How To Take Care of Leather Shoes

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, gentlemen, but your shoes are one of the first things a woman notices when she looks at you. Not only that, but a sweet pair o’ kicks are essential in completing that dapper look you’ve been refining for so long. So it’s definitely in your best interest to take care of your shoes and get the most life out of them.

Some General Tips

First off, it pays to invest in quality. Cheap shoes are made with cheap materials and you won’t get much mileage out of them. A good pair of leather dress shoes can run from $100 to $500, or even more, but that’s money well spent.

You also shouldn’t wear the same pair of shoes every day. Have a rotation going so you don’t burn through your soles in record setting time. There’s a shoe for every occasion, so you shouldn’t be wearing the same thing at all events.

Shoes Grow on Trees

Pretty much any decent shoe store will sell shoe trees, and you’ll want to have these on hand when you take off your shoes at the end of the day. A cedar shoe tree is best as it will absorb moisture and offensive odours as well as maintain the natural shape of the shoe. Avoid varnished shoe trees as the finish contains chemicals which your shoe leather might not like, and they won’t have the same absorbent ability.

Waterproof It

When you first buy a pair of leather shoes, clean them with a warm, damp sponge. Then, apply a waterproofing spray. This is essential, and a bottle of waterproofing spray should only cost around $10-$12. You’ll need to reapply the spray every six months or so to maintain the sealant layer.

If your shoes are soaking wet when you get home, stuff them with newspaper. This will absorb the moisture and fill out the shape of the shoe. Stuff new paper in there as needed.

Never place your shoes near a heat source. The heat will dry the leather and cause it to crack. Once that happens, there is no way of saving them.

Natural Fixes

Salt stains are the bane of leather shoes everywhere, especially in winter time. When these ghastly white marks besmirch your kicks you need to clean them off ASAP. If you don’t, they could cause permanent damage. To banish salt stains back from whence they came, try mixing some water with vinegar at a ratio of 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 water, and dab with a clean cloth.

To maintain the leathers natural shine, you can use a small amount of petroleum jelly. Simply apply with a clean, dry cloth and you’re good to go.

Wax n’ Polish

Of course, you can use shoe polish to clean your shoes and maintain their shiny lustre as well. Some experts recommend using cream polishes for this, as they are easy to apply. Coloured waxes, Murphy’s Oil Soap, and Saddle Soap are also great for polishing your kicks. Just avoid anything with detergents and acids as that stuff will be hard on the material.

Mink oil is another great product for fixing salt damage. I used some on some stubborn salt stains once and was very relieved to see it did the job perfectly. It was as though the stains were never there in the first place.

There are a couple tools you might want to invest in:

  • Welt brush – This is a small brush that resembles a toothbrush. Use it to clean the welt of your shoe. That is the area where the sole attaches to the upper part of the shoe. A lot of dirt can get trapped in this little crevice.
  • Soft bristle brush – You’ll need this for suede shoes. Suede is basically just modified leather, but is its own monster when it comes to cleaning. Use a soft bristle brush on leather shoes as well to apply the finishing touches.
  • Suede eraser – This is a crumbly rubber block used for cleaning suede. Just gently rub it across your suede to remove scuffs and dirt.

Ya Gotta Have Sole

Inevitably, the soles of your shoes will wear out. But when they start to get ragged, you don’t necessarily have to throw them away and buy new shoes. Send them back to the manufacturer for replacements, or find a good cobbler and have him do the job. It will certainly be cheaper than buying new shoes.

Another thing you can look at is having taps installed in your soles. These attach to the front and rear heel of your shoe and give you a little more cushioning, and therefore help preserve your soles. A cobbler can do this for a price, but they typically don’t cost much at all.

Walk On

Dress shoes are a worthwhile investment, and must be treated as such. A little extra time and money spent on maintenance will go a long way in making sure your shoes stay shiny as you walk the Earth, wherever you go.

Chris Riddell is a freelance writer from Toronto who covers art, business, and urban life for various fine publications. Also a poet and aspiring novelist, he’s busting his butt trying to get his name into a few literary magazines these days. He encourages you to check out his website for a look at what he’s been working on lately.

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