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As the days grow shorter and the temperatures begin to drop, we have to say a reluctant goodbye to our summer sandals and dust off our trusty winter boots. In preparation for the colder months ahead, Rachel Clinkard — from family-run shoe retailer Charles Clinkard — explains why taking care of our winter shoes is so important

We all know how unpredictable the British weather can be. If you want to stay warm, comfortable, and dry, then a quality pair of autumn and winter shoes should be a staple piece of your wardrobe to depend on when you brave the elements. 

Buying quality pieces means they’ll last longer, so learning how to maintain and clean your footwear will not only save you money, but it’s also a far more sustainable way to shop. In fact, every year UK households throw out over 300 million pairs of shoes, with the majority going to landfill. Keeping your shoes for longer is therefore a great way to reduce waste from the clothing industry (gov.uk). 

From choosing the right materials to cleaning and storage, here are my top tips on getting the most out of your winter shoes. 

Choosing a shoe

When it comes to clothes, we opt for linen dresses to keep us cool or woollen jumpers to keep us warm. But, while your shoes should receive the same consideration when the seasons change, they often get overlooked. Knowing which materials are best for cold, wet weather is incredibly helpful when buying your next pair of winter shoes and can prevent you from making a purchase that’s all style over substance. 

When it comes to the upper surface, leather is one of the best choices to keep your feet dry. If you maintain it well with polish, wax, and protective coatings, leather will remain water-resistant while also being breathable. In terms of the sole, aim for rubber as it is very durable and won’t absorb water. Keep in mind, too, that the sole and heel should have a good tread to prevent slipping on any unexpectedly icy pavements.

The style of the shoe itself also has a large bearing on its warmth and comfort. For instance, ankle boots give you that extra bit of coverage which will retain some valuable heat. As a rule, I would avoid suede in wet weather, as it stains very easily. 

Cleaning and maintenance

Here I’ll remind you of the saying, “prevention is better than cure”. One of the best cleaning tips I can offer is to try and prevent damage in the first place by using protective coatings. Be it for suede, leather, or canvas shoes, using a protective spray is a lifesaver and although it’s an easy job to forget, I guarantee you’ll thank yourself later. This will help maintain water resistance and prevent things like dirt or road grit from staining your favourite pair of boots. 

However, don’t despair if you skipped this step (or cursed me for saying that prevention is better than cure). If you’ve already stepped out in your unprotected shoes, care kits — containing wax, polish, brushes, and soft cloths — are always worth investing in and can revive stained, tired shoes for years to come. 

As for maintenance, when you find that your shoes have really succumbed to the elements and are showing major damage or wear to the sole or heel, be sure to take them to a reputable repair shop. For a small fee, it’s so worth it to give them some TLC and keep your favourite pair going for another year or two. 


If (or rather, when) your shoes have been exposed to that great British rainfall, always allow them to properly dry out before storing them. However, unless you’re in a real rush, avoid leaving your boots too close to a radiator as this may cause cracks and worsen any stains. If you’ve been absolutely drenched, you can also stuff them with newspaper to soak up any water that made its way inside. 

For more inspiration on your autumn and winter wardrobe, head to our Fashion and Beauty section where we talk all things clothes, accessories, and skincare

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