How to make leather soles less slippery and other wet weather tips

Image source: Singing in the Rain Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Video Still/YouTube

Comfortable, breathable, long lasting and good looking – just some of the reasons why leather shoes never fade from fashion. But how, I hear you ask, do you prevent slippery soles from landing you on your backside the first time there’s rain or frost?

Here’s how to make sure you don’t turn turtle in bad weather – a plethora of ways to make leather soles less slippery, plus how to weatherproof and look after your shoes so they keep your feet dry and toasty for years to come.

1. Scuff ‘em


A quality leather shoe with a Goodyear welted sole can be roughed up with sandpaper
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Proud of your new Oxfords? You should be. A quality shoe made from quality leather can last a decade or more if you look after it. But those shiny leather soles can be slippery when wet. So what should you do about them?

Rough them up. Get hold of some medium grit sandpaper and give the soles of your new shoes a once over to break through the polished finish to the tangle of interwoven natural fibres that lies beneath.

Failing that, after you’ve broken your shoes in by walking about in them indoors, choose a dry day to take them outside for their first walk. As you pace the pavement, give your soles a good scuff. You’ll look like you’re cleaning dog dirt off your shoes, but if you can stand the loss of street cred, this is an effective way to non-slip your shoes.

2. Polish ‘em


Image source: Samuel Windsor

They do say you can judge a man by his shoes, so make sure you achieve a favourable review by keeping your shoes well burnished. You don’t need to achieve a military ‘black mirror’ shine, but well polished shoes are more waterproof shoes – forget labour-saving alternatives – if a tin of shoe polish is still good enough for the army, it’s good enough for you.

Take a dry rag and wrapping it around your index finger, smear shoe polish onto it. Use small circular motions to polish your shoes. Do leave polish on overnight to allow it to soak into the leather, before buffing them up with a soft cloth.

3. Dry ‘em


Don’t be tempted to put wet leather shoes on a radiator
Image source: Albina Glisic

At some stage during our lousy British winter, your shoes are going to get wet. It’s very important that you dry them properly before their next outing, as failure to do so gives you damp feet and drastically reduces the life of your shoes.

Never dry your shoes in front of or on top of a radiator or any other heat source – they’ll crack and curl. Instead, stuff your shoes with dry newspaper and place them in a well ventilated spot like the kitchen or hallway.

Salt stains? No problem. Mix two parts water with one part white vinegar and, dipping a rag into the solution, wipe the offending white patches away. When the leather is clean, wipe with a rag dampened with fresh water and allow the shoes to dry before polishing.

4. Cycle ‘em

Wooden shoe trees

Store your shoes correctly when not in use
Image: Shutterstock

Never wear the same pair of shoes two days running, and when not in use, insert wooden shoe stretchers and store them somewhere dry, preferably in a shoe box or bag. People who wear the same footwear day after day don’t give the leather time to dry out properly, or the padding time to recover.

Finally, it pays to invest in traditional Goodyear welted construction. It’s quite simply the best. When those shiny soles you were so worried about slipping over on get thin and worn, all you need to do is take your shoes to your cobbler for resoling, and they’ll be good as new.

Do you have any handy tips for preventing a new shoes slip-up, or prolonging the life of your shoes? Let us know in the comments below, or over on our Facebook page. 

Posted in How To - Shoes, Leather shoes.