Buying a pair of handmade shoes is an investment. Further to this a pair of bespoke shoes can last upwards of 5 years depending on your use and how you look after them. Once we have made your shoes the life of it depends on the care and maintenence applied to it during its life. Here are a few pointers for different leathers and applications for how to get the most out of your new bespoke leather shoes or leather product.
What are the basics of caring for my new handmade shoes?
- Always look after your heel and make sure you have the top piece repaired before you wear into the leather stacked portion. Depending on how you wear your shoes, this may be every 6 months.
- Regularly condition your shoes with a good quality leather conditioner/cream (available on our website). If you wear your shoes approximately three days a week this should be every 2-3 weeks. This keeps the leather supple and prevents it from drying out and cracking. This is especially important if we have used vegetable-tanned leather for your shoes. It can also help weather-proof your shoes. The most important areas to be aware of are at the toe of the shoe and towards your metatarsals where the most pressure will be during wear but overall conditioning is beneficial.
- If your shoes ever become wet, let them dry out naturally and completely (usually between 24-48 hours unless completely drenched). Only once they are completely dry should you recondition them to make sure you are not trapping moisture inside the shoe and creating a mould-issue.
- Always have your topy repaired (if applied) or leather/rubber sole replaced before you wear through it or it becomes smooth. This might be every 6-12 months again depending on how often they are worn and on what surfaces.
- Alternate the wear of your shoes so that you allow the leather insole and upper to breathe. Using a shoe tree has a similar purpose. If you find that you sweat regularly or have a hot foot you might consider putting a sweat absorbing powder in your shoes after wear.
- Use a shoe horn to put on your shoes to avoid damaging the back of the shoe.
- Have your heel lining replaced if you notice that you are wearing through the leather (common with regular wear and hot feet).
- Choose the right leather for the right application. If you are wanting work shoes that will be worn regularly, you might be best off using a chrome-tanned yearling leather, or kangaroo, compared to the finest vegetable-tanned calf leather. For formal shoes we would often use calf leather, but this requires the highest level of maintenance and care. If you are not inclined to spend much time on caring for your shoes, then perhaps discuss the other options that may work in your favour.
What should I put on my shoes to protect them or polish them?
This depends on the look you are trying to achieve:
Patent leather is actually heavily coated, this is what gives it that mirror-like finish. The surface won’t absorb any polishes or conditioners well, so we would recommend to clean them with a damp cloth and polish them lightly with a rag. No polish or conditioner required.
For Glossy Full Grain:
A wax or lanolin based nourishing cream will give you the best results. Wax based polishes give you a higher shine when applied, left to dry slightly and then buffed. A lanolin nourishing cream will give your leather a moisturise, and if it has a slight wax content, a light shine.
Suede and Nubuck need to kept well away from greasy or oily conditions, they are unfinished fleshy materials which means oil will mark them. For general wear a scotch guard will help to repel some potential threats, however if you have suede shoes then just be careful with them, and remember most things will come off as long as they aren’t oily.
How do I look after white leather?
Clean with a damp rag and a white polish to enhance the colour. Depending on the grade of the leather used white can be a difficult colour to maintain. We use a kangaroo leather with a specially designed coating to give it the best wear resistance and longest life.
How do I look after suede?
Suede isn’t as fragile as you may think. Depending on its origins. We use a high quality suede with a quality lining on our shoes. But the two important principals to remember is to keep them away from oily substances and not to get them too wet.
If you do find yourself caught in a shower and your suede shoes get wet, let them dry at their own pace, don’t put them in front of a heater, or in the hot sun. this may cause problems with other parts of the shoe as well as possibly making the leather dry and brittle over time. Air drying them at normal room temperature is the best solution.
I’ve worn through the soles of my shoes, what do I do?
Firstly don’t worry, we should be able to repair them. Simply stop wearing them; the earlier in the wear cycle we get them in to be fixed the better. Keep them out of wet weather and bring them in or take some pictures and send them to us so we can run you through the options for repair. In future however it is best to keep an eye on the soles of your shoes and have them repaired before it gets to the hole stage.
Does wearing my leather shoes in the rain ruin the leather?
All of our shoes are made of high quality full grain leathers or suede’s. They are designed to be worn. Ideally they don’t get sopping wet, but we are based in Melbourne so we know that sometimes you just can’t avoid some rain and the odd puddle.
The key is to not continually wear your shoes wet and try not to get them wet where possible! Wipe off any wet drops as soon as you see them. Take them off and let them dry at their own pace, don’t put them in front of the heater or in the dryer this will cause the leather to dry out and become brittle and potentially crack. It may also shrink them slightly.
After they have dried naturally (between 12-48 hours on average) apply a polish or nourishing cream to restore the shine and moisture into the leather. Never apply the polish or cream onto the shoe whilst it is still wet otherwise you will trap the water in the leather and it may become mouldy and crack the leather insole and upper.
I tend to wear out my heels very quickly, what should I do?
The important thing to take note of is to repair the top piece before it wears through into the heel block underneath. If you wear the top piece out and continue to wear the shoes this can affect the structure of the upper and heel counter and you could deform your shoes. It is also more easily repaired and therefore less expensive if the top piece is the only part that is worn out.
Should I put topy on my new shoes?
This is a decision determined by of a couple of factors
1. Are you hard on your shoes?
Topy is a simple way to keep the leather soles from wearing out. Leather will wear a lot more quickly than topy. If you are typically hard on your shoes then we would recommend that a topy sole be applied. However this can be done at any stage of the life of the shoe. You don’t have to put topy on when the shoes are brand new. In fact some people are of the opinion that it is best done when the shoes are worn in, this gives the leather a chance to wear to your foot shape best, wearing slightly quicker where you are applying more pressure.
2. Are you wearing them on tiles, polished concrete or in slippery conditions?
A polished leather sole will be slippery on tiles so if you are working in the city or in a slippery environment then we would recommend topy to give you more grip.
How should I look after my veg-tanned leather shoes/bag?
On our accessories we use a clear leather conditioner (available online or in our shop) to weatherproof and seal the leather before you take it away. This is best applied with a clean cloth and left to soak in overnight before giving it a light buff the next day.
For our shoes we mostly use vegetable-tanned bovine, calf and kangaroo leathers. These are natural materials and need to be treated with care. Regular use of a clear polish/conditioner will help in maintaining the finish on the leather as well as weatherproofing them where need be. Use creamy black or brown polishes where you need to add a bit of colour as well as nourishing the leather. Simply apply the polish with an old clean cloth and massage into the leather. Let the polish soak into the leather for 15 minutes before buffing off lightly with a clean polishing cloth. The more regularly you apply the polish the happier your leather will be and the higher shine that may be achieved.
Please take caution with veg-tanned leather in wet weather. If your shoes get wet they must be allowed to dry out completely naturally (without the use of heaters, etc). Once they are completely dry, you should follow this up with a nourishing cream to recondition them.
Another good practice is to alternate the shoes you wear each day to allow them to dry out inbetween wears.
What if I have sweaty feet?
You are not alone in this. Chrome-tanned leathers are on occassion a better leather to use for shoe uppers if you happen to suffer from a hot foot whilst wearing shoes.
You should also alternate your shoes each day to allow each one to dry out completely and potentially use a powder after wear to absorb the moisture inside the shoe to maintain them as best as possible.
A shoe tree is another worthwhile investment that will help maintain the shape of your shoes while also allowing them to air out properly.