Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Proper Shoe Care- Winter Version

What do you know? It actually snowed this winter, although I thought it never would. As it turns out, I was finally able to trudge through the snow and slush in my boots (featured here), so I figured it’d be a good time for a post regarding proper shoe care.

First, prevention. Do your best to properly care for your shoes before they actually get dirty. A good prevention system not only protects those valuable shoes you invested so much in, but it also makes cleaning the inevitable mess that much easier. Start with a water-repellant. I have used silicone sprays in the past, and found them to work okay. Really it depends on the shoe and material that seems to determine their effectiveness. (This post is regarding more casual shoes, like ones you wouldn’t normally polish. For nicer leather shoes, I’d recommend talking to someone at the store you bought them. Leathers can require either wax or oil, depending on their exact material, and the process for upkeep is much more labor intensive).

Available on Amazon for $8
I have used this lately, and I'm not sure that I'd recommend it. I purchased it back in November, expecting a winter onslaught, and liberally applied coats to every pair of shoes I thought I would wear. It seems to do a pretty good job on leather shoes like these Nike sneakers.

Nike Vandal Low in Orange/Red

Nike ZOOM Stefan Janoski Boat Shoe

It does an okay job on canvas and suede, and seems to be least effective on my boots (which ironically, I’d need the most in crappy weather, and which the spray says it’s best suited for).

Nordstrom 1901 Carson Oxford in Charcoal


Urban Outfitters Slim Sole Suede Oxford


W.C. Russell Moccasin Co., vintage
Maybe it’s the age of my boots and the type of leather, but it seems to be absorbed, rather than to actually bond to the shoe and form a protective barrier. I’ve also found this product darkens your shoes when you spray it on them (the bottle says some marketing BS, but really it just makes them darker. This is a danger on many shoe sprays, so be warned before you use it).

The take away: find a good protective material to coat your shoes, weather a wax, oil, or synthetic spray. You want something that is water-repellant at least, but hopefully it can stand up to something stronger. It won’t just be snow and water you’ll be dealing with. There’s salt, sand, and that brown gunk you find in curbs. Spot-test it before applying a full coat to see how it affects the color of your shoe, the follow the directions as labeled.

Check out NeverWet silicone spray, expected to be available by the middle of this year. If this works as good as it seems in this video, I’ll be stocking up on cans as soon as it comes out.




After you get home, sopping wet from stomping through sludge all day, you next need to treat the problem. You want to dry shoes, especially leather, as soon as possible to prevent the material from shrinking. If it shrinks, it will stretch next time you wear it. Do I need to explain how this will ruin your shoes? Place them on their side (to evenly dry both the sole and the outers) in a warm (room temperature) area where air can circulate into the shoe. Don’t overheat the leather, it’s just as bad as leaving it wet. I find it’s best to lay them near a fan in a warm room, or a fan that’s near a vent. 
You’ll also want to severely invest in some shoe trees. Shoe trees (preferably cedar) serve several purposes: they soak up any moisture within the shoe, help the shoe maintain its shape, and leave it smelling nice and clean, like the lumber yard at Home Depot. Ideally you’d have shoe trees for every pair of nice shoes you own. If not, do your best to cycle them through your shoes until you can acquire more (more shoe trees, less real trees!). Slide them into your wet pair, and leave them in for at least 24 hours (sometimes they need a bit of massaging around the toes to make sure they’re all the way in). If your shoe trees are losing some of their vigor, try lightly sanding them to reveal fresh wood.
Stains: Time is of the essence. Don’t let a stain set it, because it’ll be harder to remove. Get rid of dirt and salt with a quick brush off, and you should be fine. You can also wipe them down with a damp cloth, then a dry one. 
The take away: Dry your shoes as soon as possible with warm, circulating air. Stock up on shoe trees and use them.
Lastly, recovery. Let your shoes relax with a day off. Continual wear on the same pair will lead to their destruction, so try to mix it up by wearing something else the next day. Also look for a leather moisturizer so the leather remains supple and to protect it in the future. Try this (which I just bought to hopefully restore those boots to their former glory. I'll let you know how it goes). 
This same generally plan can and should ideally be followed before any occasion where you expect foul weather near your feet. A good prevention/treatment/recovery system works just as well against snow and sludge as it does against spilled vodka tonics. 

More news as it develops,

MD


PS- check out THIS ARTICLE for how to restore shell cordovan leather

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