The Ultimate Shoe Care Guide

The Ultimate Shoe Care Guide

We’ve all heard of the saying ‘put your best foot forward,’ right? Let’s face it, shoes have the power to make or break an outfit and make an impression, whether good or bad. Hopefully this ultimate shoe care guide will help you make a good one.

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Whilst juggling our busy schedules it can be really easy to forget about caring for the trusty shoes that get us from A to B. We all want to look after our shoes to make them last but just don’t know how and this is why we’re here to help.

Shoe designer, blogger and footwear expert Justin Fitzpatrick put it simply the importance of having a good pair of shoes. ‘Pay more attention to your shoes and how they look because everyone else is. Shoes are the foundation of your outfit and there is no way to fake nice ones. If your shoes are crummy and your outfit nice, it is just a bad outfit. If your shoes are of good quality and well-polished but your outfit is of a lower calibre, you are already much better off.’

In this ultimate shoe care guide we have compiled a list of ways to care for not one, not two, but three types of shoes, your leathers, suede's and trainers.

Yep, we know, you can thank us later.

Leather shoes

If you’ve ever bought some shoes that were real leather you know that sometimes the price tag is not exactly the price of a packet of Haribos. These shoes are probably your trusted going out, work or even church shoes and quite frankly do deserve some love. Look after them the right way and you could still be wearing them many years from now. Gone are the days when you would get your shoes shined by the side of the road, now you can literally do it yourself at home with these easy tips.

leather shoe outfit grid
PHOTO CREDITt: Taft Clothing | SHOP: Jeans | Watches | Shoes

Air dry

The weather can be an unpredictable pain at times, which means your leather shoes could get soaked by the rain one day. If this ever happens, do not leave your shoes to dry by a heater or with something like a hairdryer, as the heat from these items can make the leather crack. Simply stuff your leather shoes with some newspaper and just leave them to air-dry.

air drying trainers
PHOTO CREDIT: Wonder How To | SHOP: Trainers

Keeping the shoes in shape

Shoes have a tendency to change shape over time, especially when it’s a shoe that’s worn regularly. However, investing in some trusty unvarnished cedar shoe trees with a split toe and heel to place in your dress shoes goes a very long way. Within the first two hours of taking your shoes off, place your shoe trees inside your shoes for maximum impact. This helps your leather shoes retain their shape, absorbs moisture from your shoe and can also help freshen up the shoes. Although varnished shoe trees look good, they do not absorb any unwanted moisture from the shoe the way unvarnished cedar shoe trees can. You don’t need a pair of shoe trees for every shoe as you can use one or two between all your shoes.

Not to worry, if you don’t have any shoe trees you can also use some scrunched up newspaper or pieces of tissue to retain the shoes shape and stop the leather from sinking in.

shoe accessories
PHOTO CREDIT: Not on the Highstreet

Shoe horn

Okay, maybe this step is not as crucial, however, we want to give you all the tips we know to ensure that you can always put your best foot forward. And besides, this isn’t called the ultimate shoe care guide for nothing ya know?

Right so ‘what is a shoe horn?’ I hear some of you ask. A shoe horn is a thin, curved item that is used to ease your feet into your shoes. They are used to help you get into your shoes easier and prevent you from treading on the backs of the heels.

Swap shoes

That’s right. Literally just swapping between two or three pairs of shoes on a regular basis as opposed to using one shoe for a very long time can help to sustain the life of your leather shoes. This is because on the days when you’re alternating between pairs of shoes you give the other one(s) a chance to breathe, air out and get back into shape.

various leather shoes
SHOP: Shoes

Getting rid of salt stains

Anyone that’s ever had salt stains on their shoes can tell you how annoying they can be. For anyone that doesn’t know what they are, salt stains are the white stains that can appear on your leather shoes after you’ve worn them in wet and snowy weather conditions. Thankfully, these salt stains can be removed with the use of vinegar and water (used sparingly that is).

Make a solution of a jug of water and about half that amount of vinegar and dip a clean cloth into the solution, wiping the stains off bit by bit. Once you’re done, you can go back with another cloth dipped in a little bit of water to give the shoe a wipe down and leave to either air dry or dry with a clean towel.


Suede shoes

Suede shoes can be very suave, but looking after them can be a nightmare especially under terrible weather conditions. This is why it’s best to invest in a silicone-based suede protector spray in the best colour match to your shoes, this way you can ensure that your suede shoes are made weather proof. Spray the suede protector on the suede upper parts of the shoe and leave to air dry and absorb the product overnight, this way you can enjoy your shoes come rain or sunshine.

How to polish shoes

Now we have all your types of shoes down it's worth having a look at how to keep them clean and neat, especially when there are different method for cleaning different materials

How to Polish Leather Shoes

This one is very important. Investing in a good shoe polish in the right colour can go a long way because all your leather shoes need sometimes is a bit of TLC to get that good ol’ shine back. So don’t go using a brown shoe polish for your black Clarks.

Depending on how often you wear your shoes, as a rule of thumb, for shoes that you wear very often you should polish them once every week or two. That way it helps your shoes look better and last longer. The best time to polish your shoes is when you know that you won’t be wearing them the next day, that way the shoe gets to absorb the polish really well. When polishing shoes make sure to cover the surface you are working on to avoid stains.

To polish your shoes you’re going to need a clean piece of cloth, horsehair shoe brush, a shining cloth and a shoe polish.

man polishing shoes

The first step is for you to give your shoes a good clean, so start by using your horsehair brush to rub the shoes down to remove any dirt or dust on the shoes. Once you’re done, wipe them down with a damp cloth and leave them to air dry completely.

