How to Care for Your Shoes

For some reason it's men who are all-over the knowledge of shoe care. Well ladies, it's time to claim some of that space. Here's the Working Girl Press comprehensive guide to looking after your shoes.

1. Polish your shoes

Not only does it make them shiny and clean again, polishing your shoes protects the leather from splitting, so your shoes last longer.

Click here to watch Mr Fitzpatrick work up a shine

Click here to watch Mr Fitzpatrick work up a shine

Mr Porter has the ultimate video on how to polish your shoes, from Justin Fitzpatrick, an artisinal shoe polisher at Geives and Hawkes on Saville Row.

You'll need:

1. A welt brush or cloth to clean the shoe (Horsehair welt brush, USD$7)

2. A leather conditioner (Mink Oil renovator, GBP13 or Saphir Renovator, USD$21.95)

3. Polish (the absolute best is Saphir Medaille d'Or Shoe polish, USD$9.95)

3. Brush to apply the polish (use a black-bristled brush for dark polish and a light-bristled brush for light polish, so you don't get mixed up, USD$24)

4. An old cotton rag to buff the shine (like an old t-shirt)

5. Water

2. Alternate your shoes

Your shoes will last longer if you don't wear the same pair two days in a row. As gross as it sounds, your shoes get a little damp after you wear them. A day of rest gives it time to dry out and ward off mold and other bad things that happen to damp shoes.

3. Use shoe trees

Wooden shoe trees help in two ways (1) they help absorb moisture from your shoe and (2) they keep the inside last from curling upwards, which it can do if it's damp. When the last curls upwards this can put a strain on the seams of the shoe.

You only need one or two pairs of shoe tress to slip in the shoes you've just worn.

Get unvarnished cedar wood trees, like the ones from Woodlore (USD$24). The varnished ones look good but don't absorb the moisture.

4. Shoe Storage

My Rakks shoe shelves

My Rakks shoe shelves

I like to keep my shoes on a shelf, using a bookshelf system called Rakks. This keeps them from sitting on top of each other, and I can see them all at once. Rakks is also fully adjustable so you can make the shelves tall for boots and short for flats.

5. Traveling with Shoes

When traveling, stuff your shoes with stockings or a t-shirt to stop them from getting crushed. Then, put each shoe in its own shoe bag or they will scratch each other. 

6. Resole regularly

Resoling your shoes really prolongs their life. I've resoled some of my shoes more than 10 times! Resole before you work through the current sole, and do both sides, even if one side is more worn, so that you don't have a lopsided walk.

High-end shoes like Louboutins have ridiculously thin soles, so I get a rubber sole put on them even before I wear them. It does seem a shame to stick a rubber sole onto the nice, shiny red leather, but a good cobbler, like Hector's Shoe Repair in the West Village, NYC can match it with a red rubber sole.

7. Protect the Toes

Taps on the ends of shoes stop toe scuffs

Taps on the ends of shoes stop toe scuffs

If you tend to scuff your toes, you can ask your cobbler to attach "taps" or "toe protectors" to the very tips of your soles.

8. Caring for Shoes in Winter

Shoes that get very wet should be stuffed with newspaper and left to dry away from direct heat. Replace the newspaper regularly.

To get rid of white salt marks, use a damp cloth. If that's not enough, try a bit of vinegar on the cloth.

9. Stilettos - how to wear them so they don't snap

High heels get a beating on city streets. Here are things I've learnt through trial-and-error to make my heels last longer:

a) Don't lean on your stiletto heel when you're on an escalator - the point can get stuck in the metal ridges and you'll have to yank it out. Scary.

b) I used to sit and put my legs out straight and crossed, leaning on the heel. THIS IS NOT GOOD. My heels eventually snapped. A stiletto heel can take downwards weight very well, but putting stress across the heel is a no no no no no!

If your heel does snap, then thank your shoes for the time you've spent together and throw them out. Do not repair them. I have done this and they snapped again 2 months later. Sadness all over again...

Don't sit like this!

Don't sit like this!

10. Canvas Shoes

Click to watch Martha clean canvas shoes

Click to watch Martha clean canvas shoes

Martha Stewart has an excellent video on cleaning canvas shoes. She says:

Before you wear your canvas shoes, remove the shoe laces and spray them with Scotchguard.

If they get stained, you can use Shout stain remover, sprayed on the dirt, and then rinsed with warm water.

11. Suede Shoes

Brush your suede shoes with a suede shoe brush (USD$8). These are extremely heavy-duty and you are supposed to brush with vigor to restore the nap and remove dirt.

If your suede shoes need more thorough cleaning, then check out this excellent tutorial from The Hanger Project, where Kirby gives his suede boots a good clean, with before and after photos. He also sells everything you need to do it.

12. Patent Leather Shoes

Again from The Hanger Project is a step-by-step guide on how to clean patent leather shoes with the patent leather cleaner, Saphir Venus Rife (USD$15). If it's good enough for Grenson opera pumps, it's good enough for your shoes.

13. Knee-High Boots

Don't use colored polish past the ankles of knee-high boots, or your friends will hate you when you sit on their white couches.

When you store boots, use a boot tree or just rolled up cardboard or a magazine to keep them upright.

14. Satin Shoes

You can take your satin shoes to your dry cleaner. If you'd like to try cleaning them yourself, try these steps, courtesy of the Tango Rouge Ballroom Blog and the Vogue Australia Forum

1. Brush off dirt and dust with a dry microfiber cloth. This part is important otherwise you'll just rub more dirt into your shoe

2. With a clean, damp cloth, blot the stain, don't rub. 

3. If you still have a stain, then use a very small amount of soap and repeat with the blotting. When the stain is removed, then use a damp cloth to remove all the soap, otherwise it can leave a residue.

4. Dry with a clean cloth using a blotting motion.

15. Velvet shoes

Before you wear velvet shoes, spray them with a protector. Chronicles of the Shoe Squirrel recommends Kiwi Protect All ($USD4) which says it can be used on all dry-clean only material. Note that Scotchgard specifically says that it can't be used on velvet.

Even with a protective spray, getting velvet wet is a big no-no.

To clean velvet, hopefully all you need to do is brush it with a toothbrush or a suede brush. If it does get muddy, my Italian girlfriend says you can wait for the mud to dry and then brush it off.

Do you have any tips and tricks for looking after shoes that I've missed? Let me know in the comments! This post will be updated and comprehensive so that readers can use it as a resource.


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