Taking care of ones leather footwear can seem daunting but it does not have to be. What you need is some basic tools, and the discipline to make the caring of your footwear a routine. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much longer your footwear will last with monthly maintenance of your regularly worn shoes and boots.
In The Red Pair we sell two different product lines for shoe care, Walter's and Tana. I like Walter's because this is a Canadian business, and has a weather guard that is superior. Tana has a great shoe stretch product that I recommend for footwear that needs some room to cure those pinchy shoes. ( I also just invested into a calf stretcher, so if you need a boot stretched out in either the instep or the calf, I now am able to do this for you. ) Both brands are excellent, and I would not hesitate to buy either. Here is what I have in my shoe tool box at home:
Weather guard, neutral shoe polish, shoe conditioning cream, waterproofing, suede leather brush, leather and suede cleaner, and shoe stretch.
Weather guard can be used on all leathers, and even a lot of other fabrics (read the label of each individual companies product). Weather guard sprays on the boot or shoe to protect against dirt, liquid spills, salt, snow, and rain. It does not make your leathers waterproof though, I find that some customers believe that weather guards are a waterproofing system. Weather guard, if used consistently (once a month is a good rule of thumb) will make your leathers water resistant (meaning walking in the rain will be ok, but jumping in puddles is not). To waterproof your footwear, you need products such as mink oil, Sno-seal and Nikwax. These products will darken most leathers, so please if you do not want to change the colour of your footwear, be very cautious in using them, consider weather guard instead. There may be a waterproofing systems out there that do not darken leather, but I am unaware of them.
Shoe polish keeps your leathers looking new longer. They also help keep your leather shoes and handbags soft and supple, protecting them from cracking. A shine sponge is a simple way to apply polish, and it takes a few moments to do this. I have one shoe sponge just at the front door to buff out my boots and or shoes on my way out; then I do a deep conditioning once every two months. Do not be afraid to do your suedes as well, unless the product you are using warns you not to. If you are going to do suede, have a suede brush on hand too. Suede need to be brushed after being conditioned.
Waterproofing is a bigger process. I carry Sno-seal in the shop (and can get liquid mink oil if you request it). Waterproofing full grain leathers need a day. The shoe needs to be completely dry. I suggest to people that they put their shoes near a heat source over night (not too close, you do not want to dry out the leather or worst melt the sole). Then when the leather is still warm, apply the waterproofing. Dry leather will drink up quickly and in this case do not be stingy on the amount you put on. After the boot dries out for at least a couple of hours you will notice residue left behind. Just buff this out with a clean absorbent cloth (you can get shine cloths).
Then there is shoe stretch. If you have any footwear that is too narrow and or you need some extra room for your bunions, shoe stretch is a must. Saturate the problem area, and wear the shoe while standing, or put in a shoe stretch. This product works wonders! You might have to use it a couple of times to get the desired stretch, and leather can have a bit of a memory.
Hope this helps!