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Are you cleaning your winter shoes properly? Here’s what experts want you to know

Plus, they share how to keep your shoes protected when the weather turns.
Clean pink winter shoes outside
Kara Birnbaum/ TODAY

Nothing ruins a pair of shoes faster than getting stuck in a bout of bad weather. And unfortunately, the winter season with all of its unexpected flurries, downpours and puddles, brings plenty of moments that can wreak havoc on that fancy new pair of shoes you got this holiday season.

So to help prevent those salt stains, scuffs and other winter footwear issues, we turned to some experts to get all the details on how to best protect your shoes this season — and how to get them back in tip-top shape, if you do get stuck in a winter storm.

How often should you clean your winter shoes? | What types of shoes are good for winter weather? | How can you protect your shoes in the winter? | Products to clean your shoes | Products to protect your shoes | How we chose | Meet the experts

How often should you clean your winter shoes?

One expert previously told us that generally, you should clean your shoes every two weeks, or as soon as they begin to look dirty.

However, the experts we spoke to agreed that no matter what type of shoe you’re dealing with, the sooner you treat them, the better. The material of the shoe will determine how you clean it (more on that later).

What types of shoes are good for winter weather?

When you’re looking for a shoe to wear during rainy, snowy or icy days, you should opt for one with a thick rubber sole, our experts say.

One of the most common mistakes that people tend to make is continuing to wear their favorite shoes that aren't fit for harsher conditions, like sneakers or flats, on rainy or snowy days, says Jesper Ingevaldsson, founder of the blog Shoegazing, which highlights shoe care tips, buying guides and more.

"If there are heavy rains, any snow — anything beyond drizzle — most shoes, believe it or not, you don't want to wear," says Vincent Rao Jr., owner of Vince's Village Cobbler in New York City. "That includes sneakers, high heels, any shoe with a thin sole is going to have water penetration and it's going to absorb a lot of water from the bottom."

That being said, if you're walking on a cleared path and it's no longer snowing, as long as you have a solid tread and a rubber sole on your shoe, you should be fine, says Justin FitzPatrick, founder of The Shoe Snob blog and J. FitzPatrick Footwear. "But if you're going to have to submerge yourself in the snow, then 100% avoid suede, and avoid any lighter color leathers or any leathers that look like they were hand-painted," he says.

How can you protect your shoes in the winter?

If you're hoping to keep your shoes protected, just in case you get stuck in an unexpected bout of bad weather, there are a few things you can do. For suede, nubuck and textile shoes (like woven or knit fabrics), Ingevaldsson says that you can use a good waterproofing spray to help keep them protected. However, he warns that you shouldn't use the spray on regular leather, as it will clog the pores of the material.

Instead, simply properly caring for your leather shoes will help protect them. "For smooth or grain leather shoes, you should use shoe cream and apply several thin layers," he says. "If you want more shine and some extra protection, you can continue with wax polish."

No matter the time of the year, being mindful about how you store your shoes can also have a big impact. With dress shoes, FitzPatrick says that using shoe trees can help prolong the life of the shoe, as they help maintain their shape and push up the creases (to help prevent cracks in the leather).

Ingevaldsson notes that you should also always "brush or wipe away dirt when you come home," and in the case of leather, condition them every so often.

If you are planning on going the DIY route to clean or protect your shoes, Rao says that he always recommends speaking to a cobbler first or watching a video, so that you can prevent any potential mistakes in the process.

With all that in mind, we're sharing some products that you can use to protect and clean your shoes, both this season and through the rest of the year.

Products to clean your shoes in the winter

Bickmore Suede & Nubuck Cleaner

What we like
  • No chemical residue
  • Cleans and softens
Something to note
  • Not for finished leather

Made for: Suede, nubuck, leather | Function: Removes oil and water stains

When it comes to cleaning suede, Ingevaldsson says that this cleaner is a good option. Not only is it made to remove oil or water stains from your precious suede shoes, but the brand says it will also condition and soften the material to give it a longer lifespan.

