Footwear Investment Basics: How to Make Sure Your Cowboy Boots Hold Their Appeal

A fine pair of cowboy boots can cost over $12,000, turning simple footwear into a major fashion investment. When you show that much love for your feet, it pays to know how to keep those fancy kickers in top form.

Here's how to keep your cowboy boots in great shape for years to come.

Pamper those boots right from the start.

Quality leather, snakeskin, and alligator hide are simply animal skin, and they're prone to drying out just like your own skin. When you first bring your boots home, it's a good idea to give them a light coating of wax or polish to help them retain their suppleness. This step will also help protect the leather from rain and puddles.

If you wear the boots frequently, when you do store them, the shafts of your cowboy boots (the part that covers your leg) may droop and cause a crease where it folds over. To avoid this crease, use a boot tree that fits inside the shaft and keeps the boots upright while they're in your closet. These boot trees come in antibacterial models that also keep odors to a minimum.

Clean really dirty boots right away.

Cowboy boots were originally designed for rugged activities with huge livestock, so they're not delicate flowers by any means. They can handle romps in the mud and caked-on dust without being ruined, but you do need to clean up messy boots as soon as you get home.

If mud is still wet on the boots, it's okay to let it dry out so you can brush it off more easily. Just don't let boots sit too long, or the mud may start breaking down the leather.

If you don't want to wait for the mud to dry, use a plastic spoon or spatula to scrape it off, using a downward motion so you don't spread mud to the clean areas. Then, use lots of saddle soap and a sponge to scrub the rest of the dirt and grime away (saddle soap has leather-friendly wax and oil in it). When you're done, you don't want to rinse the boots, but you should make sure you wipe away the dirty soap left over after cleaning them thoroughly.

Use a conditioner that matches your boots.

Applying a wax or conditioner to boots after cleaning will keep the leather in good shape. Experts recommend that you condition boots at least every 6 months, especially if you live in an arid region.

Be aware that many conditioners will darken boots. Test a small spot first to see what happens before you condition both boots. If you want to keep lighter-colored boots the same shade, you may want to use only wax and polish in a similar color.

Don't forget the soles, the welts, and the stitching around the soles of the boots. These areas are prone to drying out and appearing old before the boot leather does. There are now special products designed to keep these areas looking like new. Called sole and heel edge dressing, this special polish is the final step to help you keep your boots looking as good as new.