Last Updated on November 6, 2023 by Martina McKeough
If you are thinking about buying nubuck leather boots or shoes to wear in autumn or winter you understandably want to know how they will hold up in wet weather. Is nubuck leather waterproof or water-resistant or do you need to buy footwear made from a different material to keep your feet dry?
Here’s everything you need to know about nubuck leathers and their water resistance.
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Is Nubuck Waterproof?
Nubuck leather shoes and boots are not typically waterproof which is a problem if you are planning to buy a pair that you can use in the wetter and colder months of the year.
This is because nubuck is a type of leather that has been buffed to create a softer velvety texture. The buffing that creates this velvety surface makes the Nubuck leather more susceptible to water and staining than shoes and boots made from high-quality full-grain leather.
Nubuck leather does however have a certain amount of water resistance which means it can withstand a little water. Too much water however and the moisture will eventually soak into the material and eventually make your feet wet.
Water resistance can be increased with specialist waterproofing sprays which help to form a protective barrier on the surface of your footwear. These will not make your nubuck leather boots and shoes waterproof but they will be able to withstand more moisture making them more wearable in wet weather.
Even though typically nubuck leather is not as good as full-grain leather for waterproofing there are some exceptions to the rule.
Can Nubuck Get Wet?
Is Nubuck leather waterproof? Well, whilst nubuck leather generally isn’t waterproof there are some footwear manufacturers who have overcome the problem and created some amazing boots and shoes that do work in all weathers and which are fully waterproof.
This is because, during the manufacturing process, they have used special treatments or additional materials to make their footwear fully waterproof.
This means that if you want waterproof nubuck leather you are going to need to research each style made by shoe manufacturers to see if you can buy boots or shoes that work for your needs.
Waterproof Nubuck Shoes and Boots
To make it a little easier I had a look to see what brands use nubuck leather in their ranges to see if there were more durable styles that could work in wetter conditions.
My first choice however didn’t take any research at all because my husband owns a pair of them and they are Timberland boots.
Timberland famously makes a huge range of nubuck boots that have that soft feel of suede but are capable of withstanding more challenging wet weather.
Not all of their styles are fully waterproof but most of their boots are very durable and highly water resistant.
A great example of some nubuck leather waterproof boots are these Timberland Pro Boots.
These are a great example of how a footwear brand as taken a material that is not inherently waterproof and created some boots that can not only cope with wet weather but keep your feet warm as well.
These are made from waterproof leather that has been seam-sealed to stop water from seeping into your feet. They also have Thermonlite insulation to help keep your feet warm when you are working outside.
As an added bonus they are also made with a breathable moisture-wicking lining to stop your feet from becoming sweaty.
As well as making their standard boots they also sell nubuck hiking boots which are also waterproof.
If you have ever been hiking you know that walking boots have to deal with the very worst weather and the toughest of terrains. Therefore it is remarkable how they have been able to make nubuck leather shoes cope with these extreme conditions.
This is mainly because they are made the boots with a waterproof membrane which is able to keep your feet dry. The gusseted tongue of the boots helps to stop stones and other debris away from your feet as well.
These are also supposed to be super comfortable as well which makes them really easy to wear when you are walking long distances.
Whilst Timberland are renowned for nubuck shoes and boots there are plenty of other brands that use the material. Sorel for example makes their nubuck leather waterproof on some styles which means you can happily wear them when the weather is bad.
These Sorel Hi-Line Boots are waterproof and designed for hiking in bad weather. This proves nubuck leather can be adapted for wet weather if the manufacturer wants.
The only thing I will say is that when you want waterproof nubuck leather footwear you are more likely going to pay more for the privilege.
Water-Resistant Only – SUREWAY 6” Nubuck Work Boots for Men
Is nubuck leather waterproof? Well in this case no.
I added these boots to show that there are plenty of boots that look like Timberland or Sorel that are on the market that can be worn as work or fashion boots but that don’t have the waterproofing.
These are water-resistant but do not claim to be waterproof which means that they aren’t really suitable to wear for outside work in all weathers.
Note the price of these is significantly cheaper than the other known brands. As with anything in life, you get what you pay for.
What Is Nubuck Leather?
So what exactly is nubuck leather and why is it so distinctive?
Generally, nubuck leather shoes and boots use top-grain leather that has been sanded on the grain side which then gives it that velvety look. Typically nubuck looks a little bit like suede but with an even softer texture.
People like nubuck because it is a great flexible material, it’s naturally breathable and it is distinctive and looks a bit different from the norm.
Whilst nubuck has some advantages it also has its downsides and that is it is more likely to stain and get water damage than other types of leather.
As I’ve shown nubuck can be waterproofed but if you are buying standard shoes or boots using the material it makes sense to use protective sprays to keep it looking good.
Nubuck Leather Waterproofing Is Really Water Resistance
To make nubuck leather durable it makes sense to use products to help improve protection.
