While footwear has taken colossal steps forward over the past century, one constant that hasn't changed is the fact that shoes will always require proper care to keep them in good shape.
Today, we have so many types of footwear - from leather to canvas and everything in between. It's bewildering to think that every type of shoe, from cleats to brogues requires special care. Follow our expert tips on how to care for your shoes and they may very well outlast you.
Let’s start with what NOT to do to your shoes in general:
Avoid the wash: Contrary to popular belief, the washing machine is a no-go zone for any type of canvas/ knit or mesh shoe. Even the gentlest cycles can damage the glue that keeps your shoe together and make your soles look more worn down.
No air: Much like our skin, shoes require decent airflow to enable it to breathe. Never store shoes in plastic.
Overwearing: Constantly wearing a single pair of shoes can irreversibly damage the structure of them, in which case, no amount of cleaning can save it. Rotate your shoe wardrobe often.
Dry feet only: Always dry your feet before wearing shoes- damp/moist feet can cause a multitude of health issues and also causes shoes to get moldy.
Don’t forget to wipe: Mud and liquids should be wiped off as soon as possible, specifically from leather shoes to avoid stains.
Forget the heater: In our previous post on making shoes more comfortable, we suggested you stretch them out using a hairdryer- if you want to keep the shape of your shoes, the reverse is also true. Do not dry your damp shoes near a heat source. Air drying is best.
With the don’ts out of the way, here’s what you should be doing to keep your shoes in a prime condition for a long time.
Running shoes usually feature mesh or knit as an upper, so care is quite simple. Primary to keeping your faithful exercise companions in shape is to always put them on and take them off with care; this means: loosen the laces as much as you can to slide your foot in and out without squashing down the heel counter of the shoe.
Air out after each wear and never put damp feet in your shoes: that’s a sure-fire way to give yourself a serious case of foot funk and a fungal infection.
Clean them with a good quality laundry detergent, diluted with water and scrub to a foam before rinsing off under cold water. Never heat dry or tumble dry, rather rest the shoes on a drying rack outside - not in direct sunlight or in an airy room with the fan on.
Stains on white running shoes/ sneakers can be cleaned with nail polish remover or a vinegar and water solution and a cotton ball.
Like the easy-going lifestyle they perpetuate, cleaning Chucks or similar casual canvas shoes is fuss-free.
Our top tip is to use a good quality foaming cleanser specifically formulated for this type of material or good old laundry detergent mixed into a solution with water. Lather up using a firm bristled brush (NOT a steel brush)/ used toothbrush until the entire surface of the shoe is foamy. Wipe off the foam with a damp clean microfibre cloth and leave to dry in an airy place. It’s better not to submerge Chucks into water, this can cause the sole to start cracking where the glue stops working.
Detergents can be replaced with a baking soda/water paste, applied to the stains and left for 15 to 20 minutes. Dip a scrubbing brush into warm water and work the paste into the shoe further before wiping off with a damp cloth and leaving the shoes to air dry.
If you’re in a bind and need to clean with what you have on hand, white, non-gel toothpaste works brilliantly. Work the paste into areas that are stained, leave on for about 10 minutes and wipe off of a wet cloth. Leave to air dry.
Drugstore sneaker scuff cleaners tend to get chalky once dry so rather invest in a specialty product.
Sheepskin shoes are generally not as hardy as other leather shoes, so it would make sense to preemptively protect them immediately after purchase with a sealing spray. A good one can be bought from a shoe repair store. Treat light stains on the shoes pretty much the same way you would on suede or nubuck. Use a good quality rubber eraser, rub the stain gently and then brush in one direction with a suede brush.
If the shoes are really dirty, use a towel or face cloth, wet with warm water, dampen the outside of your shoes. (Don’t get them soaking wet or you will irreparably damage the shoe). Use a solution of 2 parts cold water to 1 part white vinegar and use it to gently scrub away stains with the towel. Wipe the vinegar solution off with a second damp towel, stuff your shoes with balled up newspaper and dry them in an airy place away from heat and direct sunlight.
Greasy, oily stains can be treated with a bit of baby powder; cover the stain with powder and leave it on for a bit, brush it off with the suede brush.
