Scuffed Shoes and the Office

Pictured: Platform heals toes, originally uploaded to Flickr by steveandpolo.If shoes show any signs of wear (like scuffs and scrapes), are they inappropriate for the office? What is the best way to take care of your office shoes? Reader S wonders:

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?

Comments

  1. One of the rare moments when I’m glad my 3rd world cobbler can do anything for less than 4 dollars :D

  2. Second on the Sharpie suggestion. I wouldn’t do it to any really nice shoes — nor would I non-anonymously admit to having done so — but this has really extended the life of some cheaper shoes that I wasn’t ready to throw away but was not willing to spend money on repairing.

    • just Karen :

      Thank you – I just pulled out a Sharpie and scribbled over the scrape on the toe of my left shoe and am feeling much better now :) I know I should still get it repaired, but this is a $50 pair of shoes that I wear ALL THE TIME, so I should probably buy a back-up pair first to have on hand while this pair goes into the shop.

    • Anonymous :

      Black nailpolish works well on shinier leather… not that I would ever admit to that…

    • I will non-anonmously admit to having used Sharpie (to the extent my handle is non-anonymous.) I tend to only use it on the heel part of the shoe and not the leather, but I wouldn’t be above using there if the occasion arose.

  3. I always get rubber heels/tips and add rubber half-soles to any shoes with leather soles. Not only prevents wear, but also provides traction!

  4. Apologies for the threadjack:

    I (finally) went out of my comfort zone to schedule networking lunch with an alum from my undergrad. We had trouble picking a date, but (I thought) settled on today. I went, stood outside for a half hour, called him twice (leaving one voicemail) and eventually got lunch by myself. I thought maybe he had texted me, and since my phone can’t text message I always miss those.

    Now that I look at our discussion about dates, I see that what I thought was this Thursday he likely thought was next Thursday. I feel like an idiot, and now he has my voicemail to prove it. I just returned from the lunch-that-wasn’t and haven’t heard anything from him yet. What is the best way to handle this?

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I think it’s fine to shoot him an email apologizing and saying you now realize there was a miscommunication about the dates/you had it in your calendar wrong/whatever and you look forward to seeing him next Thursday. It happens, don’t worry!

    • Associette :

      Doh! So embarassing, but don’t sweat it. I would just shoot him an email and apologize that you were confused about the date, but realize now after rereading your email chain, that your meeting was for next week and that you look forward to meeting him then. Blame it on yourself even if it wasn’t your fault.

      About the shoes – I generally buy pumps in the $60.00 to $150.00 range, so when they begin to look warn after about 6 mos. or so, I just get a new pair. As leather stretches and the heels wear so easily, I think having a new pair that is nice and snug to my foot, and stable is the best option for me. I cant see paying a cobbler for that.

    • Legally Brunette :

      I really wouldn’t worry about it, it’s a honest mistake and he probably feels bad that you waited around for him. I would just drop him an email apologizing for the mix up and tell him that you look forward to seeing him next Thursday.

    • Anastasia :

      This is an honest mistake. I’m sure he will be apologetic that he (unintentionally) stood you up, and neither of you needs to feel like an idiot. He’ll probably call when he gets your voicemanil, and then you can just say “oh, there must have been a miscommunication! Were you planning for next week? That date will work for me, too. [NUMBER DATE] haha see you then.”

      I’ve been there. “this coming week” vs “next week” vs “this week” can vary in interpretation, I think. Now I always use number dates when confirming plans.

    • Senior Attorney :

      I think you have handled it just fine.

      And aren’t you just oh so glad it wasn’t the reverse mistake and you didn’t leave him standing outside for half an hour?

      • Holy cow I didn’t even think of that possibility. I feel a little better knowing that that didn’t happen.

        I also got the benefit of some nice crab cake sliders, so that eases the ding to my dignity a little, too. :)

        Thanks all for your advice! Sometimes its too hard to think past my own humiliation.

    • This also shows why it’s really important to phrase appointments in absolute, not relative, terms – i.e., “Thursday, July 19″ instead of “next Thursday” (or you can always say “next Thursday, July 19.”)

  5. Crosssfit :

    Are Melissa shoes appropriate for work?

