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How to look after leather shoes

Leather shoes are a great addition to any man’s wardrobe and can pull a full look together with an air of sophistication. However, many men miss out on the leather shoe aesthetic, fearing that the footwear is hard to care for and clean – this isn’t true! 

At Stuarts, we love leather shoes and have rounded up some top tips on caring for leather shoes, including what to do and what not to do. Keep reading to find out how to get the most out of your leather shoes and ensure they survive season after season.

How to care for leather shoes


1. Don’t wear leather shoes everyday

Leather as a material needs to breathe. This means you shouldn’t wear your leather shoes every day, as they need time to release the moisture gathered from your feet whilst wearing them. If leather is damp, it is more likely to stretch, scuff and stain, so ensuring that your leather shoes have time to dry is important if you want to take care of them. 

If you like the look of leather shoes and want to incorporate the aesthetic into your everyday wear, we recommend having two pairs that you can wear on rotation. This way, you can alternate between the two pairs and increase the longevity of your footwear. 

2. Carefully store your leather shoes

After a long hard day, it can be tempting to throw your shoes in the shoe cupboard and not think about them – we get it. However, this can damage your leather shoes. Storing them in a cool, dry place is an easy way to ensure they last for years to come. 

As leather is an absorbent material, the fit of leather shoes can change if exposed to moisture. Placing a shoe tree within your leather shoes that absorb moisture can help draw any sweat or moisture from the shoe after wear. A shoe tree will also ensure that your leather shoes stay structurally sound and don’t lose their shape.  

Another top tip for storing your shoes when not wearing them for long periods is to keep them in a dust bag. A fabric dustbag will help your shoes breathe and protect them from any dust that might stain or degrade your leather shoes over time. This will also prevent any discolouration from sunlight and, if stored with a shoe tree, will prevent the dreaded upturned toe structure that warps the shape of the leather if stored incorrectly.

3. How to clean leather shoes

Correctly cleaning your leather shoes is one of the most important things to master, as it can help ensure their durability and longevity. Whether you notice a spot mark or want to give your favourite pair a new lease of life, we recommend trying the following methods when cleaning your leather shoes for the best results. 

  1. Lay down a piece of newspaper on your work surface. This is to protect the surrounding area from any overspill of products. 

  2. Remove the laces. This will stop any water or polish from getting onto the laces. If they are slightly dirty, this is your chance to give them a clean in the washing machine or to replace them completely. 

  3. Brush off any dirt or debris. Using a shoe brush, clean the entire surface area of the shoe for any loose dirt or debris that may have dried onto the leather. Dirt can weaken the fibres within the leather and cause cracks, so it is important to do this regularly, even if you don’t opt for the full clean. 

  4. Use soap and a cloth for tougher stains. For those stains or marks that are slightly more stubborn to get rid of, use a cloth or soft shoe brush mixed with a small amount of soap and water on the shoe's exterior. Rubbing in a small circular motion with a soft brush will help you tackle the stains that a dry clean may not. Don’t soak your shoes in water, as this can damage the leather; it is better to repeat the process with smaller volumes of water than drenching the shoe. 

  5. Dry off the soap. Once you have removed all of the stains, it is time to dry off the soap with a dry cloth. It is important to dry the leather shoes thoroughly before you start to polish them. To make sure the shoes are completely dry, wait 20 minutes before you reach for the polish. Whilst waiting for the shoes to dry, you can add a shoe tree or stretcher inside the shoe to encourage the structural integrity of the shoe. 

  6. Polish with a shoe brush. To get the shine on your leather shoes, you will need some clear or similar coloured polish and cloth. Apply a small amount of polish and rub the surface of the shoe in a circular motion. This will help to protect and nourish the leather for that finish that every gentleman looks for when they wear leather shoes. If you are sceptical about the polish you have chosen, make sure to test out a small amount on a part of the shoe you can’t see to ensure it doesn’t discolour the shoes.

  7. Let the polish soak and buff. Once you have applied the polish, let it soak into the leather for a couple of minutes and then take a new soft cloth or buffing brush to shine the shoe. Use short but steady swipes as you buff the area. 

  8. Add protector spray. Let your shoes dry naturally (don’t place them in direct sunlight or in front of a heater, as this can cause cracks and discolouration). For maximum protection, you can add protector spray to your shoes from a distance. 

4. Take care of your leather shoes regularly

To ensure that your leather shoes last, it is important to maintain a regular cleaning schedule. This depends on how frequently you wear the shoes and the type of terrain you typically walk across. 

How often should you clean leather shoes?

To minimise the amount of hard cleaning you have to do, you can run a brush over your leather shoes after each time you wear them. This will ensure that there is no build-up of dirt on the shoes and that any debris is tackled early.  

A general rule is to polish your shoes after around every 6 wears. This will ensure that your leather shoes don’t get too dry and will be nourished, as well as hiding any scuffs or blemishes on the surface of the shoe. 

5. Avoid harsh weather conditions

Leather is absorbent and will take in any moisture it is exposed to. In order to keep your shoes in the best possible condition, we suggest that you avoid wearing them in snowy conditions and watch where you step in the winter months. This includes snow and salt-covered pathways, as the wet combination can stain and damage the shoe’s leather. 

We know that completely avoiding snow and wet conditions is difficult, so if you want extra protection, you can always use a spray protector or have a spare pair of shoes with you to change into. 

If your shoes do get wet, let them dry naturally and don’t place them in direct sunlight or in front of a heat source such as a heater or radiator. This heat can cause damage to the leather, including cracks and blemishes. Let them air naturally with a shoe tree for a few days before you clean them. 

6. Find a way to make your leather shoes comfortable

It is no secret that breaking in leather shoes can be uncomfortable, but at Stuarts, we have some top tips to help you make your shoes the most comfortable they can be. Keep reading to discover some of our recommendations on how to make your leather shoes fit.

How long does it take to break in leather shoes? 

Leather shoes can take a few weeks to break in properly; with this in mind, you can wear your shoes around the house for an hour at a time. This will help your shoes mould to your feet, and you will only feel uncomfortable for an hour or so. 

Wear thick socks

During the first few weeks of breaking in new leather shoes, wear thicker socks to give your foot a cushioning barrier for the hard leather edges. This will help keep your feet protected from blisters while allowing your leather shoes to mould to the shape of your feet. 

Protect yourself from blisters

Sometimes pain is beauty, and the only way to break in your new leather shoes is to grin and bear it with the help of some blister protection. If you are looking for a quick way to break in leather shoes, make sure you have your feet strapped up, and you have plasters on any hard areas that could rub. 

Use a shoe tree or stuff leather shoes with socks

If your leather shoes are too tight, you can stretch the structure of the shoe by using a shoe tree. This will help you to expand the inside of the shoe to how you see fit. Whilst leather doesn’t work well with direct heat, you can help the process of stretching by keeping your shoes in a controlled and warm environment. This means you should keep them out of cold rooms as they are less likely to change shape if the conditions are colder. With that being said, don’t apply direct heat to the shoes, as this can cause discolouration and cracks. 

7. Use the correct shoe care for your leather shoes

Ensuring you use the correct shoe care products on your leather shoes is important. You don’t want to use chemicals that are too harsh, and you want to ensure you nourish the leather to make it look the best it possibly can.

At Stuarts, we have a wide range of shoe care products that you can use to polish, clean and protect your leather shoes. You will find brand-specific leather shoe cleaning products, brushes and more within the range. From protector spray to high-quality polish, you can be sure that you are getting the most out of your leather shoes, keeping them protected and looking sharper for longer.