Taking Care of Your Shoes

Today, the most prosaic of topics: proper maintenance of shoes. I will pepper this post with pictures of exciting shoes to compensate.

Velvet Flats by 8
Feel the excitement; Velvet Flats by 8
Penny Loafer by 8
Feel compensated; Penny Loafer by 8

In previous postings, I have described an odd despondency that creeps over me when I buy a new pair of shoes. I feel love and loss at the same time. Like a new car, a pair of shoes begins depreciating as you leave the store. Not only are they losing value, they will deteriorate much faster than other parts of the wardrobe.
Kate Spade Willa Flat
Kate Spade Willa Flat will serve you long and faithfully if you take good care of it

There are, however, a few steps you can take to slow their degradation.

First, when you buy a new pair of shoes, take them to the cobbler before you start wearing them and have him apply ultra-thin rubber soles (but only if they are ultra-thin) and heel savers. You may also want to have toe savers attached; while heel savers are generally discreet, toe savers are sometimes visible when you are seated so . . . you decide.
NB: This rule only applies to leather-soled shoes.

Second, after every wearing, you should allow your shoes to air-out and dry-out for at least a few hours. Before putting leather shoes back in your closet, wipe them inside and out with a damp (barely damp) rag or paper towel to remove any dust, dirt, or schmutz. This is particularly important if you have worn the shoes without socks. If your shoes are suede, brush them instead of wiping them. If they are made of fabric, I would use a lint roller to tidy them up. If they are lined with suede or fabric instead of leather (or another smooth lining surface), press a square of adhesive paper (lint-roller) into your shoes and use the adhesive to remove any dirt.
Jeffrey Campbell Rogan Platform Loafer
Jeffrey Campbell Rogan Platform Loafer features enormous crepe soles; while Vibram soles can be replaced, I doubt the cobbler-man could find replacement soles for these

On a fairly regular basis, you should wipe the interior of your shoes with diluted isopropyl alcohol or white vinegar to disinfect them. Again, this only works if the interior of the shoe is a slick surface; does not work with suede or other fabric linings. Be super-careful to not get alcohol or vinegar on the outside of your shoes; discoloration might result.
L.K. Bennett Alexis Suede Wedge Pump
L.K. Bennett Alexis Suede Wedge Pump beautiful but fragile; suede cannot withstand water whether it comes in the form of a typhoon or a single teardrop
Third, while your shoes are resting in your closet, you should help them maintain their shape by inserting a shoe tree, a cloth form or compressed (i.e., crumpled) packing paper into them. When you travel, make sure to stuff your shoes with compressed packing paper.

Finally, when you notice wear on the heels or soles of your shoes, have the worn parts replaced.
Bensimon Tennis Laced Sneaker
Bensimon Tennis Laced Sneaker requires no maintenance, but when it’s done, it’s done

Good luck and have a fantastic weekend!

These shoes are killing me. The soles are so thick that it actually looks like the model is standing on a tire. But they are fun.
Rogan 2

12 thoughts on “Taking Care of Your Shoes”

  1. A *cobbler*. Along with a tailor/seamstress, another professional I wouldn’t have thought of finding if not for the Directrice. Any recommendations for those of us in DC?

    • You know I do! Expert Shoe and Luggage Repair on Northampton Street NW (just off Connecticut Ave, around the corner from the Avalon Theater).

  2. I think the idea that anyone would actually find the time, energy, and wherewithal to actually DO any of these things to maintain their shoes is complete madness, But perhaps I have totally lost touch with the human race. Have I, Directrice, have I? This is not to say that I think these are bad ideas, no! Au contraire, I am all for the proper maintenance of one’s possessions, I just find it inconceivable that anyone would actually take any of these drastic measures. Then again, I have not been to the dry cleaner for approximately five years and my boss once asked me if I send out my clothes to be wrinkled. I think your readers may be getting the sense that they’re not dealing with an ordinary human being here, so it is probably best to disregard this comment in its entirety. Go run along, minions, go clean your shoes.

