How to care for leather shoes

A man uses a shoe brush to remove dirt and debris from his leather shoes.

Leather shoes are a key staple of anyone’s wardrobe, regardless of your age, gender and personal style. Since they’re generally more waterproof than other materials such as suede or canvas, they’re a great choice of anything from winter boots to casual shoes and everything in between.

As with any material, leather requires a small amount of TLC to keep it looking its best. Keep reading to learn more about looking after your leather shoes.

How to take care of leather shoes

You might assume that looking after leather shoes is a bit of a chore, but in reality most of the heavy lifting comes not in doing extra things, but in slightly adjusting the way you do the things you’re already doing.

Confused? Don’t worry. We’ll go into more detail in the various shoe care steps below.

How you wear your leather shoes

It probably doesn’t need saying, but there is a time and a place to wear leather shoes. We don’t mean in terms of fashion, but practicality. If you know you’re going to be out in heavy rain, snow or even traipsing through mud, do your leather shoes a favour and pick something a little more appropriate to wear on your feet.

Top tip! If you really need to wear your leather shoes (perhaps they’re formal shoes for an event you’re attending) but the weather’s foul, consider wearing something else for the journey and switching into your leather pair once you get into the warm and dry.

Even if the weather is at its calmest, take a moment to consider before putting on your leather shoes. Did you wear this pair yesterday? If you did, then it’s a good idea to let that pair rest and choose something else to wear instead so the leather has ample time to air between wears. For this reason, it’s an excellent idea to have multiple pairs of leather shoes so that you can easily rotate between them to keep them in great condition.

How you store your leather shoes

You might think all the damage to your leather shoes will happen while you’re wearing or cleaning them, but it’s also the case that wear and tear can occur when they’re left alone. Storing your leather shoes in adverse conditions can cause the leather to crack, fade or even lose its shape over time.

Shoe trees can be incredibly helpful in this respect. Many are designed to absorb moisture and sweat to keep the material in good condition, and the foot-shaped nature of the shoe tree helps to ensure your shoes keep their ideal shape. If you haven’t already got one of these tools, you can use scrunched up newspaper in the meantime to do the job – but it’s worth noting that purpose-built tools usually give better results.

Where you store your leather shoes is also an important consideration. Both heat and sunlight can be damaging to leather, so a cool, dry location is essential. And if you know you won’t be wearing the shoes for a while – perhaps you’re storing your winter boots away over the summer months – then consider putting them inside a shoebox or dust bag. This will help to keep dust and debris from falling onto the shoes while they’re in storage, as this can cause stains if left to sit for long periods of time.

How you clean your leather shoes

In general, the more often you clean an item, the less dirty it gets – therefore it takes a shorter time to do the cleaning. The same principle applies to leather, in that you should make sure to gently brush off any dirt or grime with a microfibre cloth or shoe brush after each wear. That way, the debris won’t be ground into the leather as time goes on, and you’re less likely to have to worry about staining.

For more in depth cleaning to be done less often, make sure the shoes are completely dry, and pop some shoe trees or newspaper inside them to keep their shape. Remove the laces – these can be washed in warm, soapy water if needed. Then use a damp, non-soapy cloth to remove any remaining dirt.

If a damp cloth alone isn’t enough, then you can also get specialist leather cleaners to help break down dirt and stains. Once you’re happy with the cleanliness of the shoe, you can use a towel to dab away any water droplets, then use a cream or wax polish to restore the leather. This helps to prevent it from becoming too dry and cracking.

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