Putting your ‘best foot’ forward

Aqilah Rahman

Leather shoes are a popular option for someone looking for durability, comfort and style. Yet, many of us are probably guilty of not taking good care of our shoes.

“The most common misconception is that leather shoes are just like any other shoes like sneakers,” said Hairie Firdaus, founder of local business Hafi Shoeshine. “A lot of people think there’s no need to care for or condition leather shoes, and to just clean when
it’s dirty.”

If you own a pair of leather shoes, here are some tips by Hairie on how to care for them. It is worth taking note that there are many types of leather, and these tips are intended for the most common type of leather which is calfskin.

USE SHOE CREAM

First of all, leather needs to be conditioned. Hairie recommends using shoe cream at the very least so the leather doesn’t dry out and start cracking. For light colours like brown, he recommends using neutral-coloured cream. For black shoes, use black cream.

As for the amount, you don’t really need much to get the job done. Just a pea-sized amount is enough.

“You don’t want to overdo it. If you use too much cream, it will only sit on top on the leather without penetrating,” he said.

After applying the cream, brush your shoes lightly with a shoe brush so the cream penetrates the leather. If you do it right, you can see a bit of a shine after brushing.

In general, it’s enough to use shoe cream once a month. But if you use only one pair of shoes every day without rotating, you’ll have to apply it more often, said Hairie. In that case, he suggests once every two weeks.

AVOID WEARING THE SAME PAIR ON SONSECUTIVE DAYS

It’s generally advised to own at least two pairs of shoes, especially for everyday occasions like going to work. And there’s more to it than just for the sake of variety.

The gross, unfortunate truth is that our feet sweat and the leather soaks it up while we go about our day. Rotating shoes gives them time to dry and helps maintain their shape, not to mention it keeps the stink away.

“If you have extra shoes, you definitely need to rotate,” said Hairie.

USE A SHOE TREE

If you want your leather shoes to last long, you’ll need to store them properly. One way is to use a shoe tree, which is placed inside a shoe when you’re not using it to maintain its shape and prevent creases. You’d be amazed at the differences a shoe tree can make after just a few months.

Hairie recommends using a shoe tree made of cedar wood to also absorb the moisture and prevent the shoes from smelling bad. But if you don’t have one of those, just a plastic shoe tree will do.

If your shoes already have creases, try conditioning the leather and use a shoe tree overnight, said Hairie.

“I do this for my customers’ shoes. The conditioner helps relax the leather and the shoe tree helps it revert back to its original shape, especially on the vamp area (the upper front part of a boot or shoe).”

DON’T LEAVE YOUR SHOES OUT IN THE SUN

Overexposure to sunlight will make the leather crack and the colours will gradually start to fade. With faded colours, you can still patch it up with a dye or cream, but if the leather starts cracking, you can’t fix it back to how it used to look, said Hairie.

If you want to dry your shoes, just let them dry naturally. Hairie prefers leaving shoes at room temperature (air-conditioned).

DON’T USE INSTANT SHOE POLISH

Instant shoe polish may be a convenient quick fix, but it can do more harm than good in the long run.

“I’ve seen so many expensive shoes ruined by instant shoe polish,” said Hairie, explaining that it does give a shine but it also leaves a sticky, almost permanent residue after drying, and a lot of people don’t know this.

“It’s almost impossible to remove the residue 100 per cent. I’ve worked with shoes that used instant shoe polish every day, and it took me at least three hours per pair to strip off the polish,” he added.