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Shoe Care 101: Maintenance - Leather Shoes

Shoe Care 101, leather maintenance

It’s that time of year again. We’ve got rain, snow, mud, slush and everything in between for the next 6 months and a common question we get is, how do I take care of my shoes? Well, there’s a lot of ways we can answer that question, so let’s cover them all, starting with shoe care basics.  



Maintenance of Your Leather Shoes 


First things first, how can you elongate your shoe’s life and keep them looking fresh and new? The key is regular maintenance. That means buffing, hydrating, and polishing your shoes.

Leather is a naturally ageing material. Much like skin, it will show signs of wear through colour fading, marks, and dryness but if you take care of your leather, you can prolong and reduce the signs of ageing.

Sam Edelman hazel in yellow and black croc


How to Maintain Your Shoes

* not for patent leathers 

Overtime, leather can lose moisture. It dries out leaving a rough, hard texture, causes colour fading and even cracks in the shoe itself. To prevent this you need to condition and polish your shoes. 

Conditioners: A leather condition is much like a hair conditioner. It’s meant to add moisture back into leather keeping it hydrated, and flexible. Conditioning is especially important after anytime your shoes are cleaned with soaps or even natural solvents that will dry out your leather. 


-Leather conditioner 

-A soft, clean, lint free towel


-A clean, old cotton shirt

How to Condition: First step is to ensure your shoes are clean of dust and dirt. Then, take your conditioner and add a few drops either directly onto the shoe or a clean towel. Rub conditioner into leather using circular motions until all leather areas are covered and leave to dry. 

Cole Haan ZeroGrand hiker boots

Shoe Polish: Polish is what’s used to buff out those scuffs, marks, scratches or any weird colouration on your leather shoes. Most commonly found in 2 forms: a cream or a wax, polishes comes in all sorts of colours to meet your leather needs. 

Creams, commonly found in tubes, is great for minor scuffs, imperfections and adding some shine. They sits on top of the leather adding a sort of layer that fades, losing its shine overtime. If you're not looking to invest in a conditioner, this can be used as an alternatives as creams also add moisture back into your leather. Not as affectively but it does the job.

Wax, commonly found in tins, is great at restoring colour, resolving the tough scuffs or scratching and creating a superior level of shine than creams. When buffed, wax sinks in, seals and really protects the shoes. Though it best to also have a conditioner on hand when using wax polish as it does build up overtime and dries out the leather.

Tools for Polishing:

-Cream or wax polish

-Shoe buff sponge


-A soft, clean, lint free towel (micro-fiber)


-A clean, old cotton shirt

-Leather shoe brush (optional)

How to polish my shoes:

If not already, clean your shoes of any dirt or dust. Apply the polish to your sponge or soft towel/t-shirt and rub into the leather using circular motion until completely covered. If available take your leather shoe brush (not suede brush) to remove any excess polish. If not available then take a new towel, or clean section of your current towel, to wipe away access. The final step is adding shine by vigorously buffing remaining polish into leather using back and forth motions.

Tip: A little goes a long way with polishes. A tin or tube of polish should last you years even with frequent use. 

 Kenneth Cole Kam Sneaker

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I pick the right polish?: Think about the end result you’re looking for and the colour. If you’re looking for a quick and easy pick-me up for your shoes, cream would be the way to go. If you’re looking to put in some more elbow grease for high shine and scuffs repair, wax is likely the way to go. When choosing the colour of cream or wax, you’ll just want to select one that matches the colour of your shoes (e.i. Black leather = black polish). If you’re worried about that perfect match, pick-up a neutral or “clear” colour so it’s universal. Still expect your shoe colour to darkening when using a colourless polish on say, tan or specialty coloured leathers like reds or greens. 

How often should I condition and polish my shoes?: How often you need to condition your shoes depends on a few factors such as quality of the leather and how often you wear these shoes. For a good rule of thumb, if you wear them daily, a good polish once or twice a week. If they’re more of a “special event” kind of shoes, a good polish before each wear should suffice and make sure you’re looking sharp for the occasion.

What's the right option for me?: Now that you have all the details, what do you need? Well that depends on the level of maintenance and commitment you’re looking to put into your shoe care.

Low: Find yourself a 2n1 conditioner or just a cream shoe polish.

Medium: Pick up a conditioner and polish or wax with a good sponge.

High: Use all 3 for maximum maintenance, pick-up a good buffing towel for maximum shine and leather brush to help incorporate polishes and remove access.

What polish and condition should I use?: We highly recommend Walters Shoe Care for picking up any missing shoe care tools. See in-store for our full Walter's collection.

Pop by next week for maintenance for your suede and textiles shoes.

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