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caring for shoes

"There is no such thing as weatherproof leather shoes; when it pours – use galoshes"

Your leather shoes will inevitably crack and fall apart if you do not take proper care of them. But then again, if you make the effort, the chances are that you will be wearing them for life.

* There is no such thing as weatherproof leather shoes; when it pours – use galoshes
* Use a shoehorn when putting your shoes on, and alternate between different pairs
* Use unfinished shoe trees after wearing, otherwise your shoes might lose their shape
* Brush off dirty shoes and condition them thoroughly as often as you can
* For appearance, polish them using shoe polish and a horsehair brush.

Wearing leather shoes

* When you are putting your shoes on, never force your feet into them. Take time to loosen the laces and use a shoehorn; otherwise you might damage the heel cap irreparably.
* You should alternate between your pairs; let them rest from time to time.
* Mind your step; do not walk into puddles or snow on purpose.
* Remember: leather shoes are never fully weatherproof. If it rains heavily, leave you leather shoes at home or, if they are required, use galoshes.

Drying leather shoes

* Forget about impregnating aerosols – they are less effective than conditioners made of natural substances and, more often than not, they are downright hazardous.
* Should your shoes get wet, see to it that you wipe off all external water as soon as you get inside. Dry them using unfinished lime or cedar shoe trees. If you do not have a shoe tree, put in crumpled up pieces of newspaper, but do not force them into the shoes.
* Do not leave your leather shoes next to radiators or any other heat sources. Leather should be dried out slowly at room temperature.
* Once dry, do not forget to condition your shoes.

Cleaning leather shoes

* Brush dirt off your shoes before wearing them, or at least once a week, using a horsehair shoe brush.
* Brushing is usually enough and will bring lustre to the wax coating attained from both your conditioner and your polish.
* If brushing is not enough, wipe your shoes with a damp cloth.
* If your shoes are muddy or exceptionally dirty you can clean them using saddle soap. Dampen a soft cloth and add soap sparingly. Rub your shoes down without getting them soaked and brush off excess lather with a clean cloth. Let them dry as mentioned above.
* Use an old toothbrush or soft nailbrush to get into the welt.

Conditioning leather shoes

* Unconditioned shoes will dry out and crack. A conditioned shoe lasts longer and is comfortable to wear.
* As a rule of thumb, condition your shoes once a month and also when you put them away for winter.
* Make sure that your shoes are clean and dry before you condition them.
* Untie the laces and rub down your uppers, heel counter and tongue using an applicator brush or a cloth. Be sure to treat the whole shoe. In this case, more conditioner is better than less.
* Wait until the conditioner sets and then brush your shoes, preferably with a horsehair brush. You can of course also buff them with a clean cloth.
* Often new shoes are merely polished to make them shine, to be on the safe side – condition them before use!

Polishing leather shoes

* Shoe polish adds to the appearance but does little in terms of conditioning, so use polish as a complement to the conditioner. If you seek a glossy or almost lacquered appearance, you must use polish.
* Be careful - polish contains solvents; therefore you should work in a well-ventilated area and use rubber gloves; the solvents could otherwise get into your skin.
* Add polish using a cloth or an applicator brush. Do not use the polishing brush to apply polish as the hairs will get clumped together and lose their qualities.
* Allow a quarter of an hour for the polish to set, and then brush your shoes to the preferred degree of shine.
* For extra shine treat them with a goat hair shoe brush or, if you do not have one, buff them with a pair of nylon stockings.

"Get your conditioner into the seams; otherwise the stitching will rot."

What products should one use?

* If you are impatient and want to concentrate on only one product – choose a conditioner containing a high proportion of beeswax. But remember, a conditioner will not make your shoes shine.
* A high quality polish is great for a lustrous appearance and contains both beeswax and carnauba wax.
* Your shoes should be allowed to breathe; that is why beeswax is the best to use – it stops water from getting in and lets the air out.
* Do not use products containing water – that would be defeating the purpose. You should also avoid petroleum jelly and silicon; they hinder the airflow, thus creating an unhealthy environment for your feet and causing them to perspire, which in turn causes the leather to dry.
* Transparent products will make your shoes look the way the manufacturer intended. We suggest that you use dyed polish to cover scuff marks or when bringing an old and well-worn shoe back to life.
* Avoid preservatives and synthetic chemicals if possible. Leather is a living material – the use of natural ingredients, such as turpentine, beeswax and carnauba wax, will make it last longer.

Paying attention to detail

* If you are particular and pay attention to detail, a handcrafted quality shoe will last for years on end and will only get better with time.
* When you are conditioning your shoes, grease the untied laces as well. Do not forget to grease the heel and if the sole and welt are made out of leather, grease them as well.
* Get your conditioner into the seams; otherwise the stitching will rot.
* Even the inside of the shoe, if made of leather, should be conditioned once in a while. Just be sure not to wear your shoes until the next day or so.

Photo: Courtesy of Filippa K