How to Care For Leather Shoes

Of all the items in my wardrobe, I think I care the most about my shoes! I’ve built up quite a collection over the years and I’ve had a lot of them for a very long time, and they are still going strong! The great thing about buying quality leather shoes is that, with proper care, they will last you decades. So it’s a good idea to educate yourself a bit on proper leather shoe care so you can enjoy your purchase season after season.

We are partnering with the Nashville-based Nisolo company for this post and we absolutely love their corporate policies and how they have shaped their business. Nisolo’s commitment to sustainable shoes and accessories that are intentionally designed and ethically made create beautiful pieces that will endure year after year with the proper care. They’re also offering ABM readers 20% off their purchase with the code ABM20, only excluding their Essentials Collections (which is already marked down to $150) and product cleaners. Here’s a few of the main things you can do to keep your leather shoes in shape!

1. Stock up on the right care products: The reason I say the “right” products is that not all products are for all leather. Shiny smooth leather usually needs different care than a suede or nubuck leather, so it’s good to know which products are for which. To clean and condition smooth leather, remove laces if there are any, and wipe down the leather first with a dry rag to remove dust. Buff a small amount of leather conditioner  into the leather and heel with either your fingers or a soft rag until there is no visible buildup left. For extra shine, use a shoe shine brush to buff the leather into a polish. You can also use a pigmented leather conditioner if you are starting to lose some color in areas of your shoes to bring them back to their full hue. For suede or nubuck leather, you’ll want a suede cleaner that you can apply with a nylon bristle brush over the entire shoe and let them dry overnight. Once dry, you can brush the nap (go towards the toe) with a shoe shine brush to restore the texture to its full glory. As an added layer of protection, you can also add a leather protector spray to help protect your leather from the elements. You can also watch a video on how to take care of leather here! (P.S. the Nutmeg color of these suede Heeled Chelsea Boots above is stunning!)

2. Treat wet shoes correctly: A lot of leather shoes are not meant to be directly exposed to wet conditions, so if your shoes do get soaked, gently towel dry the outside and place newspaper on the inside to help soak up excess moisture. Although it’s tempting, don’t take a hairdryer to the shoes to speed up the process! Speed drying the leather may damage its appearance, so let it dry slowly if at all possible. (How pretty is that Brandy color in the Chelsea boot?)

3. Consider shoes that are listed as waterproof or water resistant: Some leathers are already treated to be waterproof (or at least water resistant), so if you live in an area where your boots will get wet relatively often, it’s a good idea to start with a shoe that’s already designed to handle it like the Dari boot above from the Nisolo Commuter Collection (they look so cute with the Lori tote).

4. Store your shoes properly: To preserve their beauty, keep your smooth leather shoes stored out of direct sunlight and in a dust bag to protect them from dust and sunlight, while suede and nubuck leather are best kept out in open air (but also away from sunlight). You can also use cedar shoe trees, which help the shoes keep their shape, soak up moisture, and have antibacterial properties to help remove odor as well. The black Chelsea boots I have on are basically the perfect fall staple boot and, by the way, if you are shopping for a guy in your life, I love the Andre all-weather boot on Todd—definitely the best looking shoes he owns!!

5. Care enough to give your shoes a second life! Once you are done enjoying your leather shoes, you can pass them on to organizations like Soles4Souls, who work with micro-entrepreneurs to repair and resell the shoes in their communities. This not only helps provide jobs for people, diverts the shoes from ending up in landfills by repairing or reusing the materials, but you can also get a $30 credit for an individual purchase to Nisolo for every pair you donate —how cool!

I like to buy good staple pieces and have them around for a long time to come, so great leather shoes like all these Nisolo boots are a worthwhile investment if you ask me. Just a little bit of care can go a long way in keeping your leather in good shape, so let’s make those boots last! xo. Laura

Don’t forget Nisolo is offering a 20% off discount sitewide* with the code ABM20. Click here to shop!

*excludes the Essentials Collection (which is already marked down to $150) and product cleaners.

Credits//Author: Laura Gummerman. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

  • It’d be nice to find some clean, homemade recipes for cleaning leather (I think the internet is lacking on that subject). Thanks

  • This summer I took my favorite pair of Italian leather ballet flats to a shoe repair shop. If you are lucky enough to have one of these near where you live, you won’t believe the magic they can do., and I am lucky to have found this guy as my previous shop owner retired. He resoled and reheeled them and died them deep red to conceal a water stain that I couldn’t cover with polish. I wore them at least once a week all summer and the investment to repair them was still cheaper than a new pair. In the shop was a huge old Willy Wonka-looking sewing machine that he actually uses to repair leather- pretty cool!!

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