A good pair of leather motorcycle or engineering boots aren't an option for those of us that ride a lot, they're a necessity. Just like your bike, a little care and maintenance will make them last for years. Leather care can thought of as skin care; keep it cleaned and moisturized. Keep in mind I'm not trying to sell you some miracle leather care product here, so I don't recommend any product in particular. I've used a ton of different products over the years, and quite honestly didn't see a big difference between them. But the difference between a treated boot and untreated is HUGE! Here are some tips you'll want to follow:
When done riding, wash all the mud, grime, and road debris from the boots. Often times you will need a soft brush to get everything off. Use a towel to get most of the moisture out, then let them air dry. NEVER use heat to dry boots - they will shrink, crack, and generally ruin the leather. From time to time, you may also want to use a leather cleaner. Also, you can find some pretty good leather wipes on the market these days that will clean and condition as you wipe. Finally, make sure the cleaner is not acidic or it can damage leather. Don't forget the soles, either. Mud can become rock-hard in the soles and make your life miserable.
Think of conditioning like you would a hand moisturizer, with a pair of rubber glovers over the top. Conditioning replenishes oils to the leather, and protects it from water and impact damage. When conditioning boots, you have the choice to go with either a chemical based cleaner or natural oil. The result is the same either way; treated leather with water repelling properties. However, if your boots aren't black, the you may want to go with a chemical-based conditioners. Natural conditioners can change both the color and texture of leather, so be warned. If they are black, it really doesn't matter.
Conditioning needs to be done when you first purchase your boots. Make sure you condition them before you wear them, or you'll regret it down the road. It also doesn't hurt to condition boots from time-to-time as they wear. I just do it during the spring every year, and have no problems.
If your conditioner is in a cream form, you want to make sure both the boots and cream are at room temperature. This way the pours in the leather are fully opened up, and the cream will seep in deep.
When treating boots that use a combination of fabrics, such as boots with both leather and nylon, you should use a chemical treatment that can be applied to the whole boot, otherwise you will need two conditioners.
Your local shoe store will have some good conditioners available. Otherwise you can find them at a boot retailer like Boot Bay
A couple of things to remember when storying your boots away. First, don't just throw them into the closet or basement after the end of the riding season. That is, unless you like mold. Mold absolutely loves leather, and if you put them away damp or store them in a damp place, mold will grow on them fast.
If you have the space and a few extra bucks, a boot dryer is a good investment. Basically, it just a stand that allows them to dry, upside down, and completely dry. They also work well for hats and gloves too.
A few final thoughts on boot care. First, when your leather starts to fade, soles come off, and generally start to fall apart at the seams, you may be tempted to throw them away. Don't. A good pair of engineering or motorcycle boots will run you hundreds of dollars. There still are a lot of shoe-repair places that will resole, refinish, and sew your boots back together. I've had a favorite pair of Red Wings resoled a couple of times, for about $25 each time.
Second, I don't advocate being a yuppie over-consumer, but getting a second pair of riding boots is a good investment. So after you get caught in that rainstorm and turn your boots into a soaking mess, you can let them dry properly and wear your other set. It's why cheap military boots last so long - they are constantly rotating them and polishing them. It certainly isn't the quality.
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