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How to Make Shoes Last Longer

shoe careIf your shoes get scuffed and wear out quickly, did you just buy the wrong ones, or could you have done something to make them last longer? Are there certain brands that are especially durable (but also stylish)? Reader M wonders:

Could you do a post about caring for shoes and how to fix scuff marks? Or maybe how to pick longer lasting shoes? I just bought black Nine West flats in September and the leather (??) toes are already peeling. So depressing! I don’t think this is fixable and they look so grungy, I don’t even know if a little black polish would prolong their life. But what could I have done to prevent this? Or did I just buy the wrong pair of shoes? I feel like I end up going through shoes way too quickly despite paying a healthy amount for them (but maybe not enough!).

We’ve talked about wearing scuffed shoes to the officeproperly storing shoes, and upgrading your shoe collection, and we also had a guest post on shoe care, but we haven’t talked about exactly this in a while.  So let’s discuss.

For my $.02: it sounds like Reader M might be a) too hard on her shoes (as in, wearing them everywhere, including a commute that might be too tough on the heels), and b) might get better results with slightly better shoes.  I have gotten years of wear out of even inexpensive brands like Nine West, though, so I have a few ideas for Reader M:

  • First thing when you get your shoes, waterproof them This should help the materials hold up and look their best.  I’ve always had luck with the Kiwi brand — just make sure you read the instructions to make sure whichever spray you’re holding is a good fit for the shoes you want to spray. (I have different sprays for sneakers, suede shoes, and regular leather.)
  • Be wary of little problems before they turn into big ones.  If the leather starts to peel or otherwise detach from your shoe, I would fix it the best I could (a shoe sponge, or even a Sharpie can help it look better in a pinch, but there are also specialty products and of course cobblers), and then move the shoe to the “wear only at the office” pile.  Not every shoe can go every where — and the sooner you learn where a shoe can’t go, the better you’ll be.
  • Know what you can fix.  Heel tips and soles are things you can replace very easily, either at home or with a cobbler — but scratched leather is much harder.  I haven’t been plagued too much by scuff marks myself, but there seem to be a ton of ways to get them out yourself.
  • Automate your shoe care. If you’re really busy, it’s best to just get in the habit of dropping them off at the cobbler once a season (or even just twice a year).  It’s more expensive to have him or her do everything, but I’ve always found it’s one of those things that it’s easier to outsource.  (Then again, I’ve always been in a little apartment with poor ventilation, so that’s another consideration!)  I usually waterproof them again when they come back from the cobbler.

Ladies, what ways have you found to extend the life of your shoes?  Do you think it’s more a difference in care, or a difference in quality of the shoe?

(Pictured: Classic Film, originally uploaded to Flickr by 1950 Illustrated Ad, Cat-Tex Sole Repair Material for Shoes.)

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Comments

  1. I find this to be self-fulfilling. I tend to wear my nicest shoes mostly only indoors (i.e., outdoors only to find a cab, or to walk a block or two for lunch or a meeting), and as a result of course they wear nicely. My $50 commuting flats (walking city commute) on the other hand need replacing every year… but they’re walking a mile on concrete every day.

    I think pointy-toed flats are the hardest to keep looking nice, because they’re the longest of your shoes (read: easiest to stub into things) and unlike pointy-toed heels, the point suffers from bending as you walk.

    • I have lost so many pair’s of shoe’s to the winter salt and schmutz in NYC. Now I have UGGs and they will surely not last into 2015-2016 WINTER in NYC. This is why we profesionals need to get the extra pay b/c the weather is so bad, and their is so much SALT on the roads. Not to mention Poopie, but NYC has the most poopie anywhere. Here is an article about the 50 most gross thing’s about NYC, if you do NOT believe me:

      http://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/new-york/grossest-things-about-nyc-garbage-rats-and-more

      LOOK at #s 1, 2, 4 6, 7 13 and 14 for starter’s. They are ALL gross and I can vouch for all of them. FOOEY!

  2. Anonymous :

    She’s wearing flats not heels. I actually think this is par for course. A pair of cheap flats you’re wearing outside all the time including sometimes in rain isn’t going to last forever. I just try and bring mine to the shoe guy for a clean and polish.

