A Guide to Caring for Your Shoes so They Remain in Optimal Condition for Longer

Did you know that ultra high-quality shoes can last you a lifetime, and median quality leather shoes can serve you for up to 10 years? 

However, to keep your shoes in good repair and optimum condition, you need to treat them well. If you neglect to care for your shoes, they may develop stains, cracks, scuffs, and all the other tell-tale signs of shoes that have been around the block. 

If you have a collection of good shoes that you want to keep in prime condition, read on to discover how to take care of shoes so that they last and look great for years to come.

Keep Them Clean

The first tip for how to care for leather shoes is to clean them fastidiously. This applies to all shoes, but particularly to leather footwear. 

For synthetic leather shoes, your best bet is some mild soap and a gentle scrub. Avoid putting shoes in the washing machine, as this will damage their soles and warp their shape. Instead, hand wash them and then lay them out to dry in a warm area out of direct sunlight. 

For canvas shoes, use water, fabric shampoo, and a soft brush, then leave to dry.

It is pretty hard to go wrong with cleaning canvas and synthetic leather shoes.

Not so for genuine leather. While patent leather shoes can handle water and soap, leather shoes can't. What's more, each type of leather requires slightly different treatments.

Let's take a look at how to clean the main different types of leather shoes.

Finished Leather

Finished leather shoes are easy to clean because their finished exteriors protect the absorbent inner side of the leather. 

The first rule of thumb for cleaning and caring for a leather shoe is to polish it often. This will maintain its finish and keep it looking new for longer. 

However, sometimes your shoes might be too dirty to simply give them a polish. In this case, you will need to use a damp cloth and mild soap to clean the outside of each shoe. 

Stay away from sponges, as they may give off harsh contaminants that can damage the leather of your shoe. 

Once you have cleaned your finished shoes and allowed them to dry (not by a radiator as this will cause the shape to distort) it's time to moisturize them.

To do this, apply a leather or shoe cream. Once this has absorbed, apply a layer of good quality shoe polish and buff the shoes to a sheen. 

Take note that if you care for your shoes regularly you probably won't need to apply shoe cream with each cleaning. Gauge the dryness of the leather, and if it is looking parched, cream it. Otherwise, you can leave it until next time. 

Unfinished Leather

If your shoes are unfinished you will need to take a little more care not to get them overly wet while cleaning. The best method is to use saddle soap.

Start by creating a lather. Then gently brush this on, paying extra attention to soiled areas or stains. Wipe off any excess as you go. 

Once you have finished and removed all lather, leave to dry naturally. 

For stubborn water or salt stains apply a mixture of 2-parts water 1-part white vinegar to affected areas. Wipe until stains disappear. 


Due to its sensitive nature, suede requires the most care when cleaning. 

To prevent water staining while cleaning, use a suede cleaner along with a soft rubber suede brush. Gently rub off any accumulated dirt. 

If your suede has any stubborn areas of dirt you can try steam cleaning them. The safest way is to get a kettle to a rolling boil and allow the steam to rise against the soiled area while brushing with the suede brush. Wipe down with an absorbent cloth and leave to dry fully. 

Another tip for keeping suede shoes in excellent condition is to apply a protective spray. If the nap has become matted or compressed, use a suede conditioner to gently restore the fibers and color. 

Store Them Well

The next top shoe maintenance tip is to store your shoes well. Shoes that are heaped at the bottom of your closet will quickly lose their shape and begin to look battered. 

Instead, invest in a shoe tree to give your footwear the leather shoe treatment they deserve. 

Alternatively, you can store your shoes in their boxes. To help them maintain their shape, stuff the shoes with tissue paper before placing them in their box. 

Additionally, make sure that the environment where you store your shoes is cool, dry, and well ventilated. 

Use a Shoehorn

If you want to make use of an insider's tip for how to take care of leather shoes, we recommend you invest in shoehorn. 

What is a shoehorn and why do you need one? Shoe horns are elongated tools designed to assist you in getting into your shoes without ruining their shape. All you need to do it slip the end into the back of your shoe (where your heel goes) and then slide your foot in.

No bending, no tugging, and no sore fingers. 

For close-fitting dress shoes, shoe horns can be essential. Not only do they protect your shoes from tugging and pulling while you try to get your feet in, but they also save you a lot of inconveniences. 

Donning a snug pair of shoes invariably means undoing the laces. With a shorn horn you can skip the laces and the tugging and instead slip into your smartest pair of shoes in seconds. 

How to Take Care of Shoes: Do You Have Everything You Need?

Now that you know how to take care of shoes so that they will remain in premium condition, all you need are the right tools. 

Polish and leather shampoo are widely available, as are protective sprays for suede. For any extras such as suede brushes, you may need to visit your local shoe repair shop or do an online search. 

And as far as shoehorns go, we have you covered. We pride ourselves on our selection of premium shoehorns. Choose between our plastic and steel ranges or short- and long-handled lengths.