Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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.
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?