There are a great number of shoe/boot care products to choose from. Knowing what products to use on which type of shoe or boot can be useful. But, to do this, we have to have some understanding about the leather to which we are applying the products.
First there are different types of cow leather, but for the sake of care there are really only a few differences to consider, but these differences are based on a number of factors; these factors include methods of how the leather was stuffed in the tanning process (fat liquored, hot stuffed, wet stuffed).
There is also the direction of the leather (grain out versus flesh out), and the finish on the leather such as full aniline, semi-aniline, and corrected grain, as well as the amount and ratio of oils and waxes stuffed into the leather.
When I mention corrected grain I am referring to bookbinder type leather where there is a substantial acrylic finish (this includes patent leather).
There are also the differences in the material type to consider. Calf is typically going to be thinner and have a tighter grain than other leather. Shell cordovan is really not grained leather like cow, but rather a subdermal sheath from the butt of a horse, and is treated like hot stuffed flesh out leather.
Pull up leather is grain out hot stuffed with a higher concentration of oils and waxes than that used in the fat liquoring for calf and other leathers. The extra waxes and oils are what give the leather its pull up effect and casual look.
Exotic skins do not have a grain so to speak, but rather plates or scales and don’t really have much of a corium (where the majority of conditioning oils reside in leather), and as such does not benefit much from conditioning.
And finally, there is the general difference in leather thickness used for various applications, as in thicker leather for work boots and thinner leather for dress/business shoes.
In regard to shoe care products, there is an assortment of types with different purposes:
The most common and most widely known is paste polish, also known as wax polish. Then there is cream polish, which is softer and serves a slightly different purpose. The liquid polish found in the plastic bottles with a sponge applicator should never be used.
Next is the various types of weather proofing, from heavy wax to heavy oils. This can also include silicone sprays for both grained leather and suede. I believe silicone should be avoided whenever possible.
With these considerations in mind, I believe the following is applicable for leather care:
In general I would suggest a quality cream shoe polish (like GlenKaren Cream Polish) for most leathers, even exotics.
Products like SnoSeal which are mostly beeswax (and very thick) are good for helping weatherproof thicker boot leather (to include pull up boot Leather), but would tend to smother thinner shoe leather.
I would not recommend shoe care products high in oils (dubbin, Obenauf’s, etc…) on calf skin, thinner leather, exotic leathers, cordovan shell, or corrected grain. Pastes and creams work best on these types of shoes. The thicker leather of work boots can accommodate the higher levels of oil, which also helps in moisture protection.