How can I up my shoe care game while still remaining extremely lazy?
November 14, 2017 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I've never learned to take care of my leather shoes and hiking boots. But when I look up information on shoe care, I find Internet obsessive instructions that I know I'll never follow through on.

I have leather dress shoes and boots, and hiking boots. I'd like to maintain the leather so that they last as long as possible, repair/cover up scuffs or scratches on the dress shoes, and keep my hiking boots waterproof.

What's the least I can do?
posted by medusa to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Find a local cobbler, who will do all those steps for you. For seasonal shoes, get them cleaned and repaired in the spring. For dress shoes you can get them fixed up any time and then store with shoe trees (or shaped wads of acid-free paper) to maintain their shape, assuming you don't wear them all that often. For hiking boots a cobbler will usually have waterproofing sprays and finishes, and also make sure that they dry out completely, especially the seam around the soles and the uppers, before wearing them again. If you can afford it, two pairs of each kind of shoe you wear regularly will be the best help so you can always give a pair 24 hr to dry out. Never put a wet or dirty leather shoe in storage.

If you can't find a cobbler near you, look for a tailor who specializes in leather repairs. If you can't find one of those, call the fanciest hotel in your area and ask them for leads.
posted by Mizu at 7:38 AM on November 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you can afford to pay someone, a local cobbler would be more than happy to shine your shoes and do any maintenance on them. Bring them in every now and then for a shine, replace the heels and soles before you put a hole in them, and that's about all you need to do.

Other than shining my shoes, oh, twice a year or so I do basically nothing to them. If it rains, make sure they dry out properly (I just put shoe trees in and put them on their sides so the soles don't rot). If the shoes are good quality leather and they're already polished well, you can get most marks out by quickly touching them up with a buffing brush or a cloth. Super muddy hiking boots I'll wait until the mud dries and then knock it off outside.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:39 AM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well, the first thing to do is determine whether your leather shoes are care-for-able. What is the finish on the leather like? If you have cheaper leather shoes, they will be made with "corrected grain" leather. The cheaper kinds of corrected grain have a thick, plasticky, shiny finish through which no products can really penetrate, and in my opinion the best you can do with those is wipe them down with saddle soap and water. If they get very wet in the snow or rain, let them dry away from heat sources. Before they dry, make sure that the insole isn't crumpled - smooth it out so that it will dry flat. (This is good advice even for expensive shoes.) If the shoes themselves are crumpled and wet, fill them with newspaper so that they dry evenly.

Honestly, I think you should shine your shoes yourself, just not too often. Taking them to a cobbler is itself work, especially if you're leaving them there until the cobbler can get them taken care of. And not to impugn shoe-shine workers, most of the time they're working to achieve a gloss on the shoe rather than condition it.

If your shoes are not routinely getting soaked or coming into contact with road salt, clean and polish them at the start and end of the season. Get some rags - cut up an old tshirt or pillowcase. Get all your shoes out at once. Wipe them down with a damp rag. I myself use a cream and then a wax, but you probably just want to use a wax polish. Polish them, let them sit for a few hours and use a clean rag to buff them. Toss the rags in the washer on hot. They'll still be stained and the wax polish ones will be a bit stiff, but they'll be ready for ongoing use.

I don't actually polish my shoes super often except in the middle of winter when they're getting soaked/salted. Unless you're a City gent, really glossy freshly-polished shoes are nice but not vital - clean shoes that are not obviously scuffed/run-down are fine.

The most time-saving thing you can do with leather-soled shoes is take them to a cobbler and have a topy/thin textured sole cover put on. This will tremendously extend the life of the shoe. Do this as soon as you're confident that the shoes fit you well and will not be returned.
posted by Frowner at 7:52 AM on November 14, 2017

Least you can do. Give them a wipe down to get the dirt off. Rub on some shoe polish, let it sit buff it off with a buffing brush to a nice shine. Unlike Frowner above I use a brush to rub on the polish but rags work too. Protects the leather & hides scuffs. If you get them wet, dry thoroughly with shoe trees in. For leather dress shoes at least. Takes about 5 minutess total work time. Do it a couple of times a year or when you think, hey my shoes look a bit meh I'll give them a shine. Don't polish suede shoes.

Don't wear the same pair of leather shoes too many days running. I've got leather shoes that are over twenty years old just doing that. If your dress shoes are designer like Jimmy Choo's then get a cobbler to clean then.
posted by wwax at 8:01 AM on November 14, 2017

For normal women's shoes that I pay less than $150 per pair for, I swipe them once a week with one of these, and store them with shoe trees in them. With this treatment, I can make such shoes last with 1-2x per week wearing for 3 years or more (and I am extremely hard on shoes -- without this treatment, they last 6-9 months). I think the things that make a difference are never wearing them on consecutive days and the shoe trees.

For more expensive shoes and hiking boots, I take them to a cobbler once a year.
posted by OrangeDisk at 10:04 AM on November 14, 2017

Leather shoes and boots that have a flat (not suede) finish really benefit from shoe polish. Shoe creme is ok, but polish is better, gives a harder and longer-lasting finish and protection. Shoe polish has directions, follow them. I have a pair of boots I have kept in action for 10 years and they still look good. I use a piece of old towel or tshirt, apply polish, rub it in well. Then do the other shoe. I have a nice soft hsoe brush that was my Dad's. I brush them, then put a spritz of water on the brush and brush them again and that makes them shinier and seems to set the polish. Get shoe polish in a color that matches. It really is worth your time if you have shoes or boots that you want to preserve.

Suede - I just brush it.

Hiking boots - I apply waterproofing stuff and don't mind how they look.
posted by theora55 at 10:37 AM on November 14, 2017

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