Jun 25, 2021 / Safety Toe Footwear
Are Doc Martens Waterproof?
Dr. Martens' 1460-style boot is an iconic piece of fashion. More commonly known as Doc Martens or Docs, these leather boots are equally suited to getting down to work or going up to a rooftop bar, but one aspect of their construction has dogged fans since their release: Are Doc Martens boots waterproof?
Through meticulous research, we can say for certain that Dr. Martens boots and shoes are definitely kind of waterproof.
This probably wasn’t the answer you were hoping for, so to dig deeper we need to discuss what makes something waterproof, whether Docs meet those standards, and how to ensure your Docs can stand up to water.
Waterproof vs. Water Resistance
When looking for shoes, boots, or other articles of clothing that can stand up to wet weather, you’ll see a few different terms tossed around, like waterproof, water resistant, or water repellent. Each term implies a different level of protection, and it’s important to know what those are:
- Waterproof – No water or moisture should ever penetrate something that’s waterproof. Maybe a drip or a drop here and there, but if you’re wearing a waterproof boot, you should stay mostly dry even if you’re getting hosed down. Most shoes that are waterproof have a breathable membrane built into the architecture that prevents water from reaching your foot even if it manages to soak through the outside material.
- Water-repellent – Items that are water repellent can stand up to a less thorough soaking. Should you be outside during light rain or snow, your water-repellent clothing (if it meets its label claims) stays relatively dry.
- Water-resistant – Maybe it’s sprinkling or you’re splashed by a puddle, but water-resistant apparel should keep you, for the most part, dry. Water resistant items, like normal rain boots, will still cave after long exposure to water, but they’ll be fine in lighter conditions.
Staying Dry in Your Docs
Now that we’ve outlined the three different water-guarding metrics, let’s talk Doc Martens. Most Doc Martens will have a high degree of water resistance. So if you’re walking through puddles or you’re caught in a drizzle, your Doc Martens should be fine under these lighter conditions.
However, if you’re looking to wade through rivers in your 1460s, you’re going to end up with wet feet and damaged leather.
There are a few other factors to consider when questioning your Doc Martens’ ability to withstand the elements. For instance, the water resistance of a particular shoe also depends on its material, and whether it’s been treated with anything that will help it repel water.
Identify and Understand Your Leather
Leather is a generally durable and tough material, and while most leather can withstand a bit of moisture, longer exposure to water can damage it. From a physical perspective, when leather gets wet, the water draws out the natural oils (and whatever oils were applied in the tanning process).
After, it becomes harder, brittle, and can crack in various places.
The standard, iconic 1460-style Dr. Martens are made with smooth leather that is less shiny than the patent leather you might see on dress shoes and stylish categories. It’s also less waterproof but offers a decent amount of water resistance. Again, don’t go wading through any major rivers in them, but if you’re stepping through puddles in your smooth leather then your shoes should withstand the elements.
As fashion trends have evolved, so too have Doc Martens. Today, you’ll probably notice a variety of different styles of Docs crafted from different materials, but all of them have the same Doc Martens dependability.
These materials include but are not limited to:
- Tumbled Leather – Tumbled leather is specially treated to create a gorgeous aesthetic, usually by introducing pebbles into the drum (that the leather is being treated in) along with the dyes and oils. Not only does this soften the leather, it also fortifies its water resistance. Dr Martens boots like the Gilbreth Safety Toe and the classic style Suffolk Chelsea women’s Dr. Martens boots are made with tumbled leather.
- Oiled Leather – Oil leather is tanned using a distinct oil. Typically, oiled leather products are soft in texture and matte in composition. You can shine them with the right polish, or maintain their matte finish with certain waxes. Either way, boots made from this material—like the 1460 Greasy work boot—are resistant to water and moisture.
- Suede – Suede leather has a somewhat fuzzy texture. It’s made by sanding the inside of leather hide, rendering it susceptible to water damage. Your feet should stay dry if you’re caught in the rain, but you’ll want to dry off suede leather as quickly as possible. Fortunately, water-repellant sprays can do wonders for suede (more on this below).
- Nubuck – Nubuck leather is also made by sanding down a specific part of the hide, specifically the outside layer.4 It’s thicker, more durable, and less susceptible to water damage than suede, but it’s recommended that you apply a water-repellent spray or waterproof treatment to fortify its resistance.