  3. I have not had a problem with Nine West brand shoes peeling, and I have quite a few (heels though not flats).
    My big problem is raking my heels in sidewalk cracks/the gap between the plates. Even on nicer shoes, usually by the third time I’ve worn them I end up stepping right into the crack and destroying the heel. I just keep wearing the shoe like that because I feel like it’s a lost cause.

    • Wedges or the Tory Burch Amy are good for city walking where there are lots of grates.

  4. Question for the hive: a year or so ago I bought some flat, knee-high boots from Target. They look like leather, but they are obviously not leather. They’ve gotten scuffed from wear, and I’m not sure how to polish them. Can you use shoe polish on what I assume is vinyl? Any other suggestions?

    • la vie en bleu :

      yeah, i just use regular polish on my cheap shoes.. it doesn’t work the same way it would on leather, but it mostly camoflauges the damage so it doesn’t look as bad.

      I also have taken cheap, non-leather shoes to the cobbler a few times a year and i dont know what they do, but they make them look almost like new! it is some kind of cobbler magic.

    • magic marker

  5. Are there any expensive flats that last well? I’d pay $150 for flats if they’d last 5X as long as 5 $30 pairs. But my experience is that even expensive flats don’t stand up to constant wear.

    • anonymous :

      I’ve found that my flats (mostly pointed toe) seem to last a really long time. They’re from a range of different places in the $90-150 range as the sale price. I have a pair from Kate Spade, Brooks Brothers, a pair that I got at Anthropologie and one from Nordstrom. They don’t get wear and tear from commuting since I drive to work, though. I have 5 pairs of flats that I wear roughly once a week and most of mine are 2-3 years old and still look new enough.

    • If you are looking for casual flats, the Paul Meyer ones wear extremely well. My first pair I got about 4 years ago, wore them all the time in the fall/spring for 2 years, took them on 2 week-long international trips with lots of walking, and they still look awesome. I now have 4 pairs in various colors and I always wear them on flights because they’re super comfortable.

    • Brunchaholic :

      I have a pair of Sam Edelman black snakeskin-type smoking slipper style flats that I wear constantly, and they have held up great! I do have to repolish them every six months or so (which makes the fact that they are black convenient), but the snakeskin seems to stand up to quite the clobbering. I also think that since the smoking slipper style fits slightly loose, it prevents stretching somewhat.

    • AGL flats. I have two pairs that are years old.

      Tieks are supposed to be durable buty first pair wore out after a few months. I thought I might have had the wrong size so I ordered a second pair 6 months ago. But these are wearing out too and so I am being extra gentle with them.

    • TO Lawyer :

      I’ve had good luck with Sam Edelman flats.

    • I feel like there is a missing market in the $150 range for quality flats. I started upgrading my shoe quality a few years ago, from Nine West/Bandolino to Cole Haan, and was so disappointed that I was paying SO MUCH MORE for CH and the flats were not any better than NW – they were just as comfortable/uncomfortable and they wore out just as quickly. I didn’t really find any other brands that were quality leather and comfortable for me. Finally, I found a pair of AGL flats on sale at Nordstrom, and even at half off it was more than I had ever spent on a pair of shoes, but you know what? That pair is still going strong 3 years later, and it’s never given me a blister. So my advice is to stalk sales on AGL to find a pair around $150 or save up for full price – they are worth it!

  6. A PR Chick :

    I have a work/fashion dilemma and I’m wondering what others may think about this. My immediate boss is always commenting on how others are dressed – whether someone looks professional or not, whether they dress like “an executive in a big media company” or not, etc – and makes a lot of judgment calls based on what others are wearing. The irony is that she’s not the snappiest dresser out there, but she thinks she is. She considers herself to be very “high-end” and “fashionably executive”, but she has the standard BR wardrobe. (Nothing wrong with BR, and I happen to like BR, but when you’re constantly acting like you’re Gucci, Prada, LV head-to-toe, you put yourself out there to be criticized right back). In any event… I do like to purchase nice things and probably spend more money than I should on shoes and clothes and bags. I have noticed that when I wear “nice” shoes that she recognizes (Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, etc.), she makes a comment (“Fancy shoes”) which sometimes comes across snarky. Same with bags. She wears a BR tote bag as her staple, but I often go between a Prada top handle bag or a new (and absolute fave) Chanel caviar tote to work.

    Here’s the question…
    Should I dress “down” in order to not threaten her or appear to be one-upping her in the labels/clothes department since I know she’s so fixated on that?

