You’ve found the perfect business shoe to suit your style and parted with a small fortune for the pleasure of adding it to your existing shoe collection – now what? Well, firstly, hats off to you - a great pair of business shoes is something no man should be without but let’s face it, it’s no inexpensive item. A pair of quality leather dress shoes can cost anywhere from $100 to $500+ so if you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash on a pair of shoes, you’ll want to protect your investment. And with proper care and love, those leather shoes will last you for years to come.
Before taking your shoes for a walk, protect them with a water and stain protector. This will help seal the leather and repel water yet still permit the leather to breathe and the moisture inside to escape. A light spray regularly will work a treat.
Tip: Clean your shoes with a brush before coating them. This will prevent dirt from being trapped between the leather and repellent. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid damage.
Cleaning and Polishing
Clean your shoes regularly to remove superficial dirt and stains. Use a cream-based polish to keep your shoes well shined. Polishing not only covers and repairs the damage of daily wear and tear but it also nourishes and moisturizes the leather, keeping it flexible and healthy. Make sure you don’t skip the last step. Once the polish is dry, brush it off with a horsehair brush and give the shoe a good wipe with a soft buffing cloth.
The most common mistake men make in caring for their leather shoes is using too much polish. Excess polish creates a layer of build-up, which has a negative impact on the shoes. It not only covers the natural beauty of the leather but creates a grainy texture in the creases of the shoes and the build-up scuffs easily, and attracts dust. To avoid this, use only a small amount, spread thinly over the shoe to restore the colour and lustre.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to polish your shoes too frequently. Often all that is required is a wipe-down with a brush and cloth to restore the shine.
Tip: Take your shoes with you when purchasing polish to get the best colour match.
Invest in shoe trees – and experts say cedar is the way to go. Moisture and leather do not make a happy pair and with your feet producing over ¼ cup of moisture on a normal day, and up to ½ cup when active - shoe trees are a must! Used consistently, cedar shoe trees can extend the life of your leather shoes up to three times their expected life span. They draw moisture out of your shoes; re-awaken the shoe’s natural structural memory; and prevent the leather from wrinkling and cracking, not to mention they leave behind a nice clean scent!
Tip: Be sure to put them in right after you take off your shoes, when the leather needs them the most.
Shoes need a day off! Even with shoe trees in, it takes a full day (about 24 hours) for your shoes to dry entirely after you’ve worn them. If you want your quality leather shoes to last longer, never wear them for two consecutive days – make sure you have at least two pairs of business shoes to alternate between.
Contact with water can sometimes cause full grain leather to form small raised areas called ‘welts’ (they look like tiny bumps). This is normal, and welts will recede once the shoes are allowed to dry. Wipe the shoes dry as soon as convenient, and allow to dry naturally.
If your leather shoes are very wet, stuff them with a small towel to draw out the moisture and allow to dry naturally.
Tip: Never place your shoes near a heat source, this can dry your shoes out and crack the leather.
To increase the longevity of your leather-soled shoes, go to a cobbler to have a topy sole added – (a rubber piece that covers the front half of your sole). Because the topy sole only covers the front half of the sole, it allows your feet to breathe comfortably through the leather sole whilst adding further protection to your soles. For those that are concerned about slipping, the extra grip provided by the rubber piece is a bonus. A new heel piece can be added once the heel has worn down as well.
Tip: The way you walk will determine how and where the soles will wear out. Become familiar with the susceptible areas of the sole and have the necessary additions made BEFORE they completely wear through – once they wear through, there’ll be no saving your much-loved pair of leather shoes.
This may seem a lot to take in but once you establish a routine, you’ll become quicker and more efficient at maintaining your leather shoes. No matter how much effort you’ve invested in putting together a smart outfit, it’ll only take a scuffy pair of dress shoes to bring the entire ensemble down.
If you have any questions relating to shoe care or men’s shoes in general, feel free to drop us a comment below. Don't forget to check out our guide to caring for suede.