How to Care for Your Shoes and What to Do If They Need Repair

Lengthen the lifespan of your favorite shoes

Shoe repair window
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If you're like me, every once in a while you find yourself in need of a good shoe repair shop, whether it's to fix a heel or do a total restoration. Some repairs can be done at home but if you do need the help of a professional, don't worry, you can easily find a repair shop near you. The Shoe Service Institute of America has a shoe repair shop locator that will help you find the closest, certified shop in your neighborhood or close to your place of business.

You can also do a search online or do what I did. I went to a pricey, well-known shoe store and asked them who they use. It ended up they brought their customer's shoes in need of repair to a store close to me. Suffice it to say, I've been going there ever since.

Many shoe repair shops are small, independently-owned businesses, so you'll also be supporting the local economy in addition to restoring your shoes. The first thing you need to do is call the shop beforehand to tell them what kind of work you need done—on the off-chance they don't provide that service.

If your shoes are in really poor condition, then you should absolutely take them to a repair shop, but first, let's look at things you can do to prevent your shoes from getting that bad in the first place.

Take Care of Your Shoes

You should always take great care of your shoes, especially if they're an expensive, high-quality pair that you can't replace.

Here are some helpful tips on how to properly care for your shoes:

  • Be good to your shoes. Don't just toss your shoes in the closet after you're done wearing them. Line them up on the floor or on a shoe rack and give them some breathing space. You don't want your shoes scratching or scuffing each other. If you're limited on space, consider purchasing an over-the-door shoe organizer. You should also keep shoes out of direct sunlight to prevent fading.
  • Protect the soles. The soles are usually the first things to go on a pair of shoes, but they're also easily replaceable. You can find sole protectors for any type of shoe and as long as you carefully read the instructions, you can make the repairs yourself. I've done this myself many times, and admittedly, I am not very handy.
  • Clean with care. As tempting as it may be to throw a pair of sneakers into the washing machine, resist the urge. Yes, it's fast and easy but your sneaks will take a beating inside your washer and (especially) your dryer. The wash-and-dry approach will also wear away the shape of your sneakers. If you're very particular about cleanliness, use a toothbrush or Q-tip to gently wash away any dirt. Remember, the longer you wait, the more dirt will accumulate and the more difficult the process will be.
  • Use shoe trees. Feet sweat throughout the day (especially in hot weather) and the leather and inside lining will absorb the moisture. In addition to causing an unpleasant odor, sweat can also crack the leather and ruin the lining. A shoe tree helps keep the shoe's shape and materials in good condition. Shoe trees are an easy and relatively inexpensive fix, but you can always just stuff your shoes with newspaper or packing paper and get the same result.
  • Use water repellant. Natural materials like suede and leather look nice, but the elements can wreak havoc on natural hides. Waterproof your shoes to protect against water spots and salt damage during the winter.
  • Invest in quality shoes. Spending a little extra money on a well-made pair of shoes might put a temporary financial ding into your budget, but there is a very noticeable difference between high-quality, expensive shoes and less expensive, poorly-made shoes. If you decide to invest in quality (which is what I do and recommend), buy shoes that are made of real (not man-made) materials such as suede, rawhide, and leather. These materials can handle a lot of wear and tear and, if you treat them well will last for years, if not decades.