Finding the best leather conditioner for your boots used to require deep forum searches and watching tons of videos.
I know I personally spent hours researching which conditioner works best with a certain kind of leather like Horween Chromexcel.
And then I realized—I’m the boot guy. It’s my responsibility to make this easy.
So I bought 11 of the most popular boot conditioners and tested them on raw pieces of undyed vegetable tanned leather rounds.
You’ll see how much these leather conditioners darken the leather (if at all), and I’ll also show how deep the conditioning is, plus how much weather resistance each conditioner adds.
By the end, you’ll know which leather conditioner is the best for your boots.
How Did I Come Up With My List?
You can watch the entire process of how I tested these leather conditioners above, but I’ll also break it down here so you can skim if you’re short on time.
I bought 11 of the most popular leather conditioners for boots and I applied the conditioner to undyed vegetable tanned leather rounds.
The three biggest factors for deciding a good leather conditioner are:
- Does it darken the leather, and how much?
- How well does it moisturize and soften the leather?
- How much weather resistance does the product add?
My tests are focused on those three factors. I don’t really care too much about the smell (except for with Huberd’s, which has a powerful bacon smell that makes my wife sick, lol).
Ease of application is also somewhat important, but if you’re like me, you’ll go to any lengths to use the best products on your boots.
5 Best Leather Conditioners for Boots
Of the 11 leather conditioners I tested, five really stood out as exceptional. I’ll discuss the conditioners that didn’t make it to my final five picks later, but to make the process of picking the best leather conditioner for your boots, I decided to narrow the options down to only the best.
Best Overall: Venetian Leather Balm
Venetian Leather Balm takes the top prize for the best leather conditioner. In my tests, it had the best balance of deep leather conditioning without changing the color of the leather significantly.
You also get a bit of weather resistance as well from the waxes in the formulation. And depending on how you apply Venetian, you can also bring out a subtle shine in your leather if that’s what you’re after (but you can also keep it matte if that’s your preference).
Best for Waterproofing: Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP
If you don’t care about darkening the leather of your boots and you just want them to be as weather resistant as possible, then Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP is the way to go.
Obenauf’s and Huberd’s Shoe Grease are really close in terms of waterproofing. I found that Huberd’s Shoe Grease softened leather a bit more, while Obenauf’s has a higher wax content and added more weather resistance for longer.
For both of these, I’d only use them on work boots—they darken the leather too much to use on casual or dress boots.
If you’re breaking in new work boots and want to soften them up, Huberd’s might be a better option, but from a purely waterproofing standpoint, Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP does an incredible job and lasts the longest.
Best for Restoring Cracked Leather: Leather Honey
If your leather is seriously beat up and in need of deep conditioning, I’d use Leather Honey. In fact, after I tested Leather Honey on some of my boots, I also used it on a leather ottoman I have that sits next to a window and got really dried out.
Leather Honey is a fitting name, because it has a honey-like texture to it. It darkens the leather somewhat, but I only really recommend Leather Honey on leather that’s in serious need of conditioning.
I like conditioning my boots, so the leather never gets to a point where it’s dried and cracking. However, if you work a job where your boots get wet often, or if you need to clean them several times per month (like if you’re on a farm or work with concrete), then the deep conditioning aspects of Leather Honey might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Overall, I think Leather Honey is best as a leather “restorer” rather than a standard leather conditioner.
Best for Dress Boots: Saphir Renovateur
Saphir Renovateur is expensive and you don’t get much in each bottle. It’s also my favorite leather conditioner for dress boots and exotic leathers.
I use Saphir for dress boots because it conditions similarly to Venetian Leather Balm, but you can work up a greater shine with it.
Normally with my casual boots, I don’t like too much shine anyway, so I actually avoid Saphir on those ones (plus Venetian is much more affordable). But when I’m putting on my dress boots for a wedding or a special occasion, I like to re-condition the leather and bring out as much shine as I can without using polish.
Budget Pick: Bick 4
Bick 4 is a solid leather conditioner, and I mainly like it because it’s so affordable. A bottle costs about the same as the other brands, but you’re getting eight ounces.
It’s not a perfect leather conditioner: it doesn’t get deep into the leather and it adds very little water resistance.
But it’s inexpensive and you can use it on a wide variety of leathers without worrying about darkening the leather at all.
I use Bick 4 sometimes on my cheaper boots when I’ve only worn them a few dozen times and they’re not in serious need of conditioning.
I still mainly use Venetian Leather Balm because it’s going to preserve the leather and extend the life of my boots significantly (which is important when you’ve got a pair of boots that cost $200+).
But if you’re looking for the least expensive leather conditioner while still getting a decent product, then Bick 4 is my recommendation.
6 More Boot Conditioners That Didn’t Make My List
Mink oil is mainly used as a waterproofer for leather. And when I tested mink oil against heavy hitters like Huberd’s Shoe Grease and Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, I found it wasn’t nearly as effective at keeping water from absorbing into leather.
