Are Leather Shoes Waterproof? – Assessing Leather Shoes’ Water Resilience

In footwear, leather shoes are esteemed for their timeless elegance, durability, and versatility.

However, a common question that many shoe enthusiasts often have is whether leather shoes are truly waterproof.

The answer lies in understanding the inherent properties of the leather and exploring the measures taken to enhance its water resistance. 

In this comprehensive blog, we will delve deep into the fascinating world of leather shoes to demystify this age-old question.

Are Leather Shoes Waterproof Infographic

Are Leather Shoes Waterproof?

While leather shoes are not inherently waterproof, they possess natural water-resistant properties.

The tight weave of leather fibers and natural oils in the material creates a barrier that can somewhat repel water.

Leather, by its nature, is porous, meaning it can absorb moisture when exposed to water.

This absorption can lead to damage like warping, discoloration, and mold growth. However, through the tanning process, leather can be treated to become more water-resistant

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

  • Waterproof refers to a material or product impervious to water penetration under normal conditions.
  • Waterproof items create an absolute barrier against water, preventing moisture from passing through.
  • Materials like rubber, certain synthetic fabrics, and specialized coatings are commonly used to achieve waterproofing.
  • Water resistance signifies protection against water penetration, but not absolute impermeability.
  • Water-resistant materials can withstand some exposure to water or moisture without being significantly affected
  • Common examples of water-resistant materials include treated fabrics, certain types of leather, and coatings applied to surfaces.

Can You Waterproof Leather Shoes?

Yes, you can waterproof leather shoes to enhance their water resistance.

While leather is naturally porous and prone to absorbing moisture, several methods can be employed to improve its waterproofing capabilities:

1. Waterproofing Products

  • Leather waterproofing sprays, creams, waxes, and conditioners are available commercially. These products contain water-repellent agents that form a protective barrier on the leather surface, preventing water from seeping in.
  • Apply the waterproofing product evenly to the clean and dry surface of the leather shoes, focusing on seams, stitching, and areas prone to water exposure. Allow the product to dry thoroughly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

2. Waxing

  • Waxing leather is a traditional method of waterproofing that involves applying wax, such as beeswax or paraffin wax, to the surface of the leather.
  • Ensure complete leather coverage by applying melted wax in circular motions with a clean cloth or brush.
  • After applying the wax, allow it to cool and harden before buffing the leather with a clean cloth to achieve a smooth finish.

3. Oiling

  • Oiling leather involves using natural oils, such as neatsfoot, mink, or coconut oil, to condition and waterproof the leather.
  • Apply a small amount of oil to a clean cloth or brush and massage it into the leather in gentle, circular motions.
  • Allow the oil to penetrate the leather for several hours or overnight, then wipe off any excess oil with a clean cloth.

4. Professional Treatment

Source: Oxhorn YT Channel

What Are the Advantages of Waterproofing Leather Shoes?

Waterproofing leather shoes offers several advantages that can extend the life of the shoes and protect your feet from getting wet. Here are some key benefits:

  • Protection from Water Damage: Waterproofing helps prevent water from seeping into the leather, which can cause damage such as warping, cracking, or the growth of mold and mildew.
  • Extended Lifespan: Waterproofing can significantly increase the lifespan of your leather shoes by protecting them from the wear and tear that comes with exposure to water. By maintaining the quality of the leather, you can enjoy your shoes for a longer period without having to replace them as frequently.
  • Maintained Appearance: Waterproofing leather shoes can help preserve their appearance by preventing water stains and discoloration. Water droplets can leave marks on leather, so waterproofing can help retain the original look of your shoes for a clean and polished appearance.
  • Comfort and Dryness: Waterproofing your shoes can keep your feet dry and comfortable, especially during rainy or snowy weather.
  • Versatility: Waterproofed leather shoes are more versatile and can be worn in various weather conditions without worrying about getting them ruined by rain or snow.
  • Ease of Maintenance: Waterproofed leather shoes are easier to clean and maintain as the protective layer helps repel dirt, dust, and other contaminants.

What Are the Disadvantages of Waterproofing Leather Shoes?

While the advantages of waterproofing leather shoes are numerous, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider:

  • Loss of Breathability: Waterproofing treatments create a barrier on the leather that can inhibit the shoe’s ability to breathe. This may lead to reduced ventilation inside the shoe, potentially causing your feet to sweat more and feel less comfortable, especially in warm weather.
  • Potential Changes in Appearance: Some waterproofing products may alter the appearance of the leather, especially if they contain certain chemicals or dyes. This can result in discoloration, darkening, or a change in the texture of the leather.
  • Reduced Flexibility: Waterproofing agents can make the leather stiffer and less flexible, impacting the overall comfort and fit of the shoes.
  • Requirement for Regular Reapplication: Waterproofing treatments may need to be reapplied periodically to maintain effectiveness. This regular maintenance can be time-consuming and may incur additional costs if you need to purchase new waterproofing products frequently.
  • Difficulty in Removing the Waterproofing Layer: If you decide to remove the waterproofing treatment from your leather shoes, it may require special products or techniques, to fully restore the original appearance and properties of the leather.
  • Risk of Ineffective Protection: Not all waterproofing products provide the same level of protection, and some may be more effective than others. Using a low-quality or inappropriate waterproofing treatment can result in inadequate protection against water damage, leaving your shoes vulnerable to moisture-related issues.


In conclusion, while leather shoes are not inherently waterproof, they possess natural water-resistant properties that can be enhanced through proper care and maintenance.

Strategic interventions such as tanning, finishing, and meticulous craftsmanship can significantly enhance its water resistance.

However, maintaining this resilience requires diligence and care on the wearer’s part.

So, while leather shoes may not be impervious to water, with proper attention and maintenance, they can confidently navigate through drizzles and downpours, ensuring both style and substance endure the test of time.

Resources Consulted

James Chiles

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