Here's how to make your shoes last longer with a few quick and easy steps. BEFORE WEARING Have a cobbler put sole guards on leather-soled...

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Here’s how to make your shoes last longer with a few quick and easy steps.


Have a cobbler put sole guards on leather-soled shoes. The thin pieces of rubber protect soles and prevent water from penetrating the leather.

Be sure to waterproof leather and suede shoes. Silicone sprays provide superior waterproofing, making them ideal for use on heavy boots that must withstand the elements. They do tend to darken light to midtone leathers and leave an oily residue, so for more delicate leather, suede or even fabric shoes, use a nonsilicone spray. Remove any dirt or dust from shoes before you spray them, and let them dry overnight.


Clean and protect your shoes, no matter the material.

Leather: Polish leather shoes every third or fourth time you wear them. Apply shoe polish with a horsehair applicator. Let polish set, and then buff shoes with a soft cotton cloth. Over time, the wax polish will dull the sheen of the shoes and block the pores of the leather. To remove buildup, use a cleaning solvent designed to dissolve oil-based stains. Apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Follow the cleaning with another application of waterproofing spray. After the shoes have dried, polish them once more to restore the oils.

Suede: Carefully remove dust from the shoes’ surfaces using a nylon brush. With a soft cotton cloth, apply a liquid cleanser made specifically for suede. Cover the shoes’ surfaces completely. Once the shoes are dry, use the brush to restore the nap. Suede erasers can be used to clean scuff marks.

Patent leather: To keep it clean and supple, polish with spray-on furniture polish. For an occasional quick fix, you can restore the shine to patent-leather shoes with an ammonia-based glass cleaner and a soft cotton cloth. (It may also be worth investing in a special patent-leather cleaner, which won’t dry out shoes.)


Don’t wear your shoes on consecutive days. Moisture from your feet can damage leather and distort the shape. Leave shoes out for a day in a well-ventilated place before returning them to storage or wearing them again.

Keep shoes free of dust, which can damage leather by drying it out or by trapping moisture. Give your closet a once-over every four months or so.

Clean muddy or worn footwear. Use a gentle leather cleaner, such as Lexol-pH (oily leather cleaners, such as saddle soap, leave a sticky residue). You may be able to treat some stains on your own, depending on the type of stain and the severity. Baby wipes are terrific for removing dark scuffs from leather shoes. For water-based stains on suede or nubuck, use a suede eraser, or go over the affected area very lightly with an emery board, being careful not to disturb the grain of the suede.


Keep shoes in a dry area, free from dust and direct sunlight.

Use flannel shoe bags. Avoid plastic containers. They don’t let air circulate around the shoes, which can lead to mold or dryness. Cardboard shoe boxes are not up to the job either. They can trap moisture and allow mold to grow. Some shoes come with flannel bags, but you can also buy them from a shoe-repair shop.

Use shoe trees and toe shapers to maintain the shape of your shoes and control odors and moisture. For sturdy leather styles such as men’s dress shoes, use cedar shoe trees — the cedar naturally absorbs dampness and unpleasant odors. For more delicate women’s shoes, use toe shapers. They are particularly handy for pointy footwear and other styles that can lose their shape.

Use boot shapers to keep your leather and suede boots from slouching.


Replace soles. To determine whether a shoe needs a new sole, press its center with your thumb; if it feels springy, it’s time to visit a cobbler. When considering professional repairs, note the value of your shoes. It may not be worth investing $70 to resole a $40 pair of shoes.

Replace heels. If you break a heel or decide you’d like to change the look of your shoes, your cobbler can increase or decrease the height of your shoes up to a half-inch when reheeling. A cobbler can also add a different style of heel.

Adjust the size. If your shoes are snug, they can be stretched up to half a size; some cobblers can take in the calves on a loose pair of boots.

Dye the leather. This is a great way to give new life to old shoes. In general, you should dye shoes to a darker shade; some suede and fragile or worn leathers may not be suitable for dyeing.

Questions may be sent to or Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. Sorry, no personal replies.