Shoe Maintenance Basics

Maintaining your shoes is an essential skill to ensure that they stay looking fresh and last longer. In this article, we explore the principles of basic shoe care for smooth leather. Another article will detail basic suede care.

Shoe Trees

One of the most important things to do for your shoes is to store them with shoe trees inserted inside them. Firstly, they preserve the shape of the shoe as it prevents gravity from pushing them down when not worn. In preserving the shape, it will prevent unnecessarily large creases from occurring.

If the shoe tree is made of a moisture absorbing wood like cedar, it also works to wick moisture from the shoe after a day’s wear. It helps prevent the wet sweat from destroying the shoe from the inside.

For welted shoes, it isn’t the bashing of the shoe and careless kicking that will break it apart in the long run as cosmetic blemishes can be fixed (to some extent) with product. In the construction of a welted shoe, if the cork in the foot bedding gets wet, it runs the risk of rot and when that occurs, it will destroy the shoe from the inside – rendering it unrepairable on all accounts.

Therefore, the use of wooden shoe trees, preferable cedar, is most essential in the line of defence against such destruction!

One of the best suppliers in Australia for such shoe trees is from www.trimly.com.au – use the code WSA10FEB for 10% off your order, valid until the end of this February!

Rotation

Rotating your pairs of shoes and never wearing the same pair two days in a row, stored with a cedar shoe tree in them when not on your feet, will keep the cork bedding dry and will prevent the rot from settling in.

Remember that leather is really just skin without living organs to provide it nutrients from within. Resting the leather from a day’s wear will also let it recover, and with regular conditioning, a regular rotation will keep them looking like new, if not even better.

Brushing

Dust often settles on the shoes before wear and during the day. Dust accelerates the drying of the leather and hence risks cracking it if neglected for too long. Before wearing and after a day’s wear, be sure to brush with a horsehair brush before storing them away with shoe trees inserted.

There’s other types of brushes such as boar bristle brushes or goat hair brushes with their different uses, but the horsehair is the most versatile in everyday shoe care.

Use A Shoe Horn

By sticking a shoe horn in the back of the shoe before sliding your feet in along the ramp it provides, the heel is protected from crushing and creasing, thus preserving its longevity.

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A plastic shoe horn will do but for the discerning gentleman, a shoe horn made out of real horn makes it all the more enjoyable each morning as you put them on.

Shoes that have not been cared for in this way not only have unsightly creases around the back of the shoes, but also risk separating the leather from the lining. Unless you’re going for the new fashion trend of stepping on the heel of the shoes, a shoe horn will preserve the heel’s construction integrity.

Conditioning

As mentioned above, leather is skin without the natural provision of nutrients by the animal to keep it from drying out and cracking. Therefore, just like how our skin sometimes requires moisturising products, the leather will also need conditioning product to stay smooth and supple.

A lot of people recommend Saphir’s Renovateur as it feeds a lot of nutrients back into the leather. However, it also darkens the leather so be careful with using this product. This author personally prefers the Saphir Mink Oil Lotion or the Universalle Balm product instead.

A product that also cleans and conditions the shoe is the Boot Black Two Face lotion. It works well to clean grime off the shoe and then condition the leather.

Shoe Cream Polish

When one thinks of shoe polish, the first thing that comes in mind is usually a tin with cracked wax inside it. Without knowing the first thing about polishing, most people think that slathering it on the shoe and then brushing as hard as possible with a back and forth motion is a done deal.

However, there are two types of shoe polishes: cream and wax polish. Cream polish comes in a more aqueous form (like cream) and wax polish is the hard looking one that comes in a tin.

Shoe cream provides some nutrients back into the leather as well as fills pores with some wax to give the shoe a nice soft sheen after drying and brushing. Combined with a conditioner like the mink oil lotion, it truly keeps the leather supple and provides the foundation needed for a high shine wax polish.

A main advantage of shoe cream is that their pigmented versions hide minor marks and scuffs very well. It is often enough to satisfy the basic aesthetic appeal of a nicely polished shoe without going further to use wax polish.

Wax Polish

After filling the pores of the leather with cream and conditioner, going over the top with wax polish can achieve a high shine with the right technique. Make sure to check out our more in-depth article on how to achieve the reflective mirror shine with wax polish!

Without necessarily going for the beautiful mirror shine, a functional aspect of wax polish is to provide a thin film layer that protects the shoe from the elements like small rain droplets and dust. For heavier duty protection that you’d expect to put on a hiking/combat military boot, a product like Dubbin Grease will be necessary – beware, this will kill any aspirations for a mirror shine in the future without having to strip it all off!

Where To Get This Stuff

Boot Black

An up and rising brand established in Japan is Boot Black, and has gained good traction and popularity in Asia. As opposed to the oil based products from Saphir, Boot Black is water based and thus runs less risk of staining clothes.

You can get Boot Black products from Trimly, who currently import most of the essential shoe care products from them. For a full range of all their products, you must visit Japan! Remember to use our 10% off code WSA10FEB valid for this February only.

A subsidiary brand of Boot Black is Brift H, and is not attainable in Australia without going through Japanese mules who will ship here for extra cost. The Japanese shoe shining champion Yuya Hasegawa is the mastermind behind this brand. Keep an eye out also for Brift H in Japan also!

Pure Polish Products

Produced in America, Pure Polish Products uses natural orange oils as opposed to turpentine as a core ingredient in their products. As a result, they are non-toxic, completely natural and smell really great. The oils also provide a faster evaporation rate than turpentine and hence produce a better, faster shine. The team also continually research ways to take your leathers to the next level.

Use the code PUREGIFTFEB at checkout to get a complimentary high quality polishing cloth with your order! Available for this February only, so get in there!

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Saphir Médaille d’Or

One of the world’s best and well renowned brands is Saphir. Many choose to go with this brand as they offer a wide range of products and many professionals achieve great results with it.

In Australia, you can get your hands on this stuff through Double Monk (the official Australian distributor) or online through www.bootblack.com.au.

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