While mink oil works in a pinch, the heavy oil content can also lock moisture in and rot out the stitching in your boots if you’re not careful and don’t fully dry it.
Overall, I just don’t think mink oil is as effective as more wax and tar-heavy formulas for waterproofing, despite the fact that it darkens the leather just as much.
Blackrock Leather ‘N’ Rich
I like Blackrock Leather ‘N’ Rich a lot actually, but to me it falls in a similar category as Venetian Leather Balm and Saphir Renovateur, though I think both of those products do a better job for what they are.
I’m all for using Blackrock on my boots, but I just reach for Venetian more often because of its deeper conditioning, or I’ll opt for Bick 4 for more light duty conditioning.
I don’t recommend Lexol for conditioning boots. I believe Lexol is mainly for conditioning car seats, though I’d still rather use Bick 4 for something like that.
Lexol is thin and watery, and when I tested it on the vegetable tanned leather rounds, it was almost as if I didn’t treat the leather at all.
It performed the worst on my conditioning and weather resistance tests. Though to it’s credit, Lexol doesn’t darken leather.
Cobbler’s Choice doesn’t darken leather and offers solid penetration into the leather. Overall, I find this conditioner sits in the same position as Blackrock Leather ‘N’ Rich: it’s a good product, but it just doesn’t condition as deeply as Venetian Leather Balm.
If you have a bottle: it’s good stuff to use. But if you’re only buying one leather conditioner for your boots, I still think Venetian Leather Balm is the way to go.
Red Wing All Natural Boot Oil
Red Wing All Natural Boot Oil uses pine pitch and mink oil and it does a good job with conditioning.
I think compared to straight mink oil, it’s better for preserving and adding weather resistance. But it falls short in every category compared to other products.
It doesn’t condition like Venetian and it doesn’t waterproof like Obenauf’s. Even for Red Wing Harness leathers, I prefer Venetian. You can see what Venetian looks like on the Red Wing 8111 Iron Ranger Amber Harness in the video below:
Huberd’s Shoe Grease
Huberd’s Shoe Grease is fantastic for adding a weather resistant layer to your boots. But I don’t use it because it gives my wife a crazy headache and smells like old bacon.
A lot of guys actually love the smell—I don’t mind it either way. But even if my wife is gone and I condition my boots in the back yard and wash my hands profusely…she knows.
If that’s not a consideration you care about, I still think Obenauf’s is a slightly better product for water resistance. Obenauf’s is easier to apply and I like the wax content compared to Huberd’s high pine tar content.
You’ll certainly want Obenauf’s over Huberd’s if you’re a woodland firefighter and conditioning boots like Nick’s or White’s—pine tar can be flammable, where wax is less so.
Best Leather Cleaner for Boots
If your boots aren’t super dirty, most of the time a quick conditioning is all they need to look as good as new.
But if you want to give your boots a bath and really clean up the leather, you can use something like saddle soap.
However, if you choose to use a leather soap, you will want to condition the leather as well. Like with all soap, saddle soap strips off oils and waxes, which will leave your boots more susceptible to damage unless you condition the leather.
Fiebing’s Saddle Soap
Fiebing’s is my go-to saddle soap. I’ve also used Kiwi Saddle Soap. Honestly, I can’t tell any difference.
As far as I can tell, saddle soap is saddle soap. The main differences you’re going to see in your leather care set-up are with the boot conditioner.
But if you’re looking for a saddle soap recommendation, Fiebing’s is what I use now and it works well. Check out how I use saddle soap in the video below:
I haven’t talked about cleaning or conditioning suede at all yet. That’s an entirely different topic. But if you’re curious about how to clean suede leather, the best product is Saphir Omnidaim.
I’d only use it if you really need to. Generally, you can clean suede with a brush and a suede eraser only. But if you get oil on your suede, you’ll have to bust out the Omnidaim to get the oil out.
I learned this because I dropped a fat pizza pepperoni on my beautiful suede loafers once and needed to not look terrible for a business meeting the next day.
Happy Cleaning and Conditioning
The leather conditioner I reach for most often is Venetian Leather Balm. It offers the best balance of deep conditioning, weather resistance, and it doesn’t darken leather at all.
If I was going to prep up work boots for a rugged job, I use Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP. It’s mainly a waterproofer—it’s decent with conditioning, but expect it to darken your leather boots permanently.
And if your boots are starting to crack because the leather is so old and worn, try Leather Honey—it darkens the leather, but it’s also the deepest conditioner. That said, I don’t like to use Leather Honey as a regular conditioner—I find Venetian to really be the sweet spot.
How often should you condition your boots? I like to do it every six months or so. I make a day of it.
But depending on how much you beat up your boots, you may want to condition more often than that. Or, if you just wear your boots casually and you want to develop a strong patina, then conditioning more like once a year is a good option.