    • And thusly, a violent flame war erupted on The Directrice! My darling Desh, perhaps readers will conclude that neither of us is human: I am a disembodied voice issuing arbitrary edicts from a distant exoplanet, you are a pile of unfolded laundry that has come to life and is speaking truth to power! The safest place for readers is probably someplace in between us. But you will note that I didn’t tell everyone to shine their shoes, which is a real drag. P.S. Cannot believe your boss said that to you.

  3. I have a great cobbler who told me that many shoe manufacturers (even good ones) are cutting costs these days by putting cheap plastic on the heels instead of good rubber. So it’s worth replacing the heels even if they are rubber.

    Relatedly, heel taps are a lifesaver, especially if you walk a lot and fast (like I do in NYC). They cost a few bucks and will dramatically extend the time you can go before resoling. I have them added to all of my shoes, whether flat or heeled. It’s a common fix for men’s shoes but even women’s shoes like wedges can have taps added.

  4. I have to admit, I don’t take that great of care of my shoes on a daily basis – however when I do a re-organizing or purge of my closet, I line up my little lovelies to buff, shine and clean to my heart’s content. I really really really love my shoes. I probably have more than the average person, but shoes… shoes have this transformative quality in an outfit that is undeniable. Since I have a sizable quantity, I find that actual repairs are minimal – I rarely take shoes in to get fixed. I wear them all with equal affinity.That is my argument for MORE SHOES 🙂 and I’m sticking with that.

    When packing shoes for a trip? I stuff them with the hosiery and socks I plan to wear with them.
    Thanks for the post Directrice! A perfect topic close to my heart.

  5. A shoe care tip I’ve never thought of! Hooray! I just knew there was something else I could do for my lovelies … i.e. Wipe out their interior with alcohol every so often. Of course! That is brilliant Directrice. I’m onto it. By the way I disagree with your fragile suede surmise. I find it to be sturdy. I have numerous pairs of suede shoes ranging from similar dress/work heels such as the black pair you picture, to my faaaaavourite RM Williams ‘Kimberley’ boots, which I have in chocolate with leather sole and black with rubber sole. My chocolate suede pair are at least 20 years old. I adore them. They are the very best boots in the whole world. (They used to be in the regular catalogue but are now special order.) I spray new suede shoes with waterproof spray and after wear I do brush them. Every so often I respray them.

    • You know, I have never tried to waterproof a pair of shoes. I am a little afraid of anything that comes in an aerosol can, but I know that’s not rational. I may have to stretch myself and try this. I will also check out R.M. Williams. Thanks, Justine!

  6. I’ve tried some of those really thick soled shoes and the sole was so stiff it was hard to imagine walking in them.

    I don’t usually have soles/heels or toe taps put on, but I do polish prior to wearing. I’ve got one of those wooden polish boxes with 3-4 different colors of polish -black, clear, brown and cordovan- and proper brushes. It works on leather handbags as well.

    I think the key to keeping nice shoes nice is not wearing them for your commute. It’s hard on shoes to get soaking wet, you owe it to your fine shoes to own sturdy shoes for walking outdoors.

    • Too right, Ginger! It is very hard for shoes to recover from a soaking rain. In the summer, when violent rainstorms are a common late afternoon occurrence in D.C., I always have a pair of flip-flops at the office — just in case.

  7. Yet another Letter from Distinct Pile of Unfolded Laundry: Minions! Have you lost your tiny minds? You are expressing deep and abiding love for, and an intense interest in attending to the well being of, YOUR SHOES! What Madness is this!? These are not children or companion animals! They are foot coverings! (To be fair, I once had a handbag I wanted to marry, but it was Coach – and a gift from the Directrice herself, which made it different and special and entirely unlike shoes.) Anyway, OK, so shoes are great – but once they wear out you know you can buy new ones. Seriously. Flame!

    • Desh: We understand that shoes are not people; that’s why we don’t hold memorial services for shoes when they have to be discarded. We just mourn them a little. No one here has lost perspective.


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