    I sometimes feel anxious wearing “nice” things because I don’t want her to feel I’m trying to “dress more executively” than she does or have nicer things than she does. This person is also extremely into titles and who’s a VP vs. a director vs. a EVP, so she’s super concerned with that, too.

    Help… I’m not sure where the fine line is.

    • Anonymous :

      She sounds like an insecure nut. I personally get so uncomfortable when people comment on my clothes, even if it’s just “nice shirt.” (I realize that’s my own issue.) I would probably avoid wearing recognizably nice things, like the red soled shoes, if only to avoid feeling uncomfortable. (I don’t think that means you have to dress down; there are plenty of nice things that don’t announce their designer.) If it doesn’t bother you that much, then just ignore it and rock your bad a$$ wardrobe.

  7. A PR Chick :

    I have a work/fashion dilemma and I’m wondering what others may think about this. My immediate boss is always commenting on how others are dressed – whether someone looks professional or not, whether they dress like “an executive in a big media company” or not, etc – and makes a lot of judgment calls based on what others are wearing. The irony is that she’s not the snappiest dresser out there, but she thinks she is. She considers herself to be very “high-end” and “fashionably executive”, but she has the standard BR wardrobe. (Nothing wrong with BR, and I happen to like BR, but when you’re constantly acting like you’re Gucci, Prada, LV head-to-toe, you put yourself out there to be criticized right back). In any event… I do like to purchase nice things and probably spend more money than I should on shoes and clothes and bags. I have noticed that when I wear “nice” shoes that she recognizes (Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, etc.), she makes a comment (“Fancy shoes”) which sometimes comes across snarky. Same with bags. She wears a BR tote bag as her staple, but I often go between a Prada top handle bag or a new (and absolute fave) Chanel caviar tote to work.

    Here’s the question…
    Should I dress “down” in order to not threaten her or appear to be one-upping her in the labels/clothes department since I know she’s so fixated on that?

    I sometimes feel anxious wearing “nice” things because I don’t want her to feel I’m trying to “dress more executively” than she does or have nicer things than she does. This person is also extremely into titles and who’s a VP vs. a director vs. a EVP, so she’s super concerned with that, too, and I don’t want to create friction if I can help it.

    Other point – I do want to work my way up in this organization so keeping good work relationships are important and she has a critical impact on my career growth and how our big boss perceives me.

    Help… I’m not sure where the fine line is.

    • Pretty Primadonna :

      I do not have advice for you, but am curious to hear what the others have to say. I work in government and wear nicer, more higher-end clothes, shoes, and bags (especially shoes and bags) than the vast majority of my colleagues. There are some items I will not wear to work because I don’t want anyone making assumptions about how I spend my money or what is or is not in my bank account. I’ve basically accepted that, which is unfortunate because I love fashion and my clothes/shoes/bags!

      • Did you come from a more formal or corporate environment? If so, it’s a useful way to deflect others’ assumptions. I work in government and have a well-dressed colleague, and assume that because she used to be a supervisor, her wardrobe is higher end, without paying attention as to whether items are new.

    • How long have you worked with her? How different are your roles? There was a discussion a while back sparked by an intern wearing a $$$$ bag (I forget the brand) to the law office.

      In some ways, accepting where she is – with everyone – should bring you some peace. Not judging, just accepting. Can you agree with her on a positive level – love the person’s choices, and have a positive pivot – that really is a flattering color – so you’re part of the conversation – if needed – but not tilting into SES assessments.

      There seems to be a hint of competitiveness in your post. If I can smell it – I’m sure she can, too. If you’re feeling defensive or drawn in, figure out how to Not Play The Game. When each of you is content with what you’re wearing, you both win. When is the last time you gave her a genuine compliment on an outfit or bag – in a manner that supports her work role? How does she know that you have her back professionally?

    • I think I’d leave the recognizably designer things at home if she’s snarky about them, and focus on dressing professionally and appropriately.

      • A PR Chick :

        Just wanted to thank everyone for their input!

        @Kaye –

        Everyone dresses professionally and appropriately. I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue is if your pencil skirt is Dolce & Gabbana or if it’s from The Gap. This is the kind of thing she would notice or ask about, and then make a snarky comment. At the end of the day, whether it was $48 or $480, it’s still a perfectly appropriate pencil skirt. The issue of dressing professionally wasn’t really at play here.

