Gentlemen, if you aren’t taking care of your shoes, you’re basically throwing money down the toilet, and there’s no point in buying nice shoes.
On the other hand, if you know the basics of shoe maintenance, quality shoes can last for years, if not decades.
In this post, I’m going to share 5 tips on how to make your shoes last longer.
Watch the video below or keep reading.
Big thanks to our sponsor Beckett Simonon for making this post possible! Beckett Simonon offers beautifully crafted, handmade shoes at a fraction of the retail price. Use offer code DISTILLED to save 20% off .
1. Use Shoe Trees
If you haven’t seen these, the name is a little confusing, because they look nothing like trees.
Shoe trees help physically hold the shape of the shoe while they’re in your closet. But even more importantly, they help absorb moisture from the shoe, and that’s going to keep the leather from breaking down over time.
Most people swear by cedar because it has the added advantage of helping combat odor because of the smell. But I’ve also read that theoretically any unfinished wood can work, since it will help absorb moisture.
All of that said, in a pinch, a DIY substitute for shoe trees is just using rolled up newspaper. It’s not going to give you as much firmness to hold the shape, but it can absorb moisture.
2. Dust Bags Are Your Friend
Dust bags are essentially what they sound like: fabric bags you put your shoes in to keep the dust off. But wait, there’s more…
Dust bags also help protect your shoes from scuffs and damage while they’re in your closet—especially if they’re stuffed alongside other shoes, or if they’re in a sunlit environment and you’re worried about the leather fading.
Dust bags are perfect for travel too. I don’t know about you, but when I pack, I don’t like the idea of the dirty soles of my shoes rubbing up against my clean underwear or other garments.
And dust bags can help protect the shoes from getting scraped by other things in your luggage like zippers, buckles…or your pet rock collection. (What? You don’t travel with yours?)
One thing: you want to make sure to get dust bags that are made of breathable material. Plastic bags or synthetic fabrics might trap moisture, which over time is actually going to be way worse for the shoes.
If you want dust bags and you don’t want to buy them, one trick I found is just using an old pillowcase. Just tie some string or a ribbon around the end, and you’ve got yourself a dust bag.
3. Stop Treating Your Shoes Like Crap
Yeah, that’s right. You know what I’m talking about.
No, actually most of us are pretty precious about our shoes when we get a nice new pair and we’re out in public.
“Please…New shoes. Don’t. Step. On. Them!”
But, one thing you might not realize is that the way you put your shoes on and take them off might actually be damaging them.
First, if your shoes are a little snug and hard to slip on, you may want to use a shoe horn. If you don’t, it’s easy to wear out the inside back of your shoe over time.
Just place the shoehorn in the back of the shoe, and use that to gently guide your heel into the shoe.
If you don’t have one, or if you’re traveling and forgot it, Antonio Centeno at Real Men Real Style recommends using the end of your belt. Watch the video here.
It’s not quite as good as a proper shoehorn, but in a pinch, it works.
The other thing is the way you take your shoes off. I think a lot of guys do this wrong.
First, never be lazy and use the toe of one shoe on the back of the other shoe. Also, never grab the inside back of the shoe when you’re pulling it off.
The proper way to take your shoe off is to make sure the laces are fully unlaced, and then grab the shoe by the bottom of the heel and pull. That’s going to keep you from wearing out your shoe unnecessarily.
4. Shine Your Shoes Regularly
Ok, you knew this one was coming. There’s no right answer in terms of how often to shine them. But obviously, it’s going to depend on how often you wear your shoes.
If you wear your shoes every day, then maybe a weekly polish is needed. Otherwise, every month or every 3-6 months might be okay.
Shining Your Shoes: A Quick Refresher
- Prep your area –Put down some newspaper, an old towel just to keep from getting the mess everywhere.
- Remove the laces – This just makes things easier.
- Put in a shoe tree or some rolled up newspaper – This is just to give the shoe shape so that you can get an even shine. You could also just use your hand inside the shoe if you want.
- Remove any excess dirt or schmutz – You can do this with a clean cloth or a brush. Basically, you want to avoid any dirt or sandy particles that might end up damaging the shoe when you polish it.
- Apply a layer of shoe polish with a cloth or brush, and let it dry for about 15-20 minutes.
- Gently brush the shoe with a shoe brush – This helps evenly distribute the polish, but the heat and friction from the brush also help melt the polish so it can spread more evenly and get into all the crevices.
- Polish with a soft cloth –This is where the shine starts to emerge, as you gradually buff the shoes all over.
- Now for the “spit shine” – No, you don’t actually use spit. Evenly dab a few drops of water in a few places, then rub this in and polish with a soft cloth. This is going to give you that mirror-like finish. Note: you only want to do this in places where the leather is smooth and firm, like the toe and the heel. If you do it where there are creases, this can actually highlight the creases even more, which is bad.
5. Buy Better Quality Shoes
So if you want your shoes to last, the other obvious tip is to buy better quality shoes.
Yes, they’re going to cost a little bit more, but they’re going to last longer.
First, you’re probably going to be even more motivated to take care of them. But the leather will probably also be better—most likely full grain leather, which is the best kind. Not top grain. Not “genuine leather.” Full grain.
Also, if you get a quality shoe with a stitched leather sole, usually that means you can have it resoled by a shoe repair person once it wears out. And that’s like a whole new life for a pair of shoes, assuming you take care of the uppers.
And if you’re sure about where to get a better quality shoe without totally breaking the bank, one brand to check out is Beckett Simonon.
Their shoes are extremely high quality, handmade, but they also have a very different business model also allows them to offer really reasonable prices.
You see, a lot of companies have about 3x markup on their shoes because:
- They’re contracting with third-party production companies, and they usually have production minimums—which means there’s a lot more waste
- They pay to hold onto inventory
- They have to pay for retail space
Beckett Simonon does their own production in-house—they handmake their shoes in small batches, so there’s less waste.
Each month they have different styles available, you pick out what you want, and then preorder it.
Now, it does take 8-12 weeks, and that can be a dealbreaker if you have a last-minute event. But if you have the patience, you’ll be really happy with the results.
Plus, they send you updates along the way to let you know what’s going on with your shoes.
Not long ago, I did a video review of Beckett Simonon—and I previously got a pair of their black cap-toed Oxfords.
This time, I got the Valencia Wholecuts, which are even more elegant.
They’re made from a single piece of Argentinian Full Grain calfskin.
From what I’ve read, whole cuts can be challenging to make. For one, you have to have great leather–without blemishes. It’s also harder to get a single piece of leather into the right shape, so these are pretty impressive.
They also have resoleable Blake Stitch construction, which means you can get them resoled if they wear out.
These shoes are only $199 with free shipping. So again, tremendous quality for very little money. Especially considering that if you take care of these shoes, they’re last you for very long time. Use offer code DISTILLED to save 20% off.
As you can see, taking care of your shoes doesn’t have to be difficult. And a little bit of effort goes a long way.
With regular maintenance, and you’ll be able to extend the life of your shoes far beyond what you thought was possible.