Caring For Dress Shoes

You can tell the measure of a man by his shoes. Given the high price of quality leather dress shoes, let’s take that concept at face value. Durable, comfortable, stylish dress shoes range anywhere from $100 to $500. And if you’re going to be dropping the cash on a pair of high-end shoes, you’re going to need to take good care of them. With a little know-how and a few extra bucks, preventive maintenance can make those expensive leather shoes last longer.

Use water repellent
Before taking your new shoes out on their first walk, be sure to apply a coat of water repellent to the leather. After the initial application, habitually reapply it as instructed. Most experts recommend that you use a water-based repellent to seal the leather because it allows it to breathe and the moisture inside it to escape. Moisture impacts leather’s elasticity, so keeping moisture balanced is a must; too much moisture causes the leather to stretch, while too little moisture causes the leather to shrink. In both cases, the leather becomes ugly and loses its original fit. For as little as $8, a can of spray-on water repellent can dramatically increase the comfort and the lifespan of your leather shoes.

Tip: Wipe your shoes with a clean, warm sponge before adding additional coats of repellent; this will warm the leather, making it more porous and improving its ability to absorb the product, and prevent trapping dirt between the leather and the repellent.

Use shoe polish
A good shoe polish keeps leather shoes shining like a new dime. Polishing your shoes regularly does two things: It covers and repairs the damage of daily wear and tear and it nourishes and moisturizes the leather, keeping it flexible and healthy. Experts recommend using cream-based polishes and carrying your shoes with you when you purchase polish to ensure you get the one that best matches your shoe tone.

Tip: Buff the polish off your shoes with a pair of panty hose to get an optimal shine.

Hang your shoes on a tree
Do yourself a favor: Use shoe trees with any good pair of leather shoes; they’ll make your shoes last that extra mile. The beauty of shoe trees is that they fill out the shoe, helping the leather maintain its form. This prevents the leather from shrinking and creasing.

Like other protective options, you have multiple choices when buying shoe trees, but the experts will tell you there’s only one viable option: ones made of cedar. Cedar has the ability to absorb harmful moisture and objectionable odors. Any reputable shoe store will have shoe trees in stock, so go ahead and get this $20 add-on to keep your shoes in mint condition.

Tip: Insert the shoe tree immediately after taking off your shoes; this allows the interior moisture to be instantly absorbed.

Take care of your soles
A house is only as solid as the foundation on which it’s built, so make sure you take steps to save your shoe soles. While there are many types of soles out there, chances are a good, high-quality pair of leather shoes will be based on leather soles. Just like the leather on top, the leather on the bottom must be protected. The best option is to have your local cobbler attach “taps” to the front and rear heels. Acting as buffers between the heel and the ground, taps absorb the shock and damage of constant pounding, and prevent the sole from eroding. Given that taps generally only cost $1 each ($4 for a set), this is undoubtedly the cheapest way to protect the most vulnerable part of your shoe.

Tip: Don’t add taps until you have worn the shoes about 12 to 18 months; this allows the soles to conform to your gait, making for a smoother stride and more comfortable wear.

Replace your soles
The soles on your shoes are like the tires on your car: They eventually wear out and need to be replaced. According to the experts, the “upper” part of the shoe can last as long as 20 years, but the “lower” part of the shoe, on average, only lasts around five. So, when the sole becomes uncomfortable to wear and gets ragged in appearance, the best option -- rather than replacing the entire shoe -- is replacing the sole. For around $35, you can have the soles replaced instead of spending more money to replace the entire shoe.

Tip: When resoling your shoes, check with the shoe’s manufacturer; many manufacturers offer discounts and packages on resoling and refurbishing shoes.

walking on
Dress shoes are an expensive investment that must be protected, and a few dollars here and there will save you a bundle down the road. So, now that you know some tricks of the trade, venture forth in preventive maintenance and style.