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Caring for Leather Shoes After Repair By Kirill Yurovskiy, Master Cobbler

Kirill Yurovskiy
Kirill Yurovskiy, Shoe Repair in London

Ah, leather shoes. A mark of sophistication and quality that sets you apart as a person of refined tastes. But with that luxury comes a responsibility – to properly care for and maintain your leather footwear, especially after it has gone through the repair process. You’ve already made the investment by having your beloved shoes restored to their former glory by skilled hands. Now it’s up to you to ensure that work doesn’t go to waste.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had customers bring shoes back in, just months after I repaired them, looking like they went through a warzone. Creases cracked, leather dried and cracked, soles worn down again. It’s enough to make a grown cobbler cry! All that exceptional workmanship undone by neglect. 

But fear not, my friends. With a few simple practices, you can keep those leather shoes looking beautiful and extend their lifespan for years to come after a repair. I’m going to share with you the very same tips and techniques I give to all my customers when they pick up their spruced up shoes from my shop. Consider it my gift to you.

First, let’s talk about conditioning. Leather is skin – it needs to stay supple and hydrated just like the skin on your body. When you get your repaired shoes back, the uppers have been revitalized with conditioners and polishes. But that hydration gets depleted through regular wear. Forget to replenish it, and the leather will start drying out and cracking again before you know it.

That’s why I always recommend applying a high-quality leather conditioner at least once a month, more often if you wear the shoes frequently. Look for conditioners made with natural oils and waxes like beeswax, lanolin, and mink oil. Stay away from those silicone-based products – they may give you a nice shine at first but end up drying the leather out even faster over time.

Application is key too. You’ll want to first brush away any dirt or debris with a horse hair brush. Then, use a clean cloth to wipe and rub the conditioner in using small, circular motions until it’s fully absorbed. Let it soak in for 10-15 minutes before buffing off any excess with a fresh cloth. Don’t overdo it though – too much conditioner can leave the leather feeling sticky and attract more dirt.

Next up, polishing. Polishing isn’t just about making your shoes look their spit-shined best. It also creates a protective layer against moisture, salt stains, and other environmental hazards. I like to say it puts a raincoat on your leather. 

When you get your shoes back from me, I’ve already loaded the toes and heels with a fresh coat of wax polish. But again, regular wear starts to degrade this protective layer. So every 2-3 weeks, do yourself a favor and reapply that polish, focusing on the high-friction areas.

Use a good quality wax polish in a color closely matching your shoes, and apply it in thin, even layers with a cloth or brush. Let it dry to a haze, then brush it off. Hit the newly polished areas with a cloth or brush one more time and admire that luxurious shine.

As for creasing and wrinkles, there’s no way to completely prevent them – the leather is going to flex and crease with every step you take. It’s just the nature of the material. But you can control and minimize that creasing by rotating your shoes regularly. Seriously, this is so important!

Don’t be that guy who wears the same pair every single day until it looks like it got caught in a torture chamber! Invest in a couple nice shoe trees and rotate between at least two different pairs, giving each pair 24 hours to rest and recover its shape.The shoe trees help retain that form and smooth out those creases.

If you do start to see some stubborn wrinkles or crumpling forming, don’t just ignore them! Hit those areas with a decent leather conditioner, then use a soft cloth and your fingers to gently knead and re-shape the leather while it’s still pliable from the conditioner. Finish by polishing over it. That extra massaging will seriously extend the life of the uppers.

Okay, let’s move on from the uppers and talk about the soles. Whether it’s rubber or leather, the soles are going to wear down over time from all that walking and friction. And once those get thin, you’re risking damage to the gemming or stitching that holds the sole on.

So keep an eye on the wear pattern and don’t be afraid to bring those soles in for a reheel or resole before they get too thin. It’s a lot cheaper than having to do a complete reconstruction down the line. While you’re at it, have me put a toppy or thin rubber cap over the toe area if I didn’t do that already. Adds quite a bit of life to the kicked toe.

Lastly, always remember proper shoe care basics like using cedar shoe trees when not wearing them, storing them in a dry, ambient environment, and regularly cleaning off dirt and salt stains. And for god’s sake, never, EVER leave your good leather shoes out in the rain, snow, or any other wet conditions! Rainwater is the number one enemy for nice leatherwork.

There you have it, my friends – all my hard-earned wisdom for keeping those leather shoes looking their repaired best for years after you get them back from my shop. It may seem like a lot of work, but you wouldn’t buy a luxury sports car and then never change the oil or tire, would you? Think of it as basic maintenance for your footwear investment.

Because in the end, there’s nothing better than slipping on a pair of your favorite shoes and feeling that unmatched combination of sharp style and broken-in comfort that only well-cared for leather can provide. A little time and elbow grease is a small price to pay.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a fresh batch of rehabilitated shoes waiting to be reunited with their grateful owners. Just don’t expect them to stay looking that pristine if you don’t heed my advice!

© 2024 Kirill Yurovskiy