Whilst Timberland, Sorel and some other manufacturers have made their products fully waterproof plenty haven’t which means you may need to use waterproofing spray on your nubuck shoes or boots.
I should point out that even though you are buying a waterproofing spray you are only really making your shoes water-resistant. These sprays can really help keep your footwear looking good but if they aren’t waterproof when you bought them a spray isn’t going to be able to change this.
To do this firstly clean your Nubuck with a soft brush or suede brush to get rid of any dirt or grime that may already be on your footwear.
Then choose a waterproofing spray that is suitable for nubuck and suede. I always test a small area of my shoes or boots first to make sure the product doesn’t discolor the material. You need to let the spray dry before deciding to use it on the whole area of your footwear.
If the waterproofing spray hasn’t caused a problem apply it to the entire surface of your shoes or boots. Don’t use too much and keep the can about 6-8 inches away from your shoes as you are spraying.
Allow your footwear to dry fully away from direct heat or sunlight before wearing. Once your footwear is dry you can gently brush it again to restore the nap of the nubuck.
It’s worth noting that most waterproofing sprays will need to be used regularly to keep your shoes and boots looking good as they wear off.
Can Nubuck Get Wet?
If you do get caught out in heavy rain or you accidentally step in a puddle you probably want to know if you have ruined your shoes, Is nubuck water resistant enough to withstand this or are you going to have a problem?
The fact is nubuck shoes and boots can get wet but they are more likely to soak up water than top-grain leather shoes. Plus I don’t know where you live but I know the rain in the UK isn’t pristine pure water but is full or dirt and grime because it hits the ground and splashes on your immaculate footwear.
Nubuck stains and can discolor because of this which means using a waterproofing spray can really help to repel the dirty water so your shoes and boots look good for longer. Obviously, if you have bought a pair of waterproof nubuck shoes you are going to have less of a problem.
If your footwear does get wet:
Blot the excess water with a clean cloth. Don’t rub otherwise you will end up smearing dirt and grime over your shoes.
Let your shoes dry naturally without a heat source because too much heat can cause the leather to crack.
I tend to stuff my boots and shoes with clean paper towels if they are wet so that the moisture inside the shoe is mopped up. The paper also helps to keep the shape of my shoes. Where possible avoid using newspapers if the newsprint comes off on your hands as that can also ruin your shoes.
If your footwear is dry use a suede brush to restore the texture of your shoes by brushing them in the direction of the nap.
If you have followed my earlier advice you will have bought a protector spray which you can use to repel water in the future. I would also advise you to clean them after every use so dirt and grime don’t get the chance to create stains.
Storing Your Shoes Properly
People always ask is nubuck leather waterproof when they think about wearing their shoes outside in the rain or even the snow but what about the moisture you can find inside?
The fact is that shoes including nubuck ones can get moldy if they encounter moisture inside your house and aren’t looked after properly.
Mold and mildew can develop on shoes and other materials if the conditions are damp and humid. Mold loves this type of environment and if you don’t have sufficient air circulation in your storage area you could be in for a nasty shock.
To stop your footwear from going moldy you need to:
- Keep Them Dry: If your shoes do get wet make sure they are completely dry before thinking about storing them in a closet. You need to dry them in a well-ventilated area.
- Allow for Air Circulation: After wearing your shoes, allow them to air out in a well-ventilated area. This helps to reduce moisture build-up inside the shoes.
- Use Shoe Trees: Shoe trees may seem a little old-fashioned but ones made from cedar wood can help to absorb moisture as well as help keep your shoe shape.
- Store Shoes Properly: Store your nubuck shoes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and excessive humidity. It’s a good idea to use a shoe storage bag or box to protect them from dust and humidity. If your closet is too humid you can buy devices to help reduce the humidity and prevent mold.
- Conduct Regular Maintenance: Clean and brush your nubuck shoes regularly to remove dirt and dust. If you notice any signs of mold or mildew, address the issue promptly.
If your nubuck shoes do develop mold or mildew, here’s how you should tackle it.
Firstly make sure you brush off any surface mold with a brush in the direction of the nap. If you are sensitive to mold make sure you do this outside and wear a mask if you really suffer from an allergy to it.
If you have a nubuck cleaner use that if not use a mixture of white vinegar and water (50% of each) can work if you use it with caution. Just dab a clean soft cloth into the solution and dab the problem areas. Use the mixture sparingly and stop if you see it is impacting the color of the nubuck.
When you have removed everything get a clean damp cloth and wipe away the cleaning product and then let your shoes dry naturally.
Use a protector spray to inhibit future mold growth and look carefully at where you are storing your footwear to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again.
All Nubuck Leather Footwear Is Different
So is Nubuck leather waterproof? Well, the answer is it will depend.
Generally, the material isn’t however premium brand shoe manufacturers have found ways to make fully waterproof nubuck shoes that you can wear in the rain without them getting ruined.
For cheaper styles, you can create some water resistance with a water protector spray but it won’t make them fully waterproof.
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