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How to make any shoe rain-resistant

Don’t kick yourself for not pre-treating your kicks. Follow these expert shoe care tips.

A pair of water-resistant boots against a blue background. Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Kobee / Mehmet Hilmi Barcin

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Rain, rain go away, don’t ruin my shoes today—that’s how it goes, right? Whether you’re splashing through April showers or wintertime sleet, it’s hard to keep your footwear looking pristine year round.

But no need to make a rainy-day mood even more gloomy by destroying a favorite pair. Whether you’re sporting sneakers or leather loafers, experts offer plenty of ways to make all the kicks in your closet rain-resistant.

How to make suede water-resistant

Suede rain repellent products against a blue background.
Credit: Reviewed / Tarrago

Suede can be made rain-repellent with the right products.

For suede shoes or boots, you’ll want to invest in a repellent spray that keeps moisture and dirt from penetrating the fabric. When shopping sprays, “price is a pretty good indicator of the quality,” says Randy Lipson, a third-generation cobbler based in St. Louis and a member of the Shoe Service Institute of America. He recommends a protectant with nanotechnology, such as Tarrago Nano Protector, which, when applied according to the product’s instructions, shields your shoes by forcing water to roll off.

How to make fabric shoes and sneakers rain-resistant

The same advice and product recommendation applies to canvas and nylon. In addition to providing water protection, pre-treating with a spray like Tarrago Nano Protector will make shoes easier to clean if they get stained, as it prevents substances from soaking into the fabric.

If you end up needing to clean your kicks, however, don’t just throw them in the washer, as Lipson says it can cause the glue holding shoes together to turn yellow. Instead, he suggests surface-cleaning. For fabrics including suede and vinyl, he recommends Lincoln E-Z Cleaner.

How to make leather rain-resistant

Leather protector packaging against a blue background.
Credit: Reviewed / Lincoln Electric

Care for your leather shoes using with both cleaners and preventative treatments.

Again, your best recourse is a preventative treatment, but be aware that some leather protectants can slightly darken the leather, so choose carefully. Your best option is a leather protectant and conditioner that you can rub onto leather shoes using your fingers, gloves, or a soft cloth, according to Lipson, who recommends Moobuzz. Let the product absorb for no more than 20 minutes, according to the brand, before removing any excess and buffing off the shoes. While the leather might look darker at first, the company claims the color will lighten again over the course of a few days.

How to make vegan leather rain-resistant

Vegan leather is a catch-all term for leather-like materials that don’t come from an animal. The trendy marketing term includes textiles ranging from good ol' pleather to bio-based materials. For plastic-based vegan leathers, there’s no need to apply water repellent the same way you would real leather, as the vinyl surface naturally repels water, says Lipson. Also unlike real leather, pleather tends to scuff or crack easily and is “very difficult” to repair, meaning you might not have the shoes for many seasons regardless of exposure to the elements. In other words, in most cases, it’s not worth the time and trouble to weatherproof shoes made of these materials as those products won’t do much to improve their longevity.

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How to make sandals rain-resistant

You might think it silly to weatherproof shoes that inherently don’t fully cover or protect the feet themselves from the elements, but the materials your sandals are made of can still be made to last longer and stay looking good in the event your sunny day turns gloomy.

The prevention method will depend on what the sandals are made of. Styles with leather straps require a product like Moobuzz, whereas canvas sandals can be sprayed with Tarrago. For sandals with a cork footbed, you can also add extra protection with sealants such as Birkenstock Cork Sealer, which creates a clear coating to keep water from soaking into the naturally porous material.

To make your sandals last even longer, you’ll also want to keep storage in mind. While it might be tempting toss your Birkenstocks in your trunk on a hot summer day or warm your toes over a campfire on a chilly night, you should never store any shoes in “an environment that is too hot,” says Lipson. Exposure to heat can change the shape of your shoe and cause the soles to shrink over time.

How often should you treat your shoes?

Protecting your shoes isn’t a one-and-done process. “Repellent sprays and waterproofing agents are kind of like sunscreen,” says Lipson. “You have to reapply.” As for how you’ll know when it’s time to reach for the repellent again? Flick some water onto your shoe and observe what happens. If the water droplets bead up, you’re all set. But if the moisture sinks into the surface, it’s time to reapply your protectant. When it comes to leather, “the lighter the color, the more often you want to protect,” says Lipson, as light leather is more likely to start losing its finish sooner.

Regardless of shoe type, don’t hesitate to bring your shoes to a cobbler should they need some extra TLC. Cobblers can provide personalized tips on how to care for a specific shoe, as well as execute more extensive repairs that can’t be done at home.

What is the difference between waterproof and water-resistant?

While these treatments will make your shoes repel water and save them from moisture-related damage (i.e., water-resistant), they won’t do much to keep your feet dry (i.e., waterproof).

If you’re braving the elements on the regular through hiking or trail running, or you just live in a really wet climate, you might want to consider a waterproof shoe featuring Goretex, a breathable membrane lining that doesn’t allow water to penetrate. But don’t forget about the rest of the shoes: While the Goretex lining itself is waterproof, the outside of your shoes or hiking boots will likely still require treatment using the above methods, says Lipson.

How to clean rain boots

Rubber boot cleaner against a blue background.
Credit: Reviewed / Tarrago

Even rain boots need a little cleaning sometimes.

Although rain boots are designed to be waterproof, you might want to give them some extra protection to boot. After all, even rubber shoes may be subject to rain spots, dirt, and cracks.

To keep your rain boots looking pristine, Lipson says to use a rubber boot cleaner like Tarrago Rubber Boot Cleaner, which you spray on the shoes then let dry for three minutes before buffing it off with a cloth.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or Flipboard for the latest deals, product reviews, and more.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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