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How to Maintain Your Shoes

Many people think that good shoe care is only for leather dress shoes, women's high heels and other fancy footwear. But any shoes you own will stay in shape longer if you maintain them well. We've assembled some of the best tips for maintaining shoes that you can apply to formal shoes, casual shoes, athletic sneakers, hiking boots and anything else in your closet.

Caring for Your Shoes

  • As soon as you bring your new shoes home from the store, spray or treat them with a waterproof protector to guard the surface against rain, snow and other moisture. Repeat this every 1 to 10 weeks depending on how often you wear them and the weather in your area.
  • Clean the inside of your shoes on a regular basis by swabbing them with rubbing alcohol or an antifungal agent to reduce odor build-up.
  • Use a horsehair brush or cloth to scrub loose dirt, salt and other debris off the surface. Avoid sponges, as these sometimes contain cleaners and chemicals that harm footwear.
  • If you do have leather shoes, use polish and leather conditioner once a month to maintain their shine and suppleness. This will also remove light surface scuffs. Don't get bargain-bin "polishes" - these merely cover scuffs instead of removing them.
  • Use fabric shampoo and water to clean canvas shoes by hand. Don't put them in the washing machine as this can break down the soles.
  • Pay $20 to have a cobbler add rubber taps and/or half-sole reinforcements to the bottom of your shoes. This can add years to their lifespan and also gives you better traction.

How to Wear Shoes Better

  • Break your shoes in by wearing them around the house for a few days with a pair of thick socks. Floors will wear the soles out less than outdoor walkways, and the socks will stretch them out a bit while preventing blisters.
  • Have two or more pairs of "everyday" shoes and alternate when you wear them. This will let them breathe so they maintain their shape longer.
  • Wear a good pair of socks or hose to prevent sweat from causing odor, or worse, breaking down the insoles.
  • Check the soles on a regular basis for signs of break-down. You shouldn't wear them until they're completely worn out, as this will increase the chances of you slipping or getting hurt due to your footwear.

Storing Your Shoes

  • If you have space, use a shelf, rack or custom-built cubby to store your shoes so they won't be harmed by ordinary accidents and spills.
  • Putting footwear in a shoe bag or leaving it in the original box will help prevent dust build-up. Make sure it's labeled, though.
  • Leave your shoes out a few hours before putting them in the closet. This will let them dry out, reducing the chances of mold and mildew.
  • Insert a shoe tree in each pair of shoes you own to help the shoe keep its shape. Cedar shoe trees will also absorb the moisture from the shoes you wore that day.
  • Need to soak up water in your shoes from a sudden rainstorm? Stuff them with some old newspaper and put them in a well-ventilated area.