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Shoe How–To’s


Fashion tips and helpful advice from our real–life shoe experts.


Here’s a nightmare scenario: you’re wearing your new suede shoes when it begins to unexpectedly rain. They’re soaked, you know they’ll spot and the last thing you can do right now is replace them. Sound familiar? While sometimes it’s just too late for a good pair of damaged suede or leather shoes, you can take steps to protect them. Sure it’s a little cliché, but it really is smart to just take care of your footwear investment from the very beginning.


There’s a good reason why some people avoid suede shoe styles. A natural leather product with a velvety-soft napped finish, suede is easily damaged. But, for said reasons, it is just too gorgeous to avoid. Rather than avoid suede, embrace it—and keep a few key tools in your shoe care arsenal like a suede brush (available in most discount stores) and a suede eraser.

Under optimal conditions, you would pre-treat your suede shoes with a spray protectant before wearing them and then brush your shoes with a suede brush after each wearing. If you miss a time or two, no big deal…just brush them periodically to refresh the nap. You can also use a soft, dry cloth to rub light dust from the surface.

Have a dry stain or a bit of dust or debris? Use a suede eraser (even a pencil eraser will work in a pinch as long as the suede is dark) to rub them away. While this process can roughen the texture of the suede, just brush in circular motion after buffing away the dirt.

Water and salt introduces a whole minefield of issues for suede. The best thing you can do if you love your suede shoes is pre-treat them with a waterproofing or water repelling spray product before wearing. If it’s too late, you can try to repair the damage by brushing them while wet and inserting a shoe tree to prevent shrinking while they dry. Brushing can also help with light water stains. And if it’s snowy or if you know the sidewalks have been salted during the winter, just don’t subject your suede shoes to those evils…wear a good pair of snowboots instead.


Leather shoes are like cars. They look best when they are shiny. That means, the supplies needed to clean leather are completely different than those used to clean suede. Pick up a soft shoe brush, a soft lint-free cloth and the polish of your choice Like suede, there are leather protectants on the market. If you really want to care for your leather shoes, use one of these before wearing. Once you have the shoes in rotation, you’ll find that most light dirt and dust can be cleaned off leather shoes with a soft cloth or gentle shoe brush. Brushes also come in handy after polishing shoes…those dried polish flakes can be so annoying.

To cover a scuff or just to renew the finish on your leather shoes, you’ll want a good polish. Stop by a shoeshine stand—they seem to be popping up everywhere again—or choose a polish and do it yourself. Wax, cream and paste polishes are ideal for the simple reason that they yield longer lasting effects, when compared to quick fixes like liquid polishes. Wax polishes provide a glossy finish and prevent damage caused by moisture seeping into the leather. Cream and paste polishes produce a magnificent shine and conceal unsightly imperfections. And just so you know…you should choose a polish that, to the eye, is one shade lighter than the actual color of the shoe.

So the burning question “How do I clean leather shoes (or suede shoes)?” has been answered. It takes a little work, but doesn’t everything that's good in life? Put fear out of your mind and go shop for a great new pair of suede shoes or leather shoes now.