The shoe-shiners’ days may be over, but well-polished leather shoes remain as important as ever for communicating confidence and creating strong first impressions. Fortunately, we are here to help you take ownership of your footwear maintenance, teach you to shine to impress, and ensure that your favorite pair will last for years to come!
A Simple Way To Maintain The Shape Of Your Shoes
One of the virtues of shoes is their ability to adjust overtime and adapt to the particular shape of your foot, creating the perfect fit. However, this flexibility means they can also lose their form as they get older and the leather starts to wear. One way to prevent this is to purchase a cedar shoe tree to place in the shoe when not being worn. Good quality, cedar trees will also protect against odors and preserve your footwear’s store-quality for a much longer time. We suggest this one from Stratton:
Showing Salt Stains The Door
If you live in an area where snow is common, you are probably terribly familiar with the white stains left on your pristine leather after tramping through the remnants left by the ice-melting salt. You should remove these stains as quickly as possible by lightly applying a solution of ⅔ water and ⅓ vinegar with a rag. Gently wipe the area with a clean rag after application and then dry with a towel for best results.
Get Your Polish On
This is, of course, the most important step in ensuring your footwear always looks presentable. It’s recommended that you buy a complete shoe polishing kit to ensure you have all the tools you will need, including a clean piece of cloth, a horsehair brush, a shining cloth, and, of course, the polish itself. The kit will most likely include black and brown polish, so make sure you apply the right the color to your uppers: clearly, using a brown polish on your black pairs will not work out well and vice versa.
Kiwi’s Select kit is an absolute standby, and continues to be our all-around favorite:
How often you polish will depend on several factors, including how often you wear your shoes and the sort of strain placed on them. For pairs you wear frequently, it’s recommended you polish them once or twice a week, but if there is heavy rain or snow, you may want to polish even more frequently.
To start, remove the laces from your shoes or boots and gently brush them down with the horsehair brush. Make sure to get in every seam to properly dislodge all the dirt. If they are especially dusty, it’s recommended you wipe down the uppers and soles with a damp rag and let them air dry for a few hours.
Before you begin polishing, you should cover your working area. Old newspaper or paper bags are ideal for this purpose. Next, wrap the shining cloth around your forefingers and dip it in the polish. Apply to the uppers generously but methodically with slow, circular motions until you are satisfied with the level of shine, then let your shoes sit overnight.
There are a few varieties of shoe polish you may want to try, including cream, wax, and liquid. Shoe cream is slightly different from regular polish. It is intended to nurture soft leathers, so if you have a pair of leather shoes that you are looking to keep soft and comfortable, this may be your preferred choice. Wax-based polishes keep your shoes especially shiny by applying a thin, protective layer of wax that can also help with water resistance. Liquid polishes are good for a quick shine, but may not be recommended as a constant stand by.
Water is always bad for leather, whether you wear sturdy boots or dress shoes. Proper maintenance with will help keep the leather sealed against water, but how often you apply polish to keep the leather supple and your feet dry will depend on where you are.
If you live in a predominantly dry climate, for example, you may find that polishing weekly and applying a waterproofing compound twice yearly is sufficient. However, if you live in an area that gets frequent rainfall and snow, you may want to polish daily and apply the waterproofing compound weekly or wear rubber galoshes to slip over your shoe.
As the frequency of these applications may suggest, no “waterproofing” compound is, well, full-proof; however, they can make a profound difference to the lifespan of your shoes. If you live in a wet climate, you should invest in a wax-based polish. Wax-based polishes apply a thin, protective layer of wax over the leather that protects against water and salt.
By using these to polish your shoes each day, you will maintain a water-resistant seal on your shoes. Angelus and Lincoln make great wax-based polishes. Regardless of where you live, you should also buy a specialty waterproofing compound, though the frequency of how often you apply this will depend on your area, as described above. Obenauf Heavy Duty Preservative is one example of a highly recommended product.
Ensure that the compounds you have purchased match the color of your footwear. Apply a small amount of the compound to a discreet part of the shoe, like under the laces and wait to see if the color is altered. Once you are more confident, apply a similar size to the back of the shoe and wait a few hours to be sure before you proceed with polishing as you would normally. The only difference in applying a waterproofing compound as opposed to normal polish is being even more deliberate in applying a consistent layer across the entire surface to ensure an unbroken seal.
In the almost inevitable event that your shoes do get wet on a day the weather suddenly changes, you should never place your footwear by a heat source to dry them as this will cause the leather to crack and increase the damage. Instead, fill your shoes with newspaper or a towel and leave them to air dry. Replace the papers or towel periodically as they get saturated to continue pulling water from the leather.
Now that you’re an expert in taking care of nice shoes, you should be more confident in buying a high-quality pair of leather kicks! You can find lots of recommendations for work in our guide to the best shoes for standing all day.