One of the challenges of owning better quality goods is that they require more attention than the disposable goods you are probably accustomed to. Cheap shoes can be worn in whatever weather and then taken off and dumped in a corner, because you’ll just be replacing them anyway. Really nice shoes and boots are different. They won’t tolerate that kind of treatment. Wet leather must never be dried near a heat source, because it will shrink and possibly crack. Additionally, leaving mud and salt caked on can stain and damage the leather. You don’t need to dig out a whole shoe kit every time you go outside, but it’s a good idea to keep a rag near the door to wipe of salt and dirt before it can become a problem. A little care on a regular basis is much easier than a massive overhaul once in a while!
You’ll need a few things if you want to keep your shoes and boots happy.
Shoe polish/cream: these restore color and shine to the leather, as well as protecting the finish. You can’t use them on nubuck, patent, or suede, but most smooth leather like to be polished from time to time. Polish comes in many colors, so make sure to look for some that matches your shoes. If there isn’t any that matches, or if the leather is printed/painted, colorless/neutral polish will serve you well. Apply regularly. I like to polish my boots every week or two if I’m wearing them daily. At least polish whenever you get a scuff or want to refresh the color and shine.
Polish brush: not essential since a soft cloth also works well, but a brush will save you some effort when you want a nice shine. If you plan to polish shoes in dramatically different colors (for example black and white) it might be best to have a different brush for each color to prevent transferring the color. Use whenever you apply polish, and also when shoes are dusty.
Suede brush/eraser: absolutely essential for suede and nubuck. This tool removes scuffs and restores the texture of the leather. Use only when necessary. Overuse can wear the leather prematurely.
Water/stain spray: for all weather boots silicone can be used, but it will make the boot less breathable. Non-silicone is a better choice for spring and summer boots since it won’t seal the sweat inside. Check the label to see how often to reapply, because it varies from product to product.
Mink oil: smells kinda funky, but works wonders on smooth leather. Adds water resistance and moisturizes the leather. Do not use on suede, nubuck, or patent! Apply monthly if you’re wearing the shoes daily, less often if you wear them more rarely.
Leather lotion: adds moisture to dry leather. Also nice for maintaining patent. I like Cadillac, but other brands are probably equally good. Use whenever leather is dry, after drying thoroughly soaked leather, and regularly on frequently worn patent.
Shoe horn: I used to think these were just for old people. Not so at all! Using a shoe horn saves wear on the back of the shoe, and prevents the heel area from getting all mashed and bent. I have a lovely metal one hanging on a hook near the door, and it was worth every penny I spent on it. Use it every time you put on shoes.
Boot trees: keeps the upper part of your boot from falling over. Not only does this prevent creases, it makes your boots fit better in your closet! Real boot trees can be spendy, but I’ve heard a fat pool noodle cut into sections works well too. Stick them in your boots when you take them off, every time if possible.
Magic eraser: a small piece of this removes scuff marks from light leathers. Use whenever there is a dark mark on a light colored smooth leather. (Not on patent, suede, or nubuck though!) Polish when you’re done for shoes that look like new!
Optional: soft cloth, daubers, sponges, and other fancy application tools. These make the job easier, but can be costly. An old t-shirt will serve the same purpose for a lot less money. (Recycling! Yay!)
I like to keep all my supplies together in box or a big Ziploc so I can just grab the whole kit when I need something.
I’ll be interviewing the manager of one of a very few remaining local shoe stores offering expert fittings and repairs, so I’ll have even more shoe care info soon! Happy polishing!!!