NOTE: This guide is for the man or woman who is looking for a shoe protection guide for all seasons: when it’s wet out, when the snow gets deep and slush puddles accumulate. I’ve found these tips especially helpful for professional / dapper gents who like fully welted leather shoes. Four strategies, from a good coating of shoe polish to full-blown snowshoe overboots.

Those of us living in the northeast United States have been spoiled the past two years, enjoying relatively warm, relatively snow-free winters. Many of us have become naively complacent, thinking that the sunny days will never end.

Well, guess what?

Mother Nature is back with a vengeance, and 2014 has brought near-apocalyptically sloppy weather. What’s worse? The season shows no signs of stopping (as the song goes). Under these conditions, one wouldn’t be out of line to sacrifice form for function and live in snowshoes for the next few months. But do we have to? Must we shelve our beautiful dress shoes, for fear of their ruination?

Leather Dress Shoes Destroyed By Snow and Salt

Learn how to avoid this…RIP favorite brown shoes!

Winter Weather Shoe Survival Guide

Plastic bags covering shoes

Last resort = plastic bags when getting caught out on an English farm. Thanks H&M!

I say to you today, “NO.” I need not fear the weather; in many cases, I can wear my favorite dress shoes and protect them from the snow and slush. I’ve developed four strategies to combat atmospheric disturbances, each with its own pros and cons. Depending on your needs, and the situation at hand, one will surely work for you.

 Abstain – Leave ‘Em

The greatest way to protect your best shoes is to leave them out of the snow game entirely. Leave them at home or, better yet, at the office. That way, you won’t have to expose them to the elements, but you can still look dapper when it counts.

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This strategy is all well and good for some people. But if you’re like me and need to travel for meetings, this option isn’t ideal.  Here are some other possibilities to explore…

Brown shoes getting polishedTreat – Pre & Post

If the snow has become compact, you can probably get away with just giving your shoes a good ol’ fashioned polish and clean. If they do get wet, don’t force dryness upon them: just fill them with wads of newspaper, or use a good pair of untreated cedar shoe trees.

The essential danger here results from leather’s porousness. Any wax or polish, no matter the quality, will eventually break down after repeated exposure to moisture. And the degradation of this coating exposes the shoe’s leather to the elements. Once exposed, the leather will absorb water, along with anything that’s in it like salts and dirt (to see what mineral exposure can do to a good pair of leather shoes, check the above picture).

Sacrifice – Rubberize

You could also sacrifice the joy of wearing your best shoes, and opt for a cheap, but viable, alternative.

I’ve resorted to wearing some fairly good-looking shoes that have (slim) rubber soles, when it’s just not practical to wear overshoes or treat my really nice pairs every five minutes. These shoes can be found at the likes of ASOS.com for around $50-60. It’s better than dunking $600 oxfords in an ice bath!

Cover – Protection & Traction

An option I like a lot is using overshoes (also know as galoshes). These are good when it’s actually snowing, and / or, it’s a little sloppy out. They’re also great for potentially dangerous, slippery situations because they usually have a rubber tread that grips the ice underfoot.

I have these Tingley Storm overshoes from Amazon. They cost $30 and the XXL’s cover my 13EEE shoes fine.  Rubber overshoe covering a black oxford

They also offer a good amount of traction, compared to a slick leather sole.

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Tread on sole of rubber overshoe

Lastly, you can carry a simple plastic bag(s) with you to cover your overshoes when you have taken them off while inside. They fold up fairly small and fit into most overcoat pockets for storage.

Foot Width

I tested several overshoes from different manufacturers. If you have a very narrow foot, the Tingleys may prove too lose. The Totes Overshoe may be a better option as they come up much narrower.

Best Option When The Snow & Slush Gets Deep

All of the aforementioned methods are useless if the slush goes well over your ankle. In New York and Philly, slush accumulates at cross walks; its a total mess. In these conditions, I opt for my MONSTER, totally-bulletproof option: full overboots, with metal studs for ultimate traction.

Full snow shoe overboot

As with the smaller overshoes, I fully tested several options. Pictured above is the Honeywell NEOS Overshoe ($80 – 120), my personal favorite. I took them through a real crash course, dunking my feet in deep slush puddles well past my ankles, and generally being a little kid about it. No moisture came through, not one drop.

Overshoes in snow and slush getting tested

Whether you’re trying to protect your dress shoes, or just want to get around safely, these babies offer the ultimate in winter protection. I tested the shoes from the pictures above on my way to the gym; it was pretty slippery, and the metal studs offered great traction.

Let Me Know Your Strategies

Personally, I use all four strategies depending on my particular needs and the day’s conditions. Hopefully, I’ve given you a few new ideas for protecting your dancers. Let me know if you have any other methods in the comments below…

About the Author:

Paul Anthony is the founder and creative director at Bespoke Unit. He has had a life long affair with design, watches, fragrance and clothing. Originally from England, he now lives in the USA splitting time between NYC & Philly. Favoring "British Style", but has an overall eclectic taste.

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