Dress shoes can live for decades if you treat ‘em right…
1.Stuff Wet Shoes!
Copped a drenching? Stuff wet shoes with newspaper to help soak up the moisture in the leather. Do not place your shoes by the fire or radiator because direct heat dries the leather too fast and causes it to crack. Once that happens, it’s all over red rover. So let your newspaper-stuffed shoes get nearly dry at room temperature. When they’re almost dry, insert shoes trees. Speaking of which…
2. Invest In Shoe Trees
Quality shoe trees are made of two or three shaped blocks of unvarnished cedar joined by a steel spring stem. The tree fits and fill out your shoe, maintaining shape, reducing odour and helping it dry after the leather and lining has absorbed moisture from your feet during wear. Quality trees will also have ventilation slots to better facilitate drying. Using shoe trees can extend the life of your best leather shoes by decades.
3. Be Soleful
You can also extend shoe life almost indefinitely by having a cobbler affix rubberised slip-resistant sole covers after purchase. It’s far cheaper to replace these babies than it is to resole a shoe.
4. Clean & Condition
Think about what your shoes do. They hit the footpath literally thousands of times a day, exposed to water, salt, sunlight, wind and all sorts of grime and abuse. That means the leather needs cleaning and nourishing or else cracks will form and its fibres will begin to break down. Use water and saddle soap with a soft cloth to remove minor scuffs and dedicated cleaners (they come as creams, foams, gels and sprays) to remove dirt from the leather, from any crease or crack, and from along the welt, which is the strip running along the perimeter of the shoe. Whatever you use, be gentle! Ensure any store-bought cleaner’s applicator isn’t cheap and abrasive. If in doubt, invest in a soft shoe brush. Next rub small amounts of shoe conditioner into the entire surface area of the leather. Leave for a few minutes to absorb into the fibres and then wipe off any excess. Use only natural conditioners as synthetic brands simply sit on the leather’s surface.
5. Polish To Protect
Keeping your shoes polished doesn’t just look sharp. Good quality shoe polish reduces leather dehydration, maintaining the upper’s flexibility by restoring oils and proteins, and adds a waxy protective layer against the elements, reducing wear and water absorbency. How often you polish your shoes depends on how often you wear them. Once a week ought to be sufficient for a pair worn two or three times every seven days.
6. Repair Early
Don’t just polish mindlessly. Use the time to inspect your shoes for any damage. Is the sole or heel wearing down? Does any stitching need fixing? See a cobbler early to undo damage. Leave it too long and the damage becomes more extensive and more expensive.