Scuff marks on black shiny leather shoes
January 2, 2006 9:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I avoid scuffing my new shiny black shoes? What do I do about scuffs that are already there? Tell me everything there is to know about scuffs and maintaining nice shoes.

I need to wear shiny black shoes about 2x/week, and I decided to get a nice new pair to wear on particularly special occasions, since my old ones are so scuffed up. After the first 15 minutes of wear, I had acquired a scuff mark. After an hour, I had several scuff marks. Where are these coming from? Am I kicking one shoe with the other shoe when I walk? What on earth can I do about that?
posted by sirion to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total)
Pretty much what you've said. Use shoe polish regularly to allow your shoes to age gracefully (as well as to keep them looking tiptop).
posted by Rothko at 10:19 AM on January 2, 2006

Yes, you're probably kicking one show with the other, both when you walk and when you're sitting.

What can you do about it? First, you can consciously modify your walking and sitting style to eliminate the scuffing -- though that's easier said than done, in my experience.

Second, you can shine your shoes every now and then to make them shiny again. The shoe shine is becoming a lost art, sadly. But shining/polishing your shoes will make the leather last longer and look better. It's easy, and can be a somewhat "zen" activity, actually.

But: If they're patent leather, then don't polish them. Patent leather (the really shiny almost plastic-y looking stuff) is made to stay that way, and should never be polished. It scuffs much more easily than other leather, and you'll have to use a special technique to get the scuffs out of patent leather. My advice: Don't buy patent leather shoes for business.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:22 AM on January 2, 2006

I'm assuming you have patent leather shoes (leather coated with polyurethane, a shiny plasticky look that you can almost see yourself in). Googling for "patent leather scuffs" will assist you.

Mostly they scuff when your shoes touch each other. Walk carefully so this doesn't happen. Windex and a paper towel may work. If Windex doesn't work, there are more aggressive repairs such as clear nail polish to restore the shine. I think Kiwi has a patent-leather-restoring-liquid too.

You can't polish patent leather - don't try any sort of regular shoe polish on it. Treat as plastic, not leather.

One reason why regular leather + shoe polish shoes are still around is that they don't scuff and are easy to repolish.
posted by jellicle at 10:32 AM on January 2, 2006

Are there specific sorts of polish I should get, or avoid? Is the black sticky stuff they sell at the supermarket in a can with a soft rag and a sponge what I'm looking for?
posted by sdis at 10:32 AM on January 2, 2006

I don't have patent leather shoes, though I may purchase some down the road.
posted by sdis at 10:33 AM on January 2, 2006

Kiwi polish + rag in a tiny box. It's something you can keep handy in the cupboard.
posted by Rothko at 10:38 AM on January 2, 2006

(Just read the article on caring for smooth leather shoes)
posted by sdis at 10:40 AM on January 2, 2006

For regular leather shoes, a can of Kiwi in the appropriate color is fine. Twist the silver metal protrusion to open the can. Apply polish with the smaller brush with the circular head - rub the top of the wax, rub it into the shoe leather. Do not use the large buffing brush to apply the polish. You don't need excessive amounts of polish - just a bit, everywhere.

Then take the larger, rectangular buffing brush, and brush briskly and with medium pressure back and forth. There will be some resistance at first, which will decrease as the wax smooths out. Decrease the brushing pressure slightly. Keep at it until you have a nice sheen all over.

Do the above twice if it's a new pair of shoes.

For touchups, you can apply wax or not - often you just need a minute with the brush to restore an excellent shine, if the shoes haven't been treated too badly since the last wax application.

Fanatics may discuss further steps, involving cotton cloths, water, and perhaps even saliva. But I think an excellent shine can be achieved with just a brush and a strong right forearm.
posted by jellicle at 10:46 AM on January 2, 2006

A couple of tips about polishing shoes:

It's easier to do if you're not wearing the shoes.

Let the polish dry before you brush or buff it. If you don't have a brush, you can use paper towels or rags -- both to apply polish and to shine the surface after the polish dries.

If you get a serious scuff that shoe polish won't cover -- that is, if the color has been removed from the leather -- touch up the area with a permanent marker of matching hue.

Liquid shoe polish is okay once in a while, but it's not a substitute for the waxy stuff.

Treat yourself to a professional shine at least once, just to see how great it is.

I think you'll find that a well-maintained wax shine looks even nicer than brand-new shoes.
posted by wryly at 12:14 PM on January 2, 2006

Polishing shoes makes them last a lot longer. Old, well-polished loafers look great.
posted by theora55 at 2:20 PM on January 2, 2006

Get some shoe dye. It comes in a bottle with one of those sponge applicators. (Don't mix it up with the polish that comes with the same applicator.) If your shoes get scuffed you can use the dye, then your normal waxy polish to cover the scuff marks. I had a pair of black shoes that I did this with and they went from almost ready to throw out to wearable for several more years. Be sure to use the dye over newspaper or outside because it really does dye. (This technique works really well on leather couches too.)

Wife of 445suppermag
posted by 445supermag at 3:55 PM on January 2, 2006

To add a non-DIY suggestion, I just discovered the magic of cobblers last week. I had a pair of failry expensive shoes that I thought were lost -- for $5 and about 10 minutes of waiting, he did some magic on a machine with brushes and they looked like brand new.
posted by VulcanMike at 6:48 PM on January 2, 2006

You might also be scuffing the shoes against the ground. This ties in to an answer addressing your question about how to care for good shoes in general: don't wear them outside. This is a lesson I learned the hard way with the first pair of really expensive shoes I ever owned.
posted by bingo at 8:39 PM on January 2, 2006

I've been in the Air Force for six years, and have tried a few different types of polish, but Kiwi really is your best choice (and most readily available). Lincoln polish is another good one.

Jellicle is on the right track, but most military (that I know) shine their boots with cotton balls. Wet the cotton ball in hot water and rub it on the leather in small circular motions. The trick is to use only a little polish at a time, and to rub it in well before adding more. Finish with a clean cotton ball and water to seal it in. If you do use cotton balls, there will be no need to buff it with the brush, as you should be able to attain a great shine with cotton balls alone.

Another helpful tip is to heat the wax. How you do this is up to you. Either melt before application, or apply and blowdry as you shine. The heat will open up the pores in the leather and allow the wax to penetrate and makes for a better shine.
posted by lane73179 at 2:13 AM on January 4, 2006

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