    For those of you not in the know Melissas are rubber shoes (dishwasher friendly) that have a surprising level of comfort and longevity. I wear them all the time when it rains.

  6. I have two pairs of heels in kind of bright colors of matte leather (one blue and one green). Both are super comfortable and were cute, but they scuffed quickly. They’re the Corso Como Del shoes for reference. I’ve never really done much shoe shining. Will normal shining take care of scuffs on non-standard-color shoes? Do I need to find shoe polish matching these colors?

    Thanks for the shoe care advice!

    • Meltonian makes polish and color repair cremes in multiple colors. It is my go-to brand.

      • Thanks!

      • Thanks for the recommendation! I have a fun pair red leather boat shoes -weekend wear, don’t worry – that are in desperate need of polish. I learned to polish my own shoes, as well as use clear protective spray on all leather shoes, which has truly extended the life of multiple pairs. Sharpie – I’ve used this on the soles of shoes such as my absolute favorite heeled loafers are in need or repair, but would be hesitant using it on the top of shoes.

  7. What about scrapes on the heel? Without fail, I seem to manage to step into a crack or something with a brand new pair and scrape off a chunk from the actual heel. The heel also gets caught in the legs of my chair and get scraped up that way. Is there any way to fix this (or prevent it?)?

    • I’m so glad Kat asked, and Anon asked this question. Curious to hear responses. The heels are my #1 question with shoes. I am often able to find stacked heels instead of material-covered ones, but not always, and in any event, it is really difficult to disguise.

      • With leather heels, repair and camoflage are common.

        I too have mostly sworn off leather heels and only buy work shoes with stacked heels. It’s limiting, but I’m a clutz and haven’t been able to avoid problems.

    • If the piece of leather is still attached to the heel, cobblers can smooth it out and glue it back down to the heel – this is less obvious, of course, in darker colors.

      For the chair-banging, I used to do this but made a conscious effort to put my feet farther in front of me than they needed to be to achieve the required “scooting” – my hips would therefore run into my keyboard before my chair wheels can bump into my shoes. I also often balance my feet on top of the spokes (in the privacy of my office).

    • I had a pair that I damaged this way by stepping in a grate. The material was not completely torn off, but was merely “scrunched up”, so the cobbler was able to pull it back down flat and glue it. It is not perfect, but looks way better. I also don’t think anyone would notice unless they were holding my shoe and examining it!

    • if your cobbler can’t glue it down he (really it is always a he) can just replace the heel – costs about $12 at my cobbler.

      • $12 for a new heel???? Where do you live? That seems incredibly cheap. I am always blown away by how much the shoe hospital charges for the lackluster results I get.

        • b23- You’re in Houston, right? I had several pairs of nice heels ruined at H—— Shoe Hospital. I now take mine to a little Cobbler in Bellaire, local mom and pop place, right off Bellaire and Bisonnet. Very reasonable. His repairs are rarely over $10.

          • WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS PLACE??????

            I HATE hate hate HATE HaTe the Shoe Hospital!!!!

          • From Google Maps it looks like it is Bellaire Shoe Repair at 5204 Bellaire Boulevard. I am pretty excited about the recommendation, I have several pairs of shoes that need some professional help.

          • in the pink :

            I’ve gone there too….lots of times. Bellaire has lots of little treasures in self owned shops. One time, they talked me into entire sole replacements as a new shoe got a big gash right away in the leather sole. Put on some sort of rubber or composite sole. Nice but it was about $30 bucks. Other repairs, much more reasonable. Seems like there’s a hand-off to a younger generation going on in that crowd.

            This is really the triangle in Bellaire, the building that was totally renovated. If you are familiar with Bellaire, it is the building that used to house the funky bead shop and a road racing logo flooring place. Across from Bellaire Broiler Burger – almost – and Hefners Plaza Cleaners…shares a back entry with the Randalls.

          • Goodness, that’s where I go! It’s a bit of a drive from Spring Branch but they do great work and are really reasonable. I take in a batch at a time and usually pay about $10 to $12 per pair.

        • My shoe guy is so cheap, I actually end up feeling guilty and leaving a big tip. He’s an ancient Italian man with cobbler hands. He’s so nice and quick and inexpensive. I just wish I didn’t feel so guilty about him being so.

