Benjo’s Guide to Leather Shoe/Boot Care
Did you just buy a new pair of shoes you’re in love with? Maybe they’re an old favorite and you want to make last a bit longer. This guide has you covered to help you extend the life of your leather dress shoes and boots.
The way you wear your shoes and boots impacts how long they last.
It may seem obvious, but where you wear your footwear matters. It’s important that you’re avoiding dirt and moisture whenever possible. In many areas that get snow in the winter, salt is used on sidewalks to keep them from getting too icy. Salt can damage your leather products and shorten their life.
We often pay attention to the top of our shoes, but if the bottoms take a beating, your favorite pair might not last as long. Dragging your heels can wear through the soles of your shoes over time.
If you look at some of your old shoes, and the leather on the heels is creased you may want to consider getting a shoe horn. While they’ve fallen out of favor, they’re still an excellent tool for preserving your shoes. Shoe horns range from cheap plastic options that cost only a few dollars to expensive options made from exotic materials. Most will get the job done, but a longer handle may make life easier for you.
Once you get home, take a look at their condition. Wipe off any excess dirt that you may have picked up while you’re out and about.
Skip the dust bags when it comes to storing your shoes/boots. Even if your shoes sit for long periods of time without being worn, a quick brush with a towel will usually do the trick. Dust bags become more of a nuisance than they’re worth.
Instead, opt for shoe trees. Plastic ones will help your shoes keep their structure and tend to be less expensive. Wood shoe/boot trees may be a little more expensive, but they have the added benefit of absorbing moisture as well. We suggest finding sturdy shoe trees made from any wood, with cedar being our favorite because of the pleasant smell and moisture absorbing ability.
Cleaning & Polishing
There are many schools of thought when it comes to cleaning and polishing your dress shoes and boots. In this case, we’re going to focus on the general purpose tools that most people can benefit from.
While there are many products out there that can help clean up a pair of leather shoes/boots, we suggest starting with a damp microfiber towel. We’re usually able to clean off most surface dirt and dust this way, at which point we can polish and shine the shoes to help bring their luster back.
If you’re going to try a new product, spot test to see how it’s going to interact with the leather before going crazy and covering your favorite pair with it. The inside of your foot by your arch where the leather meets the sole of your shoe is usually a good place to try this since many shoes cast a shadow over this area. If the product negatively impacts the leather surface, it can usually go unnoticed here.
To shine your leather footwear, you’ll need a few essential items:
- Horse hair brush
- Soft cloth, old tshirt, etc
- Shoe Cream/Wax (cream is less shiny but moisturizes leather, wax has greater shine)
4 steps to shined shoes:
- Remove laces and clean the shoes so there is no surface dust or dirt. Allow to dry completely before proceeding.
- Apply a thin layer of shoe cream/wax using a rag or old t-shirt. If you’re using a cream, allow to dry for about 10 minutes
- Quickly brush back and forth on the surface of the leather with the horse hair brush. This should remove any of the dried cream/wax.
- Use a soft clean cloth (we prefer microfiber) with fast back and forth movements to bring out the shine in the leather. Tip: Put your foot inside the shoot and elevate it on a raised surface for this step. Avoid furniture with fabrics as there is still some excess wax/cream on your shoes that may transfer to the new surface.
If you take great care of your shoes/boots, sometimes the laces will show more wear and tear than the leather. You can tell it’s time to replace your laces when they start to show damage such as fraying, broken or missing aglets (the plastic or metal piece on the end), or they are discolored and stained.
At Benjo’s we suggest most dress shoes use a 27” lace. We prefer this so that you can tie tastefully sized bows rather than long looping ones you get with 30” dress lace. Waxed cotton provides a premium material and is what we make laces from. Leather can also be an interesting material but can vary significantly in cost and quality.
Many people want to match black laces to black shoes, brown laces to brown shoes, etc. Colored shoe/boot laces can be a great opportunity to add a splash of color and personality to an outfit. When it comes to colored laces, there are no rules. Blue laces on black shoes? Great! Purple laces on brown dress boots? Worth a shot. With dozens of different colors and just as many ways to lace a pair of shoes or boots, colored laces become a great way to stand out.
Not sure how to lace up your shoes or want a creative way to stand out? Check out our guide here: Benjo's Lacing Guide
With enough time and use, any pair of shoes will start to show some wear and tear. You may want to wait before you throw them away or donate them. Aside from proper care and storage of your shoes, repairing shoes is the best way to extend their life. Shoe/Boot repair is an often forgotten option that can let you hold onto that cherished pair even longer.
Most cities have a good cobbler that can perform any number of repair service including replacing soles. At Benjo’s, suggest this as an option for three main reasons:
- Repairing your leather footwear is much less expensive than buying a new pair, and a skilled cobbler can help refresh the look of your old favorites.
- It’s better for the environment to reduce consumption and extend the life of your clothing.
- You’re helping to support a small business and a trade that many have forgotten about.
If you found this guide helpful, look out for more posts about how to get the most out of your shoes. More styling guides, care guides, and informative articles will be coming soon.