Shoe Care for Women

shoe care for womenI’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: shoe care and upkeep is very important when it comes to your appearance and general presentation, for both women and men.  Yet why is there so much more information directed at men?  Today I’ve brought in The Fine Young Gentleman to give us a few tips on shoe care — welcome, FYG!  While pondering these tips, you may also want to check out The Corporette Guide to Comfortable Heels and the Newbie’s Guide to Buying Designer Shoes. – Kat

Care for men’s and women’s shoes (including high heels) is not that different.  Which is why you have a guy menswear blogger talking about the subject.  Don’t believe me?  Think about it like this; both men’s and women’s shoes are made primarily from some menagerie of leather, cotton, rubber, and plastic.  They are even made using some of the same techniques and methods.  And they are worn the same way by both sexes; that is, they are used, abused and often neglected.  The unfortunate, and inevitable, result of such negligence is that the shoes expire well before they should.  No doubt resulting in varying levels of emotional and monetary harm.  Yes, as a guy, I also hate it when I have to throw out my favorite pair of shoes because they are no longer wearable; weird, right?  No, in fact, few things cause me more anguish when it comes to my wardrobe.  But, fear not, there are ways to properly procrastinate the inevitable.

  • The first, easiest and most important thing you can do for your shoes is put in shoe trees when you are not wearing them.  They are equally effective for men’s dress shoes as they are for high heels or any other type of womens’ shoes, including boots.  They can help the shoes expel moisture (sweat, rain, etc.) and fend off creasing by holding the shoes’ shape.  Cedar or other wood is ideal but there are plastic models that are less expensive like those from Ikea (pictured above) that are $2-$3.
  • Shoe horns are not only for men’s shoes.  They are equally as useful and important for women’s shoes.  They help preserve the shape of the counter and quarter (the parts that often go around your heel) and can be acquired for less than a dollar, like the long handled Ikea one pictured.
  • Another simple and easy thing you can do is wipe your shoes down after every use with a towel or brush (pictured).  It will help keep them free of dust and dirt and can help take out minor stains and scuffs.  Additionally, on leather shoes this can help maintain the shine of the leather.
  • If your shoes are made of leather they will, from time to time, need more than just a simple wipe down.   Leather needs to be conditioned, moisturized and polished to help prolong its life.  You can do this yourself, or you can have someone do it for you.  Patent leather and suede do not need to be polished.
  • Suede cannot be polished or wiped down.  Instead, brush it off using a stiff bristled brush (like the small white handled one pictured).  Suede can also be protected and cleaned more thoroughly using certain solutions when needed.
  • Do no drive in your heels!  Simple.  The stress that driving in high heels puts on the heel is terrible for your shoes.  I also cannot imagine that it is comfortable in the least.
  • That closet floor looks so good with all of your shoes strewn about.  But it looks so much better when they are organized.  A simple shoe rack will help keep your shoes more organized and protect them from unnecessary abuse.  Alternatively, you could store them in shoe bags or shoe boxes (like Kat does).
  • Shoe care should not just focus on the upper of a shoe.  The sole is also important.  If your heels (or other shoes) are leather soled, affixing a thin rubber sole can help extend their lifespan as well as give them more traction in inclement weather and slippery bar floors.
  • Water, snow, and especially road salt are all bad for shoes.  Do what you can to limit your exposure to these hazards.
  • Those little rubber tips on the end of your heels are God’s gift to hardwood floors.  Without them the metal of the heel digs into even the hardest of hardwoods.  Keep those tips on if at all possible, and replace them when worn — they can also affect the comfort of your heels.
  • This point focuses more on saving your feet rather than your shoes.  But all shoes take time to break in; sometimes it helps to wear them around the house for a few hours before wearing them to work for a full day or out for a night.  Your feet will thank you in the morning.

The logic is rather simple.  Spend a few hundred dollars on a pair of shoes, why not take care of them? It will only take a few extra seconds when putting your shoes on and taking them off; which in the long run could extend the life of your shoes by months, if not years.  Which will, over time, save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Readers, how do you care for your heels?  Do you have any preferred brands of shoe trees, shoe horns, or any preferred methods of storage? What’s your favorite way to break in a new pair of shoes?


  1. Polished Pinstripes :

    Very useful post! Does anyone know if there are shoe trees for high heels? The only ones I have ever seen have been for flats or boots.

    • prof on a bike :

      Good question about shoe trees for heels… I feel like they must exist, but I’ve also never seen any

      • Prêt-à-travailler :

        Thirded. I found these, but they are pretty pricey when you consider having to buy multiple sets:

        Also, this is the reminder I need to stop driving in heels! I always knew it must be bad for them. Maybe I need some driving mocs to keep in the car….

        • Lady Harriet :

          I usually just take off my right shoe while driving. It’s illegal to drive barefoot in some states, so check if you can do it where you live

    • I just use the ikea ones in my heels. Works fine.

    • I’ve seen some before but they seemed to be shaped to work only with a specific heel height. My workaround has been to stuff my shoes with scrunched-up newspaper which does OK at the 2 main functions of a shoe tree (retain shape, control moisture) and is a lot lighter than a traditional cedar-wood shoe tree when I’m travelling with extra shoes.

