Q And Answer: Basic Shoe Care

November 11, 2009

Q and Answer: Basic Shoe Care

Alvin writes:

I keep having issues dealing with wear on my brown leather shoes.  Specifically the toes. On the first pair it was fine, I liked the look It made me feel like a cowboy. But once it became more than one pair it became a little ridiculous. I’ve tried a leather sponge but it kinda has gotten me nowhere. Do you have any advice?

A leather sponge?  Whatever that is, we’re not on board.

You need to shine your shoes.  It can help cover scuffs (for deep ones, go to the shoe repair), but it can also help protect against them.  It’s like a super-thin layer of armor against the outside world.

If you’ve never shined your shoes, Ask Andy About Clothes has an exhaustive guide here.  We’ll give you the gist.

Start with two brushes (or cloths, but we like brushes – they cost about $10 each, you can swing it) and some shoe polish that roughly matches the color of your shoes.  We like paste or cream polish rather than wax – wax can build up and dry out your shoes.  You should also have shoe trees in your shoes if you can – they help keep the polish from building up in the creases.

With your first brush (one like this), apply a little bit of paste at a time in a circular motion, like you were brushing your teeth.  Your goal is the lightest, most even coat you can create.  No need to lay it on with a trowel, you want the color to come from the shoe and the shine to come from the polish.

Then, let the polish dry.

People skip that part, so I’ll say it again: let the polish dry.

Give it ten minutes.  Go make yourself a snack.  Watch an episode of Tim & Eric.  Whatever.

Then come back with the second brush (one like this) and with long, sweeping motions bring out the shine.

Now: if you keep your shoes shined, and you get a really serious abrasion that takes some of the color out of the shoe?  Take it to your local shoe repair, or send it to the manufacturer for reconditioning.  And learn not to kick at stuff when you’re nervous.

And if you’re talking about boots or casual shoes?  Some leather conditioner can help even out the color a bit, but hey, you’re wearing boots because they can take some hits, right?