We treat our shoes much more roughly than we treat our clothes. This makes sense from a certain perspective because shoes are designed to handle impact and direct content with the ground. Shoes are also made from more durable materials than your clothes. But if you think about the cost of a good pair of shoes, the time it takes to buy them, and the attachment we often feel to them; then you realize that it doesn’t make sense to treat our shoes so poorly.
I’m not suggesting that you build your shoes a shrine or spend every second trying to avoid grass, mud or scuffs. What I’m suggesting is that you think about your shoes as an investment and as an important part of your wardrobe. If you look at them this way, then it makes sense to give them more care.
A shoe-lover or a cobbler can talk about a half-dozen parts of the shoe (or more), but for our purposes you only need to think about 3 parts: the sole, the outer shell and the inner shoe. If you take a look at each of these areas and do a little maintenance, then your shoes will last much longer and look great whenever you need them.
The Sole of the Matter
The sole of the shoe is the part that you walk on. It takes damage every day. It absorbs the friction of concrete, the impact of stairs and the stabbing of rocks, glass and other stab-y things you walk on every day. Maintaining the soles of your shoes is the key to protecting the bottoms of your feet.
For Soles, you need to look at 2 things:
- The wear of the sole: How thick is the sole, is the thickness even, are there any holes or chunks missing?
- The attachment of the sole: Is the sole flopping off, is there a gap between it and the rest of the shoe?
Your soles are going to wear down over time. And if your sole was glued on or the stitching is weak, then you are going to see your soles start to come off over time. Luckily, both of these issues can be repaired for far less than the cost of buying a new pair of shoes.
For athletic shoes, there isn’t much you can do because these soles are usually all rubber and they are not designed to be repaired. But the soles on men’s and women’s casual and dress shoes (including heels) can be repaired. Often it will only take an hour at a shoe repair place to have your old sole stripped off and a new one put on. The price is normally only 20-40 dollars.
If you check the wear and the stitching on your shoes every 2-3 months, you will catch the damage before it gets too bad and you can get it repaired at low cost. This can be the difference between buying a new pair of shoes every 18 months and buying a new pair every 3 years. That difference in replacement times will save most people hundreds of dollars per year and a lot more if you have a large shoe collection.
Taking a Look Outside
The outside of your shoe is the part that everyone sees and that you are judged by. The key thing here is to make sure that get rid of scratches, replace the laces and keep them polished.
With non-athletic shoes, most outer damage comes from either the weather or shoe contact with surfaces. The main things to do are pretty simple.
- Put your shoes away when you get home. Don’t just stick them under the bed or throw them in a closet. If you put your shoes on a shelf or at least place them in their own space, then they are less likely to get damaged by other shoes and things falling on them. You can find inexpensive shoe organizers that will let you protect your shoes and save space.
- Wipe your shoes down a couple of times a week or any time you walk through mud, dust, grasses, etc. This will keep the elements from permanently discoloring your shoes and also make it easier to see scratches and scuffs.
- Use a protectant spray on leather, nubuck, felt or suede. Be ready for the coloring to change slightly, so you should test on a small area on the back of the shoe before applying everywhere. You can get protectant for canvas and other materials, but animal materials tend to take the most damage from moisture.
- Polish and shine your shoes at least once per month. You don’t need to get the specific color shoe polish to match your shoes, just by neutral polish. The keep thing with polishing is applying a good amount of polish and then buffing them to a high-shine. Make sure to by a good brush or cloth for applying the polish and then a have a strong towel for buffing.
- If you have deep scratches or scuffs, then take the shoes to a cobbler. Depending on the damage, they can often the scratch, so it is unnoticeable.
It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts
The inside of your shoe seems like the area that you’d be most aware of, but many people don’t think about it unless they have a pebble in there. You can keep your feet comfortable, dry and stink-free with a few simple moves.
- Rotate your shoes – This really applies to all parts of the shoe, but the more you wear a pair of shoes the more damage they take. If you rotate through 2 or 3 pair during the month, then they will all last longer.
- Use shoe trees – Your shoes will stay comfortable longer if they retain their shape. Use shoe trees (cedar works best), to keep the shoe in shape.
- Air them out – Take out your laces and pull out the tongues of the shoe everyone once in a while, so the shoe can get some air. You should definitely do this whenever moisture gets inside the shoe.
- Use powder or special insoles to reduce the smell – this is more about hygiene than aesthetics. If you keep the shoes dry and use a powder like Gold Bond, then you are much less likely to get athletes foot or other foot ailments.
Give Your Shoes Some TLC
I recently threw out about 5 pairs of shoes that I’d have anywhere from 2-6 years. Some of them were gym shoes that I’d gotten good use out of, but a couple of them were shoes that I just didn’t take good care of. It pained me to realize that I’d spent money on these shoes and had really like them, but hadn’t been conscientious enough to keep them from looking terrible.
If you have shoes you want to hold onto or just want to save money, then this article will help you. A little TLC and preventive care will help you keep your favorite shoes in rotation for years.
I’ve always liked shoes and recently started buying more of them again. Before going shopping, I do an inventory of what I have and have found that many good pairs of shoes don’t get the attention that they need.