New Shoes? Show Them the Love!

By Une Femme, Already Pretty Contributor

Red Shoes of Happiness

The Red Shoes Of Happiness: Julianne Hough for Sole Society

So you’ve fallen in love. Just looking at them makes your heart beat a little faster. They’re PERFECT: the heel is the right height, the toes don’t pinch, and you KNOW they’ll make every outfit look superb. You’ve made the commitment and plunked down your hard-earned cash, and brought them home to meet the family. Happily Ever After?

Not so fast, Cinderella. Like any relationship, this one will require some work and periodic attention to keep romance alive. Shoes can be quite an investment, and with just a bit of preventative care and ongoing maintenance, you can have many happy years together.

First things first


See this? The guy or gal behind this sign is your shoes’ new Best Friend.

Half sole before -after

New shoes before and after adding rubber half-soles and heel tips.

Before you wear those shoes out for the first time, flip them over and take a look at the bottoms. Is the sole leather or a smooth synthetic?  If so, get them to your local cobbler and ask for a rubber half sole. This will not only give you better traction on slick or wet surfaces, but will extend the life of your shoes exponentially. If shoes have rubber or Vibram soles, this probably isn’t necessary, but if you’re unsure of the material look for a diagram with images like this either on a sticker on or in the shoe, or on the shoe box.

What Are My Shoes Made Of?

Check out the heel or heel tip. Is it plastic? (If it’s hard and “clicky” it probably is. According to my cobbler, even the priciest shoes usually have plastic heels/tips these days.) Ask the cobbler to replace it with a rubber heel or tip. Again, this will improve traction and extend the wear of the shoe. Plastic heel tips can wear down quickly, and once that happens you risk damaging the body of the heel, which can be difficult and more expensive to repair.

It’s an additional investment, yes, but one that can pay off in years of wear.

There are also some pre-wear steps you can take at home to give your footwear a leg up (haha) on the elements.

Suede can be particularly susceptible to water spotting and staining. None of my suede shoes leave the house before I’ve treated with a suede protector. Even smooth leather (especially lighter colors) can get stained and water spotted, and I swear by Apple Brand Garde’ Rain & Stain Repellent (works beautifully on leather handbags too). With any spray product, be sure you work outside or in a WELL-ventilated area. Two light coats (wait 30 minutes in between) are better than one heavy coat. And let the shoes dry overnight after treatment.

Depending on your closet space, you may want to either save your shoe boxes or invest in some clear storage boxes like these. Keeping household dust and dirt off shoes also helps keep them looking spiffy. Save any acid-free tissue that’s used to stuff new shoes and re-stuff when not in use; it will help restore and preserve the shape. Shoe trees are the gold standard, but are pricey.

But I’m beginning to get ahead of myself…next time I’ll share some shoe maintenance and care tips for those gently loved “soles” (and uppers).

Do you have any tips for caring for new shoes?
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Already Pretty contributor Une Femme is fifty-six, married to the same wonderful monsieur since 1995, the mother of a special-needs teenager and two hooligan dogs, a full-time administrative professional, a coffee-holic, Paris-obsessed, native Californian, and a petite and curvy femme d’un certain age. She believes that personal style is an essential form of self-expression, and started her blog, Une femme d’un certain âge, in 2007 hoping to start a conversation about style for women over 50.

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12 Responses to “New Shoes? Show Them the Love!”

  1. Andrea

    Thank you for the product recommendations! I have been looking for leather and suede protectors, but wasn’t sure what was best. Can’t wait to try them out!

  2. Ashe

    ” Is the sole leather or a smooth synthetic? If so, get them to your local cobbler and ask for a rubber half sole.”

    This is EXACTLY what I needed! My fiance bought me Manolos for our wedding, and the soles are leather. One wear and I could see the damage already. I’ll be taking mine in for this ASAP.

  3. Susan

    Are there any natural alternatives to suede and leather protectors? They seem so full of chemicals.

  4. Rachel

    This is a great article! I, too, immediately take new shoes for rubber soles and taps. The only thing I have to add is a tip for taking care of leather shoes (like Blundstones, other Chelsea boots, or non-patent oxfords.) After the guy in the shop gently recommended it five or six times, I finally bought a saddle & leather conditioning treatment to use on my leather Blundstones. (I bought the RM Williams brand conditioner; you could probably get something from an equestrian store that would work as well.) It’s made a world of difference in keeping my shoes supple and in good health. My Blunnies already last for years – I think this will put my current pair over the decade mark!

  5. katxena

    I second the shoe tree recommendation. I use this style which is great for varying heel heights. Although they are expensive, you’ll never wear them out — they will outlive every pair of shoes you have. I’ve slowly collected enough pairs that I have one for every pair of shoes I have.

  6. Carolyn from Oregon

    My father, a small town banker who was born in 1900, had lovely old world habits when it came to clothes. He had a whole row of wing tips, a couple of pairs in each color, the really good kind with thick soles and lovely leather throughout. He would take them to the local cobbler on a regular basis, maybe once a month or so for maintenance and they lasted a lifetime in excellent condition.

    I can’t match that or stick with a single style for life but I polish regularly, use wooden shoe trees and boot trees (they last a lifetime and are worth every penny) and adore my local cobbler. I also have a short leg and build up the soles of one shoe 3/8 ” instead of wearing orthotics every day. There’s a special place in heaven for independent cobblers.

  7. Rose

    I had no idea about doing this to shoes. Thank you so much, I’ve just bought two new pairs.