To take care of your leather shoes is to value your investment. This guide will walk you through the different steps to make your shoes last for many years.

It is important to understand first that leather is a natural product, and we believe in using it as such. We craft our shoes from only full grain leather, which comes from the top and premium part of the hide. At the tannery in France, the leather is finished with a natural aniline based dye, resulting in a translucent finish as opposed to an unnatural, polymer topcoat. The aniline finish yields a rich, luxurious feel and most importantly, it retains the hide’s natural surface grain.

The pores, and by nature the irregular surface grain, reflect the leather in many directions. To polish or shine your shoes is thus nothing more than filling up these pores with natural creams and waxes, until the final layer of polish reflects the light in (mostly) a singular direction.

Step 1. Always use a shoehorn

Between the leather upper and leather lining, at the heel, there is a heel counter designed to cup the heel of your foot. It prevents your heels from lifting while you walk. In order not to damage the heel counter and top line of your shoes, using a shoehorn is a must.

Step 2. Always use wooden shoetrees

Probably the most important step of all, but also the one that is most often overlooked. The leather lining, leather upper, leather insole, natural cork foot bed and leather welt… are all made from natural materials, and thus are prone to the detrimental effects of moisture. Coming from the feet, moisture that remains trapped inside the shoes could cause the leather to crack, the insole to warp, the welt to harden and the cork foot bed to decay.

Natural, untreated wooden shoetrees are the single most important item to keep help your shoes maintain their original shape. Immediately after wear, the trees absorb the excess moisture inside the shoe, helping the shoes to dry from the inside out. Other than this, wooden shoetrees straighten out the insole, outsole and leather upper, preventing it from cracks and creasing.

Step 3. Keep your shoes clean

Keeping your shoes free from dirt in between wears is done by brushing the upper and the welt area (the area between the shoe upper, and the sole). A shoe dirt brush should not be the most expensive one of the lot, but nor should it be too coarse. 

Before polishing your calf leather shoes, take a soft brush and clean your shoes from mud and dirt. If you don’t do this, the cream and wax that will be applied on the leather, will only lock in the dirt further. It is a good idea to use a damp rag for this step as well, if your shoes are particularly dirty. If you do this, use a damp, clean cotton rag, and swiftly go over the entire shoe. Allow the shoes to completely dry before going to the next step.

Step 4. Properly condition the leather

Just as with our own skin, untreated leather will dry out over time and become brittle. Regular application of a leather conditioner is recommended to keep leather supple and hydrated. People often tend to use oils for this, but in fact this is not your safest bet. A general rule here is that it is important to restore the moisture and oil content the leather had after tanning. This means that regular calf leather does not benefit from the addition of oil (except a few natural oils, to a certain degree), but rather moisture and protein. In fact, oil might soften the leather at first, but will dry out the leather quicker over time.

While there are many leather moisturizing products on the market, we recommend Saphir Renovateur for use on calf leather shoes. It can be used either just before polishing your shoes, or as a standalone product between wears. To apply, use a clean, soft cotton cloth wrapped around one or two fingers. Apply a small amount of Saphir Renovateur to the shoes in small circular motions. 

Often overlooked, the welt area is one of the most vulnerable parts of a Goodyear welted shoe. With this type of welt, the insole, leather upper and welt are stitching together. This results in probably the strongest shoe on the market. To make sure the welt area is well protected, take a small brush (a welt brush is one option, but a toothbrush will also suffice) and work in small amount of grease or dubbin in between the welt and the shoe upper.

Step 5. Restore colour with natural shoe cream

Probably the step we are all most acquainted with, to restore the colour of the shoe with shoe cream. When using a natural based shoe cream (the only one that should be used), this also helps to nourish and moisture the leather further. Using a small brush applicator or cotton cloth apply a small amount of cream to the entire upper, working it into the leather with circular movements. A slightly damp cloth can spread out the cream, but this is certainly not necessary.

Step 6. Apply natural wax for high shine

For those that prefer a high shine instead of a subtle lustre, there is step six. Achieving a high shine on your shoes is not that easy as it seems, and one must take into account some ‘rules’. First of all, it is again recommended to use only natural waxes, since ‘instant shine’ products will always contain aggressive solvents and silicones. Further, you should only try to high shine the rigid parts of a shoe, because if you build up a layer of wax on the part of a shoe that flexes, it will be pushed out of the pores and just look awful. Finally, to shine your shoes to a gloss finish, all one needs is a cotton rag, wax and some water (or spit). Notice how we said some water.

The toecap is the easiest place to start. Take your cotton rag, and twist it over one or two fingers. Make sure you create an even surface. Lightly swipe your cloth across the wax, and apply a first layer to the shoes. Again, work the wax in circular and very light movements. When you start to see clouds appear in the wax, moisten your cloth every so lightly, swipe across the wax, and start over. Repeat these steps until a high shine appears. Depending on how shiny you want your shoes to look, this can take between half an hour, and up to 2 or 3 hours.

The biggest mistake made here, is to use too much water. Too much water will wet the leather, and will nullify the shining effect by showing through as a matt spot. When you notice you have used too much water, let the shoes dry completely before you continue. 

Step 7. The final touch 

Step 7 is optional, but desirable if you want to look your best. After the shoes have been conditioned, creamed and waxed, walk in them for only a few seconds. Then take a soft cotton cloth or brush, and give them a final swipe to remove any excess cream or wax. 

Step 8. Rotate

Together with the use of shoetrees, rotating your shoes daily will extend the life of your shoes the most. Everyone transpires through his or her feet, even if you do not notice it. This causes the shoes to get moist on the inside, and the leather to warp. Also, why would you want to wear the same pair of shoes every day?

October 06, 2021 — Sons Of Henrey

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