  2. When you say “Don’t drive in heels,” is it bad for all heels or just ones above a certain height? I usually drive in my 1″ heels. It’s not uncomfortable, but I’d rather not be ruining a very expensive pair of shoes.

    • In my experience all shoes, high heeled or not, get scuffed on the back of the heel if you drive in them. I never drive in dress shoes anymore… they live under my desk. Now I only need to replace them about every three years at most (and I only own two pairs, so they’re on heavy rotation).

      • so here’s what I wonder: if you have your pants hemmed to your heel height (mine is 3.5″) then how in the world do you get to work without the hem of your pants all soggy and dirty? I have an hour drive and would love to figure this one out!

        • I only wear flats (sadface), so I don’t have this issue myself — but I would imagine that trouser clips, like the type of thing cycling commuters wear to protect their trousers, would help?

          You could also try a good pair of rain boots if it’s particularly soggy out. You’d need to fold your trousers into them quite thoughtfully, but it might be worth it.

    • The heel/ back of the shoe can get dirty real fast (when your foot is on the pedal, the shoe is rubbing against the floor of the car). I have a pair of light colored suede pumps that got ruined like that (sigh).

      I imagine that’s why driving shoes from Tod’s have the little rubber nubs at the back.

      • Olivia Pope :

        I have a pair of black suede pumps that were ruined by driving. The entire back was visibly different on my right shoe. They were really comfortable too!

        Now I take off my right shoe while driving. (Except for boots because of laziness reasons)

        • Just be careful b/c driving barefoot is illegal in some states. If you keep the shoe by your feet, obviously be careful that the shoe cannot slide under the pedals (which I imagine would damage the shoe in addition to being dangerous).

          • another anon :

            Although it is commonly believed to be illegal, driving barefoot is in fact a legal activity in all 50 states. Most states provide a warning against shoeless driving, as some drivers may not be used to operating a vehicle without shoes.

          • Lady Harriet :

            Hmm, clearly I was misled back when I took driver’s ed! I did find this which breaks it down state-by-state:

      • I always wondered whi Tods shoes were like that..

    • I have all weather, rubber mats in my car and I noticed the back of my nice shoes were getting scuffed. I bought a small carpet mat and use that on the driver’s side. The carpet is softer and doesn’t scuff the shoes.

    • Off topic but what’s the point of 1 inch heels? They don’t have the same sleek look as higher heels and aren’t as comfortable as flats. (not trying to start a fight – I’m honestly curious. A quick google search revealed a bunch of unattractive shoes but I’m sure there’s a point!)

      • They do change your posture a little bit, in the same way that higher heels do, and help project a more confident overall look. Some people can’t do higher heels, so they get a one-inch heel since it’s better than nothing. Signed, someone who can only wear flats and wishes she could at least have a tiny little heel…

      • For some feet, flats are super uncomfortable and 1″ heels are great.

        • prof on a bike :

          This is especially true for people with plantar fasciitis, where having completely flat shoes actually puts more stress on the tendon the runs along the bottom of the foot.

      • For me, they look slightly more professional than flats. It is a mix of the posture and just the fact that you can see a heel on my shoe. But I’m also 5’8″, so I don’t need heels for height + I find them super uncomfortable and haven’t worn high heels in years.

        The ones I have on now (that I am ruining by driving) are a nude pump with a tapered heel.

      • anon-oh-no :

        although there are certianly some ugly low heels, most kitten heels are only one inch and, at least in my view, do look sleek. In fact, as someone who wears 4 in heels most of the time, my alternative is a 1 in kitten heel, as i think heels in the 2-3 in range look frumpy. obviously that just my opinion.

    • It ruins the structural integrity of the heel. Almost 95% of women with wobbly heels have damaged their right shoe from driving.

      Also, wobbly heels just look silly, fyi. What’s not silly is the impending knee and ankle damage from wobbly heels.

  3. Windy City :

    Just wanted to say, I loved this post. Thanks for the info!

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Ditto! This may be one of my favorite guest posts. Excellent info.

  4. Baconpancakes :

    Thank you! I’ve also struggled with finding suggestions for women’s shoe care.

    The only thing I think is very different that I’m still looking for is how to protect and possibly repair small scratches or wear on patent leather shoes. A lot more women’s shoes are made of patent than men’s, so I’m still seeking advice on this.

    • I sometimes use a same-colored sharpie for small scratches. Beyond that, I’d take them to a cobbler and ask for help.

  5. I do NOT know about shoe tree’s, but my housekeeper take’s my shoe’s to the local cobbler and he put’s MINK OIL on them for the winter, and he make’s sure that they are in good shape. I just got a NEW pair of Black Ann Klein pump’s b/c somehow I lost my left shoe. I had not needed them for a while and now mom think’s that Igor might have it! I said to MOM, what in the WORLD would he do with ONE shoe? MOM said don’t ASK. Now I think that mabye Igor could be a littel wierd, but I can NOT say this in front of Grandma Leyeh.

