How to Properly Care for Leather Shoes and Boots

Whether you got them as a gift or for yourself, a quality pair of leather shoes or boots can last a lifetime, if you take care of them. In this piece, I’ll be going through the methods that I use to keep my leather shoes and boots in the best shape that I can, even in wet and humid weather down in Florida.

I can’t claim to be the expert in this, and there will be a lot of people who disagree with me. Here, all I offer is the methods that I use, and I hope you get some value from them as well.

First and foremost, I recommend not wearing the same pair of leather shoes every day. As you wear any shoes, your feet sweat. This sweat breaks the leather and other materials down over time. This is going to happen no matter what, but alternating between several pairs of shoes will lengthen the life you get out of each of them substantially.

Along with this, I also use cedar shoe trees. These work well for two reasons: they keep the shape of the shoe and also deodorize them. Note, I think cedar is the only way to go on these, as the plastic shoe trees may keep the shape of the shoe, but they hold moisture against the leather, which is not what we’re going for here.

When it comes to suedes, the only thing you’re going to want to do to clean them is a stiff-bristled suede brush, which can be found readily online. I also like to spray suede shoes heavily with a suede-friendly boot protectant. It’s about impossible to get stains out of suede, so avoiding them is the best way to go here.

On other leathers, a softer brush will usually do the trick on most things. If you get mud on them, for instance, the best course of action is to let them dry and then brush off the remaining dirt then.

I do sometimes polish my shoes with a matching-color compound, but almost never as a whole coat on the shoe unless it’s been fairly badly scraped up by something. Most of the time, I find that coconut oil is a decent leather conditioner.

On clean leather, I use my hands to wipe in enough coconut oil to make the leather slightly wet: how much you’ll need depends on how dry the leather is. After you’ve put a sufficient amount of coconut oil to coat both shoes evenly, I take an old t-shirt and buff out as much as I can.

Depending on the finish of the leather, this will darken it slightly. I don’t mind this, but if it’s an issue for you, you’ll want another type of conditioner.

Following this super simple routine, and getting the shoes re-soled before I wear into the midsole, I now have leather shoes that are well over a decade old. At this point, they’re broken in perfectly and have a lot more character than new shoes could.
About author
G
Garrett is a writer and commentator based in the South. His areas of expertise lie in cooking, fashion, and the outdoors among others. He has been writing and educating professionally for years, and enjoys creating online discourses around positively masculine spaces.

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