        Thanks, again, for everyone’s comments. It’s always a fine line to manage the social etiquette in a workplace and with particular individuals in the office without entirely compromising yourself and what makes you happy!

        • I’d go for wearing cheaper items to work, and save your money to splurge on fewer not-necessarily-for-work fashion items (since you clearly state that you like splurging on the higher end stuff – for me, Banana Republic prices are currently the top price range I foresee myself spending any time soon, because I just don’t care about the fancy brands).

  8. Not a Lawyer :

    I think it also depends on your feet. When I wear flats, the joint on the right side of my right foot pushes out over the sole, and that side of the leather gets worn through pretty quickly. I wear leather flats from banana republic and tory burch.

  9. anon a mouse :

    I would like to know what I am doing wrong that all of my shoes get weird scuff marks and tears in the back center, on the leather but just above where the heel meets the shoe. They are not the wrong size, but clearly some way that I walk is tearing them up. Flats and heels alike. I am stumped. Anyone else have this problem?

    I will second the rec to make shoe care automatic. When I’m switching out clothes for the season, I examine everything to see if it needs to go in for repair. Waiting another week or two for refreshed shoes at the beginning of the season feels less difficult than in the middle of the season, when you’re used to wearing them.

    • Do you drive in these shoes? Because that is what scuffs up the backs of my shoes.

    • Do you drive with them on? That’s been the culprit for me before, or really any type of sitting where your legs are stretched out and the back of the heels are resting on the ground for long periods of time.

    • Gail the Goldfish :

      When you’re sitting, how are your feet resting? I have this problem sometimes and realized that when I sit, I basically put my feet on the front of my desk, which means the back of the shoe is on the ground and gets scuffed.

      • I had a similar situation: I had a desk chair tear up the backs of several shoes before I realized what it was. There was a sharp edge where the desk chair feet met the casters.

        • This is what eats up my shoes – and it’s really hard to notice and prevent it.

  10. I’m surprised there’s no mention of shoe trees here. Especially if you have real patent leather shoes, shoe trees are critical to avoiding cracking/bubbling.

  11. I’ve found Nine West shoes to be pretty low quality of late. I have flats I bought in 2011 that still look new, but the ones I bought 18 months ago are so worn, and were so cheap to begin with, the cobbler himself actually told me not to bother having them repaired. I had a problem with a pair of Nine West heels, too. I’ve sworn off the brand.

    OP, are you by chance wearing the Speakup flats? Those are my poor quality ones. I’ve discovered there’s literally no difference in quality between the Speakup flat and something from Target or Payless.

    • mintberrycrunch :

      I also have the Speakup flats, and have experienced the same problem with peeling and general wear. Not a good purchase, for sure, which is a shame because the style is great.

    • Thanks Kat and the hive for answering my question! Anon, I can’t find them on the website now but they were the pointy toed two toned ones (like half black, half navy etc). I totally agree that there is a huge disparity in how my husband takes care of his shoes and how I do , which if corrected, should hopefully increase mileage! Partly, I think it is very confusing to figure out how to care for different styles (eg patents vs fabric vs leather vs mystery object)!

  12. Specifically for commuting shoes, I think it helps to rotate shoes and not wear the same pair every day. Wearing shoes in the rain is a likely culprit for the peeling. You can use Shoe Goo for simple repairs. http://www.amazon.com/Sof-Sole-Shoe-Goo-Clear/dp/B002L9AL84/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423169569&sr=8-1&keywords=shoe+goo

  13. I always change my shoes to drive to/from work. I actually bought a really comfy pair of thick soled slippers and drive in them in the winter (I have a garage, so they don’t get icky outside and I toss me if they do). My feet have never been so comfortable and my work shoes last much longer.

  14. i am far older than most of you and no longer work in an an office, but I am struck by the fact that no one has mentioned regular shoe care. It used to be simple: every weekend, along with ironing your blouses (and probably his shirts!) for the following week, you would polish your leather shoes. The wax in the shoe polish kept them fairly waterproof. Patent leather shoes were good for really wet days, as you could just wipe them off once in the office. I would also empty my handbags, clear out the junk, brush out the interiors, and polish those too.

  15. I agree with Cherry. Some regular, easy shoe care will keep them looking great for years. Decent shoe trees are a worthwhile investment, too — you can often pick up cedar ones at a good price from Sierra Trading Post.

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