How to Care for Leather Shoes

Leather is a natural material and you can enjoy beautiful aging as time passes.

However, the leather gets dried out naturally and looks a little bit shabby if you do not care for a while.

For enjoying beautiful aging, why do not you care your leather shoes?

This article shows how to care for leather shoes properly.

STEP 1: Insert Shoe Trees

(In the following videos, only one shoe is shown but please do it with both shoes when doing it)

The first thing to do is to remove the shoelaces, and put shoe trees that keep the shoes in shape.

Tools used in STEP 1: “Shoe Trees”

The shoe trees are tools in the shape of shoes, usually made of wood or plastic. It is an essential item to keep your shoes in good shape, especially dress or classic style shoes.

Example of “Shoe Trees”

Keep it in your shoes except when you are wearing them.

STEP 2: Brush with a Horsehair Brush

Brush the entire surface of shoes with a horsehair brush with a strong touch.

The edge part is a kind of sport where dust and dirt stuck easily, so brush this area with more attention.

Tool used in STEP 2: “Horsehair Brush”

Horsehair is soft and flexisible, so you can brush off dust and dirt on leather.

Choes the one with large handle for a better grip.

Example of “Horsehair Brush”

STEP 3: Wipe off with Cleaner and Cloth

Put cleaner on a cloth and gently wipe off to clean up the whole surface.

Note that the cloth gets colored even if it is wiped repeatedly because of the dye of the leather. If you wipe it once, the leather is clean enough so you can move on to the next STEP.

Tool used in STEP 3: “Cleaner” and “Cloth”

Choes a Cleaner specially made for leather shoes so it will not damage the leather.

In this article, I use a cleaner called “Stain Remover” which is from a brand of M.Mowbray. Stain Remover is a water-based cleaner, so no consern to damage the leather.

Example of “Cleaner”

You can use a cloth that is commercially available for shoe care, or use a T-shirt that has been worn and softened.

Example of “Cloth”

STEP 4: Moisturize with Cream

Apply cream to moisturize the leather so that the leather last longer. Put the cream to the edge of outsole, so the finish will become more beautiful.

If you have a shoe dauber, you can easily apply the cream around stitching or perforation.

Tools used in STEP 4: “Cream” and “Shoe Dauber”

Cream should be one specially made for leather shoes that you can moisturize the leather and give it a bit of shine.

In this article, we use “Beaute de Cuir Cream” from Saphir, which is relatively cheap and is easy to use when you care for leather shoes for the first time.

Chose natural color cream for the first time for care because the color of leather gets darker by moisturizing it.

Example of “Cream”

Cream can be applied with a finger or a cloth, but useful to have the shoe dauber.

Example of “Shoe Dauber”

STEP 5: Brush with a Pighair Brush

Brush with a pighair brush to rub the cream into the leather.

Also, brushing can take the extra cream so the finish will become beautiful after polishing with a cloth in the next STEP.

Tools used in STEP 5: “Pighair Brush”

Pighair is hard-bristled so the cream can be spread by brushing with it.

Get one with large handle, so you can grab it firmly.

Example of “Pighair Brush”

STEP 6: Polish with a Cloth

Gently polish with a cloth to give it shine.

The cream contains wax that gives the leather a bit of shine.

After polishing, put the shoelaces back and all STEPs are completed!

Tools used in STEP 6: “Cloth”

You can use the same cloth you used to clean, but if you use the same cloth, try to use a clean surface.

Before & After

A photo below; before(left) and after(right) of caring.

The shoes on the left look dirty, but the shoes on the right look clean and shiny with beautiful color.

If you do simple care above which can be done in about 10 to 15 minutes, the impression is completely different before and after the care!

The reason you should care your leather shoes

By the way, do you know why we need to care the leather shoes?

Knowing the purpose of each STEP should make a better understanding.

Shoe get dirty and dry as time passes

If you keep wearing shoes without caring, Two things below happen:

  1. Dust and Dirt remains on leather
  2. Leather gets Dried out

If the leather is not clean, the looks not good and the dry may cause cracking. Therefore, what we need to do for shoe care is to remove dust and dirt and moisturize the leather.

1. Clean

First of all, you need to clean the leather.

If you try to clean with a cleaner at the first, the surface of the leather may get damaged so you need to start with a horsehair brush.

2. Moisturize

Next, you want to moisturize with the cream to keep the leather in good condition.

Also, the surface of the leather will be shiny by polishing with the cloth because the cream contains wax and the polishing make a very thin layer of it.

That’s all we need to do for leather shoe care.

A tip for Shoe Care 1: The difference between “Shoe Care” and “Shoe Polish”

“Shoe Care” is basic of caring leather shoes, and “Shoe Polish” is almost the same.

One big difference is that “Polishing Wax” is used for high gloss finish in “Shoe Polish”.

When “Polishing Wax” is used, the surface of the shoe becomes shiny like a mirror and it is called “mirror polishing”

“Polishing Wax” is not essential for wearing shoes for a long time, so give it try if you get used to caring for leather shoes.

A tip for Shoe Care 2: You can know when your shoes need repair

If you care for your leather shoes, you will get a closer look at them so it is a great opportunity to realize that the shoes need repair or not.

Briefly check the heel and toes, outsole, scratches and dents on the upper, etc., and if your shoes seem to need repair, bring them to the cobbler.

Example: Worn-out toe which needs repair

Q&A for Leather Shoe Care

“How often should I take care of it?” “How do I fix it when I get scratched?”

There are many questions come up about shoe care, and you can find the answers here.

Q. How often should I care?

Ideally, shoe care should be taken about once a month (or once in 5, 6 times of wear).

Again, when your leather shoes get dry as time passes and the dry leads cracking or fading, so you want to take care of them regularly.

Apply cream regularly to give oil and water

Q. Is there an easy way to do it every day?

Daily brushing is recommended to keep it clean and neat.

Just do brushing with a horsehair brush for about 30 seconds when you putting them on or taking them off.

It is very easy to do, but there is a great effect, more than you think, so please try it.

Even if you only wear it for a day, it will have some dust
Always clean with brushing

Q. Can both dress and casual leather shoes care the same way?

All leather shoes, both dress or casual, can be treated with the method explained in this article.

However, in the case of shoes using unique leather called “exotic leather” such as crocodile and lizard, please be careful because the maintenance method is different.

Q. What should I do if the shoes get wet in the rain?

If your shoes get wet, put some crushed papers in the shoes to absorb the moisture and left in a well-ventilated shadow for few days to dry completely.

If it gets wet, it’s important to do the right thing on dry so that you don’t get into problems such as mold and stains.

Put some crushed papers

Q. How do I care if my shoes get scratched?

You want to use the cream with color and polishing wax if your shoes get scratched, so it will be unrecognizable.

Before and After the care with colored cream and polishing wax

Q. How do you care for suede and nubuck leather shoes?

How to care for shoes such as suede and nubuck is different from the one described in this article.

The proper way to care for the suede shoes can be found on the following page so please take a look!

How to Care for Suede Shoes

Wrap it up

Leather is a natural material that ages beautifully, but you need to do maintenance sometimes.

Even if you have never cared before, let’s care for your leather shoes and enjoy beautiful aging!

About the author

Ken Kataoka

Hi, I’m Ken Kataoka, based in Tokyo Japan. I’m fascinated by leather shoes and shoe care. Also, I make bespoke shoes. I write articles on shoe care & tools, shoe brands and more from my experience.

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