How to care for your shoes, boots and footwear
If you take care of your footwear, it’ll serve you well and last for years. I have had my Frye boots (exact boots) for instance, for quite a long time and they still look as good as the day I bought them.
I don’t like to waste money on repairs and that sort of thing I can do it myself at home, so here’s what I do to make sure my footwear lasts a long time:
DON’T BUY CHEAP CRAP
The first thing I want to warn everyone about, is to not buy cheap crap.
If you buy cheap crappy boots that aren’t well made, aren’t real leather (or at least very good vegan leather), then you are going to get what you pay for.
You can take care of these boots until the cows come home, but if the leather is just a thin sheath glued onto foam to make it look like it is completely 100% leather on both sides (like Frye boots for instance), over time the wear and tear of the boots will tear, rip and crack the leather, and reveal the foam underneath.
It looks terrible and you can’t fix it unless you put in a whole new leather lining (might as well buy another pair of boots).
Looks aren’t everything.
Quality and workmanship do matter in good shoes, and that’s why SOME (not all) boot brands cost an arm and a leg.
That said, if you spend a fortune on super thin skinned, soft, supple lambskin leather for shoes (like in these Chloé flats), don’t expect them to last a lifetime if you wear hard on them and don’t want to walk gingerly.
CARING FOR SMOOTH LEATHER SHOES
To care for my smooth leather footwear, I start by dusting the shoe with a clean rag to remove lay surface dirt.
Then I use Leather Honey Cleaner to clean my shoes with a soft torn up t-shirt (usually the white ones that are permanently stained no matter how careful you are).
It is a solution that you need to mix with water to dilute it. IT IS sticky, be forewarned, but a little goes a long way.
After I give a solid clean, I moisturize it again this time with Leather Honey Conditioner a leather moisturizer without silicones as it doesn’t let your shoes breathe, and rub in the mixture with a clean rag.
I usually leave the footwear to dry overnight. The next morning, I re-inspect, and re-condition if I need to, and buff again.
CARING FOR FABRIC SHOES
For fabric shoes, the best I can do is Tide to Go to try and remove stains after dusting them.
CAUTION: USE THE FOLLOWING WITH DISCRETION
If they look like they can withstand it, I throw them into a laundry bag, and into the washer on soak with a tablespoon or two of Oxiclean, and then do a delicate wash on them with minimal spinning / drying. I only do this if I don’t care (much) about them but still want to clean them.
Only you can know if they will come out all right or not, every shoe is different.
(I have also successfully cleaned Baby Bun’s Nike leather shoes this way…)
CLEANING THE BACK PANELS ON BOOTS
There are also sometimes fabric-like elastic stretchy panels on the back of my boots that are dirty.
I try my best to clean them with dusting but the best solution I have found is some white vinegar mixed in with water on a damp (not soaking) rag.
I scrub vigorously at the stains and then make sure to re-moisturize the leather around the fabric just in case some vinegar solution gets on them.
CARING FOR SUEDE SHOES
For suede, I only use a suede brush gently and carefully (you can use a toothbrush in a pinch) and a soft plain white eraser like these excellent ones from Staedtler to remove any stains. Some erasers are not good for this because they’re too grainy/gritty…
Suede is notorious and hard to clean because the hairs are delicate and you need to brush in the direction of the hairs (not against them) as not to rub them threadbare and ruin the nap (the hairs).
WINTER CARE FOR SHOES AND BOOTS
Every time I wear the shoes out and I come back with them splattered in salt and slush, I immediately wipe them down with these super handy Boot Wipes.
They’re just for some quick cleaning to avoid stains and so on, so at some point, I always moisturize the leather with a quick swipe to keep it in good condition.
I always take my UGGs in for cleaning every year after winter ends. The salt and the dirt is too hard to remove and if you leave it, the stains will set.
ALL NEW SHOES THAT ENTER THE HOUSEHOLD..
Depending on the shoe, all new footwear goes through a test.
I take pretty good care of my shoes and footwear, but I don’t like to waste money on it if it isn’t going to be worth it.
If they pass the test, I fork over $40 for some Vibram soles.
Were they expensive?
Are they worth preserving — classics or hard to find?
Do I plan on wearing them a lot? (e.g. ballet flats)
Are they slippery? (E.g. All Frye Boots)
Do I need them to be extra grippy (e.g. heels over 3”)
If they pass they get dropped off at the cobblers to be fixed with some new Vibram soles to protect the leather sole and have them wear longer.
Once I see the sole disappear and the leather sole peeks out, I get the soles replaced.
Other things I do at the cobbler:
- Reinforcements around the vamp and toe (where it rubs and eventually gets a hole in very soft leather or fabric shoes)
- Replace broken zippers on favourites ($30)
- Add heel taps on the bottom of pointy toed, expensive (even secondhand) heels
- Replace heel tips (I could do it myself I’m sure, and I may in the future)
- Fix the heels themselves — I once tripped, and ripped the leather on my FAVOURITE Manolo Blahniks, and they were repaired to the best of the cobblers’ abilities but never the same again as you can see the tear.
Cobblers I recommend:
Toronto (Moneysworth) – I never found a boutique one
Moneysworth (Montreal) – the one at Alexis-Nihon near the Atwater metro is fairly good
Leather Spa (New York City but anyone in the world can fill out their form, submit a few photos and send in their beloved footwear for repair)
Thank you so much for this post! I got vibram soles for my boots recently and wondered why it took me this long to find out about them. Do you find that you need to put vibrams on your flats too? I’m going to look into those boot wipes and the honey cleansers.