        • I need to find a new cobbler in DC. I loved my guy until he drastically raised his prices.

          • Cobblers and Cleaners, 15th and G. No one in my office will go anywhere else.

          • Is Arlington convenient to you? Golden Shoe Repair in Ballston is my go-to, and I’ve always been happy with my minor repairs. More importantly, he gets fantastic reviews for even major repairs on Yelp.

          • Also Sam Torrey shoe repair on Lee Highway in Arlington (near Lee-Harrison). Great place, they can repair anything and will tell you if it’s not worth doing

        • Vintage Lawyer :

          B23, check out the Village Shoe Shop at 2507 Rice Blvd. They’re excellent.

        • Yes, Bellaire Shoe Repair. Very happy. I’d definitely recommend them to any Houston *r-e-t-t-e.

    • Anonymous :

      Yeah, I never get covered heels because I always killed them, and quickly. It pains me to pass up some otherwise-perfect styles but there you go. And suede? Double, triple, extra no. Suede heels don’t even need scraping, just *looking* to seem ratty.

  8. Anne Shirley :

    Getting my shoes shined is one of my favorite feeling like a real grown-up in the big city moments. See also sending stuff via messenger, heels clacking on marble, and business cards.

  9. Leigh Ann :

    How much can cobblers do with patent leather? Can they fix the scuffs, or do you pretty much just need to buy new shoes? Most of my nice work shoes are patent leather, so I haven’t been brave enough to try the shoe repair

    • if it’s just a surface scuff (the patent leather isn’t actually torn), you can remove patent leather scuffs with rubbing alcohol.

    • Anonymous :

      Nail polish remover, too. They sell teeny relatively expensive bottles of fixer, but any of our alternatives here works for sunk-cost free.

      • Mousekeeper :

        After ruining a very expensive pair of month-old stilettos by stepping in a sidewalk crack, I learned NOT to wear good stilletos or any shoe with a narrow heel while walking to/from the office, or any long walk for that matter. I keep my work dress shoes in the office (I kept them all in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet named in “the Imelda Maros Memorial Shoe Drawer” ) and wear flat or casual shoes coming and going. If I had a meeting in the city or court appearance that involved a lot of walking, I would stick my dress shoes in my brief case or litigation case and switch shoes in the elevator or ladies room.

  10. AnonForThis :

    I know BigLaw swim parties have been talked about a lot here, and usually I get to be grateful that I’ve missed out on this tradition… until now. I will be starting as an associate in September, but was invited to the party being held as a social event for the summer associates. Two big issues: Its right before the bar exam, and a 2 hour drive each way.

    Any advice as to whether I should suck it up and go (and reread all the “how-not-to-be-THAT-girl” at office casual parties), or is the bar a reasonable excuse for missing it?

    Separate issue: if I go, SO’s are invited. I have been with my boyfriend for around a year now, and its pretty serious, but I feel like those events are for “really really” serious, married or engaged type SO’s. Thoughts?

    • Former MidLevel :

      Honestly, I wouldn’t take off that kind of time right before the Bar–unless you’re really burnt out on studying and really want to go (i.e., don’t feel like you have to go). You are *not* required to go to SA events, and you will not be “that girl” if you focus on the Bar.

      • agreed – no one is even going to remember if you were there by the time you start.

        • This. It sounds like a huge party. Especially if you haven’t even started yet, odds are good that nobody would even notice if you *were* there. Forget about anyone remembering later that you weren’t. 2 hours away is excuse enough, but add that to blowing a whole day while you’re stressed about the bar… I say if you’re unsure you want to go, don’t.

      • AnonForThis :

        I would like to go, but also am having nightmares about everyone being “impressed” that I’m so prepared that I’d take a whole day off of studying to attend a firm event… and then not pass the bar and everyone would think “What a goof, she should have been studying, not at the office pool party.” Eeeek!

        • Not trying to be mean, but... :

          For what it’s worth, no one is going to be impressed that you’re so prepared for the Bar that you can go to a party.

        • eh, I don’t think there’s really much potential “upside” on attending this one. You’ll end up spending the whole time making small talk about how studying is going, people will likely not even remember that you were there by the time you start in the fall, and what a dreadful way to spend a day off from studying.

