Are Leather Cowboy Boots Waterproof or Good for Snow?


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We decided to escape Mari Gras and visit Breckinridge, Colorado, and I’m not sure if cowboy boots are waterproof and suitable for wearing in the snow. So I decided to research before I pack them for our trip.

Leather cowboy boots are not waterproof, but they are water-resistant, and they aren’t good to wear in the snow either. Snow and excessive moisture cause untreated leather boots to dry and crack. If you intend to wear cowboy boots in water or snow, treat them with a product to protect the leather.

Many people choose boots based on their looks, but you need to read this article first if you plan to wear your boots in the snow or water.

Leather Boots are not truly “waterproof.”

Although some boot manufactures claim their leather boots are waterproof, they’re not, they’re technically water-resistant. Before we delve too deep into the differences here is our list of best water-resistant leather boots:

Leather is made from the hides of animals and is naturally porous, meaning liquids can penetrate the material. In order to transform skins into leather for boots and other products, hides go through a series of treatments.

The moisture resistance capability of leather boots is dependent on leather quality, retanning, and the finishing techniques used to process the leather. Water-resistant leather is designed to repel water while allowing a minimal amount of absorption.

Water-resistant leather isn’t waterproof.

Water-resistant boots hold up well for brief walks in the rain but aren’t designed for wading in water. Waterproof leather boots are made of highly water-resistant material.

They can be submerged in water for short periods without causing damage to the leather. However, leather boots are never truly waterproof, like rubber boots are. The choice of degree of waterproof protection depends on the degree of moisture protection you require.

Picture of me standing in water puddle with my cowboy boots, waterproof,

Water-resistance is an essential characteristic of leather. It protects your feet against the elements and preserves the leather. Optimal leather work boots have a balanced water-resistant finish.

Leather needs to breathe for moisture evaporation.

While prevention of water penetration is desired, moisture should be able to pass the leather as freely as possible, or at least be absorbed, to ensure proper acclimatization inside the boots.

The leather needs to breathe so perspiration and moisture can evaporate. But the leather should not soak up too much moisture because it will lose its ability to protect your feet against heat and cold.

Leather cowboy boots can tolerate snow.

picture of roper cowboy boots, waterproof,

I’ve worn the boots pictured above in snow, water, and mud. After a bit of cleaning, they show little wear. Expensive cowboy boots made of exotic skins shouldn’t be worn in the snow.

Some cowboy boots designed as work boots are made of heavy, water-resistant leather and can tolerate winter weather better. But are cowboy boots suitable for wearing in the snow?

Water-resistant leather cowboy boots are fine to wear for brief walks through the snow. But cowboy boots aren’t made for extended periods in the snow because they absorb too much moisture.

Leather boots will stiffen, lose their pliable texture, and sometimes even rot after they’ve gotten too wet. Further cowboy boots don’t provide adequate warmth for your feet, especially once they’re wet. And, typical cowboy boots have slick soles that don’t grip the snow.

Treating leather boots increases its moisture-resistance.

Besides the apparent reason, keeping your feet dry, there are other objectives for treating your boots to resist moisture. Treated leather resist staining, increases the lifespan of your boots, and keeps them looking and feeling good.

I’ve used mink oil for years, and my boots hold up well in all climates. You can order online through Amazon, but I typically buy at one of our local stores. Mink oil can be found at Tractor supply and any western store.

picture of a can of Fiebing's mink oil, waterproof,
Buy on Amazon

Leather will never be able to withstand water like rubber boots because of its porous nature. However, there are some steps you can take that will increase the leather’s ability to resist water absorption.

Clean leather boots before applying a conditioner.

Clean your boots thoroughly. Use water and a soft cloth and wipe down your boots. No need to use soaps, sprays, or chemical cleaner. If you have some stubborn spots, use a brush and wipe down your boots again.

If you can’t get your boots clean with water and a rag, there are some commercial cleaners available that work fine. Just be sure to test a spot that is inconspicuous before you spread it over your entire boot.

Follow the instructions on the cleaner’s container and remove any excess moisture with a dry clean rag. Once you’ve finished cleaning your boots allow them semi-dry, but not in direct sunlight.

Thousands of Amazon customers have reviewed the following leather cleaners, and all have a high rating. Here is a link to Amazon reviews so you can read what other people have to say about the products:

Leather conditioner makes your cowboy boots lasts longer.

picture of mink oil, waterproof,

The leather of your boots can outlast its soles if they are adequately cared for. Treating them with a leather conditioner is advised, but do you know why it’s necessary. I decided to do some research to find out.

Over time leather loses oils and moisture, causing it to stiffen and crack. Leather conditioners are designed to prevent cracking and stiffness by replenishing the oils and nourishing the fibers to restore their natural flexibility.

Once your boots are thoroughly clean but still damp apply leather conditioner. Damp leather is more porous and easier to penetrate than dry leather, so the conditioner lubricates the fibers better.

Leather conditioners also protect the surface of leather from stains and overtime deepen its color. Apply a small amount of conditioner with a soft cloth. Excessive conditioner clogs the pores of the leather and prevents it from breathing, which leads to rotting.

picture of my leather cowboy boots after cleaning with mink oil, waterproof,
Before and after using mink oil

Unless you use your boots in harsh conditions, they only need to be conditioned every six months. Most good leather conditioners provide all the water-resistance your boots need. Waterproofing leather boot’s not recommended because leather must breath, or the fiber will rot.

There are three basic types of leather boot conditioners.

There are a huge selection of leather boot conditioners on the market. However, there are only three different types of conditioners.

Leather conditioners come in three forms: condition creams, conditioning oils, and wax conditioners. Each provides the same essential function; it just a matter of personal preference which type you choose to use.

Conditioning creams don’t alter the color of leather.

picture of Tarrago leather conditioner cream, waterproof,

Leather conditioning creams provide surface protection and typically don’t affect to color of the leather. A conditioning cream that does a really great job protecting leather boots is Tarrago Shoe Cream. It containers wax and conditioners to protect and replenish damaged leather.

Conditioning oils penetrate leather really well.

Conditioning oils penetrate leather pores and are very effective conditioners for leather boots. Conditioning oils have been used for centuries to maintain leather goods.

picture of neatsfoot oil leather conditioner, waterproof,

We recommend Neatsfoot Oil. It’s a tried and proven substance for conditioning leather. It’s a heavy oil derived from cattle bones and keeps leather strong and pliable without affecting the color of most leathers.

Wax conditioners provide leather surface protection.

Wax conditioners don’t penetrate the leather but provide surface protection from water. These conditioners seal leather by forming a protective layer over the leathers’ surface.

picture of sno-seal leather conditioner wax, waterproof,

The wax provides a barrier against acids, oils, and moisture that could damage your leather boots. But leather must breathe, or it will eventually rot, to avoid this remove the wax periodically. Successful brands of wax sealant are Jobsite’s Grizzly Grease and Sno-Seal Original Beeswax Waterproofing 

Here are links to customer reviews for other popular leather conditioners.

Leather Honey conditioner: customer reviews
Chamberlain’s leather milk: customer reviews
Lexol Leather Conditioner: customer reviews

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Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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