Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Working with what you've got | Shoe edition

Months and months ago, I talked about how to care for your clothes and help them last longer.  It's one thing to keep a pair of slacks for five years, wearing them just a few times a month, but what about shoes? Due to the very nature of their purpose—protecting your feet—they're subjected to tons of wear and tear.

I don't know about you, but my kicks get quite the beating.  While I have quite the assortment of work shoes, the classics (black pumps, peep-toes, lower-heeled pumps) really get the workout, often making it into the rotations more than once per week.  Frequent wear, coupled with my walking schedule (a few blocks a few times a day) and surface (usually uneven asphalt near work and paving stones all around my apartment) really wear shoes down quickly.

Heel tips
Replacing the worn down tips of your heels is by far the easiest and cheapest way to keep your shoes lasting a long time. I get mine done usually 2-3 times a year.  You can do it at home (see Real Simple's real simple instructions here) or go to any local cobbler.  The shop I frequent only charges $8 per pair to do tips, which works for me. I usually go the second I see any nail poking through on the bottom—walking directly on the nail can do some damage to the rest of the heel.

The second most common problem I have is the soles at the toes of my shoes wearing down...something about how I drag my feet when I walk and the fact that I often wear pointy-toed shoes really optimizes this problem.  This is a quick and easy fix for any cobbler, and I usually just assess the toes when I take my shoes in for their heel tips.

Every so often it is also a good idea to resole your whole shoe. I'm not exactly sure when to do this, but I've had it done twice—once when it was recommended by the cobbler (the shoes were three years old, so I trusted they probably needed it) and another time when I'd somehow gotten a hole in the sole.

Most of my work shoes are leather or suede, which can be pretty pricey. Since nearly everything else can be replaced, the condition of a shoe's upper is what can either drive me to keep an old shoe or toss it.  Keep your leather clean and conditioned to lengthen the life of the shoe.  Leather (non-suede) can be cleaned with a damp cloth (see Weatherproofing below for how to get rid of salt stains), and conditioned with a clear product like Leather Lube (stop giggling).

Suede is a bit of a different beast.  If your suede is matted, rub a dry terry towel to restore some of the nap.  Dry stains can be cleaned with a pencil eraser.  Since this type of leather isn't smooth, conditioning is not necessary.

If you have canvas or other fabric shoes, ScotchGard can help weatherproof the shoe (make sure you have a well-ventilated space before you do this).  But what if your leather shoes have already gotten water or salt-stained (for those of you that live in areas where it snows). To get those unsightly water and salt marks off your leather, mix together equal parts distilled white vinegar and water; dampen a cloth with the mixture and wipe the salt stains off the shoe. Make sure to wipe off the liquid with a dry cloth afterward, and condition the leather (like above). 

While the above care tips also apply to boots, tall boots have an added challenge: ensuring the shaft of the boot keeps its shape. The easiest way I've found to do this is keeping rolled up magazines in my shoes and standing them up. Stuffing newspaper into them is also helpful (but who really gets the newspaper delivered anymore?). Paper in the shoe also soaks up any moisture and keeps your shoes from smelling less than fresh.

What are your shoe care secrets?


  1. it is definitely good to take care of your shoes, mine last a long time....but its more coz i have a lot of them so they dont get rotated so much!!!..some are worn once in six months!!!

  2. Great tips! I'd never thought of rolled up magazines in boots before--that's genius!

  3. I hardly ever buy magazines, so I use empty (and well washed) wine bottles because I'm more likely to have those lying around. Just make sure you don't knock the shoes over, I can't imagine picking broken glass out of a boot would be fun!

  4. I have two tips! I stuff my tall boots with all of the old shoulder pads I cut out to keep the shape!
    The sole of my boots seperated after a few wears (vintage... it happens!) so I bought shoe goo on a recommendation to reattach them. I will let you know how it works!

  5. You've got the same shoe-saving strategy that I do!
    My only weak spot it getting rid of salt stains before they set into the leather - I live in snowy Ottawa, and we're notorious for being one of the worst cities for salt use in Canada. As such, EVERY PAIR of my winter boots look 10x their actual age. Next winter, I think I'm going to try leaving a towel and the water/vinegar solution in a spray bottle by the door, so that I can tackle them before the boots come off my feet.

  6. I have lots of shoes that need to be repaired, I just keep forgetting! Thanks for making me remember!!

  7. Taking care of your shoes is vital to get a long life out of them. I LOVE that you showcased nude and grey shoes. My favorites!

  8. Oh shoes.
    My tip is : for patent leather, clean with nail polish remover- it removes all those scuffs and the patent is left shiny and new !
    BTW I al totally loving those grey pumps in the picture.

  9. wine bottles in boots to help keep their shape! :-)

  10. I'm a firm believer in buying quality's incredible how hard it is too find leather soles anymore. And I can definitely feel a huge difference in the fit of shoes made in Italy. It's truly amazing what a cobbler can do. I have shoes I love that have been resoled and repaired that are over 10 years old and still look amazing...because I try to shop smart and buy quality.

  11. @shooting star - Oh yes, rotating footwear definitely helps them last longer! I rarely wear the same shoes twice in one I think that helps.

    @jessica - works pretty well for me. :)

    @keisha - oh, that's a great idea! I don't drink (allergic to several kinds of alcohol), but I know plenty of ladies who would have access to a ready supply of empty bottles. :)

    @nikki - oh, yes. Stuffing with just about anything should work, as long as they're stuffed. When I travel, I actually usually stuff my tanks and tees in my boots (in a bag first, usually).

    @leja - I'm sure Canada is much worse than the one snowy winter I spent in NYC. :) My boots survived it well, though!

    @in kinsey's closet - me too. Let's keep each other accountable to going to the cobbler soon!

    @basiccravings - mine, too. at least recently.

    @lorena - I have never heard of that! I'll have to try that trick now that I've accumulated quite the collection of patent leather shoes. Does it work w/ faux patent?

    @lydia - Good one! We don't drink, but I'm sure our friends will have a few extra. :)

    @the fashionable traveler - I don't think I've ever bought italian made shoes, but I do prefer leather over synthetic materials. They definitely last longer and fit better. I try to take care of my shoes regardless of how much they cost...I still have a pair of Mary Janes I bought in 2003 (and they're cheapo faux patent Steve Maddens).

  12. These are really great tips. I find now that I am a little older and more established, I buy nicer shoes. I want them to last too because it's so sad when a great pair falls apart.

  13. @destrehan's daughter - that's exactly how I feel! Sure I still grab that cheap pair from Target nowadays, but they have to be really on sale--I'd rather save the money to buy a pair of really nice ones (really nice being like $50 for me). :)

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