- Crazy Horse Leather – Some Docs—like the 1460 Gaucho Boot—are made with crazy horse leather, which is a type of leather popular for its durability and aging cycle. It’s made by treating full-grain cowhide leather that’s been buffed and smoothed with a special wax. As it’s handled, the leather absorbs oils from the skin (lending it its pattern). Crazy horse leather is strong, durable, and highly water-resistant.
As you can tell by these materials, your Doc Martens—while not being overtly waterproof—are typically going to be water-resistant. This means that, unless you’re buying suede, even without any leather sprays, you shouldn’t have to worry about light rains, a bit of moisture, or walking through puddles.
Just What the Doc Ordered
Because Doc Martens aren’t completely waterproof, it’s important that you treat your shoes with the appropriate products.
To that end, for smooth and darker leather, we recommend treating your boots with Dr. Martens’ Wonder Balsam Shoe Protector Wax. This is a combination of natural and synthetic waxes that keep your shoes smooth and supple. You can even apply it to the inside of the boot in order to soften the leather, seeing as they can be quite stiff to begin with.
You can also apply Dr. Martens’ Dubbin Wax to oiled and waxed leather for an extra layer of protection against wet weather. Prior to usage, ensure your shoes are spotless. When applying, use a clean cloth to cover the entire surface area. Then, work the wax into the seams.
For lighter leathers and suede, there are sprays available that form a layer of protection against moisture. At Boot World, we recommend Bridgeview Burleigh Water Repellant. There’s no residue, it’s safe for the environment, and you can use it across nearly every leather product.
Can Doc Martens Become Waterproof?
When answering Are Dr. Martens Waterproof?, the answer isn’t straightforward. While Doc Martens are certainly water-resistant, it would be folly to consider them waterproof.
In order for a pair of shoes to be waterproof, they need to have a breathable membrane constructed into the material itself. And if the shoe contains a waterproof breathable membrane, you’ll still need to care for the leather to ensure its longevity.
As we mentioned, darker, smoother leathers will be the most water-resistant, but every leather profile can be treated to protect against aging, wear and tear, and the elements. By utilizing waxes designed to soften and maintain dark leather, or you using spray-on water repellents to fortify delicate leather, you can at least bolster your shoe’s overall protectiveness.
The Durability of Doc Martens 1460 Ankle Boots
Our last note on the topic is geared toward Doc Martens 1460 Ankle Boots. While this is a subject that’s up for debate, many boot enthusiasts claim this product is Doc Martens’ one-and-only waterproof option.
Given the durability of the genuine leather shoes, some customers claim they can withstand heavy rains or water for up to half an hour, but it likely boils down to how the boot leather is treated, the age of the boots, and whether or not there’s a waterproof breathable membrane installed.
However, if you’re trying to orient your Doc Martens boot search, the 1460 Ankle Boots should be at the top of your list.
Boot World: You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Boots
Here at Boot World, we don’t just want to answer all your questions regarding footwear, we want to point you to the right product. If you’re looking for a new pair of boots, then you’ve come to the right place.
Not only is our collection robust, but it’s also versatile. From safety footwear, slip-resistant footwear, to motorcycle footwear, we have boots across all categories. Just like Doc Martens, our dedication to our customers is one of our guiding principles.
Additionally, we answer more questions similar to the one that prompted this blog, like, “Are Doc Martens Non Slip?”, “How to Clean Doc Martens?”, or “Do Doc Martens Run Big or Small?”. We also provide resources for employers trying to create safer workspaces, and we’re the one-stop-shop for everything boot related.
Welcome to Boot World.
- Triple F.A.T. Goose “WATERPROOF VS WATER RESISTANT VS WATER REPELLENT: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?”
- Buffalo Jackson Trading Co. “HOW TO REPAIR LEATHER AFTER BEING LEFT IN THE RAIN”
- Wisegeek “What is Tumbled Leather?”
- Pedag “Smooth leather, suede leather & Co.”
- Haxford. “YOU’VE BEEN HEARING ABOUT IT, BUT WHAT IS CRAZY HORSE LEATHER?”
Ed Stone brings over 45 years of footwear knowledge and passion to his role as President of Boot World, a family-owned company and an industry leader in safety and occupational footwear. A second generation "shoe dog” Ed's footwear knowledge is unparalleled, serving as an informal advisor for some of the worlds largest footwear brands including Wolverine, Timberland PRO, and Reebok Works.
A lifelong Southern California resident, and ardent conservationist, Ed enjoys hiking and open water swimming.