Now that your shoes are dry, wrap your piece of cloth around your index and middle finger and dip it in the polish, applying it generously but gradually in small circular motions. Wipe off any excess polish with a cloth and leave the shoes out to air dry.

Now that the polish has dried (preferably overnight).

How to Shine Leather Shoes

  • First, make sure you cover the area you are working in. Polishing your shoes can get messy.
  • Choosing the right polish is important, polish comes in cream, wax and liquid forms. Waxes and creams tend to be heavier so work really well for leather shoes and they sink in better. Liquid polishes are good for a quick and easy shine
  • Remember that shoe polishes come in a variety of colours. Its best to pick the one that suits your shoes best, or a neutral colour that will work on different colours
  • If you have a polishing kit then great, you should have all the right equipment you need. Otherwise and old T-Shirt or cotton cloth plus a toothbrush will do the job too.
  • If you want to go the full hog then get your hands on a horse hair brush. This is the best brush to get the shine into your old shoes.


Shoe Polish vs Shoe Wax

From what I can gather they are practically the same thing. The subtle difference between leather wax polish and leather polish is, wax is more for protecting and repairing the shoe, especially when you're already dealing with waxed leather. Polish is for a touch up in colour when you need to get the shine back into your shoe, but they both extend the lifespan of your footwear so be sure to use them.

How to Polish Suede Shoes

Suede is a bit different from leather and doesn't need polishing as much as it needs cleaning. There are 3 simple steps when it comes to cleaning suede

  • Use a suede brush to removed any debris of dirt that may have built up on the shoe. After you have done this use the rubber bristled side of your brush and give the suede a buff. (remember if the suede is wet allow the shoes to dry before cleaning to avoid rubbing in stains)
  • Use a suede protector spray and spray all over the shoe and allow to dry. Take care not to over soak the shoe!
  • To keep your suede in good shape make sure not to wear it in conditions such as rainy and snowy weather, and be weary that hot, humid weather is not ideal for suede too.
  • However if you don't have the time for any of the above you can always visit you local shoe shine stand, and let someone else do it for you.


The truth is, we’ve all got a favourite pair of trainers. Whether it’s your all white Converses, or your trusty Air Force 1’s, we’ve all got that go-to pair of kicks. A few hacks to keeping them looking as fresh as possible is to rotate between pairs to give your trainers a chance to breatheee.

asics trainers different colours
Trainers always look better fresh. Photo Credit: The Idle Man

If your trainers are in dire need of a wash, yes you can put them in the washing machine and here’s how. First of all give your trainers a wipe down with a cloth and if possible take out the insoles. Place the trainers inside a pillowcase, with one or two towels and set your washing machine to a cold wash. Once they’ve been washed leave them out to air dry and voila.

If your trainers are not that bad and don’t need a full on washing machine wash or you just want something easier, then get your hands on the Sneaky Complete Collection Box or The Idle Man stocked Crep . This box brings you a selection of products to keep your trainers looking fresh.

Storing your shoes

How you store your shoes can also help keep them in good condition and of course make them last longer. So as a general rule of thumb we have compiled a list of shoe storage hacks for you to take note.

  • Leathers- When it comes to your leathers, it’s best to keep your leather shoes stored in shoe bags. This way they won’t scratch, they’re safe from dust and kept away from light that can damage leather. Also, plastic bags ensure that your leather shoes retain their moisture preventing them from drying out.
  • Suede- Suede shoes are best stored out in the open where they can get fresh air as unlike other types of shoes, suede shoes need air so they can breathe.
  • Trainers - The best way to store your sports shoes and trainers is to keep them stuffed with paper or acid-free newspaper to help them keep their shape and absorb any excess sweat. Be careful of using paper with prints/text on them so that the ink doesn’t transfer onto your shoes.

Shoe brands

  • Clarks Originals- Clarks is that very trusty brand that most of us are all very familiar with. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed with Clarks is its quality as you definitely get your money’s worth. Although Clarks have so many shoes types to choose from, we are very big fans of their Desert Boots and their Wallabies. These suave shoes come in various textures like leather and suede and colours like black, tan and sand.
  • Converse- We love Converses because of how durable and practical they are. Wear them, wash them and wear them again, they will still be good to go. So many colours and styles there’s bound to be something that will tickle your fancy. Whether you’re the trainer’s type or you’re more a Hi-top kinda guy there’s a Converse out there for you. No but seriously though, when it comes to comfort, Converses get top marks.
  • Vans- Again like Converses they have a variety of styles for you to choose from, from the Slip-ons to the hi-tops. Vans are quite interesting because although they’re leisure shoes they can also be worn for a smart casual look. Take the all black Slip-on Plimsolls or the Authentic Plimsolls in Canvas for instance and partner them with a nice blazer and trousers and you’re good to go.

cleaning shoes grid
PHOTO CREDIT: Kiwi | SHOP: Boots | Accessories

Your Quick Guide to Shoe Care

  • First thing to consider if the material of your shoe, this is the first step before you figure out you method of cleaning you need to use
  • Once you have your cleaning sorted, it all about keeping your shoes in shape - shoe horses work best for harder shoes, where as tissue paper can be used for suedes
  • Always keep your trainers clean, a dirty pair of kicks can really bring down an outfit
  • Remember to keep swapping you leather shoes for different pairs, the will extends it lifespan
  • If you are going out in wet weather and you aren't too sure if your shoes will keep remember to spray them with a protector for an extra barrier

On That Note...

Now that all has been said and done, we hope this guide has helped. So go on and step your shoe game up so that you can always put your best foot forward, and yes pun very much intended.


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