Help settle a debate between friends– are leather heels with slightly worn tips (your standard pointed toe work heel) acceptable for the business casual (management consulting) office? Is slight wear an accepted part of a shoe’s life, or should heels be retired or taken to a cobbler as soon as the toes show signs of running into one too many curbs?
This is one of those rare times that I think women need to hold themselves to men’s standards — at the first sign of real wear, yes, your shoes should go in for repair. But before you start groaning, I don’t think this means a $50 trip to the cobbler every week or anything like that… (Pictured: Platform heals toes, originally uploaded to Flickr by steveandpolo.)
Get friendly with your local shoe shine spots (or do it yourself). This is the kind of thing that had never occurred to me before I started working in a big firm — a woman? Using a shoe shine stand? That’s something old guys do, right? But obviously there’s no reason not to use it. At the firm we actually had a regular guy come in, about once a month, who would knock on everyone’s office doors and ask if you had any shoes that needed a shoe shine — he would just go work in one of the hallway corners and then bring your shoes back to your office when he was done. The price was really reasonable ($5-$10 a pair, if memory serves), and not too far off from what I’ve gotten when I’ve stopped at the shoe shine stands. Here in New York, at least, they’re everywhere, at least once you start looking — in midtown, downtown, in subway stations and train stations, and at the airport. If there isn’t an easy place near you, get in the habit of looking your shoes over once a month and shining them — it really only takes a few minutes. (There are even instant shoe shine sponges.) Alternatively, you can also just take a bag of shoes to the cobbler once a season — they can shine your shoes and tell you what else needs to be done (or can be done).
Protect your shoes from wear when you first get them. A little bit of preventative medicine goes a long way, at least with shoes. I like to waterproof all of my leather shoes as soon as I get them; I also try to avoid wearing my shoes in the rain or in bad weather. (In fact I’ve always kept a pair of Shuellas in my desk drawer.) For kitten heels and stilettos, it generally does help (both with wear and with comfort) to put rubber tips on the heels; all other shoes can get resoled with rubber soles after a bit of wear. For pointy shoes in particular, you may want to ask your cobbler about “taps,” which help reinforce the toes of your shoe. Be sure to stop wearing any shoes if your heels are so worn that you’re walking on the nails — you’re doing damage to your shoes.
In a pinch, use a Sharpie. Is it an ideal solution? No. But: if I were called to a big meeting and my favorite pair of heels had a scrape, I’d cover it with a Sharpie or a black felt pen before I showed up with a scrape.
Readers, how regularly do you do shoe maintenance? What are the shoe secrets you swear by — rubber heels, taps for pointed toes, instant shine sponges, or something else entirely?