Help Your Poor Boots Last the Winter

by Tori Telfer

When I was a sophomore in college, everyone and her mother wore Ugg boots. The cool sorority girls wore them with leggings and North Face jackets, of course. The hot moms scampered around Whole Foods in Uggs and yoga pants. And even the burnouts wore them with ripped jeans, messily tucked into the top of each boot to symbolize how little they cared for this keystone of cold weather consumerism. And I... I couldn't afford them.

So I went to Wet Seal and I bought a pair of $30 Ugg knockoffs. I pulled them on over my knee-socks and about 2- minutes later, after slogging to class through ankle-deep snow and the cold slush of a typical Chicago winter, the boots were absolutely ruined. Soaked through, falling apart at the seams, crusted in salt. And when they dried, they were deformed. But I wore them all winter.

Sob story over. My point is: winter boots are always kind of a pain. They're expensive, they're always fighting a losing battle against the elements, and they require a lot more care than your favorite flip-flops. But you can wear the same pair all winter long — or even for a few winters. Broke college girls of the world, this one's for you.

1. Invest in the proper weather- and waterproofing protectant

You know how shoe store people are always trying to sell you extra things, like ankle socks and colorful shoelaces? This is one time when you should actually listen to them. Buying Uggs? Get the Ugg brand waterproofing spray that's on the shelf next to your boots. Leather boots? Invest in a leather-specific weatherproofing spray. Suede? You can guess what comes next. Note: your protective spray/treatment doesn't have to be made by the same company as your boots (that just makes the purchase easier) but it must be designed for the material.

2. Actually apply the spray before you wear the boots

I know I know I know I know. You want to wear your boots right away. There are slushy puddles to splash through and snowmen to build. Your protectant spray hasn't arrived in the mail yet and you're getting antsy. I feel your pain, but girlfriend, you'll just have to wait. If you want to make it 'til Groundhog Day, you have to weatherproof your boots before you wear them, and you have follow the directions on the bottle, whether it tells you to wait two or 24 hours. I know you know this, but sometimes it helps to have a stern voice from the Internet reminding you.

3. Store with a rolled-up magazine inside each boot

Once your boots — especially tall boots — fold over or crease, it can be nearly impossible to get those creases out. But it's easy to prevent them. Just roll up a magazine (I like National Geographic — they're sturdy and cultured) and slip one inside each boot to mimic the shape of a human leg.

4. Sprinkle in baking powder to prevent smell

Long day/sweaty feet? Toss a little baking powder, baby powder, or Gold Bond powder into the toes of each boot to absorb odors and dampness.

5. Clean 'em

You clean your teeth, you clean your bedroom, so you should be cleaning your boots. Get salt stains off leather with a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water. Weirdly enough, a pencil eraser can be used to gently remove scuffs from rain boots and tiny stains from suede. And for dirt and mud, there's always a damp rag.

6. Air dry properly

If your leather boots get wet and you take a hair dryer to them, you risk giving them a weird new shape. After you've slogged through miles of snow to get to school, uphill both ways, just stuff paper towels/old newspapers inside the wet boot and allow to air dry.

7. Come spring, put them away right

Does the title of this piece imply that a good pair of boots should only last one season? My mistake, cheri. If you've invested in your boots (unlike poor college Tori of years past), they should bear you through many winter wonderlands and future blizzards. After the last cold day has passed, take them to a cobbler (they exist outside of fairy tales, you know). Get that broken zipper repaired; have a new sole put on; tell him to stitch up any holes. Once those boots are shiny and practically new, store them in a well-ventilated place with a fantastic pair of vintage National Geographics rolled up inside.

Image: 58572249@N08/flickr