boots are well cared for, they're bound to wear out over time – especially if you work in tough conditions. Most high-quality work boots are made to be resoled when the time comes, including Thorogoods. If your boots are tired and need a pick-me-up, you can send them off to our boot restoration experts. Services include resoling, repair, and complete restoration. Compared to the cost of a new pair, restoration is a cost-effective way to get more life out of your investment.


Additional Resources

Looking for more information about choosing or maintaining work boots? Check out these articles:

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