    Fred has a meeting in NY City next week with a supplier from China, so he will be comeing by to see me at work! YAY! I want to keep Fred away from Frank b/c I do NOT want Fred pickeing up any of Frank’s habits. FOOEY!

  6. Anon in NYC :

    What about the best method for cleaning patent leather? How do you get patent leather clean without dulling the shine?

    • Orangerie :

      There’s a few at-home tips rumored to work well (nail polish remover, magic eraser, hand sanitizer, windex)… but honestly I’d be way too scared to use any of those on my nice shoes. I just take them to the cobbler, it usually costs around $5 and they can get all of the scuff marks out.

  7. I’m wearing shoes right now that are probably 6 years old and I’ve worn them a lot. Red patent kitten heels with a flat bow. I’ve had the tips replaced numerous times but recently took them to a cobbler to have the front of the sole replaced. They also repaired a scuff on the toe. They look great! I couldn’t bear to get rid of them. Especially since my SO bought them for me for my birthday.

    I keep my shoes in the boxes stacked on shelving. It protects them and makes them easier to find.

  8. kjoirishlastname :

    A tip I worked out myself for storing my tall boots when there was no other way to do so (the box wouldn’t fit in my closet, and I didn’t want to store them upright on the floor of the closet) is to use a hanger with clips. They need to be fairly strong clips otherwise the weight of the boots will just pull them off the hanger. I use a small piece of foam (like what you get from the drycleaner) between the clip and the boot, and I just put the middles of the boots together, and clip the front inside & the back inside together so that they hang upright. Super easy, super cheap and maintains the shape of the boot even better than boot shapers (unless you find some that fit snugly in your boots enough to keep them from slouching at the ankle)

    I used to keep shoes in boxes on the floor of the closet, but instead I purchased a very inexpensive over-the-door rack for the shoes I wear most frequently.

    • Rolled-up magazines make excellent & free boot shapers. Thick mags (like a Vogue) or wide mags (like a Martha Stewart) work well for keeping even floppy suede boots standing upright in the closet.

  9. A little rubbing alchol on a cotton ball gets rid of those weird white scuff marks on patent leather.

    • Thanks for the kind words girls. I’d like to answer a few of your questions that have arisen in the comments.

      -For boots they do make boot trees, they can be useful
      -There are high heel trees. As one of you noted, they can be expensive, but I have found that at least for mens shoes, although it is ideal to have a pair of trees for each pair of shoes, for ones that are not worn often you can take the trees out after a few days and switch them to another pair of shoes.
      -For patent leather try some mineral oil or watered down white vinegar. Just Google it, there are countless articles on cleaning patent leather.
      -For driving in heels the higher the heel the more stress it’ll put on the joint between the heel and sole; essentially with a longer heel you have more leverage on the joint which applies more pressure – physics I guess. Although I have never done so, I can imagine driving in heels is not comfortable in the least and potentially unsafe if it impedes your ability to switch and control the pedals; but that may just be me.

  10. Another Kat :

    Slightly related: I’m looking for 1.5 inch almond toe pumps and every shoe in my shipment from zappos hurts somewhere. I’ve never found the perfect shoe. Unfortunately not many stores carry heels this low.

    What shoe problems can be fixed by a cobbler/the break in period and which are deal breakers? Slipping out of the heel, pinching at the vamp, pinching of the toes, heel too narrow, shoe leather too stiff?

  11. What a helpful guest post!

    I have a boot/cobbler related TJ. I’m wondering what you ladies would do this situation. I recently brought 3 pairs of boots into a cobbler to have the calves stretched slightly. I found one on Yelp that had all 5 star reviews. All seemed well when I dropped off the boots, but 2 hours later he called me to tell me he had bad news. He had ripped out the top of the back seam in TWO brand new pairs of Melissa Button Frye boots. Like, he ripped the left cognac boot, and then he put the identical left black boot on the stretcher and ripped that too. He was apologetic, but did not admit any actual wrongdoing. I calmly asked him to please fix the damage as best he could, and not touch the third pair of boots (a different style). Yesterday I picked them up, and I think I was too nice. I said that I assumed he would be offering me a refund, and he did, but that’s as close as I got to telling him off for damaging $$$ worth of unworn boots. *sigh*

    What should I have said? I plan to write a Yelp review (as that’s how I found the boot butcher in the first place) but any other advice? Also, how bad would it be to try to return these boots to Nordstrom? I read in the reviews that this particular style responded well to calf-stretching, and Nordstrom recommends it. BUT they ask you to use their cobbler/stretcher… and I obviously did not. I’m interested in all of your thoughts!

    • He repaired the boots? Are they okay? I might ask Nordstrom to exchange them since they ripped. I honestly have never heard of seams ripping like the way you describe.

  12. He basically glued them back together, but I wouldn’t say they’re repaired in a way that I would expect to last. Leaning toward returning them/repurchasing and having the new ones stretched at Nordstrom.

  13. Anonymous :

    As a cheap, colourful alternative to boot trees, a friend of mine took her kid’s pool noodle, cut it up into sections, and put a section in each one of her boots. Works beautifully!

    • You can also use a rolled-up thick magazine, which most of us are much more likely to have than a pool noodle.

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