How to Care for Leather Shoes
Quality leather shoes can last for decades, especially when cared for properly. Here are some tips to help you care for your leather shoes, and maximize their lifetime.
Add a Protective Insole
Protective insoles are not just for comfort. Adding an insole prolongs the life of a leather shoe by reducing the weight on the sole of the shoe. Over time this wear from your feet and from walking around can put pressure on the insole, causing it to rupture or come loose. Add a thin insole if you use thick socks or a thick insole if you use thinner socks. Be sure to try each insole on the respective pair before buying to ensure a proper fit.
Use a Shoe Horn
When you’re in a rush, it can be tempting to wiggle into a pair of shoes, crushing the counter on your way in. The counter is like the spine of a shoe, and supports the integrity of the construction materials used to fabricate it. Unchecked, this habit can wreak havoc on the integrity of the counter. A damaged counter will cause your leather shoes to lose structure and no longer fit correctly or offer good support. Use a shoehorn and take your time, cowboy.
Rotate Your Shoes
As you wear your shoes during the day, your feet will produce a lot of moisture – as much as ¼ cup! Leather absorbs moisture and when it does the protein bonds in the molecules that make up the leather are weakened. When this happens, the leather feels stiffer. Use a shoe tree to absorb the moisture (see below) or rotate your shoes so that you don’t wear the same pair for more than two days in a row. Giving your shoes a day off will give them a chance to breathe.
Invest in a Shoe Tree
Shoe trees prolong the life of your leather shoes by absorbing moisture and maintaining the shape of the shoe. They are made from aromatic wood, like cedar, which helps repel insects and keeps closets and drawers smelling naturally fresh. Shoe trees preserve the shape of your leather shoes while absorbing moisture from the leather. They can be adjusted to fit shoes as needed through the brass tubing in the center.
Maintenance is imperative when caring for the life of leather shoes. Throughout a normal day, your shoes will be exposed to dust, dirt, mud, water, and even harsher materials depending on where you are working. If your shoes are only slightly dirty, use a damp rag to clean them off. If they are substantially dirty, or have not been cleaned in a long time, it’s a good idea to use Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Straight Cleaner on them, or any other leather cleaner you might have on hand (so long as you test it first in a discreet area). When the leather has dried completely, it’s a good idea to give it some leather conditioner to restore the leather’s vital oils and nutrients, a supple texture, and some extra protection for its next trip out into the world. Chamberlain’s Boot & Shoe Cream No.6 was designed specifically for this purpose! You can read more in our handy Boot & Shoe Cream Guide. For shoes exposed to a very dry climate, it’s also a good idea to add liquid based shiner.
If your shoes take a lot of abuse, you’ll be glad you chose to buy your shoes in leather! This material is among the most durable, breathable, and long-lasting materials you’ll find. With proper care and maintenance, your leather shoes can last for years. Take care of your leather, and it will take care of you.
We hope these tips serve you well as you maintain the life and longevity of your leather shoes.
Meet the Author
Garry Izotov, owner of Leather Care Supply, started a small shoe repair shop in 2006. Dedicated to provide quality leather, shoe and foot care products to the public, Gary developed strong bonds with manufacturers and distributors in the industry. He is passionate about educating people on the longevity of leather and the importance of taking care of their leather goods. Properly maintained leather goods can last virtually forever, which can promote a safer and greener environment. Find him on Facebook and Instagram.