Tarrago SneakersCare WASC Cleaner

What we like
  • Doesn't alter texture
  • Gentle
Something to note
  • Requires some scrubbing

Made for: Canvas, leather, nylon | Function: Removes stains and dirt

Ingevaldsson says that this pick is a “gentle and effective” option for leather shoes. “One doesn’t have to soak the entire shoes under running water to make them clean,” he says. “You use a moist brush to rub the shoes clean, then wipe away lather and dirt.”

Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner Kit

What we like
  • A little goes a long way
  • Comes with brush
Something to note
  • Doesn't work on all materials

Made for: Washable leathers, vinyl, nubuck, suede, canvas, cloth  | Function: Removes stains and dirt

Don’t worry! We didn’t forget about your sneakers. Shoppers rave about how this cleaning kit transformed their old kicks, taking them from looking dirty to “brand new.” It’s designed to work on all washable leathers, as well as vinyl, nubuck, suede, canvas and cloth.

Products to protect your shoes in the winter

Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Proof Spray

What we like
  • Non-aerosol spray application
  • Works on Uggs
Something to note
  • May darken color

Made for: All textured leather shoes, coats, and gloves | Function: Waterproofs, preserves texture

Made to be used on nubuck or leather, this spray promises to provide water repellency while still preserving the texture and breathability of your shoes. Reviewers say they have used it on everything from Ugg boots to Blundstones to help protect their shoes from the elements.

Leather Honey Leather Conditioner

What we like
  • Versatile
  • Only need a quarter-size drop
Something to note
  • Thick formula

Made for: All types and colors of leather | Function: Protects new leather and rejuvenates dry leather and old leather

Before you add the wax, the experts recommend using a cream or conditioner. This bestseller is a top choice among Amazon shoppers with nearly 39,000 five-star ratings. From shoes to leather couches, the formula is said to protect new leather, while rejuvenating dry and old leather products. To apply, the brand recommends putting on a lint-free cloth and coating your shoes in a thin, even layer.

Obenauf's Heavy Duty LP Leather Conditioner

What we like
  • Works on variety of leather
  • Extends life of material
Something to note
  • May darken leather

Made for: Leather, canvas | Function: Rejuvenate, preserve and protect leather, waterproof canvas

Another popular option, this leather preservative was made to provide a natural barrier to protect your shoes from grime and scuffing. The formula is designed to be applied by hand, as it melts when it comes in contact with your skin.

Huberd’s Shoe Grease

What we like
  • Time-tested formula
  • For boots, bags, belts, etc.
Something to note
  • Temporary campfire smell

Made for: Leather | Function: Waterproof and preserve leather

Founded in 1921, Huberd's Shoe Grease has been around for more than 100 years. Featuring beeswax, pine tar and tanning oils, the brand says that the treatment is known for its ability revive leather and extend its lifespan. And it's not just for your shoes! It's designed to be used on other leather goods as well, from purses to gloves.

Woodlore Women’s Shoe Trees

What we like
  • Two-pack
  • Naturally absorb odor
Something to note
  • Don't fit all shoes

Made for: Loafers, pumps, flats and other shoes  | Function: Prolong the life and maintain the life of shoes

Keep your shoes in tip-top shape between wears with these shoe trees. According to the brand, they'll help prolong the life and shape of your loafers, pumps, flats and other quality shoes. They're also designed to absorb moisture, sweat and odor to keep your shoes smelling fresh.

How we chose these products

The Shop TODAY editors and writers search the internet to find the best products out there. For this story, we analyzed shopper reviews and interviewed expert sources to select the top finds.

As an editorial team, we independently create content and determine coverage based on research, reporting and what we think readers would like to read about. The goal of our content is to provide a service and inform readers who are on the hunt for the latest products to help make their life better. Items are sold by retailer, not TODAY. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

Meet the experts

  • Jesper Ingevaldsson is the founder of the blog Shoegazing. Originally founded in 2012, the blog is focused on classic shoes, highlighting shoe care, history and more.
  • Vincent Rao Jr. is the owner of Vince’s Village Cobbler in New York City.