Pro tip for water stains: Rubbing sheepskin on sheepskin is effective for removing water stains, so rub the stained boot with the other boot to remove the mark
Although sheepskin boots wick away moisture, constant wearing can make them smelly sometimes. If this happens, mix together equal parts of baking soda and cornstarch and throw this mixture into your boots, shake it about and leave overnight. Shake out the boots thoroughly the next day.
Blundstones/Workboots/ Hiking Boots
This type of shoe is meant to be rugged and withstand the elements and all the messes you can throw at it. In order to prolong their lifespan, it’s important to take care of them.
For leather variants: Get mud and cruddy bits off by brushing with a soft bristled brush or wet cloth. After testing out the desired color of leather-food in an inconspicuous area, apply leather-food to the uppers with round, even strokes. Leave overnight and buff away the excess the next morning.
For canvas, follow our tips for keeping Chuck Taylors clean.
For nubuck/suede, the same rules as for suede and nubuck care below.
(See our full leather shoe care guide here)
Like any other skin, leather needs to be conditioned so that its’ luster and color remains intact. Before adding any creams, make sure to wipe the uppers with a damp cloth. For any stains, a weak solution of vinegar and water rubbed gently on the stain will lighten it somewhat. Allow to dry and then use a good quality leather food or cream in a color that matches your shoe to seal the uppers.
It’s advisable to polish or wax full grain leathers at least once a month using a leather restorer or lanolin-based lotion. Treat waxy and oily leathers in the same way. For some old school cool, use several pairs of used nylon pantyhose balled up to give the best shine when used with polish.
Usually just need a wipe with a damp cloth and a spritz of a patent leather protective spray that contains silicone to keep its’ high shine. If you discover any scuffs on your shoes, a tiny bit of petroleum jelly rubbed into the scuff will smooth it out, finish off with a spritz of patent spray.
Never take suede or nubuck shoes out on the town without first sealing the leather with a water-resistant spray that contains silicone. Once suede gets wet, that’s it for your shoe, there’s no fixing that kind of damage.
If your suede shoes get dirty, a standard rubber eraser or a suede-block (which can be bought from shoe repair stores) can be used to gently try and lift the dirt. Thereafter, brush in one direction only using a non-wired suede brush (best is soft bristle). If you brush some suedes in multiple directions, it can appear as if the color is inconsistent and your shoes will look ratty. After rubbing and brushing, seal the suede/nubuck again using a silicone-based suede spray.
*Always test any suede sprays out on the least visible part of your shoe and leave for a few hours to check for any color changes before committing to spraying the entire shoe.
** Should you get caught dancing in the rain, save your old newspapers, ball them up and stuff them into your wet shoes to absorb the water and help the shoes to keep their shape
Sandals are generally made from a rubber-like plastic called EVA and just need to be wiped off, especially after a walk on the beach. If they smell bad, try adding some baking soda to the water before washing it. Flip flops can be thrown in the washing machine for a quick spin. Wiivv custom sandals are made from a recyclable plastic and require minimal fuss when cleaning. Simply wipe with a damp cloth and leave to dry out of direct sunlight.
Follow our steps on cleaning the uppers depending on the kind of leather you buy. The trick is keeping the footbed clean and stain-free. Make a paste with either Borax or baking soda and water, rub into the footbed with your hand- don’t mind the gross brown suds that will start forming. Now take a toothbrush and brush the rest in circular motion. Rinse off under cold running water and leave to air dry.
Synthetic/ vegan leather
The biggest problem with synthetic footwear is that it can get smelly if you don’t dry them well enough. A damp soapy cloth is enough to wipe away any dirt residue. Leave them to dry away from heat. Sticking a laundry dryer sheet into each shoe overnight will keep them from smelling funky and help to dry the shoe faster- bonus!
We know there are some die-hard Crocs wearers out there and we’ve got you covered too. Keeping the classic Crocs clean is really not that complicated. They’re washable (not machine-washable though), and simply need a little bit of laundry detergent in the wash water to look as good as new again. Avoid direct heat/tumble drying as it can cause the shoe to shrink.
We hope these tips can help you add a few more meaningful years to your favorite pair of shoes!