Fashion Shoes

Shoe Care 101: How to Extend the Life of Your Footwear

Taking good care of your shoes not only keeps them looking great but also extends their life, saving you money in the long run. Whether you have a prized pair of leather boots or your favorite sneakers, proper shoe care is essential. This guide will provide you with practical tips and insights on how to maintain and protect your footwear.

The Importance of Shoe Care

Shoes are an investment, and just like any other investment, they require maintenance. Tim Little, CEO of Grenson Shoes, puts it perfectly: “Treat your shoes like you would your skin. Just as you cleanse, tone, and moisturize your face, you should also clean, condition, and protect your shoes” (Source: Grenson).

Personal Anecdote: My Shoe Care Journey

I used to neglect my shoes, thinking they would last regardless of how I treated them. However, after my favorite leather boots started showing signs of wear and tear prematurely, I realized the importance of proper shoe care. I began researching and practicing good shoe maintenance habits, and now my shoes last much longer and look better.

Essential Shoe Care Practices

1. Cleaning Your Shoes

Regular cleaning is the first step in shoe care. Different materials require different cleaning methods, so it’s essential to know what type of material your shoes are made of.

Leather Shoes

Leather shoes need gentle care. Use a soft brush to remove dirt and dust. For deeper cleaning, use a damp cloth with a mild soap solution. Avoid soaking the leather, as excessive moisture can damage it.

Suede Shoes

Suede shoes require special attention. Use a suede brush to remove dirt and a suede eraser for stains. Be gentle to avoid damaging the delicate texture.

Fabric and Mesh Shoes

For fabric and mesh shoes, a soft brush and mild soap solution work well. Gently scrub the surface to remove dirt and stains. Avoid using too much water, as it can weaken the adhesives.

2. Conditioning Your Shoes

Conditioning helps keep your shoes soft and supple. This is especially important for leather shoes, which can dry out and crack over time.

Leather Shoes

Apply a leather conditioner or cream to keep the leather hydrated. Use a soft cloth to work the conditioner into the leather, then buff it with a clean cloth for a nice shine. Justin FitzPatrick, shoe expert and author of The Shoe Snob Blog, emphasizes the importance of shoe trees: “Shoe trees are the single most important investment you can make in your footwear. They help maintain the shape of your shoes, absorb moisture, and prevent creases” (Source: The Shoe Snob Blog).

Suede Shoes

Use a suede conditioner or spray to keep the material soft. Always follow the product instructions and test on a small area first.

3. Protecting Your Shoes

Protection is key to preventing damage from the elements and everyday wear and tear.


Waterproof sprays are available for various shoe materials, including leather, suede, and fabric. Apply a waterproofing spray to protect your shoes from water damage, especially if you live in a rainy climate.

Sole Protection

Consider adding rubber soles or taps to the bottom of your shoes. This can prevent the soles from wearing out quickly and provide extra traction.

4. Polishing Your Shoes

Regularly polishing your shoes not only makes them look great but also protects the material. Kirby Allison, founder of The Hanger Project, states, “Regularly polishing your shoes not only makes them look great, but it also helps to protect the leather from the elements and everyday wear and tear” (Source: The Hanger Project).

Leather Shoes

Use a quality shoe polish that matches the color of your leather shoes. Apply the polish with a soft cloth, let it dry, and then buff it to a shine with a brush.

Patent Leather Shoes

Patent leather shoes can be polished with a damp cloth and a small amount of mineral oil to maintain their glossy finish.

5. Storing Your Shoes

Proper storage is crucial for maintaining the shape and condition of your shoes.

Use Shoe Trees

Shoe trees are essential for maintaining the shape of your shoes and absorbing moisture. They are particularly important for leather shoes.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

Store your shoes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can cause fading and drying out of the material.

6. Repairing Your Shoes

Timely repairs can extend the life of your shoes significantly.


If the soles of your shoes are worn out, consider getting them resoled by a professional cobbler. This can give your shoes a new lease on life.

Fixing Minor Damage

For minor scuffs and scratches, use matching shoe polish or repair kits to touch up the damage.

Specific Care Tips for Different Types of Shoes

Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes, including running shoes and trainers, require special care due to the heavy wear they endure.


Use a soft brush and mild soap solution to clean athletic shoes. Avoid putting them in the washing machine, as this can damage the materials and adhesives. The Cobblers Plus, shoe repair specialists, advise: “Never put your shoes in the washing machine or dryer. The heat and agitation can damage the materials and adhesives, causing them to fall apart” (Source: The Cobblers Plus).

Air Drying

After cleaning, let your athletic shoes air dry. Stuff them with newspaper to help absorb moisture and maintain their shape.

Dress Shoes

Dress shoes need regular maintenance to keep them looking sharp and polished.


Regular polishing is essential for dress shoes. Use a quality polish and buff them to a high shine.

Shoe Trees

Always use shoe trees for dress shoes to maintain their shape and prevent creases.


Boots, whether they are leather, suede, or fabric, require specific care to keep them in good condition.


Waterproof your boots regularly, especially if you wear them in wet conditions. This will protect the material and keep your feet dry.

Cleaning and Conditioning

Clean and condition your boots as needed to keep the material soft and supple. Red Wing Heritage, a boot and shoe manufacturer, emphasizes the importance of knowing the care requirements: “Different types of leather require different care. Always check the care instructions for your shoes before cleaning or conditioning them” (Source: Red Wing Heritage).

The Science of Shoe Care

Proper shoe care not only improves the appearance of your shoes but also extends their life. Studies have shown that regular maintenance can significantly impact the durability of footwear.

The Durability and Longevity of Leather Footwear

A study published in the Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association examines the factors that affect the lifespan of leather shoes. The findings highlight the importance of proper shoe care, including cleaning, conditioning, and protecting leather shoes to maximize their longevity.

The Effects of Cleaning and Conditioning on Athletic Footwear

Another study, published in the Journal of Testing and Evaluation, investigates the effects of different cleaning and conditioning methods on the physical properties of various shoe materials. The results provide valuable insights into how to properly care for different types of shoes to extend their lifespan.


Taking good care of your shoes is essential for maintaining their appearance and extending their life. By following the tips and practices outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your footwear remains in excellent condition for years to come. As Tim Little from Grenson Shoes reminds us, treating your shoes with the same care you give your skin can make a significant difference in their longevity and appearance.

Remember, investing in proper shoe care is not just about preserving your shoes but also about maintaining your comfort and style. By cleaning, conditioning, protecting, and storing your shoes correctly, you can enjoy your favorite pairs for much longer. So, take the time to care for your shoes, and they will take care of you, providing you with comfort, style, and durability.

Serena Mitchell

I'm a fashion-obsessed gal with a passion for sharing affordable finds, styling tips, and body-positive fashion inspiration. I believe great style is about feeling confident and expressing your unique personality – not about breaking the bank. When I'm not hunting down the perfect pair of jeans, you'll find me sipping coffee at my favorite local café or exploring new hiking trails with my pup.

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