We get dozens of emails a day and many of them revolve around shoe care.....how do I clean my shoes? How do I condition the leather? How do I lace my boots correctly? Over the last 18 months, we have seen many examples of great shoe care...AND really bad shoe care. We combed through our emails and put together a list of ten simple things that will help prolong the life of your shoes and keep them looking fresher, longer.
1. Avoid wearing leather-soled shoes in the rain
Leather is not meant to be worn in wet weather. It will become soft and easily damaged when it is saturated with water. Leather is porous and takes on water...and when it does, it can be damaged if you aren't careful. If you know it will be rainy, choose some rubber-soled boots that can handle the moisture. If you get caught in an unexpected rainstorm, hustle home and dry out your shoes. Don't put them by any heat source...just let them dry out naturally and insert shoe trees once you can. This will help prevent the leather from drying too quickly and cracking.
Here's what happens if you wear your leather soles out in the rain and rough them up a bit...
2. Unlace your shoes when putting them on or off
Laces are there for a reason. Shoes are not meant to be forced on or off. It can create unnatural amounts of stress and tension on the leather and stitching and can lead to problems. Try to unlace your shoes whenever you are putting them on or taking them off...it only takes a few seconds but your shoes will thank you.
3. If you wear through soles, get rubber taps inserted. This will prolong the life of your sole
If you know you wear through soles really quickly due to your gait or your commute, consider getting rubber placed on the bottom of your soles. This quick $20 fix will buy you some extra runway before your next resole.
4. Take care of salt stains as quickly as possible
Salt stains are unavoidable if you live in a cold, snowy area with harsh winters. The salt in snowmelt can create white stains on your shoes and will quickly dry out leather. If you notice salty water on your boots, wipe it off right away to avoid salt stains. If you already have salt stains, it's a quick, simple fix. Wipe down your shoes/boots with a cloth and let dry. A quick diluted vinegar solution (two parts water, one part vinegar) will do the trick. Just get some of this solution on a rag, wipe them down, and let dry. The salt stains will be gone. Then be sure to clean, condition, and polish.
5. Don’t ever use external heat sources to dry or heat the shoes. Leather WILL crack
Leather is just like our skin....if you get it wet, dry, and repeat, your skin will get dry and crack. Ever notice how your skin or lips are more dry in the winter time? Avoid drying leather by external heat sources (placing them by a fire, furnace, or heater to dry them out). This WILL damage the leather and cause the shoes to crack over time. If your shoes get wet, insert some newspaper to soak up some of the moisture and let them dry naturally at room temperature. Rapid swings in temperature are not healthy for leather.
Here's an example of drying your shoes TOO quickly...
6. Shoe trees - use them!
No real cons or arguments against using shoe trees. There are noticeable, tangible benefits to using shoe trees in all of your shoes. They will help maintain the shape, avoid funky smells and bacteria build up, and avoid creasing. Invest in a pair of shoe trees and use them between each wear. (Plus, the cedar will make your closet smell nice!)
7. Any leather shoe should rest for 24 hours (with shoe trees) between every wear
We are humbled to hear that people wear their Taft shoes every day of the week, but it isn't encouraged. Quality leather shoes and boots need to rest in between each wear. After you wear shoes, they should rest for at least 24 hours (use shoe trees!). This will greatly extend the lifetime of your shoes. Wearing the same pair can damage the leather and severely shorten the lifetime of that pair. This is where the term "shoe rotation" comes from....you need to rotate between a fair pairs to keep them all in good condition.
8. Keep the leather clean and conditioned (condition every few months to keep the leather fresh)
Most people know about the importance of polishing. Polishing leather helps to make them look shiny and nice. However, more important than polishing is conditioning. Polishing is nice for aesthetics....conditioning is important for the health of the leather. Condition your leather shoes/boots every few months to keep the leather moisturized.
9. Use two hands to put them on and take them off
It's simple and doesn't take much effort, but it's important. Use one hand to open up the tongue of the shoe and the other to open up the heel. This will avoid any unnecessary stress on the shoe.
10. If they get wet, try to dry them as soon as possible. Don’t let water sit and dry on your shoes.
Leather and water don't mix. Whenever possible, a quick wipe down to remove surface moisture will do wonders for the durability of your shoes. It can be a napkin, a rag, a paper towel....anything to just get the standing water off your shoes before it is absorbed into the leather.
These are ten quick, simple, painless (and mostly free) tips to help keep your shoes looking great. When you spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes, it's important to put in some work to keep them fresh and help them look their best. A little bit of care goes a long way.