        • I don’t think they’ll be impressed because I don’t think anyone studies every day before the bar – you’re just taking a little time off to attend the firm event. And even if you did fail (which you won’t – positive thinking!), no one will think it’s because you stopped studying for a few hours to attend the firm event.

    • Since it’s two hours each way AND the bar is coming up, I’d say skip it. If you do go, I think it’s fine to bring BF (if he’s up for four hours in the car for a work party — and if he is, good on you for nabbing him!)

    • Might be a good idea to go and take your mind off the bar. I remember keeping up with my bar study course, so I felt prepared, but just nervous and stressed. Skipping the upteenth practice test and going to a summer event actually turned out to be a nice way to not think about the bar exam, because I was forced to focus on something else.

      On the boyfriend, I’d bring him. You can’t include him in your bar study, but you can include him in this event. It’ll be nice to have that time while driving to talk and catch up (since it’s probably been hard to hang out with him as much as you’d like this summer).

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I agree, skip it. No one will care. They invited you to be inclusive and welcoming, but your presence is not required. Don’t worry about it :).

    • Skip it. It’s right before the bar. People will understand.

    • svassociate :

      I think if it’s right before the bar exam, you have a perfect excuse not to go. I almost thing it would look worse if you went – 4 hours round trip when you could be studying?

    • AnonForThis :

      Thanks for your advice, ladies! I think we’ll skip this one, and save the law firm debut for when I don’t have bar brain. I made a nice, steamy pot of hot water the other morning because I forgot to put the coffee in the maker… Heaven only knows what might come out of my mouth in the days before the exam :)

  11. And then you have the problem where you have an office appropriate shoe collection and site visit appropriate shoe collection. At home and at work.

  12. There’s no reason not to use shoe shine stands?

    Other than, you’re sitting elevated with your crotch at eye level, probably wearing a skirt if you’re in heels, and have your legs spread since your feet are up on the shoe supports? Every shoe shine stand I’ve seen (airports, sidewalk, stores) has this basic layout. I’d feel uncomfortable, even in slacks.

    What you described with giving an onsite shoe shine person your shoes and them coming back to you later isn’t something I’ve been lucky enough to experience, but maybe it’s common in larger office buildings or more formal areas.

    • It’s almost the same seated position as it is for a pedicure. I don’t think I would give it a second thought in slacks.
      You can also drop your shoes off at a cobbler to be shined. I’ve done this for hard to match colors or when I don’t have time to do it myself.

    • At the place I use (in a train station) they have a drape that they give you to put over your lap and legs if you’re wearing a skirt. You could certainly ask for it if you were wearing slacks, but I don’t bother.

    • Anonymous :

      You just do one foot at a time. No biggie. There’s no like, personal safety issue, nor ‘reputation’ ruiner.

      • Exactly. Not like there’re going to be two people working on your two shoes at the same time anyway.

        But wearing a not-so-tight skirt would be a good idea.

    • Seattleite :

      Were I in a skirt, I’d have him take my shoe off anyway – because otherwise, we’d run the risk of polish on my feet. So just slip the shoes off and cross legs demurely at the ankle while you wait.

    • I’m too short for the foot rests anyway, but it’s totally acceptable to slip your shoe off. No accidental flashing and no polish on your hose.

  13. never bother with this :

    I constantly scuff my shoes (usually colorful flats), and I have just given up on keeping them in good shape. Maybe because I am not a shoe person, it doesn’t bother me much, and since I am always scraping them against each other and scuffing them up, I don’t see the point in unscuffing them. They will just get scuffed as soon as I wear them again.

  14. Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

    Ladies, I need your help with a disagreement a friend and I are having. I say this dress (link to follow) cannot be work appropriate because even though a camisole could be layered under the sheer top, the banded skirt makes it a bit too much. But my friend says that as long as the skirt is not too form fitting, the dress is fine. Who is right?

    • Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :
    • I agree, that looks like a party dress. Only worn to the office when there’s a party at the office or an after work event that most of the company is attending.

    • I would not wear that dress to work because of the filminess / slouchiness /sheerness of the blouse part – reminds me of old movie start dressing gowns – coupled with the fact that a skirt of that style will be innately curve hugging based on the material and shape, even if you go up a size.

    • Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

      Thanks ladies. I’m off to do my special “told you so” dance.

    • Senior Attorney :

      If it were a plain skirt, I’d wear it to the office with a blazer over it. But I agree with you that the banded skirt, combined with the sheer top, is probably a little too much for the office.

      It’s pretty cute, though. I’d totally wear it for Date Night!

    • I don’t love it for the office, reads a little too evening/party for me. Also, its not terribly flattering, even on the model — so I’m not sure how it would work in real life. Not a F21 win, IMHO.

    • I thought it was borderline-but-maybe-with-a-blazer until I zoomed in and saw the banding on the skirt. Agree, too much.

      • Hmm. Aside from the fact that it looks awfully short, I would have said it could be fine. Great, now I’m worried about being *that* girl at the office…

        • I don’t think it looks too inappropriate either (except if it is very, very short – according to the site, the model is 5’10” and the skirt looks to come just to the top of her knee, so it might not be all that short). One might need a camisole under it if the top is very sheer, but otherwise it just looks like a blouse and black skirt. I don’t think it looks like a party dress at all. Not sure how this differs from a sheer-ish blouse and pencil skirt.

          But then, I am a government employee (not on the Hill) and as people have noted, our standards are not all that high.

        • Impossible to believe anything purchased at Forever 21 is work appropriate. My daughters shop there and it’s rarely High School dresscode appropriate. Not to mention that I (Queen of Laundry) have never washed anything from Forever 21 without it shrinking! (never, ever, put in dryer either). It starts short and gets shorter!

          • A friend of mine has a theory about Forever 21 – you get as many hours of wear out of it as you paid dollars for it. So if the sweater costs $15, you can wear it for 15 hours before it will start to disappear.

    • I think the skirt would be fine with a more demure top, but the see-through top is never ok even with a cami underneath.

  15. Mountain Girl :

    My solution: marry a military man. He can polish a pair of shoes like nobody’s business. I will frequently come home from work and find that a pair of shoes I left out from the day before are spit shined and polished.

  16. For patent leather shoes, I can recommend nail polish to repair last minute marks. Obviously this is only an emergency solution, but I once did a quick jaunt to Europe for a family event in the country. Scuffed my black patent shoes there and was asked to interview with a friends’ firm last minute. Since I wasn’t going back any time soon, the interview was Monday morning and I heard about it Saturday night (after which Europe goes on lock down until Monday) there was nothing else to do.

    Wearing your dress shoes ONLY to the office (and commuting in different shoes) obviously extends the shoe life.

    I also stash antibacterial wipes in my desk, so every 2-3 weeks Friday night I give my shoes a quick rubdown and then bust out the shine sponge. Every 2-3 months I also take an afternoon where I clean and shine all my and my husband’s shoes while I watch a ridiculously long movie :)

  17. Dress for the mature bride :

    I saw this dress at Talbot’s (insanely cheap — $68! — with the 40% clearance sale going on now) and remembered the poster who asked about a less-formal wedding dress for a bride in her 40s or 50s. If your friend doesn’t already have one, this is beautiful. (I don’t think it’s that flattering on the model, but it was really pretty up close.)

    Link to follow.

    Jules

  18. I keep a neutral shoe sponge in my office supply kit in my desk drawer (along with a sewing kit, tampons, meds, toothbrush, etc.) … At home I keep a bottle of leather cleaner and give my shoes a quick buffing when I notice they need it (literally on my way out the door, takes 45 sec.) I also make frequent trips to my cobbler and there is an emergency place near work that I will go to in a pinch. Obviously occasional scuffs can’t be avoided, but I feel like you can always tell the difference between “crap, this just happened” and “I don’t take care of my shoes” — kind of like the difference between a fresh coffee stain and a set in oil stain.

  19. I polish and shine my shoes at home. It’s not difficult and I must not be terribly hard on my shoes because I do it only a few times a year, when they start looking really ratty.

    As far as heel repair goes … I just don’t wear heels that much. Problem solved! :) Maybe that’s the one benefit of having picky feet that just can’t handle extensive heel wear?

  20. Solid color is a good idea, but I think the bigger challenge will be finding the right fabric to hold pleats the same way as the original material. Cute dress!

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