Someone wrote to me recently and said,
I used conditioner and paste polish on a pair of inherited Vintage Lucchese cowboy boots. I even polished the bottom of the sole. The conditioning or polishing darkened the leather of the sole. Did I lessen the value of the boots?
Well, ummm… you did what? Applied paste wax shoe polish to the soles of cowboy boots?
I worked hard to refrain from saying…
ARE YOU NUTS?
Well, now that I have actually said it here, I did not have to say it in a more polite and cordial reply. This is what I said,
I’m sorry to read that you applied wax shoe polish to soles of boots. Boot soles shouldn’t be polished because it makes them very slippery and dangerous to wear.
I suggest stripping the wax off the soles. You can do that by mixing 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of cream of tartar in a gallon of water. Then use a scrub brush and apply the solution to the boot soles. Allow it to soak in and soften the wax, then use more to scrub it off. That solution will not damage the leather, but make sure when you’re done to rinse with a lot of water, taking care not to get the rest of the boots wet.
Let the boots dry for a few days in a place with good ventilation, but not in direct sunlight.
This process *may* remove some of the pigment that the wax left on the soles, but you probably won’t get all of it off. I can’t say whether it lessened the value of the boots. “Value” is a perception by individuals, not a dollar amount. It lessens their “wearability.”
Okay, lesson learned. Not everyone understands that there are very different kinds of leather used to make cowboy boots.
The leather on the boot shafts (and vamp/foot) can be shined if you want to. But the leather on the sole is made differently, and is not made to be shined or cleaned. Scuffed soles on cowboy boots are not only better for slightly improved traction, but also how they are supposed to be. Do not try to clean or polish the leather on cowboy boot soles. If you think the soles are worn thin, then have them replaced by a cobbler. Cobblers have been replacing soles on cowboy boots for hundreds of years.
Life is short: wear boots!