Dress shoes, work boots—here's how to keep them in shape year after year.
You can extend the life of your favorite leather boots or oxfords by years with five minutes and basic shoeshine know-how. So we talked to a Hollywood cobbler to the stars, Pasquale Fabrizio, and award-winning shoe repairman Jim McFarland, to find out what you can do at home, and when to visit an expert.
The Essential Leather Tune-Up
Clean and apply conditioner to your shoes and boots once a month. First remove dirt with a nylon medium-bristle brush and a capful of Woolite diluted in a bowl of warm water, says Fabrizio. His Los Angeles shop, Pasquale Shoe Repair, has made custom shoes for Rihanna and Will Smith.
Let the shoes dry completely, and use a clean rag to rub in leather conditioner, like Lexol’s Leather Deep Conditioner, to restore moisture. Give it a light buff with a horsehair shine brush after it dries.
Your shoes will show you if they need more conditioner, says McFarland, owner of Lakeland, Florida’s 100-year-old McFarland’s Shoe Repair and past winner of the Shoe Service Institute of America’s Silver Cup. “Reapply it whenever the leather looks dry or ashy.”
Keep the Soles Fresh
When your sole has worn down more than a quarter of an inch, the edge of the heel has rounded over, or you can feel things through the bottom, replace the sole. Stretching the life of a worn-out sole can break down the structure of the boot. And even if there’s plenty of sole remaining, the wear tilts your boot and can lead to back pain.
Resoling often costs about $100, so McFarland recommends resoling only if it costs less than half the price of a new pair. Cobblers can also add a thin rubber sole to leather soles for extra cushion, grip, and durability. If you want to upgrade your footwear with a high-performance sole, Vibram’s Sole Factor program will resole your shoes or boots with the dress, active, or work sole and color of your choice (starts at $75).
Dress-Shoe Care and Protection
After conditioning your dress shoes like you would your boots, polish with a neutral shoe cream, says Fabrizio. Work the cream (try Venetian Shoe Cream, $10) over the leather with your fingers and let it sit for three minutes. Then use a horsehair shine brush to polish and remove excess cream.
For a high shine, use a wax paste instead of shoe cream, says McFarland. “Rub the wax on, let it dry 15 seconds, and buff it off.” Get a paste that matches the color of your leather from Kiwi or Angelus. To prevent a black streak of polish showing up on your brown shoes, use a different brush for each color. If you have three colors, get three brushes. Wax, however, clogs the leather’s pores, making it dry out faster.
Water Protection and Repair
Every three to six months, add a waterproofing spray like Tarrago Nano after conditioning a pair of shoes, says Fabrizio. “They need just a very thin coat, one delicate shot right over them.” If you see water stains on unprotected shoes, misting the entire shoe with water may help even out the color by changing it to match the stain.
When You’re Not Wearing Them
Help maintain the shoe’s shape, and soak up lingering sweat or rain, with cedar shoe trees. We like the made-in-America Rochester Shoe Tree Company Mohawk. Store your shoes in cloth shoe bags to keep them from getting dusty.
How to Dry
If your boots or shoes get soaked, air-dry in a spot with good airflow. While drying them over a vent works, the quick change from soaked to hot can dry out your leather and require more conditioner.
Cleaning Salt Stains
Dab Fiebing’s Salt Stain Remover on your shoes, wait for it to dry, and the stain will disappear. A well-conditioned shoe resists salt stains best.
Need a Cobbler?
Find a quality cobbler in the Shoe Service Institute of America directory. If there are no local options, use cobblerconcierge.com, an 86-year-old mail-in consultation and repair service.
Resource- James Lynch