Look after your shoes and they'll look after youImage source: Nejron Photo
Take good care of your leather shoes by keeping them clean and in good repair. In this guide we give you all the information you need to care for leather and suede shoes – how to clean them, how to dry them and how to preserve your shoes so you can continue to enjoy wearing them for years to come.
The only shoes with any real longevity are those with soles and heels you can replace. Goodyear welting is a special way of machine-stitching the sole to the upper through a welt – a sacrificial strip of leather that runs around the edge of the shoe. It means the soles are quick and simple for a skilled cobbler to replace when they wear out.
Often people associate Goodyear welting with leather-soled formal shoes, but any quality shoe or boot can feature this type of sole. You'll find plenty of hard-wearing shoes and boots with Dainite and non-slip rubber soles
Choose quality shoes with a Goodyear welted sole that can be repaired and replacedImage source: Samuel Windsor
It's inevitable that your leather shoes or boots will get wet from time to time, but you must dry them correctly or, no matter how well-made, they'll crack and curl. The key is to dry your shoes slowly at room temperature, away from heat sources like fires and radiators. Direct heat will make the leather shrink and crack.
First remove mud and dirt from the leather, then stuff your shoes with newspaper before placing them on a sheet of paper somewhere where there's room for the air to circulate around them. Once your shoes are dry, insert shoe trees to help maintain their shape – but don't do it while they're wet or you'll stretch the leather. Want to protect your shoes from future water damage? Read our ‘How to waterproof leather shoes' article for helpful tips.
Dry wet leather shoes slowly at room temperatureImage source: Brogues from Samuel Windsor
First, remove any dried-on dirt with a stiff brush, and give your shoes a wipe with a damp cloth. Salt stains? Just mix one part white vinegar to two parts water, and using a cotton wool ball, swab the unsightly marks away before allowing to dry and applying a good quality shoe polish. If a dull shine is all you need, dip the end of your “wax-on” brush in your shoe polish, dab it onto the leather so that the entire shoe is evenly coated, then buff off with a clean “wax-off” brush.
Want to go for the full spit and polish? Apply several base layers using the dull-shine method. Now take a soft cloth, and wrapping it over your index and middle fingers, dip it into your shoe polish, then touch your fingers to a small saucer or dish of water – you want the cloth to be damp rather than wet, before working the polish into the leather using small circular motions. Bring the leather to a final shine by huffing on it and buffing with a clean, lint-free cloth.
Good quality shoe care equipment will help keep your shoes in good conditionImage source: goir
Avoid looking “down at heel” by getting your shoes repaired as soon as they start to show signs of wear – if you wait until your soles have holes in, you'll damage the layer of cork underneath, and ruin your shoes.
Cracked shoe leather? Hopefully, with good maintenance, this won't be a problem, but sometimes shoes will develop a crack, in which case it's vital to treat it promptly. Give your shoes a thorough clean with saddle soap, and allow them to fully dry before treating the affected area with shoe leather oil – mink oil remains by far the best product on the market.
A cobbler can replace heels and soles on good quality shoesImage source: Dean Drobot
Clean suede by brushing with a special rubber brush or one with soft bristles. Nap looking a little tired? Revitalise your suede shoes by applying steam from an iron (from about 10 inches away) before giving them a brush. A protective non-silicone product like ‘Scotchgard' or a specialist suede and nubuck cleaner should be applied to repel water and stains.
Suede is easier to look after than you might thinkImage source: Suede brogues from Samuel Windsor
Buying some new shoes and want a few tips on how to make them as comfortable as possible, straight from the box? Our article about how to wear-in new shoes is worth a quick visit. Take good care of your shoes and they'll reward with many years of service.